I sure didn’t feel like a winner

Published 6:37 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Of all the scores in all of the games that I was following last Saturday, the most important, to me, did not include a football, basketball or baseball.

It wasn’t played outside on a gridiron or diamond. Neither was it played inside on a court, but make no mistake, it was a game and a very important one at that.

The players did not wear red and black, garnet and gold, or some other combination of school colors. The teams weren’t equally divided; one side had a larger number. Each side had its captain and they went at it toe-to-toe for hours. The final score was 220-215. It remains to be seen just who the winner might be, but I did not wake up Sunday morning feeling like a winner.

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I’m talking about the game that was played Saturday night in the House of Representatives. Instead of tossing a football around, they were all lined up on one side or the other as they wrangled over a prize known as HR 3962, a.k.a. The Affordable Health Care for America Act. There is quite a bit of irony involved in the name of that bill, the most obvious being whether our country can actually afford such an act as the House passed last Saturday night.

I will acknowledge the need for health care reform. All I have to do is look in the mirror and consider my own situation. In 2010, the upcoming year, my churches and I will combine our resources to pay more than $10,000 in health care costs. That’s if everything goes my way and I remain healthy! Heaven help me if I actually get sick.

The National Coalition on Health Care describes itself as “a nonprofit and rigorously non-partisan” organization. It estimates that this year, the percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (I guess that is everything we produce as an economy) that is spent on health care is about 18 percent. That’s a current percentage and is increasing at an alarming rate that will cripple the U.S. economy in just a little while.

Since I have acknowledged that I think we need to do something about this system that is, seemingly out of control, why wouldn’t I be happy when the House of Representatives gets the ball rolling with the passage of HR 3962? There are plenty of reasons for my negativity. The first might be the Ronald Reagan quote that I have used before. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” ‘Nuff said!

Also, if it was such a good bill, why did it take such behind the scenes arm twisting and bribery to get the necessary votes? Why did it take so long? And why 2,000 pages? I understand that arm twisting is a common course of action for governance, but I added bribery to the previous sentence. That’s a strong accusation.

The Democrats hold 258 seats and only 218 are needed to win. A good bill would seem to be a slam dunk with that size of a majority. But, as of Thursday, the votes were not there. In fact two of the holdouts were from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s own state of California. She called them in for a private chat and they talked about specific needs in their districts. As they left her office, hallelujah, they had seen the light. Had they seen the light or had the Speaker thrown a few million of your dollars their way?

If it was such a good bill, don’t you think at least at least a few of the 177 Republicans would vote for it? As it turned out, one actually did vote for the bill, but there was at least one extenuating circumstance. He was called by President Obama on Saturday and they discussed their “working together to address the critical health care issues of Louisiana and … disaster loan forgiveness.”

Grab your wallet, the politicians are near.

I’ve been watching this process for almost a half year now. Just after the President saved the banking industry and the economy and the environment and the automobile industry, he decided that he wanted to save the health care industry. I think he started in June. What would we have done without him? (We may find out in 2012!)

I’ll say this for the prez. He has certainly had tunnel vision toward this issue of health care reform these last few months. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had to take a back seat, as has a plunging unemployment situation. He was praised last year for his ability to keep his presidential campaign “on message” and he has been just a dogged this year as he has taken on all comers when it comes to this push for universal health care.

In my opinion, the country doesn’t seem to feel the same way as the president. He thinks that he is on the cusp of doing something historical. I think he is barking up the wrong tree. In the most recent elections, as small as they were, there was an indication that the American electorate is not as satisfied as the president may have thought. When polled, after voting, they did not praise anybody for health care reform. They spoke clearly. They are worried about the economy.

And rightly so. Obama may be dogged when it comes to his priorities, but so is the subject of unemployment. The president would do well to heed the message of the people. He may be a charismatic fellow who won an unprecedented victory last year. He could also be a one-term president if he thinks the American people care more about the doctor than they do about a job!