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|Health-care debate: Round Two|
If you were like most Americans, last year's health care spectacle was a sight unworthy even of Washington, D.C.
Allow me to recap. President Obama, along with Democrats in the House and Senate, interpreted his November 2008 election as a mandate for changing those things he campaigned on the previous year. Fair enough. One of the major issues was health care.
Under our (so-called) terribly flawed system, where a mere 90 percent (worst case) are covered, the entire system must be overhauled.
Under this new system, the White House claims that billions of dollars in savings for the Middle Class (read: actual taxpayers) will accompany expanded coverage.
Ask yourself a question (and try to be honest): when someone promises you more of something for less money, don't you wonder how this could be true? I mean really true.
Late-night television is full of such claims promising whiter teeth, tighter thighs and a flatter belly and all you have to do is ... You know this is a scam.
Back to our little narrative. So after some incredibly partisan votes in the House and Senate, Obama was poised to sign what would have been a major legislative victory for his administration. In an effort to rush a bill through and have final passage, his August 2009 deadline was disregarded as voters in town halls bellowed their resentment at elected officials unashamedly disregarding their wishes.
Where was the hope and change that was promised? If this was it, Americans were having no part of it. Obama's approval ratings began sliding precipitously.
So, what does Obama do? If he cannot do something, blame Republicans! And, he takes his message on the road. Why? Obama has proven himself to be a good campaigner, but not a particularly savvy leader and a worse administrator. He seems to believe that if he could just gently shepherd along those stray House and Senate members coupled with an unruly electorate (think LBJ but with a velvet touch), then maybe the linchpin of his national socialist agenda would prevent the wheels from coming off his presidency.
And, the media — who unquestioningly and eagerly broadcast Obama before breathless crowds stirred into excited fury as he moaned out mantras long on style and short on content — joined the chorus insisting on taking America to the financial edge. Obama claimed he wanted Americans to speak out and support his health-care agenda.
Yet, Obama must come to terms with something: Americans did speak. They said "NO!" across the country to what Democrats had proposed. Yes, the first indication of this was with the largely overlooked and grossly lampooned Tea Parties; then came the New Jersey, Virginia and (don't look now) Massachusetts elections.
These were not just "right wing kooks," but voters from states that previously had swung toward Obama. Add to the mix that Obama actually had to buy off Democrat Senators in order for them to hold their noses and support his health-care legislation. Had the magic really worn off so quickly?
Fast forward to the present. What can a President do if his legislative agenda stalls and mid-term elections are fast approaching? Go back on the road.
So, President Obama has hit the campaign trail again. Heath care debate round two began this week. Instead of truly working across party lines with Republicans, Obama has merely stepped up the rhetoric. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer fired off a blog on Tuesday morning demanding that Republicans engage in the process with the President at a "health care summit" (very Clinton-esque) and work with him in a spirit of bipartisanship.
Just in case you forgot, "bipartisanship" means Republicans must acquiesce to Obama's plan since they have been making suggestions for change for more than a year now. In Round Two, the president's bill is compulsory as it would require all Americans to be covered by health insurance; thus, similar to auto insurance. Yet, this plan is unlike auto insurance where people can compare and buy coverage from a range of providers across state lines (thereby saving money).
Also, unlike the House version, there is no "public option" that will allow anyone to buy health insurance from the government. As a note, for Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, this means his negotiated special exemption will be eliminated.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch exclaimed that Obama should, "abandon the big government approach the American people have overwhelmingly rejected." He is correct. Many Republicans in both the House and Senate have voiced concerns that health care part two is just the same as what was seen last year ... it just has less support this time around.
The mistake Democrats are making is in believing that Americans would support either of their massively expensive and government rationed health care system if people just could understand. If we could only understand: Has Obama all of a sudden lost his ability to communicate?
Democrats blindly supporting Obama's health care agenda will see their numbers further shrink in both houses of Congress. But, Republicans must press their agenda despite this being seemingly unattainable. Clearly Republicans will lose in the media, but at the polls and with voters they will reap the rewards of being faithful to the American system which is founded on lower taxes and less government.
For us in Louisiana, this is what makes the U.S. Senate race so important. Can you imagine where we would be if Obama had just one more vote in the Senate? Would he have called for a health summit? Or, begged for bipartisanship after a year of flaunting his majority in both houses?
No. The Senate election in Massachusetts changed the political landscape. I sure would not want to be part of a process here in Louisiana where we gave the Senate back to Obama.
John W. Sutherlin, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He also is co-director at the ULM Social Science Research Lab. He can be reached by e-mailing Sutherlin@ulm.edu.