Capping an epic struggle, congressional Democrats put the final touches Thursday to historic legislation enshrining health care as the right of every citizen. Republicans vowed to campaign for repeal in the fall election season, drawing a quick retort from President Barack Obama: “I welcome that fight.”
The president spoke in Iowa as the Senate voted 56-43 for legislation making changes, including better benefits for seniors and low-income and middle-class families, to the bill he signed into law with a flourish at the White House on Tuesday.
The House added its approval a few hours later, 220-207, clearing the way for Obama’s signature on the second of two bills that marked the culmination of what the president called “a year of debate and a century of trying” to ensure coverage for nearly all in a nation where millions lack it. Obama is expected to sign the legislation early next week.
Back home, is it the end of the world as we know it?
If you were to believe much of the uproar on conservative TV/radio/blogs these days, the US is now on the brink of an “apocalypse” because insurance companies will soon have to dedicate 80% of their customers’ funds to actual health care costs. (the horror!!1!) Worse yet, these same insurance companies can’t deny coverage to kids, and eventually will have to eliminate their overuse of “pre-existing conditions” to deny coverage to women. (again, the horror!!1!!)
I have to admit, it’s been fascinating watching all the hullabaloo over health care reform back home, especially now that I live in a country where health care isn’t something you have to fear not having access to. Not only that, but Canada is a country that so valued my first year as a mama that it ensured I could stay home with my little one, with pay, for her first 12 months to help give us a good start in our lives together. On the other hand, my sister, who lives in New York state, got only a 6-weeks and a we’ll-save-your-job with no pay start to her mamahood experience.
What I don’t understand is the fear and loathing of people who are opposed to health care reform — for some, it’s not enough that they lost and the bill is now law, but in the last few days, many Democratic members of Congress are receiving threatening phone calls or having physical damage done to their property by some enraged anti-reform folk.
More on this from tonight’s Rachel Maddow show — but be warned, this stuff is hard to watch:
I can’t tell which is worse: the violent nutjobs who are making the threats, or the quiet (and seemingly condoning) Republican congressional leadership. I think it spoke VOLUMES when none of the House Republican leadership appeared with the Dems to denounce these activities in today’s press conference. How bad are things when even some FOX News (!) reporters notice the dangers of over-inflated dissent inciting people to act out in stupid and dangerous ways?
Maybe much of this fury is to be expected? After all, even here in “socialist Canada” there were issues when health care reform was passed in the 1960’s. Last month there was an interesting article in Slate magazine that detailed how Saskatchewan became ground-zero in its role of starting government-funded health care:
As in the United States today, opponents of the health reform plan weren’t sure whether to denounce the CCF [the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation party] as Communists or Nazis, so they did both. Protesters greeted [SK Premier Tommy] Douglas’ motorcade with Nazi salutes—when they weren’t throwing stones at it. Other opponents painted the hammer and sickle on the homes of people thought to be associated with the party.
The doctors made good on their threats: When the new health care plan was introduced on July 1, doctors across the province walked off the job. But the government was ready, flying in replacement doctors, mostly from Britain. The strike ended after three weeks, the health care plan stayed in place, and four years later, the Canadian government passed the Medical Care Act, which provided funding for every province to create a similar plan.
Douglas and his party were vindicated. Once their plan took effect, Shackleton writes, it “was soon so well accepted that no political party had the temerity to suggest its abolition.”
As we all know, Canada’s socialized medicine system stuck — and now, for the most part, it’s a point of pride for Canadians. (of course, it’s not perfect, and there’s always room for reform, but you’ll meet very few Canadians who are eager to privatize health care) In fact, a few years ago when there was a nation-wide contest for the “Greatest Canadian,” SK Premier Tommy Douglas won 1st place, solely for his political temerity to implement such a medical system in this country.
So while I’m dismayed at all the vicious (and dangerous) rhetoric that is being hurled right now by people who are opposed to reform, part of me does take heart that much of this sound and fury will hopefully diminish, once people can begin to benefit from what this bill will offer.
I’m patient enough to wait for Republicans who will eventually be as protective of this reform bill as they are now over Social Security and Medicare — both government-run programs that were initially vilified and denounced until they became sacrosanct to America’s citizens.
Until then, hold on for a bumpy ride.
David Frum, a Republican (!!):
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?
I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.
by David Frum
Which side are you on?
I love Rachel so much, mainly because she often speaks directly to what I’m passionate about: social justice and reform.
You know, the older I become, the less I’m able to understand (read: empathize) with people who hold opposite views than I. I can’t tell if this quality of mine is due to me being able to fully cement my opinions and perspectives, or if it’s a sign of me becoming more stubborn.
I’d like to think it’s the former — because I have YET to understand the “pros” of supporting insurance companies over the rights of fellow human beings to health care.