“On Healthcare: Hold Your Noses and Celebrate Anyway
Democrats have been trying to pass a
universal healthcare plan for nearly a century. But Woodrow Wilson
dropped the ball on the first attempt, FDR gave up on the second, Harry
Truman ran smack into the AMA on the third, Richard Nixon collided with
Teddy Kennedy on the fourth, and Bill Clinton fell to Harry and Louise
(and Bob and Newt) on the fifth.
Now we’re on our sixth try, and the fight so far hasn’t been a
pretty one. The Republican side has been dominated by howling over
death panels and socialism, transparently fake attempts at
bipartisanship, and promises to filibuster and obstruct endlessly. On
the Democratic side, activists have turned abortion funding and the
public option into hills to die for, Olympia Snowe and Ben Nelson have
become de factor kingmakers, and even at best none of the bills on
offer will cover more than about two-thirds of the uninsured.
But you know what? This is still the farthest we’ve ever gotten,
and with Democrats coming out of this week’s series of negotiating
sessions seemingly united behind a compromise plan, it looks like Harry
Reid might actually get something passed through the Senate before
Christmas. If that happens, a conference committee will likely report
out a final bill sometime in January. And that will be the first time
ever that Congress has even gotten to the point of voting on national
The first time. So yes: It’s not single-payer. The subsidies are
inadequate. The public option, if there is one, will be so weak as to
be a joke. Every interest group from insurers to doctors to seniors to
pharmaceutical companies has been openly bribed to go along. Lots of
people will still be left outside the safety net. It’s a mess.
But so was Social Security when it passed. It left out domestic
workers (because they were mostly black and Southerners demanded it),
it left out farmworkers, and its payouts were pathetically small. But
what it did do was establish the principle that the elderly should be
taken care of. And eventually they were. The healthcare bill we’re
about to get is exactly the same: It does too little and it leaves too
many people out, but it establishes the principle that everyone
deserves decent healthcare. And eventually everyone will.
So hold your noses and celebrate anyway. It’s taken us a hundred
years, but if this messy, inadequate, infuriating healthcare reform
passes it will be a historic occasion. FDR will finally be smiling.”
The problem a lot of people are having, first of all, with viewing this as an incremental step forward is that it’s not being presented to us as an incremental step forward. I don’t trust general improvements in the state of American politics to continue to be made in the future, not enough to be okay with settling for so little right now.