Thursday, September 10, 2009

Camille Paglia's take on ObamaCare

I have been intrigued reading Camille Paglia at in recent months. In yesterday's column, she is now openly appalled at what is going on in the Obama White House, after giving her initial support to him as a campaign donor and ardent defender. We all know how the rabid right views Obama, but to hear doubts and misgivings now creeping into the debate from among his liberal fan base is evidence to me that the critical 40% comprising the moderate middle of American politics is rapidly being lost among the core constituency that elected him last year.

And Paglia's column came even before he opened his mouth in a speech to a joint session of Congress. Congressman Joe Wilson, (R) South Carolina, screamed "You lie," at one point, disrupting the proceedings in a most undignified way, mirroring the Democrats' boo bird cat calling when President Bush gave his 2005 State of the Union address and suggested, dared to suggest, the entitlement programs were broken and urged reform.

We can all be grateful that Paglia lines up as an objective observer among the left-tilted moderates. She reminds me of a right-tilted moderate voice, Peggy Noonan (see "Coruscating on Thin Ice," September 7, 2009). I've found the truth always hovers nearer the middle somewhere -- not at either end of the political spectrum -- and these two provide much-needed perspective.

Paglia's already talking about the possibility that Obama has bungled things so badly he may be easily defeated in 2012, hoping the Republicans will post another weak contender. Here's Paglia's take yesterday:

"By foolishly trying to reduce all objections to healthcare reform to the malevolence of obstructionist Republicans, Democrats have managed to destroy the national coalition that elected Obama and that is unlikely to be repaired. If Obama fails to win reelection, let the blame be first laid at the door of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who at a pivotal point threw gasoline on the flames by comparing angry American citizens to Nazis. It is theoretically possible that Obama could turn the situation around with a strong speech on healthcare to Congress this week, but after a summer of grisly hemorrhaging, too much damage has been done. At this point, Democrats' main hope for the 2012 presidential election is that Republicans nominate another hopelessly feeble candidate. Given the GOP's facility for shooting itself in the foot, that may well happen.

"This column has been calling for heads to roll at the White House from the get-go. Thankfully, they do seem to be falling faster -- as witness the middle-of-the-night bum's rush given to 'green jobs' czar Van Jones last week -- but there's a long way to go. An example of the provincial amateurism of current White House operations was the way the president's innocuous back-to-school pep talk got sandbagged by imbecilic support materials soliciting students to write fantasy letters to 'help' the president (a coercive directive quickly withdrawn under pressure). Even worse, the entire project was stupidly scheduled to conflict with the busy opening days of class this week, when harried teachers already have their hands full. Comically, some major school districts, including New York City, were not even open yet. And this is the gang who wants to revamp national healthcare?"

Personally, I remain convinced ObamaCare in some fashion will pass, though almost certainly and mercifully watered down from what was originally proposed in HR 3200. That's due in large measure to the town hall outcry from rank-and-file Americans, with no thanks to their elected officials on Capitol Hill. Now the deadline imposed by Vice-President Biden for a healthcare reform bill is Thanksgiving, it appears.

Whatever the outcome, those of us ordinary people who are watching and monitoring the debate closely will no doubt see little if any input from a bipartisan perspective. When you've got control of both houses of Congress, it doesn't have to be a fair fight in getting what you want. If they don't have the votes in the Senate and jam something through the "reconciliation" process historically reserved only for budget measures, then fasten your seat belts -- at that point all bets are off on a civil process prevailing.

Here's the critical pivot point in his speech last night: "The plan will not add to our deficit." He became even more emphatic with this statement: "First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize."

If you want a reliable gauge for truth telling, that will be it. As a casual observer from deep within the ranks of average Americans, I have three simple questions for President Obama:

1) Can you really improve health care across the board for everyone, including the 47 million uninsured Americans that initially did cover illegal aliens in HR 3200, as you say you can (oh, and p.s., the 12 million illegals were in your initial calculations, but now I guess they're out so Wilson's "You lie" charge won't stick)?
2) Can you really do it without increasing the deficit, when you admitted last night in your speech that it would cost $900 million and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says your plan will cost $1 trillion (before interest), and in the wake of a $9 trillion deficit projection in 10 years before you pass this pending legislation?
3) If you can plan to pay for it by eliminating waste and fraud in the current Medicare and Medicaid system, why not do that first and right now before you think about erecting the biggest entitlement program on top of an already weak foundation of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

With respect, I await the answers in coming months. Applying a healthy dose of the common sense imbued in such luminaries as Joe the Plumber tells me it can't be done the way you have positioned your arguments, Mr. President.

Skillful oratory was on display last night, even with the bland tip of the hat to Orrin Hatch, John McCain and Chuck Grassley. He even threw in IHC as a model for health care reform in Utah, but it flies in the face of reason.

If there is a local health care provider like IHC that can lower costs and administer its system wisely and prudently, then why, Mr. President, isn't that a better model to pursue region by region in the country than a federal government-run system that has to be invented from the ground up at enormous expense to the taxpayer?

I guess that's my 4th question.

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