The overhaul of the US healthcare system represented in the "stimulus" bill is truly breathtaking. It's not a total overhaul -- yet -- but it certainly lays the foundations for one by stealth. It does more than that.
Hiding health legislation in a stimulus bill is intentional. Daschle supported the Clinton administration's health-care overhaul in 1994, and attributed its failure to debate and delay. A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. "If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it," he said. "The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol."
When the Bush administration made changes to the PATRIOT Act or the warrantless wiretapping regime by stealth, behind closed doors, folks on the Left (rightly) howled. I wonder what they'll do now, when the government is making massive (and almost certainly unpopular -- see the parts about emulating the British health system's tendency to refuse aid to the elderly) changes to the healthcare system behind closed doors?
In his excellent book on the history of fascism, Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg details how political leaders throughout the 20th century used crises as an excuse to make massive policy changes in very short time and without public input. From Wilson, to Mussolini, to Hitler, to FDR, to JFK, to LBJ, to George W. Bush, Goldberg details how the cry of, "This crisis calls for swift action! We don't have time to debate how to act, we need to act now!" has panicked societies into ceding all kinds of power and freedom without much reflection.
It's looking like you can add Obama to that list. The amount of change wrought through this stimulus -- change that the people who crafted it are at pains to pass without debate or reflection -- is breathtaking. Over and over again the president has told us that we can't wait to make this change, that we can't bicker over "politics". It sounds ominously like another way of saying, "Don't think about this and don't ask us what we're doing. Just shut up and let us do it. The last thing we need here is for you people to put your thinking caps on." At least we know that Tom Daschle would agree.