Monday, November 9, 2009

On Politicians and Hypocrisy

Anyone following the U.S. cat fight regarding health care reform proposals knows the fight has been long and bitter -- and it's not over yet. The House narrowly passed its version over the weekend with a 220-215 vote; the Senate is up next. If the Senate approves a version -- a very, very big "if" -- then a joint committee of the two chambers will hammer out differences, after which both chambers will vote one way or another. Should the legislation pass, it will be up to President Obama to sign it into law, which of course he badly wants to do, as this was one of his main campaign planks.

There's plenty of room for many legitimate concerns in this debate, regardless of where one stands on it at the end of the day. It's a dead certainty that neither of the extreme ends of the political spectrum will be satisfied; on the left are those that want to see so-called "single-payer health care," period, i.e., government-run health care, while their mortal opponents on the far right want government to stay entirely out of health care.

But talk about hypocrisy in the extreme. Sure, the Left would *love* to have universal, government-sponsored health care -- so long as someone else pays for it. (That means you and me, not him or her.) And sure, the  Right would love for government to stay out of health care . . . except for programs such as Medicare -- a government-run medical program for older Americans -- and, more to the point and more hypocritically, the top-flight health care provided to all members of Congress.

The Right has provided far more sound-bites during this veritable war than has the Left (but don't worry; the Left will get its chance, if not on this issue, then another one). For instance, one Republican member of Congress has rather famously viscerally opposed health care legislation -- but the other day boasted how he loves the medical care available to him in the U.S. Capitol building -- health care paid for by the American taxpayer. In other words, what this Congresscritter would call "socialized medicine" or "communist medicine that takes away our freedoms!" (Even some of his fellow members of Congress and others in his party have been reported as hanging their heads and rubbing their brows.)

Then there's the hoopla about what former Vice-Presidential candidate and Alaska governor Palin dubbed "death panels" -- panels, she claimed, manned by government bureaucrats who would tell us to "pull the plug on Granny." Never mind that the proposed panel's actual purpose is to examine the effectiveness of different approaches to a given medical problem to try to rank them by effectiveness in context of a variety of factors, including, yes, costs. But the panel, if instituted, will have no authority to impose a given course of treatment; in fact, such authority will be explicitly denied it.

Besides, insurance companies already do this -- as they should. What are they supposed to do? Write each possibility on a piece of paper, collect the slips, stir them up in a hat, and have a lottery, in effect, to decide???

But "death panels" has a splendid ring to it that any other description lacks.

Not that some Democrats haven't made their own bids for sound-bite fame and glory, mind you. One representative said -- on the floor of the House, no less, that the Republicans' proposal is for sick Americans to just "DIE!" (his emphasis).

What crap.

The guiding principle for way too many folks, both in and out of Congress, is this: "My mind's made UP!!! -- Don't confuse me with the FACTS!!!"

Yeah, no need for either extreme to bother themselves with those pesky little critters, "facts." They might borrow from President Clinton's campaign slogan, "It's the economy, stupid" re-cast as "It's the votes, stupid."

Do I know how to fix our increasingly dysfunctional and increasingly expensive heakth care system? -- nope. We spend about double per capita compared to what other industrialized nations spend on their citizens, yet we rank somewhere around 16th (last I read the other day) in quality of medical care. So, something's wrong. And that's not even mentioning the roughly 46 million Americans with no medical insurance.

No matter what we do, someone's going to get slammed. But no one wants to talk about that -- a medical care version of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," so to speak. (That's not an endorsement of the former Vice-President's environmental views, just a theft of his book's memorable title.)

In other words, no compassion for the poor devils slammed by whatever some faction supports. Hell no -- let hypocrisy rule the day.

Just like always.

Monday, November 9, 2009