Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Health Care Reform: Debating the Public Option

After months of debate in the House and Senate over health reform, what is left to debate? The public options, of course.

The Public Option
The public option seems to be finally out of the bill. The House passed the Democrat-backed option. The Senate seems likely to drop it to get some bill to the floor for a vote.

I like the idea of a public option as competition between the private and public sectors. Many Republicans and some Democrats say it’s a bad idea. But what about the examples of the “public option” that are offered today:

  • Medicare for elders
  • Health care for members of the House and Senate
  • Health care for our armed forces

The irony of the Opposition
How many Representatives and Senators who are firmly opposed to you and me having a public option would voluntarily opt out of their public option and buy private insurance on the open market? When they put their personal health care on the line, maybe I’ll listen to their whining and talking points about the evils of public health care.

If it’s good enough for our Troops, isn’t it good enough for you and me?
Our brave men and women fighting overseas and supporting the effort worldwide get their health care from this same federal government. They have federally operated hospitals with doctors and nurses on the federal payroll. So, if it’s good enough for our brave troops, why is it bad for us?

But what will the reality be like?
The only problems with any health care program, be it private or public, are the complexity, the confusion, the paperwork, and the bureaucracy. I have to deal with Medicare and Medicaid as my mother is in a nursing home. It’s baffling and there’s no one to lead you through the maze of bureaucracy. So, my only fear with a public option is the same level of complexity that will make even its most ardent supporters cry for something easier.

So, would a public option be what we need to counter the money-making insurance companies? Is it inherently flawed? Or, is a good idea in theory, but once it makes it through the House and Senate. would it be so complex and full of red tape as to be not worth it?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Obama’s Nobel Prize Speech Pleases No One

Few were happy with President Obama’s speech after receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace in Olso this week. It was the Peace Prize he won, but his speech certainly did not ring of “Let’s give peace a chance.” Rather, at times, it sounded more like a war speech and not a peace speech.

He reminded the audience in City Hall in Oslo that the United States is still in two wars. Just days before he announced his intentions to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. He even touched on echoes of the Bush/Cheney doctrine of a “special role” for the US along with its justifications for the US to take pre-emptive acts. At times, it sounded like he was formulating an Obama Just War Theory. He argued that evil exist in the world and that, at times, nations must take up arms to defeat this evil.

View from the Left
Those are the left were not so pleased with this position. Protesters in Oslo carried banners saying “You’ve won it, now earn it.” Many had hope that Obama would have started bringing troops home from both Iraq and Afghanistan by now. Others, including myself (see blog post), questioned giving Obama the Peace Prize without a track record to earn it.

Some commentators on the left (like Daniel Schorr on NPR and the New York Times editorial) thought his more balanced evaluation of the realities of international relations and even that his speech was elegant.

But is it just me, or does this thought pass your mind: it's like a minor "slap in the face" to your hosts to accept a peace prize while expounding theories of just wars?

View from the Right
I am sure this speech gained no traction with the right. Those who admire Sarah Palin or listen to Rush Limbaugh or agree with the ideas espoused by the “tea party” activists – most of these every day folks who are conservative thinking simply don’t trust Obama. From the right, Obama does not respect our country; he does not love America. And nothing he may say is likely to ever change their view.

Why Alienate Everyone?
Obama is an intellectual, a nerd if you will. As a fellow nerd, I can understand how he wants to intellectually balance all the input he has received on matters of war and peace. Having balanced all these conflicting viewpoints, he as formulated his own middle path that meanders through the issues, sometimes leaning right and sometimes leaning left. And often departing from previously stated positions, as I suspect he (like I) get a certain intellectual pleasure of coming down on a position that would have been unexpected before hand.

In short, before Obama was a liberal, he was a nerd. And this is what you’ll get from a president who is a nerd: a policy that, while intellectually sound, can baffle most of the people and please almost no one.