Trick or Treat? The Health Care Bill Passes

Well, maybe now we can all calm down and get back to life. At long last, the Health Care Bill has passed, and the post-vote bloviation has begun. The ink isn’t dry on the President’s signature and the Republicans are already predicting The End Of Life As We Know It and vowing to spend all of their precious time repealing it. The Democrats are promising that fabulousity will ensue and the people will cheer once they begin to receive its benefits.

Both are probably wrong, but as has been true since it started, this process has been more about politics and power than principles and probity.

I’m okay with those on the right who have differences with the specifics of the new law, but so many of them (especially the Republican leadership) have based their arguments not on issues but on fear. In their doomsday rhetoric, this bill represents terrible, terrible things that challenge the very fabric of our nation. No one is safe!

I take a small measure of comfort in knowing that there is a long history of fear-mongering in politics. Opponents to Social Security in 1935 argued that it would cause a catastrophic loss of jobs. Thirty years later, Republicans argued if Medicare wasn’t defeated, “one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” (Ronald Reagan), and was called “socialized medicine.” (George H.W. Bush). Yet when both of these men became President, they didn’t work to repeal it. And today, I defy you to find anyone who would argue that Social Security or Medicare have been a debacle and should be abolished.

My favorite image from the Tea Party protests was from a Seattle rally. A man was holding a sign that read, “Keep the guvmint out of my medicare.” Hmmm…where do you start with someone like this? I mean, where exactly does this chap think Medicare comes from?

The Fear Strategy has led to this sort of muddled logic. When people get scared they don’t think straight. Suddenly Medicare is not a government-run program, and racial epithets are—if not condoned—certainly not discouraged.

The hypocrisy of the entire debate is painful. I certainly don’t believe that government is answer for all of our problems. But frankly, if the recent financial shenanigans are anything to go by, the private sector has no corner on being the complete answer, either. I reject arguments on both sides that call for total solutions: complete government control on one side, and zero government on the other.

When I hear national politicians rail against big government or Washington, I want to ask them, “Wait a second…aren’t you part of that? Aren’t you in fact part of big government and Washington? Are you saying you want to abolish your own job? Because if you say we need smaller government, I say let’s start with you!” And I don’t want to hear career politicians try to paint themselves as Outsiders. If you’ve served more than two terms, you’re an Insider, baby—no matter how “mavericky” you want to appear.

My suggestions:

  • Democrats: stop bashing Republicans and start explaining to Americans what you see as the benefits of this bill.
  • Republicans: stop yelling about what you’re against, and start providing some real ideas. “No” is not an idea.
  • All Politicians: stop the bombast and reduce the rhetoric.

This plan is not a panacea, nor is it the Apocalypse. Let’s all take a deep breath, get some impartial data and see what’s really true. There will always be time to fix it, and apparently, no lack of people willing to make the effort.

After 75 years of Social Security and 45 years of Medicare, I think the Republic will survive.

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