Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Republicans need to be active

By Scott Harris

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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 [email protected]


6 Responses to “Republicans need to be active”

  1. Ed on February 23rd, 2010 10:20 am

    Scott, it is a pity you weren’t at CPAC. There is NOT a unified right anymore than there is a unified left – the GOP has become the “party of no” BECAUSE OF Obama.

    We are not unified on climate change as a country – to paraphrase Ann Coulter, we can have “Cap & Tax” destroy the economy and make absolutely everything a whole lot more expensive, but it can have snow in Washington. Wait, we HAVE snow in Washington, last week we had snow on the ground in all 49 contentinal US states (No Ann, it wasn’t all 50 states, Hawaii didn’t have any…)

    As to health care, there are three very big things on the right that are being overlooked. First, there are some serious Constitutional issues involved. Second, it is a total myth that the Republicans have been permitted to be involved – when Olympia Snow abandons the Dems, that should say something. And third, there is a big difference between catastrophic insurance and basic health insurance — and no distinction being made between the two.


  2. chris russell on February 23rd, 2010 4:17 pm

    ed you are one crazy dude. no matter what your opinion on health care is, people without insurance increase overall health care costs. this is why the congressional budget office says the various health care reform plans would decrease the defect. i thought that is what republicans wanted? but not if it makes obama and democrats look good i guess.


  3. Ben Rudnick on February 24th, 2010 1:07 am

    Except, Chris, that the plans passed by the House and the Senate both use the same gimmick to make them appear to reduce the deficit over the course of the years 2010-2019. According to the Congressional Budget Office reports on both pieces of legislation, the taxes and spending cuts intended to pay for comprehensive health care reform begin to take effect almost immediately after either plan is passed, while the actual costs associated with the plans do not begin until 2013 (2014 in the case of the Senate bill)!

    How can we have a real debate about health care reform if such fiscal gimmickry is used to camouflage the real impact of these plans on the deficit. You should also note that both plans also resort to the same kind of “on budget/off budget” accounting that BOTH sides have been using for many years to hide the shockingly huge unfunded mandates that are awaiting our nation in the not too distant future!

    We’re never going to solve our problems unless we base our ideas on REAL numbers. Neither side has a track record of success in this area, so it is up to all of us to hold both parties feet to the fire on these issues!

    Ben Rudnick


  4. chris russell on February 24th, 2010 8:00 pm

    ben you are still missing the point- ensuring all have healthcare will eventually reduce costs. since the NY Times columnist roger cohen is a better writer then me, ill let him make the point.

    “Pooling the risk among everybody is the most efficient way to forge a healthier society. That’s what other developed societies do. And they don’t have 30 million plus uninsured.

    Now, as I understand it, the Tea Party movement is angry about waste, bail-outs for the rich and spiraling debt. They detest big government. But if waste and debt are really what’s bothering them, how about the waste in the more than 1,800 daily health-care related personal bankruptcies, the 25 to 30 percent of some corporate insurers’ costs going on administration (versus 6 percent for Medicare), the sky-rocketing health premiums that are undermining U.S. corporations (and so taking jobs), the endless paperwork of private reimbursement procedures, and the needless deaths?

    Americans don’t want a European nanny state — fine! But, as a lawyer friend, Manuel Wally, put it to me, “When it comes to health it makes sense to involve government, which is accountable to the people, rather than corporations, which are accountable to shareholders.”

    All the fear-mongering talk of “nationalizing” 17 percent of the economy is nonsense. Government, through Medicare and Medicaid, is already administering almost half of American health care and doing so with less waste than the private sector. Per capita Medicare costs for common benefits grew 4.9 percent between 1998 and 2008, against 7.1 percent for private insurers. Why not offer Medicare as a choice — a choice — to everyone? Aren’t Republicans about choice?

    The public option, not dead, would amount to recognition of shared interest in each other’s health and of the need to use America’s energies and resources better. It would involve 300 million people linking arms.

    Or we can turn away from each other and, like Narcissus, perish in the contemplation of our own reflections.
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  5. Ben Rudnick on February 25th, 2010 1:15 am

    Well Chris, these are separate arguments, and I’ll start by saying that your points here make more sense. However, your initial response mentioned only the deficit, snidely suggesting that those who oppose comprehensive insurance reform because they believe it will increase the deficit do not have a factual leg to stand on. I simply pointed out that the CBO projections for the impact on the deficit of the Democrat plan are based on fiscal trickery.

    As to your point about Medicare costs going up more slowly than private insurance costs, you clearly do not recognize that is almost entirely because of the fact that Medicare does not reimburse doctors and hospitals for the full cost of their services, which inevitably leads to the gap in payments being passed on to those with private insurance. This is not to say that all of the rise in the cost of private insurance is due to this fact, but it certainly proves that the lower rise in Medicare costs is not due to any greater efficiency on their part, but is rather due to the fact that Medicare simply refuses to pay the full amount due on their bills.

    Besides, I would hardly use Medicare as some exemplar of government efficacy. The GAO lists Medicare as one of the government’s “high risk” programs that is in need of reform, and so falls short as an example of how well government-run health insurance works. After all, the Medicare trust fund is slated to run out of money sometime around 2017, so I hardly think adding more people to that program is the “silver bullet” to solve our health care issues.

    I agree that pooling our risk is necessary to allow those with pre-existing conditions to get insurance, but I disagree as to how government should be involved. The reason for this is that I simply do not believe that government is really accountable to the people anymore. I appreciate that the government must be involved in setting up the framework within which the risk pools must operate, but I think that private insurers will be more responsive to the needs of the people, who are after all the customers who the insurers need to secure and retain to satisfy the financial desires of their shareholders.

    Ben Rudnick


  6. chris russell on February 27th, 2010 2:44 pm

    We are coming at the issue from two different perspectives. I believe health care, like education, is a service the government is morally required to offer to its citizens. You apparently believe private industry is up to the job. Any insured person, or someone who had their coverage dropped due to sickness, or someone who was denied coverage due to a pre existing condition would disagree with you.
    You seem to believe health care is a privilege, not a right. Could you say this to the thousands of people forced to file for bankruptcy in 2007 due to medical bills (66 percent of all bankruptcies that year)?

    Or to the family members of the 45,000 people who die every year because they lack health insurance?

    Why do conservatives care about spending now, when it is meant to help people receive adequate health care, but not when bush invaded two countries while cutting taxes for the rich? Where are your priorities?


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