March 29, 2010
The President's health care reform bill has been signed, sealed and delivered. It was a long hard-fought battle, and in the end, the voices of the people were ignored. The siren song of politics prevailed and kept us from winning -- at this point. Before I say anything further, I want to stop and thank everyone who responded to our emails and mailings, who signed petitions, called, wrote, faxed, emailed or visited their representatives on this important issue. I know in the last few weeks it was difficult to get through to them. Your emails bounced back and the phones on the hill were often jammed and busy. Even though your efforts didn't stop the ill-conceived bill from passing, you should be proud of your efforts. The echoes of your voices still reverberate in congressional offices and across America, and we hope they will continue to reverberate through to the November elections and beyond. Again I say, thank you!
I think it is important to step back and remember how we got to the point that health care reform became important, recap what happened over the last year, and describe where we are today.
The need to reform health care came, not from run-away and greedy insurance companies, or from doctors and hospitals overcharging or ordering too many tests. It came because we removed the most basic tenet of free market principles from the equation, the buyer. After World War II, employer-provided health insurance became an incentive for an employer to offer to potential employees. This started a long string of barriers to the basic principle of putting the choice and control of goods and services in the hands of the buyer. This trend has continued and expanded as massive regulations and numerous government programs have been inserted between the buyer/patient and the insurance companies. The government also became the steward of our money as they collected money from our paychecks for Medicare, and perpetuated the separation of the buyer from the service. Our legal system contributed to rising health care costs by allowing out-of-proportion legal settlements, causing huge increases in the liability insurance costs doctors and hospitals pay, and forcing our doctors to practice defensive medicine, which also added to health care costs. A basic point that should have been the touch stone for health care reform was; put the buyer in control. That wasn't talked about or considered in the last year. So, we ended up with a health care system that, even with its growing separation from the free market forces that have fueled our growth for almost 300 years, was still the best health care system in the world. People have flocked across our borders to take advantage of it. Yet it also needed changes to continue its growth and improve it.
Starting over a year ago, the President and the Democrats decided that, with their historically rare "super majority," they would "solve" the health care problem by adding more government intrusion, more regulations, and more government agencies to control health care. They decided to pay for this government intrusion and expansion by cutting Medicare and raising taxes. The extent of this takeover is evidenced by the sheer size of the bill which grew to over 2,400 pages. I predict the pages needed to detail the regulations necessary to enact the legislation will number in the hundreds of thousands. As the details of the bill were unveiled, America became more and more unhappy. We voiced our displeasure over the summer and by the fall the polls showed a solid majority disapproved of the track that health care reform was on. America's displeasure was highlighted in the loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts and the end of the Democrat's super majority. Unfortunately, this didn't faze the Administration or the House and Senate Democrats one bit. They kept at it until they found the legislative loop holes, the backroom deals, and the political tricks they needed to still pass this unpopular legislation.
So where are we today? We have a bill that; cuts Medicare by 500 billion dollars, gives an unelected government committee the power to dictate what our doctors can and cannot do, burdens us with a myriad of new taxes, and saddles us, our children and our grandchildren with enormous debt, yet does nothing about the basic problem of moving the buyer closer to the goods and services. Is that the end? Is this our cross to bear for the rest of our lives? I, and I hope you, say no! We're not finished!
I recently read an interesting quote. It said,
"The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of 'liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened."
These words were uttered by Norman Thomas, a member of the Socialist Party and their presidential candidate in 1948. It is a chilling message in light of the last year. The power of older Americans is their experience. While the future of our country is embodied in the vitality and energy of our youth, I feel the guardians of our Constitution are our seniors. While the youth forge ahead and take the risks involved with being at the point of the spear, it is the responsibility of older Americans to cover the flanks and the rear lest the enemy of freedom secretly sneak up behind and pluck off our freedoms one at a time, unnoticed, until one day we find that they are all gone -- without even knowing when or how it happened. It is the experience of our seniors that can identify change, can remember what freedoms we had, can remember how hard work was rewarded with success, and how no-one expected the government to bail them out. It is this experience that is the most valuable asset America has right now, an asset that must be used to right the ship going forward.
This health care reform battle brought out some interesting and revealing facts that I think are important to share with you. These are things that have become evident to me as I've read emails, letters, and listened to calls and voice mails from seniors all over America. First, older Americans are not the uninformed, self-serving, easily coerced group that some have portrayed them to be. They know what is right, they have the time and energy to stay informed, and they have an experience led intuition that has served them well over the years, and that serves them even better now. Second, they have strong values that are unchanged, and an appreciation of fiscal responsibility that is constant. They don't understand how a stance on abortion can be fluid from day to day, and how spending more than you take in is ever acceptable. Third, older Americans have a broader concern with the health care reform bill than its impact on health care. I've been carrying around a hand written letter from a 92 year old widow of a WW-II veteran. In it she talks about not getting any insurance from the government when her husband died, and how she went to work and raised her three children, and how getting a zero cost-of-living adjustment this year has made it tough to deal with the increases in the cost of rent, medicine and food. But this wasn't what the bulk of the letter was about; what worried her most is the direction the country is now headed. She said, "I can't believe our young country is on such a bad path – going in the wrong direction." I hear over and over again that older Americans are worried about maintaining our basic freedoms, about the possibility that our current direction will destroy our constitution, and that everyone will begin to rely on the government and that we'll somehow be absolved of our individual responsibility. These are the things that worry them the most.
I feel that we are truly at a crossroads. It is vital that we all become involved and work to get us back on the right path. Within a few days I will lay out a plan for how we can help turn this ship of state to the right course, while helping each of us weather the storm that is the health care reform bill. We've had a setback in this battle, but the battle is not over by any means. This is a very important battle but it is not the only battle. The war against those who would rob us of our freedoms and tear down the constitution is the final war that will be won by winning these important battles. I'm counting on each of you to stay involved and stay with us as we continue this important crusade. We're not finished!