My first TDT political rant, some sort of blogging milestone, I suppose…
I felt sick all day yesterday after Sunday night's healthcare reform vote. Not so much because I'm upset that the bill passed. I expect it to affect me between little and not-at-all, other than raising my taxes.
What I'm upset about is the incredibly disheartening democratic process we've witnessed.
I'm not particularly political. I may even have facts wrong. But ultimately in government and politics, perception is reality. So I'll share a few questions that I perceive to be relevant.
What Happened Obama?
Barack Obama was voted in by huge margins for a modern presidential vote. And he was elected on a platform of change, a platform that told people he was a Washington outsider, prepared to think outside the box and take on the system from the inside.
His headlining campaign process was healthcare reform.
I voted for him, and here we are. I guess he “won”. He “delivered” the “change”. But man, do I not feel good about it.
So here's a guy who by all accounts was the country's best shot at changing the game. But instead, from what I can tell, he didn't avoid the vortex of congressional politics any more than any other president in recent history. He had a mandate from the American people, the best minds in the business, and a headlining agenda item. And this is the best he could do?
A bill that could only pass by a few votes in the house and senate. A bill that he couldn't even get support from all the members of his own party, not to mention not a single vote from a member of the opposing party. And a bill that two-thirds of Americans supposedly didn't support either.
It's simply embarrassing. I'm embarrassed for Obama, I'm saddened for the fact that a promising presidency now seems to have mired itself in mediocrity. And I'm sorry that America can't do better than this.
What About The Glory of the Process?
Clearly this bill would not have passed a popular vote by the American people. Does that bother anyone?
And I believe it wouldn't have passed not because of the substance of the bill. It's far too complicated, convoluted, and full of too much law-speak for all but the most determined citizens to digest. And those that do are left with heartburn. (Yes, we've got a copy of the whole damn thing printed out at work, sorry to the 30-trees it took to get it out of the printer. No, I haven't read it.)
I believe the American people wouldn't have voted for it because there's an intense distrust that's developed around this kind of democratic process. It's one that doesn't encourage transparency or accountability. It's in these spotlight moments that the legislature has the chance to show the brilliance of its members, the awesome power of the process, and the effectiveness of the results. And it showcased none of that on Sunday night. Americans don't need to read the bill, they correctly assume that anything that comes out of a process like this has got to be a fundamental mess.
Sunday night, instead of heated and passionate debate on the house floor, we witnessed mostly dry readings of pre-prepared statements. I heard our elected officials bumbling over their own speeches. There was more yielding to various members of the parties so they could get on the public record with their statements than there was anyone trying to affect the vote. This is the way our leaders choose to show off the glory of the democratic process in the few minutes per year they have in the spotlight?
What's The Alternative?
I believe this bill is a fiscal mess. I think it's irresponsible with this kind of a budget crisis to be introducing any sweeping legislation with these kinds of price tags. I'm a businessman. If I ran the business like our leaders run the country, I'd deserve to get fired. I know they have the toughest job in the world. I don't expect them to solve all the problems. But they aren't even feigning attention to the cost or complexity implications. (I don't buy the CBO estimates on this one lick, when was the last time you saw a project of this size come in on budget? Yeah, me too.) The supporters of the bill seem more interested in the 32 million Americans without healthcare than the 200 million who wish they'd focus on fixing our economy.
But I respect that this is a big deal bill. I respect that Obama has tried to push through some shell of the healthcare-reform promise.
If I have any alternative, it's to stop compromising our way to a gridlocked mediocre American government. If you can't at least get a bill your whole party agrees with, then start over. Don't bring something to the American people that 60% of them wouldn't vote for. Start over. You've got the time, the intellectual horsepower, and the support of the people. Deliver something we can be proud of, and you can be proud of.
I think a much bolder change was needed if this bill was to be seen as an historical success. If a bolder change wasn't going to pass, then maybe we need to wait until we have a less acceptable incumbent healthcare system, or a more inspired alternative. But to pass this sort of half-assed package is just depressing.
Don't get cocky, America. We've only been around for 250 years. We don't have it all figured out. We aren't infallible. And we're reminding the world of it through clear displays like this healthcare reform circus. If we don't figure out a better way, someone else will.