Monday, December 21, 2009

The Fight Before Christmas

So now that the Senate has gotten the healthcare bill past the first hurdle, a lot of people who spend a lot more time analyzing the tea leaves (and the tea-baggers) than I do are now giving forth their considered opinion on what we hath wrought. The views range from it being a sell-out by the White House to the insurance lobby, the liberals got sold out by President Obama in order to get the bill passed, that it is nothing but a big ego-booster for the president to secure his legacy, and, according to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), it throws unborn babies under the bus. (Block that metaphor like the plague.)

Well, everyone is entitled to their view through their own particular lens, but as it is increasingly obvious, a lot of people need to understand how things actually work in our system. Passing a bill like this that will touch every American was never going to be easy or without bargaining, compromising, rancor, and special interests getting their hands into it. (Notice that “special interests” is always bad when it’s spoken of in the third person, but when it’s in the first person — “my constituents” — or the generic — “the people” — it’s good.) The bill is a big step forward in changing healthcare in this country. It isn’t perfect, but it is better than the alternative and, surprisingly, it might actually do something to fix the system we have now.

No, it doesn’t have everything in it that President Obama said it would or campaigned on, nor does it have the public option that a lot of people think it should have — including me. (That said, let’s see what the House does with it when they get their hands on it in the conference to reconcile the differences between the version they passed and the one the Senate passes.) But I’m also old enough to remember back in the day when transformational legislation was passed in the House and Senate before — specifically, Medicare and Medicaid — and it too fell way short of the promised goals of the Great Society. (And as Steve Benen reminds us, LBJ had a reasonable Republican party to work with, as opposed to the reactionary bunch we have now.) I’ve also seen enough politics at the federal, state, and local level to know that nothing — absolutely nothing — gets through the legislative procedure without being changed and compromised. It is the way things work. Yes, it’s ugly, it’s messy, and it is infuriating. But if anyone has a better idea on how to make it work, we’re all ears.

HT to the Rachel Maddow Show for the title of this post.