From the Crow's Nest / Ed Chrostowski
April Fools' joke may lurk in health-care 'reforms"™
Published 1:03 am, Thursday, April 1, 2010
After many months of pleading and cajoling, arm-twisting and bargaining, scrutinizing and analyzing, the nation at last has a law that purports to improve and expand the way the health of its people is insured and administered.
While the dialogue has been divisive, exhaustive debate is the American way and we wouldn't have it any other way. It's supposed to lead to consensus and an optimum decision after all.
But the tumult and the shouting have not subsided. The rhetoric grows more strident. Disagreement and dissatisfaction persist. Ardent supporters of "reform" are disappointed that it isn't more inclusive. Adamant opponents remain convinced that the law will 1.) sell a democracy down the river into socialism and/or 2.) bankrupt a nation already saddled with huge deficits. So divergence continues.
The point is that there hasn't been absolute satisfaction and agreement on the issue anywhere or at any time during the long and arduous struggle. Opinion was sharply divided everywhere except, remarkably, in the Republican solidarity in Congress. Not one of the 178 Republicans in the House of Representatives could find any saving grace or redeeming quality in the 2,500 pages that comprise the new health care legislation.
Such unanimity suggests a political strategy rather than any real attempt at the compromises that the GOP, in its lockstep unity, could have forged in purposeful negotiation instead of just saying no. After all, Republican leaders had said they did agree that something had to be done to plug health care's unsustainable drain on the nation's resources.
Now only time will tell whether we have at last devised a viable solution. Challenges have been mounted. Several states, Connecticut not among them so far, are prepared to question the legality of the federal legislation and are alleging that it clashes directly with their own constitutions. Other complaints are directed at the manner, described by its critics as devious and dastardly, in which Democrats strong-armed the legislation through Congress.
There may be solid grounds for continued dispute over the legislation and how it materialized, but claims that it constitutes socialism ring hollow. A half-century ago, Americans embraced the concepts of Medicare and Medicaid. Even well before that, the Social Security system gained acclaim and the taxpaying public always has subscribed to the need for each generation to take its turn at funding government services, education included, for those who follow. And the sky has not fallen.
If history is any indication, opposition to the new health care law will diminish gradually, as it did with other social legislation, even if politicians continue to grouse about the way it was done. As Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, has observed somewhat imperiously, "Product trumps procedure."
Still, it may be a Pyrrhic victory that Democrats have achieved. Public disenchantment with the long drawn-out divisiveness in government, compounded by some disappointment and disapproval of the results, may be reflected at the polls in this November's mid-term election.
Will voter disaffection reduce or even eliminate the majorities Democrats have enjoyed, though perhaps squandered, in the House and Senate? Despite possibly lesser numbers, will Democratic leadership in Washington will be vindicated and retain control? Will the Republican minority, perhaps augmented by election results, remain as solidly entrenched? On the other hand, if public acceptance and approval does materialize, however gradually, the stern GOP opposition could backfire on the party at the polls.
In any event, unwavering partisanship could very well prolong a governmental deadlock at a time when the nation is in dire need of prompt decisive action on an agenda crowded with such pressing issues as unemployment and immigration.
Certainly there is a whole laundry list of matters that mustn't be shunted aside by the kind of strident argumentation that hog-tied the nation while the search for elusive answers to health-care trauma raged.
Many negatives have been hurled at health-care proposals over the past many months, some valid and some not, and we ought not be deluded into thinking that the case is at last closed. Indeed, the divisive and highly partisan debate stoked smoldering ideological clashes anew.
The long-range impact that unreconciled differences may have on the coming elections and the ability of government to make decisions and take action, free from partisan constraints, now must rank among our major concerns.