Political Hay

Bill of Health?

Behind the Democrats' push for unassisted political suicide.

By 11.30.09

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To understand the Democrats in Washington right now you only need to know one old joke, the one about the Polish immigrant to America. After he had been here for a while, a friend asked, "So, are you polishing up your English?"

"No," he replied. "I'm englishing up my Polish."

It has become a rite of right writers to question the sanity of the headlong drive of Democrats to pass a health-care bill unlikely to help them or the citizenry. The legislation is deeply unpopular and will alienate independent voters. It will almost certainly cost trillions more than projected with disastrous ramifications for budgets. It will almost certainly lower the standard of medical practice in this country. It will almost certainly devastate successful swaths of American industry, in the fields of medicine, pharmaceuticals and insurance.

Nor will it advance Democrat fortunes. This thing will kick off a new series of taxes: outgoes on incomes, requisites on perquisites, iniquities on equities, even premiums on health insurance itself. The supposedly beneficent provisions will not kick in until 2013, giving folks three years of abrasion without persuasion. Throw in a half-trillion in Medicare cuts to undermine the elderly -- a constituency Democrats have mainly courted by promising to protect Medicare -- and you have a superfecta of stupefaction. Why, oh, why?

Theories are being bruited. Some think the Dems believe at heart that people will embrace them for their munificence, like the girlfriend who says, "Oh, honey, you shouldn't have." This approach holds the delay in implementation will help, leaving the lure of the promise to tantalize voters in 2010 and 2012.

Others argue that Obama pushed it and Congressional Democrats got pulled in (a pushmi-pullyu leading to Doctor Do-Little?), both now trapped with no path for retreat. The most positive posit that the Dems are true believers, if misguided, with a selfless vision of delivering deliverance to the suffering masses.

The actual diagnosis, I fear, is more prosaic, picayune, pedestrian, plebeian, petty and a host of similar words all requiring a sample of p. The Democrats are fighting for health-care reform because it is a shibboleth. To be a Democrat these last seventy years has meant to champion socialized medicine. It probably began from someone's sense of morality or of utility, but it has long since devolved into a piece of standardized jargon in the leftist lexicon.

If you have ever attended a Democrat social event, whether in 1949 or 1979 or 2009, you have heard countless murmured conversations over cocktails about how to "get health care." You will hear what passes as wisdom, mostly conventional, to explain why Roosevelt didn't succeed much, why Truman tried harder, why Johnson accomplished more, why Clinton fell short. The substance of this blather is much less instructive than the fact of its existence. It shows the premise has become settled in the Democrat mind, or at least in its conversation, that "health care" is good, that it is a good Democrats live to advance, and that it is an inevitable good which will crown some Democrat President with eternal glory.

Once an idea is the object of such iconolatry, reality is far too flimsy a cudgel for its battery. The various actuaries from CBO and other alphabet agencies may project ever higher costs, think tanks may outline in detail how medicine will be hindered not helped, statisticians may even stipulate an increase in untimely death from enacting such a law; none of this will sway. The die has been cast, no matter how many will be cast away or die. Health care must be "gotten."

This is why Obama and friends are englishing up their Polish. They are figuring out ways to tell us, ordinary people, non-members of the club, the uninitiated, that their holy grail must be good even in our terms. They promise better care at lower cost; they promise so much benefit that the rest of the economy will be cured; whatever they think might motivate us to climb aboard. The clear echo of every statement they make is that no new thought has been invested beyond putting enough lipstick on the pig to sell it in the poke.

The chances of avoiding this locomotive with the loco motive seem slender indeed. The purveyors of this nostrum have both the rostrum and the roster. Our only hope is if something gets lost in the translation.

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About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.