Gridlock in Washington * A Long Running Play is Revived

By on June 10, 2013

ObamawinsI thought when President Obama was re-elected last November, the gate would open for Health Reform to move on to what-comes-next. I knew the Republicans would bring up repeal motions in the House to amuse themselves and their dwindling band of supporters. And this has been the case. This exercise seems increasingly foolish. I expected that the Obama Administration would now focus on implementation of the 51 state insurances exchanges in preparation for the October sign up, and this has happened. Some Republican governors at first dumped the responsibility for establishing them back in the lap of HHS, hoping they would be overwhelmed. This also occurred, though recently some of these governors have had second thoughts and succumbed to the lure of more federal money in the state coffer. California has already established pricing for those insurers cooperating and the results have been good news for supporters of the PPACA (Obamacare.)

What has not been good news for Obamacare has been the continual distraction of other issues. The Boston shootings in April and the failed effort to control the placement of artillery in the hands of the mentally disturbed, who now populate every community of any size, has been especially lamentable. Funding for community mental health services has been slashed and trashed by the advocates of austerity as the preferred way out of our economic woes. They don’t mind guaranteeing lots of money for executive bonuses to non-performers but they do not want those same dollars to go to the less fortunate for whom mental health care is financially out of reach.

Santa monicaNow the Democrats, who increasingly  seem like eunuchs at an orgy on any given issue, have gotten themselves all wound up about national security versus privacy rights issues to the extent that another mass shooting this week-end in Santa Monica California went right past them. The death by shooting rate in the US, which is far higher than in any western country, is a major public health problem and still needs vigorous advocacy. A disappointed audience has largely tuned out.

The Republicans are still fixated on Benghazi which happened last fall, and the revelation that the IRS was investigating several political action groups applying for tax exemptions they didn’t deserve. The IRS has looked foolish and Obama has done some needed housecleaning. The House of representatives Prince of Darkness Darrel Issa (R-CA) has attacked these two issues like a starving man who just come across a turkey carcass. Issa, the richest man in Congress according to a recent survey, has plenty of reasons to be wary of the IRS himself and is not likely to give up, even if fellow Republicans don’t play along. The audience for this drama has tuned out or dropped out or off..

Meanwhile the President seems himself distracted by all the fuss and feathers flying around. This week-end he was explaining his national security policy of looking at who everyone in the US is talking to electronically. Yawn. The economy, which is recovering very slowly, seems a back burner issue for the moment. Immigration reform is boiling furiously on a front burner. Gay rights at the Supreme Court and recent Abortion legislation by the states are waiting in the wings for their moment in the spotlight. We have a lot of real challenges and a tuned-out public is not good for any of them.

emptyHealth care reform will need a lot of attention if it is to become as much a part of life in America as Social Security and Medicare, which still seems likely. Health care cost control at this time seems far less assured, and unless our ditsy national government can get its head out of the wastepaper basket and stop worrying about who is going to be president in 3 1/2 years, or How-Do-We-Thwart/Support-Hilary-Clinton-Again we are in for some pretty awful months ahead. This country desperately needs reform. Real reform does not occur without help. Health care reform is definitely no exception.

The electorate may need to help here by asserting itself next year at the polls. There are a lot of bad actors (office-holders) who ought to be doing something else in 2015. The current brand of politics is not sustainable and needs no further revival. We have real challenges, and the current revival of Gridlock in Washington, a non-musical travesty,  is unlikely to run successfully. Author! Author!


Tom Godfrey


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