Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Shout in the House

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson was formally rebuked on Tuesday by a vote in the US House of Representatives. No matter what else he does in life, Rep. Wilson will always be know for shouting "You lie!" during Obama's speech to Congress on September 9th.

While I don't agree with Rep. Wilson's views on health care reform, I don't think a Congressional rebuke was necessary.

I think of his shout as an analog "micro-tweet." It was more an interjection than an interruption. Unlike the protesters at some of the recent town hall meetings, the representative did not prevent the President from finishing his speech. He merely interjected a two-word tweet.

And it doesn’t stand up to fact checking.

So, I’d leave it at that.

Sure, it was rude. Sure, a grade school kid would know better. And I and most rational folks wouldn’t want to set a precedent of encouraging anyone to interrupt a speech because of a difference of opinion.

But he knows what he did. He apologized to the President. His actions have been judged in the court of public opinion (not to mention the late night comedy circuit).

Most think he was out of line. A minority applaud him. These are folks who don’t like the Obama Administration and like the idea of someone “putting to him." I say the rebuke only makes him more a martyr for their cause. The rebuke may be counterproductive and energize the opposition to reform.

Most importantly, the whole issue of the shout and rebuke is a major distraction from the debate over the important details of reform.

So, let’s put the Shout in the House in the past and let's get on with a civil discourse where all opinions are heard on this important topic of reforming health care!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Health Care - Do What's Best for You

The health care debate goes on and on. Tonight, President Obama spoke to Congress and the nation to describe his proposal. Using a combination of reason and passion, he tried to dismiss the misconceptions and outline what he's really like to see for reform.

Now, overall, I like his proposal for a number of reasons, but the two main reasons are:
  1. It leaves in place the existing coverage that many are satisfied with. No one has to change policies or try to get re-insured. So I can keep my good employer-based insurance, unlike a proposal floated by candidate John McCain.

  2. It adds a government-run program to compete with private policies. Now, this is excactly the kind of experiment I'm most interested in: direct competition between the public and private sectors. My philosophy about government is that it should do what it can do better than the private sector. So, let's see which approach is more cost-effective in providing health insurance.

Here's another interesting perspective (courtesy of Thomas Friedman, New York Times, Sept. 9, 2009): Obama's proposal is largely based on two Republican initiatives, yet it is widely decried by Republicans. The proposal closely resembles the health insurance program put into place here in Massachusetts by Republic Governor Mitt Romney. It adds in an idea for funding taken from John McCain's proposal.

But will the plan pass Congress? And if it does, what will it turn into in the Congress --- will it get overcomplicated, diluted, or heavy with bureaucracy? Even with a Democratic majority in both houses, the necessary compromises may result in a bill that barely resembles Obama's proposal.

And probably for the worst, it will receive no Republican support. This is highly unfortunate. With a greater balance in power in Congress, a more bipartisan bill might have emerged. Maybe on that would be more effective in addressing the full range of needed reform.

But, to me, it is clear that the key to the Republican strategy for gains in the 2010 midterm elections is to ensure the Obama health plan fails, or if it passes, that it is widely disliked by the public. So, I'm not optimistic about the success of true health care reform.

So, we may all still be where we are now: some of us will have decent employer-provided insurance. The elderly and disabled will have Medicare. Many will try to get individual policies. And many will remain uninsured.

If reform fails, health care will amount to doing what's best for yourself (if you can)!