Sunday, May 30, 2010
Everyone lies, but we lie to varying degrees, frequencies, and for various nefarious and not-so-nefarious purposes. Among human beings, and certainly among politicians that have ascended to the office of the presidency, Barak Obama strikes me as one of the more honest ones. He has not been in politics, and certainly not been president, long enough to abandon his aspirations. He has not kept all his campaign promises. But he's been busy. He deserves some time and space to determine which promises and priorities he'll continue to pursue. We should not be appalled by inevitable compromise. Some commitments will go unfulfilled. Circumstances will change. He'll change his mind. Some dreams will die.
We still honor honesty, and should continue to ask for it. When the president was speaking to the congress last Wednesday he was articulating his principles. President Obama was describing his desires and expectations from the bills that congress is authoring. When the president said his plan would not use public money to pay for the health insurance of illegal immigrants, that was a statement of principle. The facts, the text of the bills, are still subject to amendment and change.
Congressman Wilson, and many of his more courteous colleagues, presumably agree that taxpayers should not purchase insurance for the undocumented. They may suspect that Obama's agreement is insincere, or that the current text is inadequate. Rather than assault him, why not just hold him to his word? Congress is authoring the bill. Joe Wilson is a Congressman. Why not work to insure the bill contains the principles that both Wilson and Obama say they support?
Obama wants the public option to be funded, not by taxpayers, but by subscriber premiums. He speaks of fair competition between the public and private insurers. Obama says he doesn't want a single payer plan and offers a market-based approach. He says, constantly, that he intends to (mostly) leave private employer-provided plans alone. Obama says he wants the plan to be fully funded, to reduce medical costs in the long run, and not add a dime to deficit.
Congressional Republicans don't argue that these are bad ideas. Instead, they argue, that Obama's health care reforms must be stopped because Democrats can't be trusted! So, don't trust them. Laws are written with words and those words have meaning. The GOP should be negotiating to insure their shared principles are signed into law.
Republicans, including New Hampshire's own Senator Gregg and that forgettable gentleman that spoke after Obama's speech, all claim they recognize the real and urgent need for health care reform. When described, the Republican plans sound a lot like what Obama is proposing. But when it comes to negotiating in good faith, the GOP is just yelling from the sidelines.
Of course, when Republicans say they support health care reform, they may be lying.