I woke up way too early this morning so I entertained myself in my hotel room by watching the CBS Really Really Early Show. It was full of promotional blathering about President Obama’s speech to the joint session of Congress tonight regarding his plans to reform America’s health care system. The general consensus according to CBS – the legislators are divided. This speech is important. We have a long way to go to get census, if we get there at all. People are concerned. And so forth . . .
Like many other Americans, I desperately want someone to yank back control of the debacle that’s become the discussion on health care reform. I am tired of rhetoric and yelling and people with signs. It has gone beyond frustration to watch the legislators struggle with public health options and co-ops and angry constituents.
I found myself agreeing in many ways today with Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein. He started today’s column, “Time for Obama to Stand Tall,” with this thought:
In his speech to Congress on Wednesday night, President Obama will try to regain control over a national conversation on health care that has been hijacked by ranters and ravers of all stripes and members of Congress who don’t know their own minds and cower before their own constituents. It’s disappointing that Obama must also overcome the timidity of some of his own political advisers who seem to have succumbed to the dreaded Washington disease, whose symptoms are a fixation on polls and an unnatural gullibility for conventional wisdom. It is one thing to accommodate political reality but quite another to sacrifice first principles, embrace bad policy in the name of compromise and capitulate to political thuggery.
Wow! Pearlstein goes on to point out some of the areas where President Obama needs to provide more direction to Congress and what areas in the discussion need shoring up. He also makes a valuable point – health care reform is going to affect everyone. Pulling no punches, Pearlsteinwrote:
What makes reform such a difficult puzzle is that the fundamental policy goals of universal coverage and cost containment are inconsistent with the political instincts to assure Americans who already have health insurance that they will be able to keep everything they already have, to assure that nobody will get a tax or cost increase and to assure those in the health-care industry that there will be no reduction in their income. Obama’s mistake so far is not that he left it to Congress to hammer out the details of competing reform plans, but that he failed to give Congress political cover by helping people understand that there can be no gain from reform without at least some fairly apportioned pain.
I think Pearlstein hit the nail on the head with that comment. I believe that people like the concept of reining in uncontrolled spending and cutting costs. I think people are in favor of a more streamlined health care system that provides quality service at appropriate prices. But – I also think the general philosophy is “make all the changes you want as long as my status quo doesn’t change in any way, shape or form.” One wonders if that firmly expressed belief will keep anything from happening as legislators worry about the next election and having to explain to the folks back home why they suddenly have to pay more taxes.
Pearlstein ends with this call to the President:
After a summer that exposed a virulent strain of public cynicism and distrust, the president’s challenge is to rededicate himself to restoring faith in government and rekindling the “yes we can” spirit that swept him into office. And at some point he needs to look straight into the eyes of those who would have him fail and promise to do whatever it takes to break the partisan stranglehold and make health-care reform a reality.
We will see what tonight brings.
To read Pearlstein’s column, use this link: Time for Obama to Stand Tall
On a lighter note, I was thankful to CBS for running a fun little feature on Senator Al Franken, who apparently can draw the entire United States with the all the states correctly sketched in place in less than two minutes. At this point, any news out of Washington that’s light in nature is much appreciated!