The Health Care Bill Dies?
The AP reports that “after weeks of secretive talks, a bipartisan group in the Senate edged closer Monday to a health care compromise that omits two key Democratic priorities but incorporates provisions to slow the explosive rise in medical costs.” The deal was likely to “exclude a requirement many congressional Democrats seek for large businesses to offer coverage to their workers” and a “provision for a government insurance option.” The Wall Street Journal says that “individuals familiar with the negotiations suggested” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus “would like to unveil a deal later this week. But unclear Monday was whether” ranking Republican Sen. Charles Grassley “would sign onto the deal and pave the way for committee action next week.”
Well, as the French would say… Quelle surprise!
It’s funny, earlier this summer I was watching the Federer-Roddick Wimbledon Final. Great match in a way, final set was 30 games long, one of the all-time epic battles. And yet, as I watched it, I thought to myself, “This has to be the least suspenseful epic sporting event of all time.” Because there was never any doubt in my mind that Federer was going to win the match. I simply could not envision a scenario where anything else than a Federer victory could happen. I think I even turned it off at 7-7 in the final set, figuring I could catch Federer’s award ceremony later on.
It’s the same with this health care bill. Who among us did not know this would happen? It’s been clear from the start that the Democrats would make a great show of doing something real, then they would fold prematurely, ram through some piece-of-shit bill with some incremental/worthless change in it, and then in the end blame everything on Max Baucus and Bill Nelson, saying, “By golly, we tried our best!”
Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, or anyone else. If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.
The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.
It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters. The situation we have here is an angry and desperate population that at long last has voted in a majority that it believes should be able to pass a health care bill. It expects something to be done. The task of the lawmakers on the Hill, at least as they see things, is to create the appearance of having done something. And that’s what they’re doing. Personally, I think they’re doing a lousy job even of that. I lauded Roddick for playing out the string with heart, and giving a good show. But these Democrats aren’t even pretending to give a shit, not really. I mean, they’re not even willing to give up their vacations.
This whole business, it was a litmus test for whether or not we even have a functioning government. Here we had a political majority in congress and a popular president armed with oodles of political capital and backed by the overwhelming sentiment of perhaps 150 million Americans, and this government could not bring itself to offend ten thousand insurance men in order to pass a bill that addresses an urgent emergency. What’s left? Third-party politics?