Put health care reform on hold…
because Obama’s new Washington can’t be trusted to do it right


I like to think of myself as a smart man. Unfortunately, most of my friends are significantly more likely to first say I’m a smart ass. Regardless, I’ve been quietly sitting on the sideline, trying to take in everything swirling around with this health care debate, and the time has come for me to say something. So here it is…

Enough already.

Stop it.

Because this has turned into a game of push and shove. Who can yell the loudest… who can defend positions they don’t seem to understand, but don’t want to look like a fool by changing their mind (and looking exactly like a fool when they do)… and all sorts of other assorted hilarities and oddities. We’ve got members of Congress yelling at the public… we’ve got the public yelling at members of Congress.

And nothing is getting done.

Welcome to the new Washington. (Same as the old Washington.)

Ok… let’s establish some background here.

Item number one ~ A little over a month ago, Biden says a second stimulus package might be necessary, might not be necessary, but these things take time. And I agree with one aspect of the entire story, which is that when you plan to distribute monies over months and years, you can’t look for instant results after days and weeks. But an interesting nugget is to be found in this little quote from our Vice President: “We misread just how bad the economy was.”

Two funny things here.

First of all, the administration is saying that their reading of the data… the first impression… the (my words) “quick… quick… we have to do something or the world is going to end” dive made into the pool… was, you know, filled with mistakes. How could they have known things might get worse? Did anyone really think that was a possibility? (Read full sarcasm in the questioning.)

And then second, this story is the first place where you begin to see the excuse machine picking up speed. The excuse machine is always there in politics. But this summer, it’s getting a little louder and happening a little more often. The words like “inherit” begin to come into place. They start asking for patience because… we all need to understand… they recognize their responsibility to work on cleaning this mess up, but lord knows they didn’t create it. They’re claiming to be part of the solution… not part of the problem… and all of us are supposed to look the other way and miss the fact that virtually all of them held an office working in Washington while the problem was created. They blame it all on Bush… and we, the villagers put away the torches. (For now.)

Item number two ~ The clunker of a clunker program. Look… I’m not even going to give you some opinions and concepts here… I don’t need to… let’s just list it off…

The program didn’t have enough money

Dealerships that are participating are finding the forms and the process just this side of impossible

The program is treating other segments of the auto industry (and other areas) something less than kindly… used auto sales… used auto parts… charitable donations…

Now… combine these two ideas and we can support three interesting things. First, the administration seems to be in love with acting as quickly as possible, and apparently doesn’t consider the long term repercussions or all possibilities. Second, the administration, even when they get something out there that looks like a success, is ticking off tons of people because of problems and unexpected collateral damage (that may ultimately destroy the success). And third, when questioned on any of it, the response is getting louder: (my words again, but honestly, tell me you haven’t heard them in some form) “Hey… whoa… not my fault… just cleaning up the mess.”

I haven’t read every page of the of the suggested health care reform plan. In fact, honestly, I haven’t read one complete page of the more than one-thousand pages in it. But I don’t need to read a single word of it to tell you two things.

One… This country does need to look at the health care system that is in place, the practices/policies/actions and more involved, and try to improve it. This process needs to be handled as a detailed… well-researched… thought provoking… issue debated… consequences considered look.

Two… It can’t be a rush job just because people want to attach deadlines to it and meet those deadlines.

So far I have seen absolutely nothing to tell me that Democratic leadership… from the White House on… is capable of handling such a project correctly. The Vice President is saying that things changed for the worse, and caught them by surprise, not even five months after taking quick action on the economy. Programs work to encourage increased business, but don’t have enough money to support themselves, and in the end are so complicated they might destroy businesses along the way. And everything seems to come with that collateral damage… or, better yet, collateral damage control… as unexpected side events take place.

Who would have thought that improving auto sales would cost charities millions upon millions of dollars?

Well… you know… pardon me for saying this, because maybe I’m wrong, I don’t even play a car salesman on TV… but I believe an expert in the field given a fair amount of time to research things almost certainly would have thought about the impact on charities… and the underfunding possibilities… and that the economy might just get worse.

Basically, I don’t understand the rush in acting on health care. I think it commits way too much money for something that leaves too many possibilities out there for problems. And I don’t mean headaches… I mean evil, vicious, most horrible things you could imagine nightmares truly existing under your bed problems.

Given what we’ve seen so far, government is bringing health care right down a path we’ve seen traveled several times just this year. And the story has the same structure… the same framework… that we’ve seen result in problems.

And don’t kid yourself. Washington hasn’t really changed… not yet anyway. This is the same finger-pointing, back-biting, positioning oneself for the future at the risk of the present politics we’ve been given over and over and over again. So as our country had so many people celebrating the arrival of change… it appears to me those people conveniently are forgetting that change is more than a word, it requires actual action and, you know, change… perhaps this health care subject may finally set people off enough to toss all of these people out and really bring about a new Washington. Because it doesn’t look like it’s happening yet.

There’s a story that I love about Billy Martin and Yogi Berra. Goes something like this…

Martin was managing the Yankees, and he got fired. Berra was hired to take over for him. When Berra walked into the manager’s office in Yankee Stadium for the first time, he found two envelopes inside the desk.

Each envelope was labeled in a way that told Berra to only open it in case of an emergency, with one labeled as the first envelope to be opened.

Things eventually did start going badly for Berra, with talk building in the media and in ownership quotes of a managerial problem and his job being on the line. He opened the first envelope and pulled out a note.

“Blame me.”

Later that day, Berra spoke with reporters and talked about how tough a situation he was handed and proceeded to blame Martin for all of the troubles. The team immediately began playing better and, for a while, talk of his dismissal disappeared.

Then another wave of bad play arrived. Ownership again began telling reporters that things needed to change and change fast. Berra began to worry. Remembering how helpful Martin had been before, he went back to the desk and took out the second envelope.

“Prepare two envelopes…”

Is the story true? I don’t know. Legends usually aren’t. I love the story anyway. What I can tell you is this… the only time Billy Martin was directly replaced by Yogi Berra in New York that I know of was in 1984. And you’ll never guess who replaced Berra in 1985. (Yup… Martin.)

I can only hope that as Obama reaches for the second envelope in his desk, as a country we do better than returning to the Republicans. And I can only hope that we wake up as a country… that our leaders wake up… and realize that health care is too important to decide in two days or two weeks because someone wants a decision before everyone heads home for vacation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When I first wrote this essay, a tremendous portion of it simply rolled along… one of those writer’s dream moments where the fingers are keeping pace with the thoughts and nothing stops, everything just keeps moving along.

And then I went in to proofread what I had written. For the most part I was pleased. But I felt that it needed a follow-up… some clarity…

When I first started this article, it was about health care reform and, more specifically, why it was stupid to set an amazingly quick deadline for completing it. But then the words and thoughts began leading to a weird transformation…

The support material for why rushing into this decision was a bad idea, using examples from this administration and this national assembly of representation, began to show me that politics as usual that demanded change in the last national election actually still looked like politics as usual.

And as the tone shifted a bit on that note, portions became more of a review of how the first six… seven… eight months of this presidency founded on change had at the foundation of things brought about little actual change.

Crossing over a few other twists and turns, I suddenly found myself standing in front of a computer screen where I had three pages of text that formulated an argument showing why Barack Obama was the rough equivalent of Yogi Berra reaching for that legendary second envelope.

It was supposed to be about health care.


So I went back and revised portions of it. And I want to share a bit of why that happened.

First of all, I don’t mind Barack Obama… the person. (I hate resorting to the easy joke, but so be it. He strikes me as the kind of guy you’d like to meet up with for a beer. I know… I know… but look for the imagery in the sentiment and not the history.) He’s well spoken, incredibly personable, and has a wide and diverse range of interests and passions. Long story short, I find him to be real and authentic in an arena far too often filled with fake and created personas. But understand, again, that is as a person. As a president I believe that so far he has demonstrated an amazing lack of experience and incredibly flawed reasoning.

That’s my opinion. However, while as president he deserves to be at the front of the line when it comes to passing out grades, heck…

Is Barney Frank doing any better with this health care issue? No. He’s not.

How about Nancy Pelosi? Is she providing example after example of how Washington has learned for past mistakes, grown, and created a stronger leadership for America? (Do you really need me to answer that one? Good.)

So it’s the Democrats… right? Obama, Biden, Frank and Pelosi. Yes? Nope. Not even close.

Sarah Palin did such a fine job of organizing her thoughts, plans and political aspirations that in a period of about six weeks she managed to completely blow up a presidential campaign that, supposedly, didn’t even exist.

Beyond Sarah, the Republicans are watching candidate after candidate for their vacant role of leadership take perfect aim at their own feet. (Go back a few lines… look for my quote about Obama: “real and authentic in an arena far too often filled with fake and created”… now get in your car, drive to South Carolina, and ask some of the residents in that state if their governor is more “real and authentic” or “fake and created” as a politician. Actually… nah… just pull up a search engine and save yourself the drive.)

Honestly… it’s amazing how incompetent the whole group looks.

Which brings us to the second point… that this was supposed to be an article about health care reform and how Washington doesn’t need to rush action. It’s an important issue. It deserves… and actually requires… thorough investigations and questioning.

I suppose at this point I’m fine with where the article is. I do think it deserves to be pointed out that Washington is, from the seat I occupy in viewing the show, still Washington. And I did find it amazingly funny that if the Billy Martin story is accurate, then Yogi Berra was ultimately replaced with Billy Martin. Makes for a funny little twist on Democrat replacing Republican only to get voted out and replaced by a Repuiblican.

I just wanted you to know I don’t fault Obama for all of it. I do think he deserves some of the blame… some of the responsibility for it.

I like him as a man. Heck, I admire him as a man. But I’m not sold on him as a president.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com