This isn't, I hope, a political blog. I didn't really set out with an agenda in mind, other than replacing the hole in my online life that the demise of the "political" message board left. What I wanted to do was to write, at whatever length I thought was warranted, about the ideas and principles that I think ought to underlie the way people live their lives in community with each other. I don't want to write knowingly about what's likely to happen in workaday electoral politics; I have no reason to think I know what's likely to happen, nor do I have much interest in such. I want to write about how things should be, not how things are. I have a grown daughter who's playfully impatient with me about this; she likes to ask me how things are this week in Candyland. Well, so be it; the TV cable, and the remnants of the papers, and the internets are full of clever folks who give the play-by-play in the elephant-donkey trivia contest.
All of which is by way of noting that the "health-care reform" bill that just cleared the House of Representatives seems unlikely to make it through the Senate. And, on balance, that seems like a moderately good thing to me. Apart from the minor matter of being constitutionally impermissible, it represents a gun held to the heads of people who can't afford health insurance, along with a growled command to go and buy some health insurance. And yes, it has a "public option," whereby our notorious drunken-sailor-with-bottomless-pockets government becomes a competitor to the wicked private insurers; however, it seems unlikely to emerge from the Senate so equipped, if it emerges at all. Since the thing passed the House by a skinny margin, you have to wonder if a Senate-acceptable version wouldn't lose enough House support to doom it. As I say, I claim no expertise in these matters, and maybe a bill of some sort will pass. But I'm pretty much thinking not.
Before we go find a tea party at which to celebrate, though, consider: does the current "system" deserve any enthusiasm? Under it, people with good jobs get to go to the doctor, and those who don't, don't; they get to do without, or go to an emergency room and receive not-very-appropriate care at great cost to everyone. Under the current system, routine medical services are covered by insurance. As I read somewhere (don't remember where, just now), if homeowner's insurance worked this way, you wouldn't buy a replacement for a burned-out light bulb -- you'd file a claim. And far from being an exemplar of the glories of the free market, current arrangements seem to be as distorted and crabbed a market, with as high a set of barriers to entry, as one could imagine -- except for what may yet be coming from the people who brought you the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, COINTELPRO, and Abu Ghraib. Still, under current arrangements, we're spending one-seventh of GDP on such matters (actually, we were in 1997 -- it's very likely more now).
What we have now is long-term unsustainable, although it can always be made even worse, and that is why I consider a failure of the House-passed bill to be a moderately good thing. Still, things must, and will, change. Perhaps the situation will resolve itself in the context of a general economic collapse -- which also seems like an inevitability. Instead of playing the red-jerseys-and-blue-jerseys football game, though, maybe we should be thinking about how the poor man's family can get some basic doctoring, without putting a gun to anyone's head and taking a big chunk of their earnings away from them.