The Fight Ahead On Capitol Hill
On Capitol Hill a fight is being waged for the future of the United States' healthcare system. The battle lines are drawn as each side girds itself for a conflict that promises to be one of the most heated debates ever fought on the American political scene. On one edge of the battlefield stands the Obama Administration with its allies; their aim being to reform a shattered insurance system that has left millions of people within one disease of financial and physical ruin. On the opposing precipice, Congressional Republicans and the ancien-regime collude with healthcare industry lobbyists to defeat a government-run insurance plan and millions of beleaguered American families.
President Barack Obama has proposed legislation which would insure almost every American. This would be achieved by barring heath care companies from rejecting customers based on preexisting conditions, requiring those who can afford coverage to purchase it, and creating a public option to compete with private insurance companies. The plan would be paid for with various cost-containment measures such as lowering Medicare payments to doctors, increasing efficiency in record keeping and administration, cutting fat from other areas of the budget, modest tax increases on the wealthy, and empanelling a committee to decide which treatments, based on cost-effectiveness should be offered through the government insurance system. In response to this well articulated and excellently crafted bill, Republicans have scraped together their own incoherent legislation based upon a collection of sound-bites and well-worn rhetoric. One of their most blistering attacks against the Obama plan is that it would set up a Socialist system of insurance, thereby lowering the quality of care and increasing costs on the healthier people. But look at the systems most maligned by the conservatives, Britain and Canada. The British and the Canadians have higher life expectancies than Americans, better chances of surviving cancer or heart disease, and lower infant mortality rates.
This data evinces how Republicans selectively choose to see the facts.
Through all the spin one unquestionable truth remains; that as doctors' paychecks soar, insurance companies' profits approach usury, and the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured swell, something drastic must be done. We are not begging for an entitlement, we are demanding the most fundamental right of all, the right to life, a human and civil right, and the healthcare debate must be framed in that paradigm.
Senator Jim DeMint sagely observed that this issue is Obama's Waterloo. It is. The only question that remains is whether he is Prussian or French. The vast right-wing conspiracy, though wounded, lives and it will fight to its dying breath to defeat Obama and his cohorts. That is why the president must pull all the stops out, pull no punches, and to quote President John F. Kennedy, "shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe," to achieve health care reform.
As much as the Republicans pose a threat to reform, a more potent danger comes from within the Democratic Party, namely the Blue Dog Coalition. Advocates for change must allay the Blue Dogs' fears of electoral backlash and fiscal irresponsibility by mobilizing the American public behind the insurance bill.
The President must break the logjam in Congress by bringing his case to the people. Building on his grassroots campaign structure, which remains intact, Obama should begin an aggressive popular education program. Borrowing a page from the Great Organizer, Saul Alinsky, he should mobilize his campaign volunteers to act as emissaries to their communities on the health-care issue. His political machine should also orchestrate protests on Capitol Hill calling for healthcare reform and targeting specific congressmen and senators. Almost eighty years ago, the Bonus Army descended on Washington. Perhaps it is time for the legions of uninsured Americans to march on the nation's capital once more. To top it off, Obama should travel the nation on a whistle-stop tour to sell his proposal to the American people.
We are so close to achieving reform we so desperately need. If we keep pushing the message and fight hard, we will win.