A Modest Proposal (On Health Care)
It is not clear to me what was intended by naming the bipartisan group responsible for the Baucus health care proposal in the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee the “Gang of Six.”
The term “Gang of Four” referenced former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s wife, Jiang Qing, and three other radical Communist leaders, who sought to control the Chinese Communist Party during the 1970s. They were eventually charged with treason and are officially blamed for some of the worst excesses of a period of ruthless killing and destruction of political opposition.
Wikipedia’s entry on the subject notes that they were dubbed the “Gang of Four” in a media campaign against them and “that four has the same sound as ‘death’ in Chinese, and is sometimes viewed as an unlucky number.”
We have Senators Baucus, Bingaman, Conrad, Enzi, Grassley, & Snowe. None of the six are Chinese. None are Communists. Nor do any of them derive power through marriage to our Commander-in-Chief, although I haven’t seen President Obama’s marriage certificate with my own eyes using 3-D glasses, apparently the new standard for verification in the blogosphere.
A bigger question, now that months of behind-closed-doors wrangling has resulted in the public unveiling of a proposal, is, “Did they even work together?” NPR’s Ken Rudin calls the group the Gang of One, as all but Mr. Baucus, himself, seem to have disavowed it.
Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, among the least politicizing and most earnest speakers in the Senate, has assured skeptics that the bipartisan group worked together with respect, dedication and determination to craft a legislative compromise. She, at least, calls the result a “solid starting point,” before saying that it needs changes.
So how does all this work reconcile with the hot potato of a result that no one wants to be associated with?
The problem with the Baucus bill is that it’s full of fiscal and civic responsibility. In other words, it’s no fun. Definitely not something you could run for office on, for example. Imagine the talking points: mandate, social safety net, 700+ billion price tag.
It is so unappealing, in fact, that as soon as it was released, even the author offered to change it. From the New York Times: “Key Senator Says He Will Alter Health Proposal.” The bill goes next to the Senate Finance Committee where it can be amended and revised to make it more appealing.
Meanwhile there does seem to be some excess in name calling and disrespect in the political arena. President Carter opined this week that he thought the “intensely demonstrated animosity” towards Mr. Obama was based on race. It was reassuring to hear from a variety of pundits that the vitriol and loathing is based on Mr. Obama’s efforts to save the economy and reform health care, not race.
Couple that with the recent slew of high officials confessing far more than the public needs to know about their personal lives, and we can almost imagine our own Cultural Revolution.
No Wikipedia entry yet on the achievements of the Gang of Six. Progressives are disappointed with the Senate approach. A Canadian-style system without insurance companies seemed to be a solution to both our cost containment problem and our desire to offer access to all Americans. Instead, insurance companies will face some regulation, but will be guaranteed new customers in return.
At least subsidies are a step towards universal access. But it remains to be seen if Mr. Obama’s approach, working within the current health care structure and trusting Congress to arrive at productive compromise will obtain significant results.
For a bit of economic humor: A Recession Rant
Marc Seltzer 2008 ⓒ