It’s Our Own Damned Fault

No industry in this country ever gained federal regulation without earning the privilege.

From medicine to food to financial services and occupational safety, the federal government has never been the farsighted central planner of socialism myths. Quite to the contrary, Congress and administrations react very late in the game and, most often, with draconian responses to challenges that could have been addressed more cheaply and effectively many years prior.

And so it is with health care reform, the latest in a long line of missed opportunities to solve problems thoughtfully and incrementally and—dare I say it—together.

The bill approved tonight is terribly flawed and overreaching. If we’re honest with ourselves, we will admit we don’t really know which parts are truly beneficial and which exceed our mortal capacity to heal. We all know what we fear, or what we hope, but none of us really knows what will happen.

We certainly do not know whether the failures of this bill will be greater or smaller than the failures of the current system. We do not know whether the bill will save more lives, increase the deficit more, reduce individual freedom or simply shift arbitrary decisions from insurance company bureaucrats to government agency bureaucrats.

What we do know is that we, as individuals and voters, have failed once again. We, The People of the United States, have failed to form a more perfect union.

We, the Democrats, have failed to insist that our leaders follow their own Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. We, the Democrats, have failed to convince our representatives to take a slower and more iterative approach to a challenge that has been decades in the making. We, the Democrats, have failed to address the reasonable and sensible concerns of millions of Americans worried about the true cost—not merely the price—of access.

We, the Republicans, have failed to insist that our leaders present a cohesive, clear plan to the American people—not only in response to a Democratic blunderbuss of 2009-10, but earlier, in 2001 or 2002 or 2003 or in any year in which the Republican Party controlled both the White House and Congress. We, the Republicans, have failed to address the global economic disadvantage of U.S. businesses that must compete with foreign firms unburdened by individual health care costs. We, the Republicans, have failed to keep our promise as the pro-life party, focusing solely on unborn lives and hardly at all on those who already walk this earth.

And We, the People of the United States, have failed to insist on clarity and candor from our leaders. Instead, we have chosen to complain and deflect, responding most fervently to the sound bites and fighting words that comprise the red meat of discourse in the Coliseum we call American politics.

We, The People, have failed to elect candidates who tell us the truth, who offer candor over slogans, and who promise no benefits without a certainty of payment. We’ll give these people our praise, but not our votes.

Left or Right. Republican or Democrat. We, the People, will blame or laud, attack or defend. But we have also followed our own pattern of denial and delay. Congress is no different from all of us.

We, the People, have failed to fund our retirement plans and postponed our exercise programs and rescheduled our weight loss plans until the day after tomorrow. Like Congress and presidential administrations, we procrastinate, ignore and delay until a crisis occurs. Then they, and we, point fingers at everyone but ourselves.

We don’t know whether health care reform will be as destructive as many fear, or the salvation that many seek. It will be decades before we can compare its full impact with the system as it stands today. What we do know is that these issues could have been addressed earlier, at lower cost, with less total impact on our economy and our lives.

If We, the People, were doing our job.

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5 Responses to It’s Our Own Damned Fault

  1. Barry R Wallach says:

    well written. Ultimately we get the government we deserve. I think our Representatives really do represent us- and the mess we are in on the Hill reflects the mess we are in on Main street.

    However I do believe we know some of the answers to questions you posed:

    “We do not know whether the bill will save more lives”: it will

    “increase the deficit more”: it will- big time

    “reduce individual freedom”: it will

    “or simply shift arbitrary decisions from insurance company bureaucrats to government agency bureaucrats”: it will do some of that too

  2. Carl Rosenbaum says:

    Very well said, would have said it all myself if I could have said it as well

  3. Scott Newman says:

    Mike,

    Well written and easy to understand. Very good piece!

  4. Aaron Rice says:

    We, the People, live in a representative democracy in which elections have consequences.

    We, the Democrats, have been striving to achieve universal health care since FDR.

    Until now, We, the People, despite living in the wealthiest country in the world, have been living in the only industrialized country without universal health care. Now, We, the People, join the rest of the developed world in recognizing that having access to health care is a human right – a fundamental freedom.

    Rather than being “socialism” or a “government takeover of health care” that resembles the health care systems in Canada or Great Britain, this health care bill builds on the current, private US health care system (in the first day of trading since the health care vote, the health insurer’s stocks prices rose) and is ideologically not too far from Nixon’s proposal in ’73 or Dole and the Republicans’ proposal in ’93.

    We, the Republicans, have become an ideologically radical party. Most tellingly, when our economy was on the verge of collapse in September 2008 due to the deregulation of the financial industry, despite the Bush Administration (the champions of the free market, tax cuts and deregulation) urgently begging for the Congress to bailout the Wall Street banks to avert an imminent depression, We, the House Republicans, clinged to our ideology in the face of reality and initially refused to approve the bailout bill.

    We, the Democrats, understand that a grand bargain will have to be made soon to address our long term fiscal challenge and to solidy our social safety net. This grand bargain will involve reforming entitlements (e.g., raising the age of eligibility, means testing) and raising taxes. But, We, the People, won’t be able take that necessary fiscally conservative step until We, the Republicans (the party that exploded the deficit in the ’80s and the ’00s with supply side economics), moderate our politics and embrace pragmatism and compromise.

  5. Elaine Fogel says:

    I cannot include myself in “We the People” as I am not yet an American citizen. So, my view is from a Canadian vantage point – yes, from the land of the universal health care system.

    What amazes me most is the divisive, acrimonious, attitudes and behaviors on the part of both parties – with one being more vicious than the other, I’m afraid.

    Although I try hard to understand the rationale of the revolutionary mentality – distrust of government and a desire to stand on one’s own feet – I cannot wrap my head around the fact that American children and adults die because of a lack of health care access.

    This is such an abhorring, immoral situation. So, I wonder. How many Americans choose a lack of distrust of their government over a lack of distrust over the financial, banking and corporate sector? If it were me, I’d take my chances on government over Wall Street thieves, thank you. 🙂

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