Friday, August 28, 2009

The Healthcare Debate: A Repeat of History

Consider the following quotation from a prominent Republican politician:

"One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people, has been by way of medicine. It's very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project — most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can't afford it. Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it."

You'd easily believe that was a statement made last week by a Republican politician. In fact, it was made by Ronald Reagan in the mid-1960's, and he was talking about Medicare.

He went on to say that if the Medicare bill was passed, we would one day be telling our children and our grandchildren
what it was like in America when men were free.

Fact is, LBJ's Medicare bill was hotly contested by conservatives. They argued that it would bankrupt the country. They argued that it would add to an already soaring federal deficit. They pointed out that the government can't run anything effectively,
especially not healthcare. They called it "socialized medicine." They claimed that it would cause "end of life" crises for retired people. They argued that retired people wouldn't be able to get the care they needed because of rationing. They argued that many doctors and hospitals wouldn't take Medicare because of its low payment scheme, so the elderly would have trouble finding doctors to treat them.

Ultimately, when it became obvious that the bill would pass, many conservative legislators voted for it, despite criticizing it from the start, for fear of being branded as having not voted for what was sure to become a popular healthcare system.

Now we're 50 years down the road. Medicare is very popular. It is expensive and has required a number of overhauls to be maintained. But I don't know of very many people in mainstream American who think it should be ended. I don't know of many people who would call it socialized medicine. All the scare tactics used to condemn it have proven to be scenarios that have never come to pass. I don't know of many people who think it should be gutted and old people should just have to suck it up - it's their own fault, after all, if they didn't adequately prepare for retirement from a financial standpoint. I haven't heard many people saying such things.

The similarities between the opposition to Medicare and the opposition to Obama's healthcare reform are striking. It's basically the same argument all over again.

The real irony comes from the Baby Boomer generation. They are the ones, after all, making the biggest stink over healthcare reform. A recent article I saw says that the AARP has lost a lot of members over its support for the Democratic plan. Yet I sure haven't heard any of these 60-somethings saying we should disband Medicare. At a townhall meeting held by Republican Robert Inglis, one angry Baby Boomer said: "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!" Not only does such a statement show the basic ignorance many people have about what constitutes "government-run healthcare," the general stance of Baby Boomers against healthcare reform represents pure hypocrisy born from undisguised self-interest.

We've been here before. We have heard the same lies, distortions, and scare tactics in the past. We know from history that they are just that - lies, distortions, and scare tactics. We know the real issue is to keep Obama from getting this feather in his cap - just like conservatives in the 1960's didn't want LBJ to get credit for Medicare.

Michael Cannon, a writer for the Cato Institute - an anti-liberal think tank in Washington that plays a prominent role in the development of modern conservative platforms - has pointed out that allowing Obama and the Democrats to "win" this particular battle may undermine conservative power struggles in the future. If the bill passes and is popular, those middle-income folks who may normally vote conservative might begin voting liberal - or at the very least vote for Obama in 2012.

He also has written: "Bill Clinton demonstrated that the most effective way to block tax cuts is to paint them as an assault on your health care. Twenty-eight percent of Americans already depend on government for health insurance. If that share grows, whether through government programs or subsidies for "private" coverage, we can start writing obituaries for the party of tax cuts [that is, the Republicans]."

In other words, we must stop Democrats from expanding healthcare to include all people, because then when Republicans try to lower taxes, the liberals will scare people into thinking a tax cut means a cut to their healthcare, and we can't have that.

I've also pointed out before the words of Jim DeMint, senator from South Carolina, referring to healthcare reform as Obama's "Waterloo" and how Republicans have to "break" him on this issue.

The most vocal dissent on healthcare reform isn't about legitimate concerns on how to reform healthcare. It's about stopping Obama from winning.

I want Republican and conservative input on this bill, because I think their input will help to moderate the soaring costs. I don't want a "Democrat-only" bill. But I also can't make Republicans and conservatives sit down and discuss this. I am encouraged, however, by the Republicans who are definitely still working on it - like John McCain and the three Republicans on the panel of the "Gang of 6."

What I don't want, however, is for Republicans to make all sorts of demands on the legislation to hinder it, then still refuse to vote for it when voting day comes. That's the trick they pulled on the government bailout legislation. If it fails, they can blame the Democrats, even though there were tons of changes made to the bill that came from Republicans.

I want a bipartisan bill with bipartisan support. I want the right healthcare reform bill. I don't want it railroaded by unfair political spin, repeats of the past, and partisan power concerns. But if Republicans aren't willing to debate and discuss the issue, then I am not opposed to forcing through legislation without their support. We have to act now, and I do not buy the arguments that say the "wrong bill" is worse than nothing at all. It can't get worse than it already is. Even a bill that has some problems would be better than nothing, because those problems can be worked out later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, there is really little need for me to say that I agree with you all around. But I think we are going to lose. I really, really do.