All the hurdles of the health care bill were cleared with the final vote on the Reconciliation bill in the House on Thursday. Since Scott Brown was elected, there was a nagging doubt whether health care reform would be able to pass after all. Now that it's done, those doubts are a faint memory deserving only a footnote mention in history books. However, a more disturbing trend has arose from the passage of this bill. The total abandonment of decorum of elected officials and protesters opposing the bill. Though the mainstream Republican leadership has condemned these outbursts of violence and appalling behavior, many feel that it's not vociferous enough.
There are many comparisons of the health care reform bill to the Civil Rights Act in 1964, which morally speaking, was the most important piece of legislation in the 20th century, but I beg to differ. These premise and predicate of these 2 pieces of legislation are different on so many levels. The Civil Rights Act was about morality and ending segregation in the South and invalidating the Jim Crow Laws that kept many African Americans away from the ballot box. The Civil Rights Act, for all its intents and purposes, was ending a way of life for Southerners, telling states who practice segregation and abide by the Jim Crow Laws that their way of life is immoral and it stops now. Segregation and disenfranchisement of a whole race is heinous, illegal and most of all, unconstitutional, but up until that point, it was the only way of life the Southerner's have known. It was like legislating a new world order for which Southerners have to abide by while many were still fighting the war of Northern Aggression in their heads. To this present day, there are still people re-enacting the Civil War in actual battlefield locations, in full Confederate and Yankee uniform. It would be like the Parliament of India passing legislation that says their caste and segregation system according to social and ethnic background is illegal, they will have a billion people up in arms in no time. A government cannot not legislate away a social mentality that has existed in a culture since the beginning of that culture's history and that's what the Civil Rights Act effectively did. It may have legislated away the physical segregation in society but it could not legislate away the mental segregation.
Strictly speaking, access to health care is not a social issue that deals with morality when compared to segregation and disenfranchisement, which has a very clear moral boundary. It's more of an economic issue, wealthier people have access to better health care, which is not exactly a surprise, wealthier people have access to better everything. Health care is a service rendered when there is a need, namely when someone gets sick or gets in an accident and this is where it gets murky. How should health care service be delivered and distributed? There is limited amount of resources in health care services and this includes doctors, clinics, hospitals, nurses, medical equipment etc. How should those services be distributed and by what criteria should they be distributed? The wealthy people take care of themselves with the best policies and the government already provides health care for the indigent and vulnerable, in the form of Medicaid and Medicare. But what of the people in between, which is the majority of people? It's a known fact that in order for a country to be prosperous a strong middle class is needed. To have a strong middle class the following criteria must first exist: good education system where a reasonable number of people achieve higher degrees, low unemployment rate and the health and well being of the population.
With the current recession, what's left of the middle class is hanging on by its fingernails and it cannot be burdened by the rising cost of health care. With the rising cost of insurance premiums, access to higher education is now uncertain with college tuition increases and national unemployment rate is still at 9.7% and will likely stay in that range for awhile coupled with the fact that you can be considered middle class one day and then get in an accident with the possibility of losing everything you own to medical cost the next day is unacceptable and unsustainable.
The president along with members of Congress have touched briefly on the moral side of having affordable quality health care coverage for all, but they have mainly focused their argument on the economic side of it. The current health care system as it stands is economically unsustainable for families and society at large. Families will be bankrupted by insurance premiums and out of pocket costs. Younger and healthier people are foregoing health insurance coverage thereby throwing caution to the wind and not getting their routine preventative care, which can contribute to chronic, perhaps incurable illnesses later on in life. All of this can slowly cripple and bring down the middle class.
So why are people so angry about this? Why the "mass hysteria" outside the Capitol building on the day of voting? Why are members of Congress getting death threats and windows blown through? Is it really just about health care reform? The Republicans had control of both houses of Congress from 2000 to 2006 and they did nothing with regards to health care reform, they passed an expensive prescription drug plan for senior citizens that is equally unsustainable and this current health care bill is going to fix the crater that contributed to national deficit. It makes one wonder just what are Republicans and their supporters so angry about? Is it because they couldn't do in 6 years what an 'inexperienced' president could do in less than 2 years? And the brains of the Obama administration are well informed people who are familiar with parliamentary rules and were able to get the votes and get the bills passed? It is unseemly and unsightly to see our elected officials holding up protest signs from the Capitol building balcony inciting the masses below. In the hallowed halls of Congress, where historical legislations were made, a certain amount decorum is expected from the elected members of this country.
The president and the people of his administration have been accused of being too intellectual by some of the more populist leaders of the Right and said that we need a Commander-in-Chief and not a "law professor lecturing at the lectern." This administration, including the president, mostly consist of ivy-leaguers, erudite intellectuals who see politics and the world at large in shades of gray, which is a stark contrast to the previous administration that saw everything in black or white, good or evil, you are either with us or against us. It appears that this administration's approach to governance and its world view have really drawn the anti-government, anti-intellectualism, anti-establishment and anti-Washington folks out of the woodwork. Perhaps the name William Jennings Bryan should ring a bell to them? He was the first national populist leader, a Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson and was a nominee for presidential candidate three times in 1896, 1900 and 1908 and yet there is no President Bryan in the history books. William Jennings Bryan had a Tea Party "mass hysteria" like following during his heyday but when it came time to vote for their populist leader who fought for the little people into office...well, we already know the ending to that story.