The [Tuesday] Papers
By Steve Rhodes
The Tom Toles editorial cartoon about health care reform in the Sun-Times today is amusing. But it's also misguided.
Toles shows a snail labeled the "Health Care Reform Ambulance" creeping along a path littered with the mile-markers of the past, starting with 1993 through today.
At the end of the path, between the 2009 and 2010 signs, a Republican (an elephant in a suit) is holding his hands up saying "Whoa there, pal! Slow it down!"
Yes. But no.
As I wrote in part yesterday, the Obama team's conscious strategy is to push separate pieces of health care legislation through the houses of Congress - almost regardless of what they contain - in order to get to a reconciliation meeting between party negotiators to iron out the differences and declare victory.
This is a very bad idea.
First, what Toles gets wrong is that while, yes, health care reform has been debated for decades, the current proposal(s) has barely been debated for weeks. As I understand it, the leading bill is 1,000 pages long. Nobody but the lobbyists have read it yet.
It's also not clear just what kind of reform we will get out of this process. Obama has not only ceded the writing of the legislation to Congress, he has ceded his multiple positions to whatever gets passed, regardless of the consequences.
Once for single-payer, Obama campaigned for the least progressive version of health care reform among all Democratic candidates. In the primary, he railed against Hillary Clinton's support of a mandate that would require every American to purchase health care insurance; in the general election he railed against John McCain's support of taxing health care benefits.
He has reversed field on both.
It's hard to figure out just what the president stands for, except a mysterious belief that somehow he will be able to pay for health care reform by "containing costs" so much that he will also find enough savings to start paying down the gargantuan deficit.
Does this sound like a well-thought out plan ready to kick out the door?
Obama himself recently said - disingenuously, of course - that he has been persuaded to support mandated insurance since he was elected.
Really? Just what was it that pushed you over the edge, sir?
And if it took someone like you this long to be persuaded, shouldn't ordinary American citizens get at least the same amount of time you had to digest just what is being proposed here?
I happen to favor mandates if we can't get single-payer or find a way to federally support states designing their own systems, so I'm not taking issue with that. I'm taking issue with what is no doubt a Rahm Emanuel-designed congressional strategy to just get the damn bills - any bills - to conference committee, where the White House can go in behind closed doors and do its thing, whatever that may be.
That's a long way from Obama's pledge to put health care negotiations on TV.
"C-SPAN would record every word, Obama said, while he and members of Congress, as well as representatives of the health-care industry, hashed out a plan to overhaul the health care system," the Los Angeles Times recalls.
But then, why should that campaign promise be any different than any of the others that have become inoperable with historic lightning speed?
"The discussions have not played out that way," the Times continues. "Obama has met repeatedly with lawmakers to discuss health care strategy. No cameras or reporters have been allowed to cover the talks. The White House has announced deals with hospital and drug industry executives - negotiated behind closed doors."
I wonder why Toles doesn't draw a cartoon about that.
The biggest enemy to health care reform right now isn't Republicans; it's the Obama administration's desire to say they've passed it rather than actually doing it.
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Posted on July 21, 2009
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