How to Tell What a Bill Actually Does

We might not have the ObamaCare mess if more people judged legislation by what it actually does instead of what its proponents hope it will accomplish.

Think of verbs to truly understand what a bill does. There are specific verbs that describe the precise action of any bill.

The Mackinac Center's short, plain-English bill descriptions (found on the VoteSpotter app and are built around those verbs. A great many descriptions include words like "prohibit," "mandate," "impose," "tax," "require," "restrict," "penalize" and "subsidize."

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If those verbs sound negative, it's not because we have a bias against the bills. It's because those verbs simply are the things bills do. A good law to protect citizens from killers does so by "prohibiting" murder. A bad law to "create jobs" won’t hire anyone but it may directly "subsidize" film makers.

ObamaCare's official name is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There are three main things the 2,000-page law actually does:

1) Mandates the purchase of health insurance; 2) Defines what constitutes acceptable insurance coverage and prohibits unacceptable plans; and 3) Subsidizes some people's purchase of health insurance and imposes an array of new taxes, fees and regulations.

ObamaCare might be even better understood if we pretend for a moment that it involves housing instead of insurance, since most people are more familiar with homes than insurance.

ObamaHome would: 1) mandate universal home ownership; 2) define what constitutes an approved home and require demolition of noncompliant homes; and 3) subsidize the new homes of certain people and impose new housing bureaucracies, fees, taxes and regulations.

Political opportunists with ties to home builders would note that not everyone owns a home even after public policies propelled home ownership to historic heights. They would lump together everyone who does not own a home — renters, those living with relatives or friends, those saving for a home, those who just prefer not to own a home, and the truly homeless — and label them all "the unhoused."

The truly unhoused — those with utterly no roof over their heads and no one to help them — would constitute a tiny minority. Wise observers would liken their number to those very few who need health care but can't even obtain it at emergency rooms for some reason. A problem, but not one big enough to remake the entire health care market, for instance.

The president would pledge: "If you like your home, you can keep it." Bulldozers would later demolish millions of houses in front of their gasping owners.

The fine for not buying a home would be renamed a tax. New homes would include mandatory features like wheelchair ramps and electric car plug-ins people may not want or be able to afford. All housing costs would jump.

Those needing a housing subsidy would be funneled to a faulty government website that would render hundreds of thousands temporarily homeless.

But "housing the unhoused" would sound a lot better than "mandate," "prohibit," "subsidize" and "impose," even though those verbs would describe exactly what ObamaHome does.