As I write this blog, Congressman Denis Kucinich is holding a press conference to announce how he will vote on President Obama’s health care reform bill. Yes, it’s no longer the House bill or the Senate bill. The President has taken ownership of it, and that makes all the difference.
The word is that Kucinich, a staunch liberal who voted against the House version because it was woefully inadequate, will back the even weaker version passed by the Senate. I imagine it was a hard decision to make. The Senate bill is pathetic. And Kucinich is not ordinarily a flip-flopper.
But the President promises it’s just a start. He points to the initial versions of Social Security and Medicare as examples of programs that were improved over the years. The hardest part was getting the ball rolling.
Obama’s strongest argument is that the Senate bill, weak as it is, will extend coverage to some 30 million uninsured Americans. He emphasizes the human misery that results from the lack of coverage, and recalls how his own mother spent her last days worrying about the bills that her insurance company refused to pay.
He glosses over the fact that – with the exception of children – coverage under the reform bill doesn’t kick in for these people for four years. According to available estimates, that would mean 160,000 more American deaths from lack of health insurance in the meantime.
To someone who grew up outside of America, this is inconceivable. We regard health care as a natural right. But judging from the polls, Americans are divided on the issue. The President and his allies in Congress had to jump through hoops to get this watered down bill through the Senate, and now it’s not even sure to be rubber-stamped by the House.
The reason, of course, is that so many members of Congress are in the pockets of the health insurance lobbyists. I can’t think of any other civilized country in which politicians would dare to act so corruptly so openly. But money has a special place in America. The dollar bill – not the Statue of Liberty – should represent this country’s face to the rest of the world.
But President Obama is willing to take what he can get for the sick and dying. It is the right thing to do, he says, even if the political price is high.
With that kind of commitment from the President, I can understand why Congressman Kucinich would hold his nose and vote for the health care bill, sorry mess though it is. There will be improvements in the reconciliation process and, even more important, time enough to fix it in the years to come.
Now, let me turn on the TV and see what the little warrior has to say for himself.