Monday, January 25, 2010

Current events

One thing that did not factor into my calculations about healthcare was that the system would actually be reformed anytime soon.

Honestly, the political news over these past few months has been so damned depressing. It's killing me. It actually affects my daily outlook. There's so much to do, and so much else that's not getting done while healthcare is not getting done.

I blame stupid Americans. I blame the lobbyists. And I blame Obama. The individual elements of the plan are favored by the majority of Americans, but the bill itself has been trashed and tarred and distorted. It's like a failure of messaging more than anything else. Yes, it's easier for the opposition -- it's always easier to tear down than build up -- but I feel like there's more that can be done.

The opposition says to just break it up into little chunks, but it simply won't work that way. If you want to prevent insurance companies from turning down sick people and people with pre-existing conditions, they need to make up that income from somewhere. Thus, the individual mandate. And, of course, some low income people won't be able to afford that, so you need to help them out. So you've got to find that money somewhere. Etc.

It's a hugely complicated problem that doesn't have a simple solution and people want simple. And I understand that people are naturally worried about how it will affect them personally. And the fact that most people's health care is fine (for the moment), makes it really hard to motivate change.

That's why I think instead of arguing facts and figures and dollars and cents, Obama should get back to an argument that he has only briefly made. That it's the right thing to do. The moral thing to do. The fair thing to do. Try appealing to the better angels of our nature. This is what I would say:

"There have been a lot of distortions in this debate. Government takeovers, death panels, socialism. This is not about any of that. It's about taking care of our fellow citizens. It's about doing what every one of us does on daily basis -- helping out our fellow man, whether it's a family member, a neighbor, a colleague or, most astonishingly, people we don't even know.

In the last couple of weeks, Americans have opened up their hearts and their pocketbooks for the people of Haiti. How many Americans know anyone in Haiti? How many have even been to Haiti? Yet, here we are, a generous people, giving and giving in record numbers to total strangers. Giving and giving at a time when so many of us are facing our own economic struggles and have even less to give than we've had in the past.

Yet we do it anyway, because it's right. Because it's good. Because it's what we do. Whether it's for the victims of the tsunami in Asia or the house fire down the street.

There are tens of millions of American who are hurting. Who can't afford decent healthcare, for themselves or their families. And many, many millions more in peril. And we have an opportunity to help them. Our country was built on individual enterprise, yes. But it also has a strong foundation of support and caring for each other.

Our opponents can call it socialism, but it goes on every day. And many millions of Americans benefit from it. Social Security. No one these days would dare argue against Social Security. It keeps millions of our elderly from slipping into poverty. And allows millions of disabled citizens to lead lives of dignity and independence.

Same with Medicaid and Medicare. Government-funded programs that help those who need it. Food stamps. Aid to dependent children. Without these programs, and others like it, America would be a place of desperation and despair far greater than what we see today.

We have a chance to do something great. Something noble. Something that will truly lift up the lives of so many of our fellow citizens. It won't be easy. Nothing important ever is. It won't come without some sacrifice. But the price of not acting is even greater. The cost of doing nothing will haunt us for generations to come if we do not seize this moment.

Ted Kennedy often said that one of his great regrets was not accepting the sweeping health care reform proposed by Richard Nixon. Are we going to let this moment pass? Are we going to pass this problem on to the next generation? No, we cannot. No, we will not. We're a better nation than that. We're a better people than that. The time to act is now. For ourselves, for our children, for our future."

That's what I'd say. Well, I'd polish it up some. Maybe substitute a little detail for some of the platitudes. But not too much. These arguments are won on emotion, not logic. Then backed up with some bare-knuckled ass-kicking.

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