To hear the Republican rhetoric, health care reform is not socialism: it's the first domino on the path to full-blown Marxist-Leninist hell. Their first cousins, the so called "Blue Dog" Democrats share many of the same fears. But at the end of the day, neither group seems concerned about the underlying political philosophy. Their opposition to health care reform is about elections.
The Blue Dogs come from states that are truly center right, which means that anything resembling a moderate Republican resurgence would be a threat to their 2010 reelection prospects. And for the Republicans, health care is just the sort of issue that they've been waiting for. Their one-time hero George W. Bush didn't lift a finger in this arena, so anything that goes wrong here can be laid at Obama's feet. In addition, the issue lends itself to the sort of simplistic platitudes at which Republican strategists excel. (I mention this last point with no little envy.)
Simply put, the status quo threatens the entire US economy and everyone within it. Today, $16 out of every $100 dollars created by the economy goes into our failing health care system. When that figure hits the $20 mark, we're all screwed. The sheer magnitude of the expenditure will pull down all the productive parts of the economy. And since even conservative estimates have health care expenditures growing at 6% annually, the point of no return is coming up very fast. (The Great Recession is hastening its arrival.)
If the status quo threatens our way of life, then fundamental change is the only alternative. Obstructionism teeters on being nothing short of unpatriotic, not a sentiment that I often raise. Elected officials have a right to their opinions, but hopefully voters will recognize that politicians who oppose reform are serving special interests over their constituents.
I'm not suggesting that the Republicans accept everything that the Democrats are pushing for in in the current effort. Some of it is deeply flawed. What I am advocating is that they engage in the finest tradition of an opposition party and develop their own, practical ideas for overhauling the system. (As some Senators and House Members now know, this sort of thing is actually very hard work.) Only then can we have an honest competition of implementable ideas. That would be best for the nation: the best alternative is, however, any change proposed by the Democrats. Even bad legislation will break the logjam and move us away from the abyss. It may not be perfect, but it's better than what we have today.
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