President Obama said something very interesting when he spoke before Congress Wednesday night. The president echoed something this columnist, and many others outside of the beltway have said many times over the last few months. He said we agree on about 80 percent of what appears in the healthcare bill.
In fact, we even agree on most of the problems. We agree it shouldn’t cost individuals three times as much as companies to purchase insurance. We agree that far too many Americans are uninsured and only argue over how many actually cannot insure themselves under our current system.
Both sides agree that healthcare spending is out of control and is a large contributor to our deficit problem.
Therefore, if we agree on the problems and 80 percent of what is in the bill, why can’t we just, as the president said, “build on what works and fix what doesn’t?”
In order to fulfill the goals of security, better access, and a decrease in cost we need to make changes, but we do not need to reinvent the wheel. Little tweaks such as tax deduction for individuals, protections against losing coverage, and requiring everyone to carry basic coverage would go a long way.
Allowing individuals to buy across state lines would also open up competition and lead to a better and more affordable product.
Those pieces are pretty widely supported. So what’s the problem? Why can’t we compromise?
The simple answer is politics and childishness. Both sides have spent the better part of the year behaving like children.
Just minutes after the president told us the time for bickering was over, the times for games had passed, and it was time to deliver, we were shown a small flash of the last several months. Representative Joe Wilson screamed, “You lie,” and the president felt the need to mutter, “not true,” during the commotion.
Now plenty of the disagreements are ideological. We differ on parts of this bill. Some parts should be scrapped, some things should be added. But we can’t do that because everyone is bickering and everyone is playing games.
President Obama, Speaker Pelosi. Michael Steele, Mitch McConnell. Both sides are guilty. President Obama told us it was time to put away childish things, but he hasn’t. Republicans have attacked the president for playing politics, but they play too.
Cynics are born during times like these. As much as we want to believe things will be different this time around, don’t hold your breath.
We want to believe that the president has stepped in to mediate this congressional cat-fight. We want to believe the old warriors of Washington can finally put something together in a smoke filled back room.
Yet, forgive this columnist if he believes that the 80 percent of the bill we agree on ends up falling apart because too many people put news cycles and elections before the cause.
There are many provisions in this bill that make me uneasy, but instead of raising our voices, let’s have a debate. Let’s have town halls without disrespecting people who disagree. Let’s have open and honest discussions about what works and what won’t. Let’s persuade without perverting the truth. Let’s win with grace and lose with class.
Let’s just listen to each other and let someone else have the last word. After all, it’s worth a try.