Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yes We Can't.

Yes, I'm still neglecting this blog like a bad parent, but I still like to peek my head in every so often and make sure it hasn't choked on any blocks. Looks okay, so let's proceed!

The political debate this months leads us right back to where we were the last time I posted... health-care reform. The last time I blogged about this, my pessimism was showing, but my aura of hope remained. What have I missed since then? Of yes... America went completely insane. I'll get to that, fear not.

For me, I've been trying to stay as focused as possible on the substance of where this is all headed. This past month I thought, I can't be the only who noticed that the fight for 'universal healthcare' became 'health care reform' and now is simply 'health insurance reform'. And that's the bigger story. The Democrats-- elected to their most powerful majority in decades less than a year ago-- still endlessly bargaining away their own agenda. For all the oxygen being consumed by right-wing loons and cable news pundits and lobbyists, etc, a failure to get meaningful reform passed (if that's what ends up happening) will really be a story of a Democratic leadership that failed to actually lead, and also became a victim of the very special interests they set out to vanguish.

People like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin (and countless numbers of angry tea-baggers shaking their fists, and guns, from coast to coast) may be shameless and loud and good at what they do, but they don't hold any political office. They don't control the White House or congressional committees. But people like President Obama and Senator Baucus and Rahm Emmanuel and their colleagues do. These are supposed to be smartest guys in Washington and they are blaming their failures on a bunch of people who think that Obama forged a U.S. birth certificate so he can take over America and put us all in FEMA concentration camps and grind grandma up into soylent green. That is not acceptable when the stakes are this high.

The cynic in me wonders if, at this point, Congress wants to pass a reform bill (any reform bill) just to check it off the list, and move on. To what? That's unclear. The key question I'd ask if I were a White House reporter is this... is there any health-care bill that Congress could pass that'd be so watered-down and unacceptable to the President that he would veto it? That answer would clarify a lot.

Of course, the media has made matters worse by making the story not the issue itself, but the anger. When President Obama held a lengthy press conference on the issue, the story for the next week was about the Professor Gates controversy that he commented on in the final question of the hour. When Sarah Palin (Unemployed - Alaska) wrote a rant on Facebook about imaginary 'death panels', it immediately took over the entire debate. Etc. It's not hard to figure out why so many Americans remain uninformed about the substance.

And, finally, to the liberals who helped elect Obama... yes, we should draw a line in the sand... a public option is non-negotiable. I'm with Howard Dean on this. Without it, all you've got, after all this time and energy and political capital, is some mild insurance reforms that will likely have huge loopholes in them anyway. That's not reform, and it's worth the time and money that's being asked for it.

I still want to have great faith in Obama's leadership. But we've got over three years left (with an option for four more), and if we can't accomplish this now, under these circumstances, what can we accomplish? The answer to that would clarify even more.


At 8:59 AM, Blogger Ed said...

Any chance you could show me in the U.S. Constitution where the federal government has the right or authority to take over healthcare or insurance?

At 12:02 PM, Blogger BlueDuck said...

Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution, sometimes known as the Taxing and Spending Clause, states the following: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States."

This 'general welfare' clause is what allows this type of action. No, the constitution does not mention health-care specifically (it doesn't schools or highways, should the government ignore that too?), but we must interpret these clauses to fit the modern world.

As Thomas Jefferson once said: "I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times."

Besides, the government here, in today's instance, isn't "taking over" health-care. In the early '60s, conservatives ranted and raved that the creation of Medicare would lead to the end of freedom for seniors. Well, that didn't happen. Today, it is one of the most popular things the government does... even the GOP is too afraid to openly criticize it. And that was an actual SINGLE-PAYER national healthcare plan. And our system still remains a private system regardless.

Finally, I'll note that none of the proposed bills today involve a nationalized government program. Even the 'public option' is not a government program.

All these proposals are for is reform for the existing private health insurance system.

Which is the least we can do. Except for doing nothing, of course. But doing nothing isn't what Americans voted for last year.

At 5:52 PM, Blogger Ed said...

I respectfully disagree with your interpretation of the general welfare clause but that's another discussion. As to schools....federal involvement started with reconstruction and was one of the worst things ever to happen to education. It's got worse since Carter made the Dept. of Edu. a cabinet level dept. The constitution does in fact provide for "post roads."

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Ahab said...

I confess that I'm disappointed in the Obama administration, and not just on the issue of health care reform. Even with Obama in office office, we still have lingering shadows from the Bush administration: extradordinary rendition, suspension of habeus corpus for enemy combattants, the Patriot Act, etc., etc.


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