Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fear Itself?

What the hell is wrong with the Democrats?

Why must they waste the amazing opportunity they have been given -- majorities in both houses of Congress and the Presidency – by not passing health care legislation that is truly universal?  It sure seems like this is what is happening, though I still hold out hope for a miracle.

Are they so beholden to the insurance lobby that they are simply paralyzed, and can only mumble something about how much it’s going to cost (while voting for innumerable other costly projects that are not nearly as important to peoples' lives) because they’re afraid to say their real concerns:  they need that insurance lobby money to get reelected?  My boyfriend, a far more paranoid individual than myself, thinks this is about more than money and reelection.  He thinks it's about insurance industry corporate henchmen, mysterious disappearances, apparent suicides that aren't really suicides, the stuff of movie thrillers.  He may have a point, but I think it's more likely insurance companies would retaliate by simply waiting until their enemies have life-threatening illnesses and then denying their claims for care on the basis these people had acne as teenagers and didn't disclose it when asked about preexisting conditions.

But whatever the origin of the fear, can this really be just about fear? Until now I’d refused to believe the so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats are fundamentally incompetent or unprincipled to a person, but if this isn’t about fear, perhaps I should rethink that. Otherwise there is simply no excuse for not adopting health care legislation that includes a public option.

What the hell is wrong with the Democrats?

Mostly I blame President Obama for not stepping in quickly enough to take charge of the debate instead of letting it flail and languish while doubt was cast over every portion of the bill that made any sense if what you care about at the end of the day is making sure there is universal health care. Then muddying the waters with the diversion of the Afghanistan strategy before the health care vote was even had.

I voted for Obama in part because I thought he had chutzpah, and I thought he had principles. I thought he cared more about those principles than reelection. What I wanted to see him do with health care is go knock heads together and get a public option passed; and, by the way, why should he even have to knock heads together since there’s a Democratic majority in Congress?

What the hell is wrong with the Democrats?

I wanted to see President Obama stare into the face of the fear that demanding his party pass legislation including a public option would mean he wouldn’t be reelected – and do it anyway. I wanted to see him bet his Presidency on this, because he believed in it. Somehow, I think if he had done so, his approval ratings would have zoomed through the roof for one simple reason.  It would show he was not afraid. Not being afraid would make him different from every other politician currently in office in this country. What is the point of being elected if you’re too afraid to get the job done once you’ve gotten elected?

The tragedy is there is an opportunity here to make a statement that every person is entitled to health care as a fundamental human right. Once you accept that health care is a fundamental human right, you can’t let concerns about money get in the way. You have to find a way to make it work for every American. This is the lesson from the Medicare experience – get the bill passed and then find a way to pay for it. And watch it become one of the most popular US government actions of all time.

We all know people who say it’s not a good time to have kids, buy a house, you name whatever the dream may be, because they’re afraid of the financial commitment. The fallacy is, if you have those fears, there will never be a “good” time. There is no good time, there’s just the time you decide to take a bold step into fear because it is worth it to do so.  And a good many people who do, when they look back on that step, can't imagine not having taken it because their lives are so much better for it.  What makes it even sweeter is the knowledge that they conquered their fear in taking the step toward what they now feel is the best thing they ever did.

It’s astonishing and more than a little nauseating to think that though the United States is the only superpower, we’re unable to provide affordable health care to all our people. So many other countries that are nowhere near superpower status have made this commitment. Why?  Because it is the right thing to do.  And the stakes are incredibly high here if we don't do the right thing.  They are, literally, a life and death matter.

(By the way, the number 2 son decided to be a skeleton for Halloween this year after striking out on finding a snake costume.  Scary, isn't he?)

What the hell is wrong with the Democrats?

My father was a medical academic. He devoted his life to research to enable others to heal, and teaching others to heal, because although like everyone else he needed to make a living he couldn’t stomach accepting money from sick people to make them well. Instead of making the sort of money doctors in private practice made, he made a lot less, but he adored his work and he viewed provision of health care as a noble calling.  And he viewed health care as a right every human has, just because they are human.

I am certain that he would have expressed the same sentiment I’m going to about my own political party, though he’d probably have used the phrase “they stank it up.” In my view there’s only one phrase to describe the Democrats when it comes to health care: They’re all a bunch of pussies.

And shame on Joe Lieberman, too.  So much for tikkun olam.


No comments: