Republicans need to be active
Lately, people have been laying into the “Party of No” narrative that Democrats have been trying to paint Republicans with because of their unprecedented use of the filibuster and other delaying tactics to prevent Obama administration initiatives from passing Congress. Some have even said that it is basically OK if Congress does nothing because government should be doing nothing. Thus, we should not be criticizing Republicans for blocking everything Democrats propose, rather, we should be celebrating their contributions to effective government and saving the world’s puppies.
There is no deficit of crises in America today. From climate to health care to our financial sector, it seems like we need massive changes to take effect right now in order to save us from a very bleak future. I would love for the private sector to handle all of these challenges in a full and fair way. I would love for ordinary citizens to band together and solve these problems in a full and fair way.
Unfortunately, as evidenced by the fact that these problems are only getting worse, that seems not to be the case. This is not to say that the private sector or individual citizens have failed, but it is to say that we do not traditionally view their role in our society as one that can accomplish what we are after. On a basic level, I suppose I should not expect insurance companies to offer their product to everyone at a reasonable level because, in the end, they are a corporation in pursuit of a profit to benefit their shareholders.
The role of government is to take that viewpoint and do what is necessary to reach a desired social outcome within the framework of our system. Our society wants every person to have health insurance, for a variety of reasons. The private sector can offer insurance, but sometimes at too high of a price and with certain discriminations against risky persons. Most individual citizens have health insurance, but there are too many who do not and still need emergency care, while some use health care services too often – both of which help drive up the cost of insurance for everyone.
Democrats have proposed a modest package of reforms, through excise taxes on high-cost health plans and banning discrimination against age or prior medical history in an attempt to create an environment where that desired social outcome is obtainable with the least infringement on the private market. That is efficient government. And it is how the American people want their government to operate.
I could draw similar examples for the other crises afflicting our nation, but the primary point to take away here is that there are many problems that we have to deal with now instead of waiting for the private sector or individual citizens to figure it out. A responsible and effective government should address them. If we do nothing, health care will continue to bankrupt our country, climate change will continue to ravage our world and we will, years from now, wonder why we wasted our time with dangerously naïve utopian claptraps. “Keep your hands off of it!” may be trendy, but there is a reason why the American people have not elevated Ron Paul to the Oval Office.
But the “Party of No” mantra that today’s Republican Party has earned has not been one done so through steadfast devotion to principle and ideology. The current Democratic health care proposal, released by President Obama, includes virtually every concession that Republicans demanded that they make. There is no public option, tort reform is included as are state-based exchanges, subsidies for lower-middle income families would be increased, and so on. Yet the Grand Old Party still plans to vote in lock-step against it.
The jobs bill that may be passed soon dropped controversial tax provisions and included proposals by Sens. Kyl (R-Ariz.), Gregg (R-N.H.) and Hatch (R-Utah). Yet, the GOP still plans to vote in lock-step against it.
Perhaps the best example would be from a few months ago when Democrats sought to extend unemployment insurance and the GOP forced seven different cloture votes – which took up more than three days of the Senate’s time – but then voted for the bill unanimously 97-0. This is not about principle; this is opposition for opposition’s sake. Republicans have decided that preventing major progressive initiatives from making their way to the President’s desk is the best political strategy for regaining Congress in the 2010 midterm elections. Anyone that tells you otherwise is lying.
The private sector and individuals do indeed bare responsibility for making this nation better. That is the way that our system is set up, and it is the best configuration mankind has come up with so far. But when they are not meeting those objectives, a good government steps in to ensure that the conditions are there to promote success. A crippled, passive government does nothing. A crippled, passive nation does nothing.
Scott Harris is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.