Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Health Care Reform Doesn't Say

To say that I watched with interest the President's speech to a joint session of Congress last week would be stretching a point (OK, it would be flat out lying). In fact, the only bits of it that I managed to catch were in the process of channel surfing in order to see if it was over yet. 

You see, political speeches are for the most part well choreographed pieces of water ballet. They can be beautiful if viewed from the proper angle. They can even be exhibitions of athletic prowess when performed by professionals (as the President is). They are in the end however, performances that for the most part contain about as much intelligence and importance as a Marx Brother's movie in which Zeppo sings. 

This is no offense to the speechwriters, carefully crafting phrases to stir patriotism, fervor, and zeal among the faithful (and sometimes even among those not so faithful), after running each word and phrase through spin groups of various ages and ethnicity, and just as carefully tracking the results. This is no offense either to the actors/politicians who attempt to bring out the nuances of each written word and every pregnant pause, read them to their audience with the proper reverence, and hopefully manage to play their role in the piece with proper respect and without laughing at the insanity of it all. 

No matter how well crafted the speech however, or skilled the performance; in the end it's never what is said in these speeches that is important, but what is not. For example, in spite of the furor over the Joe Wilson "liar" remark, it was at least stated in the speech that illegals would not be provided care under the latest plan. What was of more importance however was that it was not said that no one was going to check those asking for treatment if they were a citizen (but there's no need to look behind that curtain). Likewise, what no one talked about and no pundits questioned in the later analysis was who wasn't going to be forced to participate under the plan.
  • No one for example, asked if the President or the members of Congress, blessed with some of the best medical plans that money can buy, were going to be forced to give up those plans and participate ... they aren't.
  • No one asked if an ever-growing number of union government employees at the federal, state, and local levels, who are the fastest growing number of workers in Washington DC (and the fastest growing percentage of union workers in many parts of the country ) were going to give up the health plans carefully negotiated by their union leaders and participate ... they aren't.
  • No one even asked if workers at auto manufacturers who had just received government bailouts and have reorganized in such a way that the union workers had received substantial cash and stock to pay for retirement and health plans for current and retired workers were going to give up that money and stock and sign on to this government plan ... they aren't.
So while once more we were presented with a great deal of pomp and circumstance, while we are provided with information that is likely to change faster than the weather, and while we were presented with facts and figures that are subject to more dispute than the basis of many religious conflicts, in the end what we were given a piece of prose that would make the former writers of the episodes of "The West Wing" proud (and be almost as full of carefully crafted fiction). What we were left once again were far too many questions unasked and far too much left unsaid. 


Roland Hansen said...

The bottom line:

Any health care legislation package will need to be enacted by a majority vote of both houses in Congress, the duly elected body empowered by the people - not the media, and not the President.

Tim Higgins said...


Couldn't agree with you more. A representative republic is supposed to protect us from the tyranny of the majority. Unfortunately, ours doesn't even manage to protect us from the tyranny of the government.

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

I too watched the p pp ppp presidents (I've become as fond of referring to him as "President Zero" as a certain afternoon talk radio host has) "sleight of tongue" and realized just how practiced he was at it (the sleight of tongue, that "Pres. 0" is).

And he does it with a straight face too...