It’s a start

First off, you really can’t have any intelligent discussion about the downright dysfunctional situation in the U.S. Senate (as in, why can’t you get anything done these days with 52 or 55 votes? Hello? WTF?) unless you go back and read Dennis Myers’ cover story from the Nov. 25 issue. Forgive the obvious intra-staff plug here, but in this instance, it’s completely justified. Essential reading.

What’s good? (1) Something got done. Something historic. Finally. That’s big. Of course, let’s give props to the House of Representatives, which got this work done, and got it done better, weeks ago. (2) Since something did get done, Republican scumwads won’t be able to skewer Obama and the Democrats in 2010 on some kind of “big talk, no action” cheap shot. (3) This bill, with all of its bloops, bleeps and blunders, must be conflated with the more interesting House bill before it goes to President Obama. Which means it might just get a little better.

What sucks? (1) There is no public option. This means there’s no real competition to keep insurance companies honest or nervous. That’s too bad. Tragic, in fact. Many observers say the big winner here in this whole fracas is … the insurance industry. If this is so, how good of a bill can it be? (2) There is no Medicare extension downwards to cover 55 and ups—a personal disappointment for your 56 year-old correspondent. This idea was pretty much harpooned and gutted by one man, Joe Lieberman, described by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann as “the senator from Aetna.” (3) The clauses to prohibit health insurance providers from declining an applicant based on pre-existing conditions applies only TO CHILDREN. For adults now being rejected, relief isn’t going to occur until 2014. Gee. Great. Only five more years of being mangled by insurance companies.

When all this began, months and months ago, the concept of healthcare reform was like Wonder Woman. Strong, powerful, beautiful, and ready to rumble with the evil and oppressive powers that be. Now, the reality of the finished product looks more like a toothless old crone, made gray, scrawny, pathetic, and pitiful by a seemingly endless procession of compromises, and deals. The opinions that came forth during the final furious days of haggling to just blow the thing up and start all over were understandable. Let’s face it—the best thing that can be said about the Senate’s version of healthcare “reform” is that it’s the quaint quavering first step of an infant, completely lacking in direction, muscle, and assuredness.

Then again, that first step, as any parent will tell you, is undeniably special. It’s a start. You gotta walk before you run. And maybe one day, our new little baby will grow up to be … Canada.