Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Waiting for the Prez to speak


So those of us hoping for health care reform will be listening to the big speech tonight. (I'll be trying to listen on a car radio while driving to the mountains -- yeah! -- and may have to catch up later.) The talking heads say there is a lot riding on it.

That wonderful writer Anne Lamott, whose schtick is being a decent Everywoman, caught the mood of the President's supporters last week:

...After eight years of Bush, and then the Palin nomination, we were battered and anguished and punch-drunk. But in rallying behind you, we came back to life, like in Ezekiel when the prophet breathes the spirit of bearing witness and caring onto the dry bones, and those bones come back to life, become living people again, cherished and tended to.

We did not know exactly how you would proceed to restore our beloved Constitution. It seemed beyond redemption, like my kitchen floor did briefly last week after my dog, Bodhi, accidentally ate 24 corn bread muffins. You said you would push back your sleeves and begin, that it would take all of us working harder than we ever had before, but that you would lead. While acknowledging the financial and moral devastation of the last eight years, you said you would start by giving your people healthcare. You would do battle with the conservatives and insurance companies. You said in your beautiful way many times that this was the overarching moral and spiritual issue of our times, and we understood this to mean that you took this to be your Selma, your Little Rock. ...

Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2009

Much of the punditocracy smirks at Obama supporters' naivete -- why they actually believe a politician; how sweet! There is something peculiarly morally foul about mocking innocent hope -- the in-crowd is stinking from its own decay these days.

Ed Kilgore is a realistic Democratic party operative with a decent side. He has tried to put the speech in reasonable perspective:

...it's not some desperate measure to work political magic, but an effort to frame the endgame of the health debate, to deal with the lies that are out there about what he's trying to do, and to rally the troops he already has, which, after all, clearly include over half the people in Congress. He might be able to produce some positive movement in the polls as well, but even if he doesn't, he's likely to get a bump when health reform is enacted and the sky doesn't fall on people with insurance, while people without it (or in danger of losing it) will be pretty happy.

So the speech doesn't have to produce miracles, and if someone tells you it must, they probably don't think health reform is a particularly good idea to begin with.

Okay -- that sounds more like what we can expect.

The most vociferous of us are being softened up to accept "the good" and to give up our attachment to "the perfect," again. The message of the week is that the Dems have to give something to Republican Olympia Snowe and some conservatives in their own party. So we can't have a public option plan that cuts out the insurance profiteers from some small fraction of their captive business, but we might be allowed "triggers" that would start a public plan if the insurers failed to perform. We the untrusting think that's a sell-out. Untrusting seems a reasonable posture to me.

What I continue to wonder, awaiting the President's inauguration of the autumn push for reform, is why smart observers seem so confident that whatever we do get will be good for Democrats? If they make everyone buy insurance but don't control insurance company greed, they are just to going to have a lot of pissed off people who perceive themselves as being forced to shell out for something they can't afford to use. If the much talked about subsidies don't really offset the costs, more pissed off people. And none of this looks like cost control -- nothing to ease the administrative burden that comes from having some many different insurance scams to track, nothing to limit profiteering by those medical entities that thrive on driving up payments to themselves.

And apparently whatever they do won't really kick in until 2013. That is, the Dems are putting us through the trauma of an incomplete, probably feeble, partial redesign of health care -- but don't dare run on people's experience of it until after the next Presidential election cycle. That could backfire. Supposing something passes and nothing happens -- will people start asking "where's my health care reform?" I can imagine that. They are currently asking "where's my stimulus?"

President Obama -- you've got a big task. You do great political theater. But when it comes to health care, we're all of necessity part of the cast; none of us can be just the audience this time.

1 comment:

bjohanna said...

(1) Greed is definitely present in the industry. Or whatever you want to call it in any industry where stockholders needs and CEO salaries come first. The downside of capitalism. I get my car insurance from a not-for-profit company and I’m sure the CEO, etc. are paid at least somewhat accordingly to industry standards, but the need to enrich stockholders is not there. Therefore, I have reasonable car insurance rates and reasonable people to talk to. No reason to believe it’s any different in the health care industry.

(2) In addition to your observations on health care reform, thank you for letting me know where I can find Anne Lamott on a more regular basis than her published books. Now to figure out how I can find out whenever she has a column in the LA Times.

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