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The sorry state of US politics

March 12th, 2010 · 7 Comments

Stomach turning indeed…

A disgrace for the Democrats
Micheal Tomasky. The Guardian

Obama’s congressmen will sabotage the health bill to keep their seats. It is stomach-churning

In our House of Representatives – “the people’s body” – the Democrats at this moment enjoy a gaudy 75-seat majority. Wait. Did I just put “Democrats” and “enjoy” in the same sentence? Scratch that. The Democrats suffer the affliction of a 75-seat majority. That’s a joke, except not really. What is going on right now in the lower house vis a vis healthcare reform is a stomach-turning sight to behold – a saga of preening, duplicity, pomposity, self-interest and, most of all, cowardice that is worthy of Holinshed. The players in this drama are participating in the destruction of their own party. They know this. And they persist.

What’s happening right now, of course, is that Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker, and President Barack Obama, are trying to round up the votes in the house to pass the Senate’s health bill. Exactly 216 are needed. Right now they have 194. Or 202. Or 210. Or something. But not 216.

So Pelosi is on the prowl for yes votes. The house passed its version of the bill last November by five votes, 220-215. At the time, 39 Democrats voted against it. This probably sounds strange to British readers, but it’s how the Democratic party does things. Lots of Democrats – 49 of them, in fact – represent districts where John McCain defeated Obama. They live in fear of being tarred by a future Republican opponent of having abetted the march of socialism. So they voted no on the most important piece of social legislation that body has had before it in probably 40 years.

Now, under our somewhat arcane rules of legislation, the house must vote on the matter again. But this time its members will vote on the Senate version of the bill, different in certain ways. More centrist, really. Pelosi is working behind the scenes. The moment she feels certain she has 216 votes, she’ll call a vote, the bill will pass and the corks will pop. And if that moment never arrives, there will likely be no vote. The alleged deadline (there is no statutory deadline, just a sort of media-suggested one) is Easter.

And, this time around, there is considerably more at stake than there was last November. We’re in an election year now (all members of the house must stand). It is, to use an American metaphor, the bottom of the ninth inning. That means the last chance of success. And what are Democrats doing?

Making demands. Hamleting away ostentatiously on cable television. Living in mortal fear that they might lose their seats. But are they thinking about how to fix the bloated mess that is American healthcare, or serve their uninsured and underinsured constituents? Maybe in private, but certainly not in public.

Here’s the situation. Everyone knows that if reform passes, it’s a historic accomplishment for the party and the president. Yes, Republicans will attack it as a government takeover of the health sector. But at least Democrats will be able to say that on the matter on which they spent months and months, they finally won. And – this part is more important – everyone knows that if it fails, it’s a historic setback for the party and the president. This fall’s elections could be a total wipeout for Democrats.

Everyone knows this. And yet, some Democrats will still oppose it. Why? For two reasons. First, some, especially among those aforementioned 49, will face well-financed Grand Old Party opponents and lose. In fairness to them, that’s actually a somewhat logical analysis.

But second, we move from logic to the realm of psychology. Passage of a big health reform bill is a classic Rumsfeldian “unknown unknown”. Congress hasn’t passed a bill like this in, as I said, four decades. What will happen? What spites and furies will be unleashed? It will alter the political landscape for years to come. But how?

Politicians dread these questions. So, far better that there’s no vote at all. That’s a known. They can go back to their districts and say: “Well, we moved too fast, Obama overreached, and now we’ll start again at square one.” That, of course, won’t happen. Reform will die. But that’s what they’ll say. And they’ll return to their collective 13% (you read that right) job approval rating and their nice important jobs in a body that is a national laughing stock and is institutionally incapable of taking actual steps to fix actual problems in American society.

Or they can take a little risk on what will be for most of them the single most substantively consequential vote of their entire careers, even understanding (horror) that some of them might lose in the election. We can’t have that, right? God forbid someone lose a seat in Congress. Life itself will end. I mean, what an unimaginable existence: getting a well-paying job as a lobbyist or corporate rainmaker, being called “congressman” for the rest of your life, drawing a congressional pension – and, by the way, congressional healthcare … Dante himself couldn’t have imagined such a savage circle of hell.

I should note that there exists a small handful of Democrats who should fairly be given a pass on the vote. They have no seniority, no long-term relationships with the constituents, and come from deep-red districts. They number around 15 or so.

But the others? Disgraceful. Virtually all of them have tens of thousands, or sometimes more than 100,000, adult constituents with no private insurance. If they’re not in Washington to do something about that, then what are they there to do? Please don’t answer that question.

Tags: Opinion

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jamie Jordan // Mar 13, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Ugggghh! One thing that is sorrier than the sad state of US politics is the brain rot that apparently afflicts the socialist writer of this article. The fact is that many Americans recognize that more government involvement in healthcare is a ‘cure much worse than the disease’. As “bad” as the American medical system reports to be, where are the throngs of millions languishing away from no medical attention? We have a quasi-socialist system in place in this country already at the county and state level that takes care of those in need. The fact that it is NOT the central government controlling this sector pains the worshippers of government to no end. This so called health care bill is all about control not health care. Further, every service the FEDGOV provides is bankrupt. Advocating for more bankrupt and poor services seems like utter insanity. The fact is that socialism pre-empts pain from decision making process. When everything is ‘free’, why not choose to just get everything? Fortunately, the ‘pain’ that many legislators fear is the pain of losing their cushy government job and possibly having to either do real work and/or share in the distribution of the leftover crumbs that the masses are tossed. Pain is a gift from God. It helps us take care of ourselves and not destroy ourselves. It may just be pain that keeps the government takeover of healthcare from happening! To which a majority of AMERICANS say ‘amen’!

  • 2 admin // Mar 13, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Yes, by all means, that “socialist” tag always frees one to come up with actual arguments and facts…

    Could it be that many ‘socialist’ healthcare schemes from Canada to many continental European countries actually provide healthcare for ALL citizens for just over half the price (relative to GDP) compared to the US?

    Could it be that Medicaid, Medicare, and the Vets system are actually working and popular?

    Could it be that in terms of many health outcomes (life expectancy, child deaths under 5, etc..) the US under-performs many countries a lot poorer..

    Could it be that Mitt Romney actually introduced a plan in Massachusetts which is almost IDENTICAL to that proposed by the Dems

  • 3 persistentone // Mar 15, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    The problem with the US healthcare system is COST. Without major changes, the country will go bankrupt within 10 years because of rising healthcare costs. Our company, for example, currently pays 25% of its salary payroll as healthcare costs. Our competitors in Japan, Europe, and China don’t have those costs. How can US based free enterprise compete in the world with such high costs?

    The problem with Obama’s proposals is that he talks about cost, but his proposals do NOT deal with cost. How is he going to control the cost of drugs? How is he going to stop the rise of service costs? How is he going to stop the costs of medical malpractice? How is he going to fix the broken risk pool in private health insurance that results in spiraling premiums and denial of insurance to privately insured individuals?

    THOSE are the real issues in healthcare. Obama didn’t solve most of those with his proposals, and instead he advocated a completely socialist giveaway of services at a time when the country is undergoing massive deficits. Instead of managing and lowering costs he is simply shifting those costs to the Federal government. To me this shows Obama simply didn’t have the political will to face the real problems, and instead he has misprioritized his efforts into extending coverage rather than reducing costs. That is the socialist agenda. Unfortunately, it does nothing to stop our head-on race towards national bankruptcy due to rising healthcare costs.

  • 4 Greg // Mar 16, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Statistics from a survey by the United Nations International Health Organization.

    Percentage of men and women who survived a cancer five years after diagnosis:

    U.S. 65%
    England 46%
    Canada 42%

    Percentage of patients diagnosed with diabetes who received treatment within six months:

    U.S. 93%
    England 15%
    Canada 43%

    Percentage of seniors needing hip replacement who received it within six months:

    U.S. 90%
    England 15%
    Canada 43%

    Percentage referred to a medical specialist who see one within one month:

    U.S. 77%
    England 40%
    Canada 43%

    Number of MRI scanners (a prime diagnostic tool) per million people:

    U.S. 71
    England 14
    Canada 18

    Percentage of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are in “excellent health”:

    U.S. 12%
    England 2%
    Canada 6%

    I find it very ironic that the same person who sticks to data and facts regarding IOC would buy into the democratic falsehoods regarding US healthcare.

  • 5 admin // Mar 16, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    1) Show ALL statistics of healthcare outcomes, not just the ones you cherry-pick. Life expectancy and child deaths provide a lot more general info and these are really not favourable
    2) Include statistics about cost. US spends near twice as much on healthcare per GDP as most other developed countries
    3) Curious that you include statistics for the elderly. Aren’t they subject to your abhorred “socialist” Medicare?
    4) Tens of millions are not even insured in the US, that doesn’t happen in any other developed country (which have considerably cheaper healthcare)

  • 6 admin // Mar 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    For instance, compare the US with Germany and UK. The US spends more than twice(!) the amount on healthcare per head of population than in the UK and almost double the amount of Germany. Are outcomes better? No.

    * Total health expenditure per capita (2003) $5,711
    * Life expectancy at birth m/f 75/80
    * Child mortality m/f 8/7

    * Total health expenditure per capita (2003) $2,389
    * Life expectancy at birth m/f 76/81
    * Child mortality m/f 6/5

    * Total health expenditure per capita (2003) $3,001
    * Life expectancy at birth m/f 76/82
    * Child mortality m/f 5/5

  • 7 Greg // Mar 17, 2010 at 2:29 am

    Better healthcare costs more $$. It has also been estimated that 27% of all US doctor fees are for defensive medicine as malpractice costs most US doctors over $100K annually. Other countries (UK as an example) have restrictions on claims.