RANCHO SANTA FE, CA., January 20, 2011 – In case you haven’t heard, the cornerstone accomplishment of the Democratically-controlled 111th Congress, colloquially known as the Health Care Reform Bill, was repealed by the Republican-controlled 112th Congress. The Republicans are claiming victory. The Democrats are trivializing the vote as “political grandstanding.” However it is ultimately resolved, I hope that health care reform in the United States provides ample coverage for mental disorders because the Democrats and Republicans are driving me crazy, and their recent behavior suggests that they may need the coverage more than I do.
Let’s look at the scorecard. Health Care Reform was passed by the House of Representatives last March by a vote of 219-212. Thirty-four Democrats voted against it. Less than a year later, only three of those 34 Democrats voted to repeal the bill. Of course, 21 of that original group didn’t vote this time because they are “pursuing other interests” at the behest of the electorate. Bottom line: three of the original 34 dissidents voted to repeal. I mention this is because I fully expect the Administration to hail this as an example of “bipartisan support.” After all, that’s how Olympia Snowe’s crossover vote was portrayed when the Senate passed the original bill last year.
While the initial passage of the bill was close, the repeal was not: 245-189. Of course, all of this is meaningless unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Hu’s not a dictator (oops, Freudian slip) … who’s not a dictator … allows a debate on the Senate floor. Even if it passes the Senate, it could still be vetoed by the dictator … I mean … the President! So, in the words of Shakespeare, is this just “Much Ado About Nothing?” I think not.
The entire exercise has been a lesson in mass mental illness. I’m not suggesting that our politicians are insane … just that they are deeply disturbed. As Dr. Carl G. Jung said, “Mental illness and insanity are a matter of degrees.” Since I’m a Czar, I’ll ordain a new classification of disease of which Jung would be proud: “Political Schizophrenia.” Think about it: schizophrenia is generally defined as a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations. Does that not reflect what is happening among our politicians? Let’s look at a few examples.
The 111th Congress, which was to be driven by transparent, bipartisan accountability, created the original bill behind closed doors with only one Party participating in the process. Then, Speaker Pelosi proudly proclaimed, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” That could actually take years since the bill encompassed more that 2,700 pages and created 159 new federal agencies (or as I point out in The National Platform of Common Sense, 140 more agencies than FDR required for The New Deal). “Political schizophrenia” anyone?
Then we have the clinical narcissism exhibited by both Parties in the naming of their bills. The Democrats named H.R. 3200 “America‘s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.” Insurance costs have already risen in the marketplace, and the taxpayers are on the hook for a minimum of $940 billion under the “best case” scenario. Does that strike you as “affordable?” Don’t forget: you’ll be fined if you don’t participate. Does that sound like you have a “choice?” So, we can pretty much write off the Democratic title as self-indulgent, but what about the Republican legislation?
H.R. 2 is named “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” Now, there’s a non-adversarial title if I’ve ever heard one. How can the original bill be “job-killing” when it creates 159 new, useless agencies? Those agencies alone will create hundreds of thousands of new, bureaucratic jobs, maybe even millions. We might even reach full employment if the original bill were to be executed.
Speaking of “executed,” should the Republicans really be using the term “killing” in any context given recent events. Their inflammatory rhetoric has been called into question over the past few weeks, so they might be well-advised to dial it back a little. Besides, you have a number of Democrats who are apparently willing to take up the slack.
In his impassioned statement on the House floor, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) said, “They don’t like the truth so they summarily dismiss it. They say it’s a government takeover of healthcare. A big lie just like Goebbels (Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda). You say it enough and you repeat the lie, repeat the lie, repeat the lie until eventually people believe it. Like blood libel, that’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it, and you have the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again.” Afterwards, in an interview with John King of CNN, Rep. Cohen denied comparing the Republicans to the Nazis. Unfortunately for him, John King applied “common sense” to the comments and rejected Cohen’s implausible denial.
Then, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) declared that repeal would result in “killing Americans.” She repeated this over and over again in interviews even though she could offer no specific proof of her statement. In retrospect, maybe this the type of statement to which Rep. Cohen was referring.
I’m not just picking on the Democrats. It’s “put-up-or-shut-up” time for the Republicans. Let’s assume for a minute that the repeal is successful. The Republican Party better work with the Democrats in a bipartisan way to craft a more intelligent and equitable solution to health care reform because our Nation needs it. Should it require 159 new agencies? No! Should it permit exemptions and carve-outs for special interest groups like unions and trial attorneys as were in the original bill? No! Should it infringe on individual liberties and mandate coverage in contravention of the Constitution? No! Should Congressional Members know what’s in it before they vote this time? Yes!
So, let me simplify this for our political leaders: We the People want to maintain or improve the quality of our health care; We the People want to have greater access to health care services; We the People want to have manageable health care costs. As Czar, I proclaim that any new legislation should provide for the transportability of insurance coverage (between jobs); it should provide coverage for those who have pre-existing conditions (via high risk pools); and it should permit competition across State lines to help drive down the costs. As a former litigating attorney, I can confidently say that it should include (and perhaps start with) tort reform. As a proponent of the Constitution, I decree that it should also apply equally … to citizens … rather than to pander to political spheres of influence. In short, it should incorporate “common sense.”
I could be wrong, but I believe that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was specifically alluding to me yesterday when he said, “We should repeal this law and focus on ‘common sense’ steps that actually lower costs and encourage private sector job creation.” In that regard, let’s begin by stamping out “political schizophrenia” and working toward a reformation of our Nation’s health care system in a way that addresses the needs of We the People. I’m the Common Sense Czar, and I approve of this message!
T.J. O’Hara is a political satirist, media personality and author of three new books: The Left isn’t Right, The Right is Wrong, and The National Platform of Common Sense. To order, go to http://tjohara.com/archives-2/books/.