Despite everything, it’s a proud time for America

Christopher Hook

I don’t know about you dear reader, but by the time the health care bill was passed by the House of Representatives this week, I had long since stopped following the discussion.

Last spring and through the summer, I paid attention to the discourse, even attending an Obama town hall meeting in Shaker Heights in support of the plan. But sometime around the racist comments being hurled by Tea Party crowds, sometime around the country becoming divided between those who believed the death panel rumor and those who didn’t, sometime around when the left declared war on the right (and vice-versa), the discussion turned nasty and unappealing. The actual content of the bill got lost in the constant bickering between the two opposing sides. Not since, probably, the era of the Civil Rights Act and the creation of Medicare in the 1960s has the country found itself so bitterly divided around one piece of legislation.

So after Obama signed the 2,000-plus-page bill, my first feeling wasn’t elation, but exhaustion.

But what did we accomplish through this, the first signature achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency since he took office last year?

For one, we found out that our political system is broken. “Bipartisan Barack” initially sought to find a solution that both parties could agree on. But Republicans stood in the way at every corner, hoping to derail the process, promising to filibuster any bill proposed by the Democrats that mandated universal coverage or raised taxes for anyone.

This wouldn’t be so bad, except the GOP proposed no serious alternatives to the Democrats’ plan. There was no attempt to be cooperative. This was the same for really any bill the majority of Democrats tried to submit, as if voting for any Democratic resolution at all was akin to betraying the country.

Thus, to get this important plan passed, Democrats had to force the health care plan through, something for which they may get hanged in this year’s midterm elections. That is a broken system.

We also found out that the relationship between media and politician is broken. Last September, Congressman Joe Wilson, R-S.C., screamed out “liar” to the president as he addressed Congress and the nation about the health care proposal. Wilson was reprimanded publicly by leaders of both parties but became kind of a cult celebrity in the eyes of his electors. He was able to raise more than $1 million only a week after his outburst on national TV, and though he apologized, you could just see the dollar signs in his eyes.

Just last week, Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, admitted to screaming “baby killer” at Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., for not going far enough, in his opinion, to ensure federal funds under the new health care structure don’t go to abortion coverage. Neugebauer then turned right around and put out a YouTube video asking for donations to his campaign. He apologized for the outburst on national TV, but has refused to apologize on the House floor. Stupak later criticized his actions: “I’m beginning to believe that’s how you raise money around here is insult somebody.”

But we also saw that for all the squabbling, all the exhaustion, all the unpopularity of the bill, something substantial was accomplished. Sure, the system described in the bill may be watered down and flawed, but these things can be fixed with future resolutions as need be.

The important thing is that we have joined the ranks of the other modern industrialized countries that provide universal health care coverage for their citizens. And our deficit will be reduced by $143 billion over 10 years. And by 2018, 32 million more people will have health insurance. And our system is not so broken as to prevent governance. In a time when it seemed Congress would agree on nothing, and the American people would suffer as a result, something very good emerged.

Despite everything, it’s a proud time for America.

Christopher Hook is a junior international relations and

French major and a columnist

for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact him at [email protected].