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A Great Achievement for a Decent, Civilized United States of America
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 06:27
by Walter C. Uhler

America's Democrats, under the inspirational leadership of President Barack Hussein Obama, have single handedly guaranteed that some 32 million additional Americans will become eligible for health insurance, beginning in 2014. Single handedly, Democrats have guaranteed that insurance companies no longer can deny coverage to children with pre-existing medical problems, a guarantee that will be extended to all adults in 2014. Single handedly, Democrats have guaranteed that the so-called "doughnut hole" in the Medicare prescription drug benefit will close.

Single handedly, Democrats have guaranteed that Medicaid will expand to cover incomes up to 133 percent of the national poverty level ($29,327). Single handedly, Democrats have guaranteed that, beginning in 2014, small businesses, the self-employed and the uninsured can select a plan from state insurance pools. Single handedly, the Democrats have pulled off the astounding feat of this increased coverage while reducing our federal deficit by $138 billion over the next decade.

Single handedly? Yes! President Obama will sign into law a Health-Care bill that failed to win even one supporting vote from the Republicans. As the history of the past decade has demonstrated, rather than help less fortunate Americans obtain health insurance, Republicans preferred to give their "yes" votes to legislation giving tax cuts to the rich and to resolutions supporting illegal, immoral wars of aggression, such as the one they heartily supported in Iraq. With no sense of shame, Republicans put forth a health-care plan that extended coverage to a mere 3 million Americans.

Republicans would have you believe that their objections to the new Health-Care law were matters of principled disagreement - too costly, too much government interference, et cetera. However, anyone inclined to believe such assertions should not only recall their support for the expensive war in Iraq and the budget busting tax cuts for the rich, but also the question raised repeatedly by Chris Matthews: If Republicans are, indeed, genuinely concerned about getting near universal health care right, why didn't they offer and pass health care reform, when they controlled the both houses of congress and the presidency? They had total control for most of 2001 to 2006.

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Equally damaging to Republican assertions is recent reporting by the New York Times: "Before the health care fight, before the economic stimulus package, before President Obama even took office, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, had a strategy for his party: use his extensive knowledge of Senate procedure to slow things down, take advantage of the difficulties Democrats would have in governing and deny Democrats any Republican support on big legislation." Applying that strategy to health care, Republican Senator Jim DeMint claimed: "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo." So much then, for Republicans' claims about principled disagreements.

Even worse than the behavior of congressional Republicans was the ugly, crude and obnoxious behavior exhibited by libertarians and "Tea baggers." We've all seen the raucous town hall meetings where the ignorance exhibited by health care opponents appeared to be directly related to their exaggerations, lies, hatred and racism. A word of warning: You might suspect you're "white trash," when you've resorted to calling civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis, a "nigger." You also might be viewed as "white trash," if you've chosen to spit on an African-American congressman, simply because he plans to vote for health care.

The best book I've read about these ugly Americans is: America Right or Wrong by Anatol Lieven. Explaining the reasons for such ugliness, Lieven writes: "As a result of economic, cultural and demographic change, in America, the supremely victorious nation of the modern age, large numbers of Americans feel defeated". Over the years, the hatred generated by this sense of defeat and alienation has been extended to both domestic and foreign enemies."

The greatest recession since the Great Depression (caused by greedy Wall Street bankers), the election of an African-American President and his attempt to fulfill his promise to enact near universal health care -- which an irresponsible writer for Investor's Business Daily derided as "affirmative action on steroids" - have further exacerbated their sense of defeat and hatred.

Although I've been sidelined by injury and surgery, I have no personal stake in health care reform, because I have the same excellent federal employee insurance coverage enjoyed by the President and all members of Congress. Were the 32 million Americans added to my government plan, I suspect my annual costs would go down. But, I'd be willing to pay more, if that was the price of insuring 32 million more Americans.

But, then, I'm a "liberal" and a patriot - someone who cares about large groups of Americans I'll never meet. I'm also my brother's keeper. Nevertheless, I still recall the upbraiding I received in 1995 from a Finnish woman, while visiting Helsinki: "What's wrong with you Americans? You're the richest country in the world and, yet, are unable to provide the free universal health care and free universal educational opportunities that we Finns take for granted."

(By the way, although a few Republicans attempted to conflate and deride Obama's health care plan with those in European welfare states, his plan actually brings 32 million new customers to America's private enterprise health care system. Moreover, those derisive Republicans badly need to be educated about European welfare states. Were they educated, they might learn that European welfare states actually provide greater opportunities for social mobility than found in the U.S. They might learn that European welfare states offer a higher quality of life than found in the U.S. - with no overall loss in individual liberties. They might even learn, as economist Jeffrey Sachs recently observed, that the steadily deteriorating U.S. already has the lowest taxes of all major Western nations - which suggests that even lower taxes would lead to further deterioration.)

The Senate bill single handedly approved yesterday by Democrats in the House of Representatives represents a singular historic accomplishment for the Obama administration and the American people. American Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt through Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton have attempted but failed to accomplish such a feat. It represents a triumph for "Yes we can" and the "change" that candidate Obama promised.

But it also marks a disastrous defeat for Republicans. Former Bush administration speech writer, David Frum, hit the nail on the head when he recently wrote: "Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s...We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat�it's Waterloo all right, ours."

Perhaps, now they'll wake up and smell the coffee -- and decide to support the American people, not just the military industrial complex and the rich. Just don't bet on it.

Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).
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