Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Got Yer Camel's Nose Right Here

It really does pain me to see liberals wasting their time throwing insults at each other, or making goofy-ass attacks on Obama, instead of having a serious discussion about how to rescue current efforts at reforming health care and health insurance. We divide cleanly down the middle between those who would rather see nothing at all rather than another financial load on people who are barely making it already, and those who think any reform, no matter how toothless, is a major accomplishment, a toe in the door, the camel's nose under the tent, that will inevitably lead to major, positive changes over time. As someone who holds the former view, let me explain why I think my loyal opposition is deluded by irrational exuberance.

We are NOT Canada. Our history, social structure, and general philosophical leanings as a people are very different, and far more conservative, than Canada's. In addition, this is not 1965, and the current polarization, fractiousness, and intransigence of our political groups is completely off the chart, even compared to the partisans who fought the civil rights wars. In fact, the ability to compromise that made Congress once amenable to passing Social Security, Medicaid, and the Civil Rights Act, was so damaged by the lasting effects of those battles that it may no longer be possible to find some reasonable middle ground for anything at all. Right now we have a party of "No" and a party of "No, don't be mad, I didn't mean it", and that's not a recipe for meaningful change any time in the foreseeable future.

Look at the Senate, and tell me that you really believe this is a body that, should any reform pass at all, will go back and begin cleaning it up and making it useful. And if the Dems don't haul their guts back off the floor and into their bellies and start pushing for changes that will help, not hurt, working people, the pig wallow you see right now is as good as it's going to get.

Americans have very short memories and even shorter fuses. They only know what you did for them lately, and the longer Democrats flub on this (don't even get me started on the FIRE sector mess), the more it will become their problem rather than one they inherited from Republicans. A weak bill that does nothing but shake down taxpayers for protection money to fill the overflowing coffers of private industry, while achieving little to no good for the people who need it most, is a guaranteed donkey-killer. When the elections come around, it will be the Republicans who will look like the only logical alternative, and if they can turn seats around in both 2010 and 2012, you can kiss your camel's nose good-bye. The GOP has effectively become a fiscally libertarian, culturally totalitarian theocracy machine, and wait till you see that prosperity-gospel megachurch they're going to build at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. That nose will be bloody, bruised, and booted back out into the dust storm, and the only question will be how long it will take till the bill is completely destroyed.

People are saying, "this is our only chance, and if something, no matter how putrid, doesn't pass, we won't get another chance for 50 years." Listen: if we don't do the hard work and make the difficult decisions on this the first time around, the Republicans will tear up the blueprint and toss it into the shredder. You're going to be back to square one anyway, only this time with the seething resentment of millions of voters to make sure you DON'T get another chance for 50 years.

Get rid of the abortion language. Require a powerful public option open to anyone who wants it, that can negotiate prices and require participation by medical providers. And for Christ's sake, lower those goddam premium caps to no more than 3% of income; most people don't earn the money of an op-ed journo or a Senator. And finally, screw the subsidies. Just establish a sliding scale fee for what private insurers can charge. This is not the free market. This is a captive audience that has no choice but to grow old, get sick and die. They are a gift being offered up to the same companies that have been screwing them for years already. Let those companies feel some pain, too.

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