February 7, 2010

As we start a new year, let us see exactly where we stand.  Total financial ruin was apparently avoided by the TARP and bailouts of various companies.  However questionable these tactics may have been, they were better than the alternative, the collapse of Wall Street and eventually the entire national economy.  A job stimulus package was initiated amidst much debate on its substance.  Although not a cure for unemployment, the effort, clearly, has stabilized the pattern of massive job losses that greeted the Obama administration on the Day of Inauguration.  Despite Republican rhetoric and Tea Party criticism, as well as my own dissatisfaction with some of these initiatives, I must admit, some form of these "solutions" would have been enacted, no matter who had occupied the White House.

Problems seemed to arise over poorly conceived philosophical issues.  Liberal Democrats, remembering the sage comments of their demented grandfathers, refused to commit, whole heartedly, to increasing jobs.  They were forbidden to vote for lower corporate and capital gains taxes, no matter how many more jobs might be created.  Republicans were committed to unbridled defense spending, blind to the fact that no matter how right they think they may be, as sure as one and one equals two, we cannot support two foreign wars without raising taxes.  Remembering the sage advice of their demented grandfolk, they declared cuts in military spending for never-to-be-used weapon systems, carpetbaggers, and legally insane, sodomist mercenaries as off limits to discussion.

Many Democrats were, mercifully, aware that without substantial health care reform, the country would not be able to compete, economically, with the rest of the world.  Every other industrialized country, armed with some sort of national health plan, whether "socialized" or not, could produce automobiles for fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars less per vehicle.  This included Canada, the country to which scores of our automobile factories and thousands of our jobs had gone.  With various reforms of the private insurance industry and cleansing of much of the obvious graft and fraud in government entitlement programs, an enormous savings could be achieved.  There was no way for the Republicans to deny this, and, indeed, they did not!

So, why, after a year of haggling and wasted time in both houses, do we have pending bills that even Howard Dean and Anthony Weiner, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and scores of other responsible Democrats and Republicans say they would not vote for?  It is too easy to say that the Insurance Industry has bought off Republicans and Democrats alike.  I have no doubt that they have paid both sides a fairly equal amount in, now legal, bribes.  In the end, however, nothing can stop both Houses from approving changes in "preexisting illness" clauses, arbitrary "cancellation" clauses, arbitrary "payout limitations" in the midst of treatment or portability of insurance across state lines.  The fact of the matter is that, confronted with these issues face to face, every member of Congress would, eventually, vote "aye" to such a bill.  Unfortunately, there is no such bill!

President Obama, a neophyte politician, appeared to be learning quickly, but, foolishly, he turned the job of health care reform over to an ineptly led House and Senate.  With the citizenry screaming: "Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!,"  Democratic leadership decided to exercise their "mandate,"  to come as close as possible to forcing "socialized medicine" on a nation that was not ready for it.  Clueless, as usual, the House almost totally ignored the one thing that had clearly differentiated Candidate Obama from his opponents, the promise that above all, he would be practical.  He wrote two books in which he tried his best to show this.  His plea for "bipartisanship," actually a plea for "let's be practical, for goodness' sake," went unheeded by both parties.

Now, it is up to President Obama to force the issue.  He needs to stand up to both parties, to Pharma, to durable goods and oxygen providers, to medical laboratories, and fraudulent hospital billing and save the full hundred and ten billion dollars and more, overspent by Medicare each year.  He must have independent studies to recheck the unbelievable calculations of the Congressional Budget Office.  He must force Congress to immediately pass a bipartisan healthcare bill on those unopposed issues.  If he can do these things, there is no limit to what can be achieved in due time.  If he fails to pass these things, if he fails to save Medicare, if he fails to rebuild America's trust in government, then health care is doomed, the economy is doomed and under constant assault by opportunistic parasites, all faith in both parties will be lost.

Allen Finkelstein, D.O.