I have debated with myself about writing this post for several days. I want to be clear right up front. I am not writing this in support of the health care reform legislation before Congress, but neither am I writing this in opposition to said legislation. Clearly, our health care system needs to have some changes. Possibly, there are some good things in the legislation that is being debated in Congress right now. In fact, I would dare say it is more than a possibility and more of a probability. On the other side of the coin, there are things that I would not like about it. The most prominent of these would be the mandate that every American purchase health insurance and the mandate on businesses to provide health care coverage for their employees.
I am no expert on the subject, but I am able to formulate informed opinions, as is most every other citizen of this country. The problem with the debate we are having over health care reform is that it is not really a debate. It has descended into a shouting match between the far right and the far left and I learned a long time ago that shouting usually results in zero accomplishments.
First of all, it appears President Obama does not really want debate on the subject, he just wants a bill to sign. I base this assumption on his reaction to the way certain town hall meetings on the topic have been disrupted by protesters. (Don’t worry, I will get to that part of the story in a moment.) The White House blog has posted an article called Facts Are Stubborn Things and it bemoans the fact that a lot of misinformation is being spread around the Internet in chain mails and although they do not mention blogs in particular, I am sure they had them in mind as well. In this article, they ask that anyone who reads or hears something about the health care legislation that seems fishy to report it to the White House.
This article immediately brought the response by conservatives that President Obama was attempting to get American citizens to report on other American citizens for political speech. Some of those charges came from people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, which is to be expected. While I do not believe that is what the President is up to, I do know this is the way he has operated in the past. He is in pure campaign mode right now and he is moving to make sure his message gets out. I have no doubt he is not above trying to shut down what he considers outlets of misinformation. He proved this during the campaign when he threatened legal action against media outlets who were airing advertisements from the NRA that talked about his record against the 2nd Amendment. I do not necessarily believe that he is compiling an enemies list, but he has made it clear that he does not appreciate opposing voices. As for how Limbaugh and company responded, what else did you expect?
This I will say about Obama’s request for reports of misinformation. There is certainly a lot of that going around on both sides of the argument, but there are also legitimate concerns. Those concerns have to be addressed before the majority of the American people will feel comfortable about the legislation Congress is trying to pass. He needs to understand that just because he won the election does not give him carte blanche to ram any legislation he wants down our throats. Trying to do so is one sure way to get the ire of the American people up in a hurry.
President Obama has to be frustrated with Congress’ failure to pass health care reform legislation before their summer recess. I am sure he hoped to have it out of the way and possibly out of the minds of the American people. Having failed to do so gives us more opportunity to debate this legislation among ourselves and to question our legislators as they come home for their summer recess.
Several legislators have been arranging town hall meetings with their constituents and trying to hear their concerns about health care reform. Some of these meetings have turned ugly and resulted in the shouting matches I mentioned at the first of this article. One such meeting was in Arkansas between the voters and Representatives Mike Ross and Vic Synder. If you remember, Mike Ross is the leader of the blue dog Democrats who helped force the delay in passing health care legislation until the fall. They were trying to negotiate a better reform package and to give them and the people who voted them into office time to digest what is going on in Washington. From what I have read about the meeting, I kind of felt sorry for Representative Ross. I may not agree with him on most issues, but it sounds like he was trying to do right by his constituents.
The meeting in Arkansas has not been the only one to turn ugly and they have prompted charges by the Democrats that right wing activists have been recruiting people to go to the meetings in order to disrupt them. The liberal media has been going out of it’s way to “inform” the American people that these protests were those of a very vocal minority group of people and some have even suggested that the Republican party is coming apart. I have no inside information about these protests and have no way of knowing if the liberal media is accurate in their assessment of the situation. If they are correct, then those who are organizing these kinds of protests are doing a great dis-service to the debate on health care reform.
As I have already mentioned, there are legitimate concerns about the legislation before Congress. I do not like the idea that some businesses would be required to provide health care coverage for their employees. As much as that might sound like a wonderful plan, it is not the responsibility of my employer to provide health care coverage for me or my family. There have been some concerns over how health care may be rationed, in order to keep costs down as much as possible. As a comment on one of my earlier articles said, the insurance companies are calling the shots now and the only thing they are concerned with is their bottom dollar.
Along with the concerns that are real, we also have those that are not. World Net Daily came out with an article a couple of weeks ago that tried to make the case that the legislation would require senior citizens to have end-of-life counseling sessions. Once I actually read the section of the legislation they were alluding to, it was very clear that was not the truth. Now we have former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin posting on her Facebook page about how the Obama plan was evil and how he would create “death panels” that would deny care to Americans who needed it. One thing for sure, Sarah Palin knows how to keep herself in the news. As far as I can tell, this is also alluding to the end-of-life counseling sessions and it is complete bunk. Those sessions have nothing to do with denying care to those who need it or with deciding how or when someone will die. They are not mandatory and they are to cover living wills, final care, hospice, etc.
We have a real situation on our hands with the debate over health care reform. The liberals have more than enough votes to pass any legislation they want and they know it. The only way conservatives can slow them down is to have the help of the blue dog Democrats who are fiscally conservative enough to want to stop the massive spending that will undoubtedly accompany any health care reform legislation. A lot of conservatives seem bent on yelling their heads off about concerns that do not really exist, instead of focusing on fostering a real debate about the concerns that are legitimate.
So now we have that shouting match I mentioned earlier. We have Nancy Pelosi saying some protesters were carrying swastikas and Rush Limbaugh comparing the Obama health care logo to a swastika and the Democratic Party to Nazis. If we are not careful, shouting is the only thing that will come out of this and even though health care reform legislation is likely to pass Congress, we may very well miss a real opportunity to see real change take place. One thing I have learned from watching politics and Washington, D.C., the more things change, the more they remain the same.