Wednesday, December 23, 2009

US Healthcare: Big Tent or Big Top?

Doesn't it seem like the more things change, the more they stay the same?
Over 2 months ago it seemed like the national healthcare reform debate in Congress was nearing a conclusion, but here we are 2 days before Christmas and the Senate still has not voted on this issue.
Of course, the Senate bill now under discussion bears but limited resemblance to the collection of proposals that existed 10 weeks ago.

One constant is the vehement delaying tactics being employed by the 'Party of 'No', which is embarked on a scorched earth policy designed to obstruct, delay, water down and hopefully kill any measure that comes to vote.
And, if that doesn't work, expect more misinformation/scare campaigns backed by big money, phony 'Tea Parties' and election tactics to match.

For one party to opt for non-participation, then claim not having their views heard and considered is ludicrous!
Last time I witnessed such behavior probably dates back to elementary school, maybe kindergarten.
That our Congress has come to this type of spiteful dysfunction is a real pity, but the seeds of this type of conduct have been evident for a while.

Just look at how the current administration contrasts with the previous one.
The 'W' White House years in office never advocated anything approaching a 'big tent' philosophy.
Quite the contrary, W pursued his own agenda and R ideological dogmas from the very beginning.
And the D's gave him the benefit of the doubt, much to their later chagrin.

It was only after 6 years of W's damage had been done that the D's regained a majority in Congress.
And, two years after that when Obama was elected with an ambitious agenda and an inclusive, 'big tent' approach to governing.
That is an admirable goal, but also inherently difficult to achieve.
The R's have exploited this by essentially boycotting it and substituting a militant form of obstructionism, in hopes of political gain.

The public's prolonged exposure to the congressional 'sausage-making' around healthcare reform has managed to tarnish its original beneficial objectives.
Instead, what could have been an enlightened national discussion about a very important issue has been deliberately turned into a protracted ugly squabble, with an outcome not likely to not satisfy anyone.
We may be on the verge of seeing this debate turn into a debacle, which would be most regrettable - especially after 60-plus unproductive years of failure to significantly improve healthcare in the country.

Unfortunately, the 'big tent' envisioned is instead being used as a 'big top' to house a circus with several unfunny clowns competing to be the Ringmaster!
Maybe it has always been this way, but this time it's just more visible.
Democracy isn't always pretty to watch, but militant, mean-spirited obstructionism is really ugly, and demeans the public as well as the spirit of our Constitution.
I hope the art of compromise with civility can be restored, but that kind of reform might be even more difficult, unless, we -the public- demand it with our voices and votes!

Winston Churchill once said he admired the Americans because they always get things right... after they have tried everything else!