Monday, December 14, 2009

Hold Your Noses and Celebrate Anyway

by David Corn, Mother Jones

Democrats have been trying to pass a universal healthcare plan for nearly a century. But Woodrow Wilson dropped the ball on the first attempt, FDR gave up on the second, Harry Truman ran smack into the AMA on the third, Richard Nixon collided with Teddy Kennedy on the fourth, and Bill Clinton fell to Harry and Louise (and Bob and Newt) on the fifth.

Now we're on our sixth try, and the fight so far hasn't been a pretty one. The Republican side has been dominated by howling over death panels and socialism, transparently fake attempts at bipartisanship, and promises to filibuster and obstruct endlessly. On the Democratic side, activists have turned abortion funding and the public option into hills to die for, Olympia Snowe and Ben Nelson have become de factor kingmakers, and even at best none of the bills on offer will cover more than about two-thirds of the uninsured.

But you know what? This is still the farthest we've ever gotten, and with Democrats coming out of this week's series of negotiating sessions seemingly united behind a compromise plan, it looks like Harry Reid might actually get something passed through the Senate before Christmas. If that happens, a conference committee will likely report out a final bill sometime in January. And that will be the first time ever that Congress has even gotten to the point of voting on national healthcare.

The first time. So yes: It's not single-payer. The subsidies are inadequate. The public option, if there is one, will be so weak as to be a joke. Every interest group from insurers to doctors to seniors to pharmaceutical companies has been openly bribed to go along. Lots of people will still be left outside the safety net. It's a mess.

But so was Social Security when it passed. It left out domestic workers (because they were mostly black and Southerners demanded it), it left out farmworkers, and its payouts were pathetically small. But what it did do was establish the principle that the elderly should be taken care of. And eventually they were. The healthcare bill we're about to get is exactly the same: It does too little and it leaves too many people out, but it establishes the principle that everyone deserves decent healthcare. And eventually everyone will.

So hold your noses and celebrate anyway. It's taken us a hundred years, but if this messy, inadequate, infuriating healthcare reform passes it will be a historic occasion. FDR will finally be smiling.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home