‘Un-American’ attacks can’t derail health care debate
Americans have been waiting for nearly a century for quality, affordable health care.
By Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer
Great start. Why engage with your detractors when you can just levy an ad hominem attack and point a sweeping finger instead?
Health coverage for all was on the national agenda as early as 1912, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose presidential run. Months after World War II came to an end in 1945, President Harry Truman called on Congress to guarantee all Americans the “right to adequate medical care and protection from the economic fears of sickness.” From President Lyndon Johnson to President Bill Clinton, to President Obama’s winning campaign on the promise of reform, there hasn’t been a more debated domestic issue than the promise of affordable health care for all.
This is a classic call for central planning. Remember in Animal Farm when Snowball seemed genuinely interested in the entire farm’s best interests, and then Napoleon took over? Napoleon was interested only in power. That’s the problem with centralizing power in one person’s hands: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The “un-American” dissenters that bother Pelosi are not only concerned with the ramifications of public health care (though those are also grave concerns). We are concerned with changing the individual’s relationship to the state, and the state’s requited relationship to the individual.
Even if Snowball was in fact a good and faithful leader, this centralized power will inevitably pass to the next set of hands. People who crave power over policy are typically interested in having that power, NOT in the well being of all affected by the policy. Rather than marginalize a collected will to central consciousness, we should encourage growth along a strong, lower center of gravity. The free market may seem vulnerable to shocks and bumps in the short run, but it is invincible to sustained Napoleonic manipulation. Central planning, though invulnerable to the short-term jostling that makes a market strong, remains susceptible to more invidious power transfers that eventually cause the fall of whichever nation adopted it.
It’s frustrating that “Snowball’s” policies are not the most efficient. But the real problem lies in the fact that centralizing all control in one helpful soul’s hands leaves that balled power entity ripe for Napoleon to pluck and do with what he pleases.
We believe it is healthy for such a historic effort to be subject to so much scrutiny and debate. The failure of past attempts is a reminder that health insurance reform is a defining moment in our nation’s history — it is well worth the time it takes to get it right. We are confident that we will get this right.
Already, three House committees have passed this critical legislation and over August, the two of us will work closely with those three committees to produce one strong piece of legislation that the House will approve in September.
In the meantime, as members of Congress spend time at home during August, they are talking with their constituents about reform. The dialogue between elected representatives and constituents is at the heart of our democracy and plays an integral role in assuring that the legislation we write reflects the genuine needs and concerns of the people we represent.
However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted “Just say no!” drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion.
I’ve never been a fan of really radical dissent. Discussing the merits of ideological fringe—like libertarians promoting anarchy—does nothing more than remove your ideas from discourse, alienating the strong, centered base capable of making change. The point of having ideas isn’t to navel-gaze among those who already agree with you.
A more fruitful course of action requires debate, dissent, and “come to Jesus” moments on both sides. If one or both debaters resist the necessity to engage actively in the discussion then neither side gets anywhere.
Pelosi whines that she wants a “substantive discussion,” but she misses the point: her constituency is shouting “Just say no!”
Our government is structured around the idea that those who care most about an idea will come to the forefront of relevant discussion. Whichever “faction” cares most about government subsidies for sugar will be front-and-center when the time comes to lobby for sustained subsidies, and those of us who have better things to do than care about sugar subsidies will not get involved. This disparate cost compared to contained benefit means that lobbyists perpetuate subsidies; taxpayers simply aren’t interested enough to lobby against paying.
Pelosi claims she wants a discussion, but she is ignoring what her constituents say. No, Nancy! Just say no to National Socialism; just say NO to socialized health care! You want to ignore the loud, passionate faction that just drowned out your comrades, but the more acutely-affected faction appears determined to be heard.
Let the facts be heard
These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.
Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts.
In fact, both sides have chosen a set of facts that drive their arguments. Your facts rest on speculation, and the ever-more-insistent call for Hope and Change. The townhall-crashers no doubt look to existing examples of public health care—including, close to home, the miserable option available to the military—as ominous specters of our future. As the summer wears on we are reminded of the aphorism: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Power will always fall into the hands of those who intend to use it. Paternalistic politicians will always ignore the cries from a constituency the politician deems helpless.
The first fact is that health insurance reform will mean more patient choice. It will allow every American who likes his or her current plan to keep it. And it will free doctors and patients to make the health decisions that make the most sense, not the most profits for insurance companies.
Reform will mean stability and peace of mind for the middle class. Never again will medical bills drive Americans into bankruptcy; never again will Americans be in danger of losing coverage if they lose their jobs or if they become sick; never again will insurance companies be allowed to deny patients coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
The current administration has been successful because they never directly disparage free markets. Rahm Emmanuel never says “the free market is a myth”; he claims that “with a little intervention” that market will be stronger.
Yet intervention effectively freezes the pipes through which a market economy flows. “Reform will mean stability and peace of mind for the middle class,” but cryogenically freezing them would obtain the same effect. I feel for those who need in-vitro fertilization to conceive, I really do, but I don’t think I should pay for it. Nor does it make sense to tax everyone enough to cover the broad range of abortions permitted in this country. While I would not necessarily condemn either procedure, I am not willing to pay for yours. We already fund Planned Parenthood, which uses 80% of its national funding to subsidize abortions. Need we pay more into this controversial pot?
Doesn’t it make more sense to leave money in the spenders’ pockets, to spend as they wish? Then the market for services will mirror demand for those services. Instead, Pelosi suggests that we take just a little bit more out of people’s pockets to contribute to a central pot, to be redistributed per whatever method “the factions” choose. I’d rather decide my fate than leave that up to a committee. I’m sure Nancy would rather decide hers, too. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Nancy. Why can’t you just leave us free to decide?
Lower costs, better care
Reform will mean affordable coverage for all Americans. Our plan’s cost-lowering measures include a public health insurance option to bring competitive pressure to bear on rapidly consolidating private insurers, research on health outcomes to better inform the decisions of patients and doctors, and electronic medical records to help doctors save money by working together. For seniors, the plan closes the notorious Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” that denies drug coverage to those with between $2,700 and $6,100 per year in prescriptions.
This would take two strokes of a legislative pen to fix. No need to write a thousand page referendum full of additional unforeseen oversights that will no doubt become the “hook” for selling your next reform.
Besides, a “doughnut hole” in legislation is a classic characteristic of government planning. When one central power-at-be who “knows better” takes it upon himself to distribute according to what he assumes “the people want,” he will always overlook some groups. Medicare Part D is nefarious because it overlooks a critical faction who could not speak for themselves.
It would make more sense to leave it to the people to buy what they need (which necessitates lowering taxes or promoting competition so drug prices will all fall in the long run) and avoid gaps, rather than than take people’s taxes and redistribute what you think they need, subject to gaps and holes.
Reform will also mean higher-quality care by promoting preventive care so health problems can be addressed before they become crises. This, too, will save money. We’ll be a much healthier country if all patients can receive regular checkups and tests, such as mammograms and diabetes exams, without paying a dime out-of-pocket.
This month, despite the disruptions, members of Congress will listen to their constituents back home and explain reform legislation. We are confident that our principles of affordable, quality health care will stand up to any and all critics.
Now — with Americans strongly supporting health insurance reform, with Congress reaching consensus on a plan, and with a president who ran and won on this specific promise of change — America is closer than ever to this century-deferred goal.
This fall, at long last, we must reach it.
Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is speaker of the House and
Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is House majority leader.
Perhaps there is nothing more “American” than debate. Rather than face her opposition tete-a-tete with interest and curiosity, Pelosi disparages them with her pen. She chooses a medium unlikely to reach her dissenters—an oped in the USA Today—so her appeal falls dead on arrival.
This is not a discussion. This is a whine. Pelosi reveals that she understands precious little about how our Constitutional Republic works. Reform is indeed necessary. But this step away from market competition will leave the public welfare in government’s often-incapable hands. Switching to a public system cannot be undone. Leaving private choice with regard to health is the first step down a path yet unchartered in American history. Future government interference with private lives will differ only in degree, but not in kind.
Discouraging debate and ignoring factions is not what politicians are hired to do. Pelosi’s decision to avoid confrontation by whining to the USA Today rather than facing her shouting (“Just say no!”) constituents like an adult perfectly characterizes the relationship she wishes individuals had with the state.
With all due respect, Ms. Pelosi, that is what I would call “un-American.”