Wasn't it just a few days ago I was bemoaning the so-called health care reform effort now in progress in the US Congress? Indeed, it was. The subject is likely to appear several more times in coming weeks as the issue heats up in Congress. And one thing that's certain: unless the apparent course of events takes some sort of drastic new turn, it's going to heat me up also. The general temper--er, no pun intended--of my remarks the other day had to do with the lamentable lack of backbone our president appears to be afflicted with. Whereas happy, smiling faces all around the political spectrum is a nice vision (i.e., partisanship), the reality is Obama is in a knife fight with people determined to kill him. Offering to shake hands and have a discussion in the midst of the fight is a sure way to get a shiv in the ribs. In fact, what Obama needs to do is have somebody hand him a cutlass so he can slash his way through his enemies. Unfortunately, Obama doesn't want a cutlass; he wants a plate of cupcakes to offer the people who are trying to kill him.
Paul Krugman says Obama doesn't have enough audacity for the moment. Like me, he fears that Obama will sign what he can get out of Congress, and that he won't insist on anything. But this guarantees that what he will sign will reform nothing. It will, in fact, probably be as bad as what we have now. As Krugman says: "The point is that if you’re making big policy changes, the final form of the policy has to be good enough to do the job. You might think that half a loaf is always better than none — but it isn’t if the failure of half-measures ends up discrediting your whole policy approach."
The president is but one obstacle to a successful health care reform effort. The other is more numerous and in all likelihood more powerful, especially since Obama is the way he is. The other enemy is the ever present, oiled to the gills army of lobbyists who have descended upon the Congress like a swarm of locusts . . . actually more like ravenous rats who are going to chew the guts out of any meaningful health care reform bill. Make no mistake about it: the Republicans and lobbyists for the for-profit hospitals, the drug giants, and the insurance industry don't want any reform at all. They are gloriously happy with the present system which is rewarding them quite handsomely, thank you, but which is cost the American people about twice as much as the next most expensive health care system in the world. And they don't really give a flying fuck for what's best for the country, or some nonsensical concept like the greatest good for the greatest number. But they realize something is going to pass, so their job is to pass legislation which is as meaningless as possible and which preserves the status quo as much as possible. This is what they've set out to do with all their millions, and quite frankly, I have little hope, as I've said before, that Congress is going to be able to resist these blandishments--regardless of what the American people want, regardless of what is desperately needed.
So what I fear is passage of an unadulterated POS that Obama will claim is great for the country and sign with great fanfare surrounded by bunch of grinning politicians, every single one of whom knows that nothing has really been reformed at all.