Is it time to breathe yet? Is the health care debate finally over after months of political posturing?
Answers seem to point in the direction of yes after President Obama signed the law a few weeks ago, but after the entire process, it still seems like an initial step to improve the American health care system; a first step in the direction of universal health care, something that many feel is the only moral ends to reform.
While roughly 96 percent of Americans will now have access to coverage, without a government run plan, insurance companies are still the sole providers of care, and as if we could expect anything less, are still trying to find loopholes to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.
Obama’s young presidency seems to be filled with these types of first steps. To this point, I’m not sure if it is calculation on his part, or the restrictions of our governmental philosophy that hinders his ambitions. With so many obscure procedures and mechanisms to halt debate and/or vote on legislation, it seems that the snail’s pace of governing might continually be commonplace.
And this might not be such a bad thing, after all it could be seen as a trace of a check on politicians to prohibit rash decisions. But when threats of filibusters are occurring daily and murmurs of repealing legislation days after it was signed, the system is abused to a point of nearly being ungovernable.
Most agree this is the biggest piece of social legislation since the 1960s which saw the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts. More than 40 years ago!
In a time of great human advancement, social policy in this country incessantly lags. Not many westernized democracies have waited this long to ensure the health of its citizens. And our system might be the biggest culprit. Obama said it best during a bi-partisan debate over health care when he cited that every day in Washington has become election day.
So maybe Obama’s first step philosophy comes from not letting the perfect get in the way of the good, or maybe he is in fact handcuffed by the system and the invisible limits of spending political capital.
Further legislative goals that this administration wants to achieve all seem to fall in the category of good first steps, like climate change and financial regulation.
The cap and trade bill making its way through Congress has been pegged good, but not comprehensive enough to address the growing concerns of nearly all scientists about global warming. Financial regulation reforms are expected to become law, enhancing consumer protection from banks.
However, the people who drove the economy off the cliff were not removed but instead given the keys to the new car. It is hard to muster up hope for a new system that tolerates a boom and bust mentality when banks’ profits are capitalistic for them but losses become socialized for tax payers.
Moreover, an extremely polarized Washington doesn’t speed the legislative process up either. Republicans who feel they weren’t included in a substantive manner during the health care debate are now charging that there will be no cooperation the rest of the year. A bit hypocritical, but when Obama recently enacted a major Republican rally cry throughout the 2008 presidential election to expand off-shore drilling there was no public support for his decision. Suddenly there were no shouts of “Drill, Baby! Drill!”
Unfortunately it is hard to imagine much needed legislation being enacted in a timely, intellectual manner.
When first steps become long strides in the way of social, domestic and international legislation, our system will then prove truly effective.
Kevin Garrity, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.