It has often been said that watching Congress work is like watching sausage being made. The process is ugly, but the end product eventually comes out, even if it is still treif.
Clearly, the big winners in this historic debate are our children and grandchildren. As the bill takes effect, and as it is improved over the years, they will be able to have health care access and quality that approaches that of the rest of the industrial nations.
Watching the debate last night was painfully educating. There were winners and losers both at the national and local South Jersey level – some of these may surprise you.
Winners – National Level
Nancy Pelosi will go down in history as one of the most effective Speakers of the House. Vilified by the misogynistic right wing, she cobbled together a coalition of diverse Democrats from Dennis Kucinich on the left to Bart Stupak on the right. Her tireless efforts to herd this flock of cats is the capstone of her political career.
The for-profit Insurance Companies were a big winner, with 32 million new customers subsidized by taxpayers. They will continue to reap obscene profits with huge bonuses to their executives until we manage to get real regulation and competition in place. Those on the Republican side claim that the Progressives are trying to put the for-profit health insurance companies out of business are right. The ideal solution for America is taxpayer-supported free health care for all. This is not socialized medicine as they have in England, but the implementation of a guarantee in our Declaration of Independence for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have “free” taxpayer-supported police and fire protection – why not the same for health care?
Nearly every initiative in this bill has been initiated by Republican Policy Wonks. Mandated coverage and insurance exchanges were Republican ideas aimed at thwarting the best solution – Medicare for All. The Republican leadership’s virulent opposition to their own policies is mind boggling.
Winner – Local Level
Representative Rob Andrews, whose impassioned rhetoric at the health care summit and the House debate make me even more certain that he should be our next senator. Of course, this would require the Democratic power brokers to allow South Jersey to have a senator, an unlikely scenario.
Losers – National Level
President Barack Obama, who early on abdicated his leadership role to a dysfunctional congress. His quixotic desire for bipartisanship went nowhere, and had he stepped in earlier we would have had a better bill sooner. The shameful anti-abortion language puts the burden of this health care victory on the shoulders of American women. Now that the President has the momentum, though, he can redeem his political creds by proactively implementing financial reform, energy independence, meaningful environmental regulation and bringing the Bush wars in the Middle East to a quick close.
Another person who can redeem himself from the loser’s column is Senator Harry Reid. Despite a filibuster-proof majority, he has been unable to keep the Senate on track, not only with Health Care, but also with the unprecedented backlog of presidential nominees. Now he claims to have the votes needed to get the reconciliation bill passed. But will it be by Easter or Christmas?
Republicans in general, as exemplified by Senator Jim DeMint. Their lack of participation (other than obstruction) in the process, and their overtly stated goal of bringing down the elected president confirms their mantra of “Country Last”. Of course, this is nothing new – it’s a repeat of their reprehensible actions during the Clinton years.
Loser – Local Level
Representative John Adler. D-NJ after his name is an anachronism. His faulty rationale for opposing health care will not get him any Democratic votes. And the Palinistic Republicans will overwhelmingly vote for a football player over a Harvard grad in November