Monday, March 22, 2010

American Healthcare

Last night the House of Representatives passed a historic bill, bringing America into the... mid 20th century. Most Western nations have had some form of universal health care for decades, but political machinations have also stymied efforts in the US. The subject has dominated Washington for the last year and finally forced Obama to move from the all talk position he is more comfortable with to actively lobbying congress to get the bill passed. One can only imagine how much sooner it would have passed if he wasn't fixating on the Clinton's failure. The cost of the bill seems enormous, $938 billion over ten years, but actually saves the tax payers $143 billion over the same period. This is one of the much ignored benefits of public health care. Private systems - so-called - actually take an enormous amount of revenue out of the tax payers pockets; public ones bring greater accountability and savings. This bill, even with the sweetheart deals to big pharma off the table, still saves the US taxpayer almost 15 percent.

The Republicans are threatening to campaign against it, drawing on the popularity of the Tea Partiers. As a political force I suspect the Tea Party faction is highly over rated. NY Times' conservative columnist David Brooks wasn't the first to recognize the similarities between them and the New Left of the 60s and early 70s. Loud demonstrations, attacking the system from without. Many Tea Partiers have commented that they've not only never been politically active before, they've never even voted. That's key. When McGovern went up against Nixon in 1972 he worked to mobilize the New Left's support and went on to lose by a historic numbers. Nixon carried 49 states. People who have never voted make garner a lot of attention, but they count for nothing when the ballots are counted.

That doesn't mean the Democrats have nothing to worry about. The near collapse America's economy is only slowly coming to an end and Washington has spent more than a year arguing almost exclusively about healthcare. If the Administration had acted a year ago as it has these past few weeks, so much more could have been accomplished. That gridlock will cost incumbents, Democrat and Republican alike, far more than healthcare or protesters.

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