“Welcome to Washington.” The beltway equivalent of Saving Private Ryan‘s famous FUBAR acronym. A phrase that aptly conveys the utter bewilderment at what legislators pass off on an unsuspecting public. The health care donnybrook is certainly beyond repair, with success now measured by who (or what) damages least.

The latest incarnation weighs in at 1,900 pages, of which we’re sure each legislator will carefully consider before voting. But majority leader Harry Reid has a solution to the fear voiced from constituents. If individual states don’t want to participate in the public option, they simply opt out. Federal overlords will surely let them go. It fits with their counter-intuitive “choice” argument, that government involvement will somehow encourage competition to flourish and prices to fall. Well, states also have a “choice” on whether or not to participate at all. If it sounds like the mobster who wants out and is allowed to leave by the Don, only to have his car blow-up in the next scene, well … it’s because it is.

All sorts of federal spending is now buried in those 1,900 pages, put there deliberately to act as a poison pill to any state that may think of opting out. You want out of the plan, you opt yourself out of your state’s share of billions in federal spending. Kind of like in the mid-1980s when the drinking age was raised to 21. Washington left the decision to individual states. Of course, federal highway funds were tied to the age increase. Surprise — the legal age everywhere is now 21. And as the Wall Street Journal notes, the opt-out plan does quite a bit to mask the higher taxes and Medicare cuts contained in the larger bill. Smoke-and-mirrors, moving parts — call it what you will. Just don’t call it reform.