Transformers aren’t only in the movies and toy stores; they’re a fact of life in the U.S. Congress as well. And we should beware of them. As Washington’s plans for super-sized health care reform get mugged by reality, beware the fallback proposals that are likely to emerge. Such proposals could lure the unwary into traps. In ancient times, disguised threats were called Trojan Horses; the modern equivalent is Transformers.

A common tactic in Congress (and other legislative bodies) is to replace a troubling piece of legislation with a scaled-down substitute, often substituting vague and innocuous-sounding language. Members of Congress are then asked to support and pass the replacement bill “to keep the process alive.” Later, in a House-Senate conference committee, the bad provisions can be re-inserted and the bill is then brought up for a final vote. The whole process buys time for Congressional leaders, the White House, and an abundance of pressure groups to push for more government takeover of health care, while opponents are lulled into inaction. Bad legislation deserves to be killed, not given a second chance.

With President Obama and Speaker Pelosi pressing the House to “do something” before it takes off for August recess, we should be alert for whatever Plan B they may put forth. (The Senate plans to keep going until mid-August.) Whatever Plan B surfaces, it should be viewed not simply in its own terms, but as a vehicle that could be transformed into the trillion-dollar-plus government health behemoth that America’s liberals so crave. Wariness, suspicion and vigilance are needed when the stakes are so high.

We’ll be told that “we cannot do nothing.” Such claims create the misleading illusion of false choice between today’s health care mess or the proposed legislation. But the big government plan is so expensive and burdensome that it could kill our economy in the name of protecting our health. Fortunately, solid alternatives exist, such as those promoted by The Heritage Foundation at Otherwise, we face the possibility of Transformers much more frightening than the ones in the movies.