Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Brother is Reading Your Blog

Healthcare for everyone at last? So it would seem. The president will sign the House's healthcare bill tomorrow, and the last step will be for the Senate to approve the package of changes that will make the final bill unified.

Some people aren't happy about this. In fact, some people are downright furious. The Republicans continually suggest that the vast majority of Americans are outraged by this turn of events. I've never heard so many direct references to polling data.

I understand the basic concerns: high spending, taxes on people who make the most, toddlers having to pay off trillions of dollars of debt. Those concerns are duly noted, but the way those legitimate concerns have been manifested in the public eye is kind of alarming. The pure hatred for President Obama and Nancy Pelosi is..disturbing.

Bill Kristol's brand new article in The Weekly Standard is probably representative of the new Republican election strategy: Repeal! From now until November, every Republican will be promising to repeal the evil Obamacare if they are elected. This is a bold strategy since such an effort would require the kind of congressional revolution that we've never seen before. Frankly, if such a thing happened, I would be happy to concede that the American people really didn't want healthcare reform. And, of course, that's exactly what the president said at the recent Healthcare Summit:
"We cannot have another year-long debate about this, so the question that I'm going to ask myself and I ask of all of you is, is there enough serious effort that in a month's time or a few weeks' time or six weeks' time we could actually resolve something? And if we can't, then I think we've got to go ahead and make some decisions, and then that's what elections are for."
The president is keenly aware of the risk he's taking on by pursuing this agenda. He certainly could have made a token effort in order to appease the constituents who voted for him with the understanding that he would fix healthcare. Instead, he has chosen to really rock the boat and do what he thinks is best: a major overhaul of the system. Will it work? Will people be happy about it? We'll have a pretty good sense of that in November.

In the meantime, I think it's worth noting that the fear-inspiring rhetoric (or, I daresay, propaganda) set loose by the Tea Partiers and the Republican Party is..silly. The talk of socialism and government takeover and baby-killers is really nonsense (Note the protester's sign in the picture above). The healthcare bill is about regulation and rules for insurance companies; they would have you believe that the healthcare police will raid your house for non-government produced pharmaceuticals and private health insurance policy documents. "I'm sorry, ma'am, does that packet say Anthem on it? We're taking you in."

So now the battle really begins. It's a battle of words and images waged with innuendo and blogs and Youtube clips. Who will America believe? President Obama who says that this bill is the best thing for the present and future? Or the nebulous right wing mass who conjures images of Big Brother looking over your shoulder and at your medical charts?


  1. The basic concerns that you list are not just trivial "hick-ups". These are major issues that will have a genuine financial impact of colossal proportions for many years to come, which both sides agree. THAT is the real issue that most people have with the bill.

    I would also submit that both sides would agree that there is an issue to be fixed in the health care system. Those that oppose the bill would propose that rather than throwing freshly printed and newly taxed money at the symptoms we should instead address the root cause: the costs. Reducing the regulations and bureaucracy on the supply side, offering tort reform and protection to doctors from lawsuits thus reducing their insurance costs, and facilitating further competition among insurers would greatly reduce costs.

    Obviously with some exceptions, I don't think that the "right" has a hatred for Obama and Pelosi. I think most rational people believe that they have good intentions. However, many defenders of the left use an ad hominem approach (e.g. Bill Maher, and Keith Olberman, both just as antagonistic and divisive as blowhards on the right) to dismiss the legitimate concerns of those who question the viability of what was signed yesterday - an approach which is also... silly. While there are people that talk about a big brother death panel killing every third child that slides out, they are the minority.

    In the war of words we need to focus on the differences at hand, not the people that voice the concerns.


    PS Sorry about your brackets. Onions!

  2. Frankie Five Angels,

    I didn't intend to suggest that the concerns were trivial. It was more a comment on the way those concerns(or variations on the concerns) are presented to typical consumers of news media. For instance, while any debt accrued now will certainly have to be dealt with by our progeny, the language used to describe that concern conjures an image of a small child being forced to pay. That is, I believe, a disingenuous way of characterizing it.

    I disagree with the premise that the president's plan is somehow to throw money and *not* address the costs. The essence of his plan, in fact, is an attempt to reduce overall costs by increasing the pool of buyers and thus spreading out the cost for individuals. Additionally, such a plan would theoretically encourage people to take more preventative measures in their personal health decisions. That means that Joe Heart Attack could avoid the $40,000 in bypass surgery by a few more trips to the doctor.

    Ultimately, I believe the president is more interested in reshaping the norms of our culture than trying nickel and dime fixes that look better in election years.

    I'm on board with reducing certain regulations and tort reform and doing away with malpractice shenanigans. Those things won't be enough though. The CBO estimates around $11 billion in savings from malpractice suit reform, for instance. $11 billion is a lot of butter, but it's only a drop in the bucket of an industry that accounts for a sixth of our entire economy.

    As far as rational people believing in good intentions..I'd like to meet some of them. I live in Colorado Springs, and there is an almost monolithic hatred that I detect on a weekly basis. I trust my senses, and I'm also not willing to call them all irrational. That is, however, as the Wage would say, anecdotal evidence. :)

    I've always appreciated your level-headed approach to politics and everything else. I think, though, that you might be the minority..for both sides of the aisle. Fortunately the middle of the road types make the decisions, so I'll put my faith in them.

    And yes, Maher and Olberman are the Limbaughs and Becks of the left. I try not to listen to any of them too much. (Although I would argue that Olberman and Maher are funnier than the others)


    PS...I'm never filling out a bracket again. :)