Source: Moore’s Lore
After all these months of acrimony and hand-wringing, it appears there will be something called health care reform. It may be equally disappointing to both supporters and opponents, but that comes as no surprise.
It’s now abundantly clear that the legislative process is hopelessly inadequate when it comes to things like health care, climate change, and economic inequality.
New York Times editorialist Paul Krugman considers the Senate, with its filibuster, “ominously dysfunctional.”
Consider what lies ahead. We need fundamental financial reform. We need to deal with climate change. We need to deal with our long-run budget deficit. What are the chances that we can do all that — or, I’m tempted to say, any of it — if doing anything requires 60 votes in a deeply polarized Senate?
Some people will say that it has always been this way, and that we’ve managed so far. But it wasn’t always like this. Yes, there were filibusters in the past — most notably by segregationists trying to block civil rights legislation. But the modern system, in which the minority party uses the threat of a filibuster to block every bill it doesn’t like, is a recent creation.
The use of the filibuster to block major legislation has gone from 8 percent in the 1960s to 27 percent in the 1980s to 70 percent in the years since 2006. Krugman has some practical suggestions for improving things in the future, such as lowering the number of votes required to end discussion – 60, 57, … down to 50 – with each passing day of a filibuster.
Nobody should meddle lightly with long-established parliamentary procedure. But our current situation is unprecedented: America is caught between severe problems that must be addressed and a minority party determined to block action on every front. Doing nothing is not an option — not unless you want the nation to sit motionless, with an effectively paralyzed government, waiting for financial, environmental and fiscal crises to strike.
Votes for sale
Senator Reid obtained the last and crucial “yes” vote from Senator Ben Nelson by offering to meet Nelson’s anti-abortion demands and pay for the expansion of Nebraska Medicaid. It was amusing to see the response of South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster: “These negotiations on their face appear to be a form of vote buying paid for by taxpayers.”
Oh, really? What about the votes purchased by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries? Taxpayers might have appreciated a little of McMaster’s indignation on that front. Unfortunately, the issue of the Nelson vote is being raised merely to obstruct and delay health care reform.
Both Republicans and Democrats offer favorable policy decisions when they solicit financial donations. For example, a letter from a Republican national chairman to the CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb asks for a $250,000 donation. The letter continues: ”We must keep the lines of communication open if we want to continue passing legislation that will benefit your industry. … Your expertise in health care and involvement in Republican politics are of great benefit to me, and I would like to get your opinion on what we have proposed. … I welcome any suggestions you may have on how we can make it an even stronger plan.”
As Aristotle said several thousand years ago, “When money has been spent to get office, the purchasers may naturally be expected to fall into the habit of trying to make a profit on the transaction.”
This mess we’re in – Part 2
This mess we’re in – Part 3
Why is it so hard to reform health care? Political structure
What’s next for health care reform? Reconciliation
Health care reform: Politics and substance
Campaign contributions and the cost of pharmaceuticals
Universal health care: What would Socrates do?
(Links will open in a separate window or tab.)
Paul Krugman, A Dangerous Dysfunction, The New York Times, December 20, 2009
Health bill clears last hurdle before passage, The Associated Press, December 23, 2009
Richard A. Oppel Jr., Documents Show Parties Often Mixed Fund-Raising and Policy, The New York Times, December 7, 2002