And now for something completely different: In the wake of Ted Kennedy’s death, I’ve been thinking about how much of the coverage focused on the fact that the senator, who served nearly 47 years in the upper chamber, worked to achieve universal health care. The goal, we’ve been reminded repeatedly, eluded him.
And now for something completely different:
In the wake of Ted Kennedy’s death, I’ve been thinking about how much of the coverage focused on the fact that the senator, who served nearly 47 years in the upper chamber, worked to achieve universal health care. The goal, we’ve been reminded repeatedly, eluded him.
(Frankly, I wish we wouldn’t cover celebrity deaths ad infinitum ad nauseam, but that’s America. We love our famous people’s fame, especially when they leave the planet.)
Anyway, back to Ted’s favorite topic, health care for all. Had he been healthy, he might have been able to work with Republicans to forge a compromise bill that could garner 70 to 80 votes, enough to achieve a broad consensus of agreement on a major issue affecting 17 percent of the economy.
Ted was a master at the almost lost art of logrolling, the idea that I’ll help you out on your bill if you help me out on mine. It used to be quite common in the Senate and the House, but not in today’s hyperpartisan atmosphere, where Democrats occupy left field and Republicans are in right field. There’s no one covering center field anymore.
I was reminded of how extreme the debate has become over health care when I watched congressional Town Hall meetings on YouTube, then went to two of them in Rockford put on by U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Egan. Although I was pleased that in Rockford nearly all the participants were able to disagree without being disagreeable, I was struck at how wide the gap has become between people who think that universal health care should be a right guaranteed by government and those who want the government to stay out of health care entirely. Well, except for Medicare. I haven’t heard any conservative congressman advocate legislation to end Medicare. Have you?
Just how extreme have the parties become? Well, there used to be plenty of pro-life Democrats, including at one time, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Al Gore. And there once were a host of Republicans who didn’t mind using government to achieve social or economic goals.
And who was the most prominent big-government Republican of modern times? Richard M. Nixon, the same one who was hated by liberals during his career in Washington. He accomplished amazing things by wielding government power. Under Nixon, we got the Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA and Amtrak. Nixon opened China to the West. He ended the Vietnam War.
And, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted Sunday, Nixon proposed a radical universal health care plan that today’s Democrats probably couldn’t pass. And today’s Republican Party cadres led by Rush Limbaugh? Surely they’d call Nixon’s plan a communistic, socialistic, Bill Ayers-inspired redistributionist plot born in Kenya.
Krugman said that “Nixon proposed requiring that all employers, not just large companies, offer insurance. Nixon also embraced tighter regulation of insurers, calling on states to “approve specific plans, oversee rates, ensure adequate disclosure, require an annual audit and take other appropriate measures.”
Ted Kennedy’s refusal to embrace Nixon’s bipartisan bill, said Krugman, ensured its demise. Kennedy lived to regret it, as Democrats continually fumbled the ball — and continue to fumble it today — on health care reform. Meanwhile, insurance premiums are going up, up, up.
I guess the Democrats couldn’t live with a law that inevitably would have been called “Nixoncare.”
Rockford Register Star Senior Editor Chuck Sweeny can be reached at email@example.com or (815) 987-1366.