Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Countdown To History

It's been pretty tough these past couple of days not to hear the phrase "make or break" if you watched, read or listened to any sort of news coverage about the health care reform bill. It all comes down to the next couple of Congressional votes, the MSM (mainstream media) would have you believe. Although the news media have a very long tradition of exaggeration and making mountains out of molehills, in this case it seems to be warranted.

The stakes in this long, acrimonious battle could not be higher. President Obama has made health care reform the centerpiece of his young administration, and has basically bet everything on getting the bill passed. The rest of his presidency and its legacy hang in the balance. The Republicans have fought him every step of the way, goose-stepping as a unified block in perfect lockstep behind their leadership. They say they are so concerned about the country and health care reform is so horrible, but it's painfully transparent to anyone that they could not give a crap about what's best for this country; they only care about embarrassing Obama and turning his administration into a failure because he is African-American.

It's clear that health care in this country is horribly dysfunctional and keeping the status quo would be disastrous. Every year over 45,000 people die in this country from lack of adequate health care. If that number of people died in terrorist attacks each year Congress would be apoplectic with outrage and you could be sure the legislation would be pouring out of Washington. The present system works best in keeping the health care insurance providers in business, and has allowed them the latitude to do unbelievable things, such as increasing insurance premiums for their members as much as 40% while racking up multi-billion dollar profits. Do the Republicans not see anything wrong with the insurance companies making enormous profits while costs to working people go through the roof? What if these profits went to actually caring for sick people instead of lining the pockets of insurance executives?

At any rate, the Democrats are scrambling for votes in the House of Representatives to pass the revised health care legislation and refer it to the Senate, where only a 51-vote majority will be required to send it to Obama's desk for signature. The Dems are cautiously optimistic they will have the votes later this week. The Republicans are engaging in a full-court press, pulling out all the stops trying to keep the 37 Democrats who originally voted "no" on their side. Some Republicans have threatened "civil disobedience" in the halls of Congress to get their point across, which is reminiscent of the "Tea Party tantrums" we were witnessing last summer, where petulant, confused old people stood up with their hilariously misspelled signs to "keep the government out of my Medicare."

Conservative talk radio has switched over to 24-hour Armageddon mode. Yesterday I had to take an extended drive into the southeast hinterlands, and to amuse myself I tuned in to Glenn Beck on the radio. Yes, I do listen to conservative talk radio on occasion just to get some idea of how crazy these people actually are, and Beck always comes through in spectacular fashion. He was making all sorts of dire predictions in very somber, sonorous tones that we will "not recognize this country" in five years if health care reform passes. Well, I'm pretty sure the country will be recognizable; what I'm hoping is that the health care system will be completely different. It's always an experience listening to these kind of shows - the hosts do every ridiculous thing possible to make their points to a gullible audience. They make loopy, elliptical connections between unrelated events in the past and in the future, they engage in hyperbole, fear-mongering and wild exaggeration at every turn. They appeal to the prejudices and ignorance of the public, as they always do, to panic people into a stampede and make them think Al-Qaeda is ready to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and set up a nuclear-weapons farmers' market on the White House lawn.

Beck did make a hysterical statement which almost caused me to drive off the road. Someone on his show brought up the argument that providing health care for all citizens is a moral obligation of the government. Not so, Beck replied; that's not the job of the government, that's the job of the churches, to take care of moral issues like that, because we have something called separation of church and state in this country!! EXCUSE ME??? Conservatives invoking separation of church and state like they actually believe it?? That sounds like something right out of the current Alice in Wonderland movie. Conservatives don't have the slightest problem with government interference in moral issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, but they do have an issue with government getting involved in universal health care. Just another example of how conservatives pick and choose their moral arguments and talk out of both sides of their mouths at once, as it suits them. For them, morality is completely subjective and situational, and changes about as frequently as the wind direction. They use it and abuse it any way they see fit, to bolster their ridiculous, idiotic and ironically, their morally bankrupt arguments.

The health care reform battle will run right down to the wire, and every vote will be in play until the very end. The Republicans are increasingly desperate and the Democrats increasingly confident in the final outcome, but it is not yet a done deal. Democrats have a long and rich history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, so I'm certainly not taking anything for granted. It will be interesting to see where we'll be a week from now. So much is on the line right now, and what happens in the next couple of days will resonate far into the future.

It's an exciting, scary and exhilarating time. The old Yiddish curse of "may you live in interesting times" seems ever so applicable.

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