Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer Thinking on Health Care Reform III

I recently finished an extremely informative article on health care that will be published in the September 2009 edition of The Atlantic. I STRONGLY encourage everyone to read it. David Goldhill, is a businessman who details what happened to his father, and then moves on to try to explain, from a business perspective, the roots of the problems with the American health care system. He ends his article with suggestions for beginning to tackle our health care problems in a meaningful way.

As one who is still studying this issue, and is still of the mind that a single payer system properly administered would be a good way for Americans to receive health care, I felt the beginnings of a mind change when I finished Goldhill's article. I realized that this is precisely what I hope for when it comes to important issues. I want to be challenged. I want information that will force me to reconsider my presumptions. Goldhill's article did that in a way that not a single member of the Hill has done. I also think that could appeal to quite a few people. I was also reminded of the disservice that we as Americans are experiencing as this "debate" on health care reform continues.

What could have been a discussion on topics like those introduced by Goldhill, and led by the White House, has become pure political theater, and bad theater at that. I am looking at BHO and wondering what happened.

At the beginning of the year, the overwhelming majority of Americans wanted health care reform of some kind. This was the best opportunity to do something meaningful. Yet, here we are in the middle of a public relations nightmare. I fully understand Cenk Uygur's comments in his post on the political weakness of the Democratic party (even when the stars align in their favor), especially since it seems clear that the GOP has no intention of supporting any bill that emerges this fall in Congress.

Last I checked, the Democrats have a super majority in Congress. Technically, they do not need Republican support for any measure they want. Remember what happened when the situation was nearly the reverse under Bush from 2001-2007? Imagine the GOP in the current Democratic position. The Democrats wouldn't even be consulted, and the more conservative Dems would be climbing over one another to look bi-partisan.

That the debate on health care reform has essentially been reduced to discussions about non-existent "death panels," and protestations against the "public option," shows how pitiful this whole thing has become. On this, I do blame the White House for not putting forth its own plan that could be shopped around among the Democratic congressional leadership. It also rings hollow when BHO talks about "a plan," because we already know that there are potentially five plans with different components coming from the Hill. This discrepancy only adds fuel to the fire of those who simply want health care reform stopped (something that few of these protesters understand, I think), and fans the flames of fear for these protestors.

For the time that remains during the congressional recess, I hope that Democrats will begin to make more substantive arguments, and that BHO will more aggressively beat back these lies, scare tactics, and bullying coming from the right. I would love to see BHO and other Democrats challenge the GOP on the merits.

Finally, I think that Rachel Maddow, with guest Matt Taibbi (love him!), really hit the nail on the head. Though good questions can be asked about the efficacy of the public option, the White House should have been doing a better job of orchestrating this process, knowing the limitations of this Congress.

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