In case you didn’t know this, the United States is the richest country in the world. We are also the only industrialized nation that does not provide health care coverage to all it citizens. According to the National Health Statistics Group, the US spent $2.2 trillion on health care costs in 2007, more than 10 times the entire annual budget for the country of India (which has over a billion people by the way). Perhaps we should be ashamed of these statistics, but we’re Americans, and we’ve been convinced that we don’t have to be ashamed of anything.
Not only are we not apologizing for our economic excess, we have no tangible plans to reign it in. Well, at least our democracy is not shaped with the tools necessary to get the job done. Democrats and Republicans have been fighting to the death over how to fix the unfixable, and how to finance the unaffordable. All the while, entitlement programs threaten to eat away at our country’s economic future. Is any of this bickering good for the American people? Well, that doesn’t matter much at this point, at least not to anyone with a vote in Washington.
This week’s televised health care summit reminded America that President Obama is smarter than nearly every Republican on earth. Like Tiger Woods dominating the golf course, Obama continued his quest to shine the light on his political enemies, forcing them to deal with facts instead of rhetoric.He was able to effectively call out their grandiose tactics, as he did Virginia Republican Eric Cantor, who plopped thousands of pages of paper onto the table in order to make his point. Few American presidents have had the intellectual capability to successfully defend a complicated list of reforms on live national television. George W. Bush would have frozen up in the first ten minutes.
To be clear, this summit wasn’t necessary. Only one-fifth of the American public even felt that a deal was possible, and those are probably the people who don’t read the news. The bottom line is simple: The Democrats have to pass something to stop the bleeding within their party; I am not sure if passing health care will help their standing in the mid-term elections, but not passing it will surely hurt them. The Republicans want to tear down the current bill and start over again, but it seems that their greatest incentive is to simply tear things down without rebuilding anything.
Especially compelling testimony was given by Senator Kent Conrad, the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Senator Conrad told a story about how his father was on 18 different medications before his death, nine of which were unnecessary. His story clearly communicated that massive waste threatens to undermine the integrity of our health care system, as well as our nation’s economy. Stories about family experiences, as well as suffering constituents, seem to be a crowd favorite among American politicians.
The Republicans are able to successfully argue that the majority of Americans are far less interested in health care reform than other issues. Also, they can argue that most Americans are not in favor of the current plan. A recent Gallup Poll shows that the majority of Americans (52 percent to 39 percent) do not favor the idea of Democrats passing the health care bill via reconciliation. The problem for Republicans, however, is that they’ve created a very real divide over illusory arguments. When Obama presses them for details, Republicans shake. Their highly successful anti-Obama campaign is a reminder that politicians without power can use mindless emotional appeals and empty rhetoric to mobilize impressive threats to the establishment. While Obama may find the Republican tactics objectionable, he only needs to look back at his presidential campaign to see himself engaging in the same behavior.
The health care reform package will be passed, and it should happen sooner rather than later. Health care reform, at this point in the political game, is the old issue that everyone wants taken off the desk. Once the president pushes forward with health care, he can focus on jobs, which is all the American people care about anyway.