Once again, our estimable Congress has elected not to solve nor even deal with our country’s problems but to continue the cycle of distrust, antagonism and political gamesmanship. This cycle has reached new lows since December 2008 when Republican leadership announced that their goal for the next four years (oops, eight years) was defeating president Obama. Not moderating liberal policies, not solving the nation’s long-term fiscal issues, not even to looking thoughtful and grown up in preparation for the next election but only to deny success for the administration regardless of the effect on the country. To be fair, this basic instinct to win at any cost is as old as humanity. However, a functional democracy demands something better,
America has some serious problems. For example, growing economic disparity and forty years of income stagnation among the middle class, education, jobs, our declining international standing and influence, dysfunctional government, jobless recovery, the long-term financial trouble facing the federal government, most states and many cities.
Our healthcare system does not work as well as it should for the cost. For example, compared to other industrialized countries, US healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP is highest, our life expectancy is lowest, we have the highest infant mortality and the highest medical cost per capita. See http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bca4c114-29d8-11e3-bbb8-00144feab7de.html#ixzz2gxmLgVgc. A US study a few years ago also showed that the level of preventable medical deaths was roughly the equivalent of a 747 crashing everyday! A hip replacement is three times as costly in the US as in Great Britain.
So there is a very legitimate discussion to have on the healthcare system and ways to fix it. But, the House of Representatives’ most conservative members have sacrificed more than forty opportunities to hold that discussion. I am confounded as to why they went out of their way so many times to avoid addressing the problems that the ACA brings with it or other problems in the health care “system”. ACA has some problems but it is not the end of the world and certainly does not encompass all the other health care issues. So why is ACA everything in the view of the House Republican minority?
I can only conclude a few things. One is that ACA does not poll very well and may be a potential winner for Republicans on that basis. Another is that they don’t know how to fix the problems. They then prefer to take symbolic votes on the problem that polls best. That’s smart – avoids any sort of accountability while leaving the issues available for later use like sticking in front of a CR or debt ceiling debate. Or perhaps they don’t actually want to fix the problems but prefer to have someone else to blame for them.
At the start of the shutdown, they began to argue for a delay in the individual mandate claiming they just want to improve ACA so the world won’t end. That’s good. I’m not in favor of the world ending just yet. But, if they wanted me to believe that they have my welfare in mind, they would have started putting forward suggestions that were practical and had a chance of becoming law. They squandered more than forty opportunities to point out weaknesses, simplify the law, do something to educate the public or do anything else good. Instead, they used all forty efforts to pass symbolic measures that had no chance of becoming law.
And now that the polling again turns against the shutdown and in favor of increasing the debt limit, the minority of the Republican minority is saying “Well, what we really want is a conversation on the budget and debt and the size of government”. Great discussion! The Senate has been waiting for months for the House to appoint conferees to negotiate the differences between their budgets. Too bad the House is so focused on fighting symbolic fights.