Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camille Paglia Saves me lots of Thinking

I was struggling because there is so much wrong in the US healthcare debate, and she actually summarizes much of it nicely.
Getting health care right is hard, and I know no national system that I think is deserving of serving as other than a cautionary model.
But it has been somewhat like watching a sitcom watching the Democrats, nominally completely in charge of the whole process, losing their grip on selling the healthcare debate.
Camille Paglia frustratedly puts it at the feet of the President, and I think she is largely right and picks out very nicely all the ham-fisted behaviors from him and his staff.
But who would have thought that the sober, deliberative Barack Obama would have nothing to propose but vague and slippery promises -- or that he would so easily cede the leadership clout of the executive branch to a chaotic, rapacious, solipsistic Congress? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I used to admire for her smooth aplomb under pressure, has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens. She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down.
There is plenty of blame to go around. Obama's aggressive endorsement of a healthcare plan that does not even exist yet, except in five competing, fluctuating drafts, makes Washington seem like Cloud Cuckoo Land. The president is promoting the most colossal, brazen bait-and-switch operation since the Bush administration snookered the country into invading Iraq with apocalyptic visions of mushroom clouds over American cities.
And why such an abject failure by the Obama administration to present the issues to the public in a rational, detailed, informational way? The U.S. is gigantic; many of our states are bigger than whole European nations. The bureaucracy required to institute and manage a nationalized health system here would be Byzantine beyond belief and would vampirically absorb whatever savings Obama thinks could be made. And the transition period would be a nightmare of red tape and mammoth screw-ups, which we can ill afford with a faltering economy.
As with the massive boondoggle of the stimulus package, which Obama foolishly let Congress turn into a pork rut, too much has been attempted all at once; focused, targeted initiatives would, instead, have won wide public support. How is it possible that Democrats, through their own clumsiness and arrogance, have sabotaged healthcare reform yet again? Blaming obstructionist Republicans is nonsensical because Democrats control all three branches of government. It isn't conservative rumors or lies that are stopping healthcare legislation; it's the justifiable alarm of an electorate that has been cut out of the loop and is watching its representatives construct a tangled labyrinth for others but not for themselves. No, the airheads of Congress will keep their own plush healthcare plan -- it's the rest of us guinea pigs who will be thrown to the wolves.

Sure, the pork-ridden Congress has proven prone to the inability to write clean legislation without the adumbration of all sorts of special-interest provisioning, or in fact to get down to one comprehensible effort at writing legislation at all. And now the Democrats defend their efforts on the grounds that there is no clear draft legislation! Which is not quite true - they have been sloppy enough making progress on some efforts to allow opponents to focus on some text, and generate perfectly understandable concerns about that text.
And for all his coolness, Obama has done quite a bit rhetorically to fan the flames.
Originally this was to be all about controlling cost (though he had said in the campaign that he wanted a single-payer system, whatever that means). And why is controlling cost vital? If people want to throw all the money they have to the medical system to keep them active and kicking, why would Obama would to stop that?
And then there is granny. His big defence yesterday in his townhall was that no, the current proposals do not include the government bumping off your grandma or refusing to treat her. But on the other hand, it was he who many months ago ruminated on the value of his own grandmother's hip replacement in the last year of her life, as I assume he was picking examples of 'waste' in the system. Which, I guess he thinks, could have been foreseen by a prescient bureaucrat.
He is not on message here because he does not have a clear message. I think that is because the White House has just ceded this to the Congressional leadership, now clearly a terribly rookie error.
And then as well, there is the deep confusion of what the goal is. And this is part of another point of Pagila's.
I just don't get it. Why the insane rush to pass a bill, any bill, in three weeks?

Actually three weeks might be good for getting at some simple target.
The current system here in Canada took YEARS to get into its current shape; I have mixed feelings about it, as it has personally so far served me well, though not SillyWife at a time when we resorted to use connections to obviate some waiting periods (which I actually think is more disgusting than using money, but I understand differences).
The original bills in the '60s established more or less catastrophic coverage for hospital stays, and did relieve many of the fear of sudden uncontrolled costs. It took many sessions of Parliament for the system to creep to its current state, and heaven knows, there are still those clowns who want to nationalize provisioning, not just the final billing.
In the end this is almost as much fun to watch as Hillary's effort back in the '90s. It is unclear to me yet whether this is more or yet competent.
Oh and Paglia is spot on on one other point.

The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration's outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable "casual conversations" to the White House. If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it.


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