Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

19 March 2010

A Dozen Reasons for House Members to Vote for Health-Insurance Reform


[Readers: please feel free to send this list to your representatives, over your own signature if you like.]

[For my predictions for Sunday, click here.]

1. To restore America’s pragmatism and show the world we can solve at least one tough problem, even if it took a century.

2. To keep twenty-first century America from becoming Dickensian England, with our poor and working class literally rotting and festering in every dark corner of every city.

3. To realize a century-long dream of Republican and Democratic presidents, including Teddy Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, FDR, Harry Truman, and Bill Clinton.

4. To help us match our developed trading partners’ far more humane, better performing and far cheaper health-care systems.

5. To take part of the social-cost millstone from around our industries’ and businesses’ necks so that they can better compete with their global rivals.

6. To save yourself and your family from 50 million untreated “vectors” of the next pandemic or a bio-terror plague.

7. To show that our system of government is still capable of governing and achieving important goals.

8. To acknowledge expertise in general, and the CBO’s in particular, when it says that the bill will reduce the deficit.

9. To give our President a fighting chance to govern and arrest our national decline.

10. [For Democrats] To give the lie, for a brief moment, to Will Rogers’ old joke that “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

11. [For Republicans] To buy some insurance against the people waking up from the spell of your clever propaganda of fear―maybe as early as November―and discovering that for eighteen years your party has done nothing significant (besides a school-improvement project that badly needs repair) but start two wars, emasculate our once-superb government and military in the name of privatization, make money-lenders and paper shufflers obscenely rich, destroy the global economy, explode our deficit (under Dubya), and turn Congress into a mud-wrestling arena―all in the name of fairy-tale ideology.

12. [For both parties, especially new Members] To have something to say on your deathbed, when your grandchildren ask, “Did you do anything important in Congress to improve the lives of ordinary people, or did you just spend campaign contributions and the people’s money, make speeches, and score political points?”

MY PREDICTIONS (7:30 A.M. Sunday): It is now possible to make two predictions with some confidence. First, Obama’s historic push for health-insurance reform will succeed.

Besides momentum, I base this prediction on two things. First, success depends on House Democrats alone. When the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal run simultaneous stories praising Speaker Pelosi’s skill in corraling this herd of cats, you know that she’s done the job. Second, most, if not all, of the anti-abortion Democrats will eventually vote for the bill, but only after holding out as long as they can to get as much press as they can on their agonizing over abortion to appease their constituencies. When push comes to shove, they will come home as Democrats. They won’t risk losing the party’s support.

My second prediction is that this win will solidify the president’s leadership, as well as the Speaker’s. Nothing succeeds like success. John Boehner―undoubtedly the stupidest high-profile politician in America today―doesn’t understand this simple fact: Americans like winners. He also doesn’t understand that repeatedly claiming the sky is falling only works until people begin to notice it hasn’t fallen. As the President wryly noted in his pep talk to Democrats, the sky isn’t going to fall when the bill passes. Once people see things getting much better, not worse, Boehner’s credibility will be down in the single digits, as is appropriate for our national village idiot.

Governing the American people these days is like “breaking” a never-ridden, high-spirited and easily-spooked pony. It takes a firm hand, courage, infinite patience, and perseverance. But after a while, the people get used to a new rider, despite the noise of the crowd, and whatever the rider’s clothing or the color of his skin. By this time tomorrow, the President, with Pelosi’s aid, will have broken the pony and will be taking an historic victory lap around the ring. Anyone who thinks this outcome will impair the Democrats’ prospects for the coming midterm elections has taken leave of his or her senses.

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