The world turned upside down

By Ronald M. Horvath | Mar 04, 2010

We waited all afternoon for the storm to arrive. Driving home from work I saw a few flakes fly against the windshield. Afterward the uncertain clouds sputtered their last attempt while I threw the Frisbee for the dog in the backyard. And that was the great storm of Thursday last.

It’s not often that I get to experience schadenfreude. That’s the warm and fuzzy feeling one gets by observing the misery of someone else, usually someone we believe deserves it though it’s not a requirement. But whether the Mid-Atlantic states deserved it or not there was something satisfying about sitting in my living room here in the great white north and watching “the south” get clobbered by the tangential effects of global warming. How bizarre is it that while whole, island nations in the Pacific are slowly sinking below the rising seas “ole Virginia” is sinking beneath the rising snow.

“I’d like to write more, Ron,” said an old high school buddy living in Maryland in a recent e-mail, “but I have to go shovel now.” He had about 50 inches of snow in his driveway. I couldn’t help myself. I just had to chuckle at that.

Of course no reverses in the natural order of things can match those of the Republican minority in Congress, which has decided it is against everything it was previously for when any of its former “Republican ideas” comes offered up by the Obama administration. Whether it’s a deficit commission, pay-as-you-go rules for budgeting, cap-and-trade policy against global warming, or even Bush‘s policy of trying terrorism suspects in U.S. courts, the Republicans are having none of their own former favorite ideas in Democratic hands. Even the bank bailout, the act of a Republican administration that had Republican support, has magically morphed into an Obama administration policy and is open to Republican criticism. A year ago Mr. Boehner urged his House GOP colleagues, in writing, to reject Obama¹s invitation to bipartisan cooperation and now the know-nothings have become do-nothings.

Paul Krugman writes about the myth of bipartisanship in the New York Times: “The truth, which is obvious from every day’s news, is that there is nothing, nothing at all, that Obama could offer — other than switching parties — that would get him any GOP cooperation.”

Republicans, however, just like the weather, have revealed a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Recently Rachel Maddow read a list of Republican legislators who, despite having voted against Obama’s stimulus bill, are now happily taking credit for its positive effects on their states. Twenty-three Republican congressmen were shown pictured on her MSNBC program accepting the gratitude of their constituents for government money that they voted against. Apparently those who are fiscally conservative nationally can easily change their spots to embrace the “nanny state” locally.

Nothing symbolizes this political dodge ball game more than the “Mount Vernon” statement, read with great theatrics by certain conservative “luminaries,” as they were referred to in the media, and led by Reagan’s disgraced attorney general, Ed Meese. It was a re-assertion of conservative principle, most of which had been completely forgotten during the Bush years of conservative ascendancy and which serve now only as a bitter reminder. One has to wonder where these “luminaries” were during that dark time of government expansion, lost revenue, regulatory malaise, increased debt and military adventurism. Perhaps they were hiding their heads in embarrassment.

And then there is the ever pompous and deceptively hypocritical Evan Bayh who stood fast against any real health care reform and then bemoaned the lack of progress in his retirement speech while his wife is being paid handsomely -- to the tune of $2.1 million -- by the health care industry for his efforts, or lack of them, however you may look at it. Such disingenuousness can only denote a future lobbyist in the making. The obvious contradictions were not lost on his constituents, of course, one of which stated, “If he really wanted to see change, I’m glad he did something about it by not running.”

Perhaps the most puzzling turn of events was the attempt by the health care insurers in California to increase premium prices by as much as 39 percent at a time when more and more potential (and present) customers are already finding health insurance to be unaffordable. Krugman, in the Times, calls this anomaly the insurance industry’s death spiral -- trying to increase profits in a shrinking market by pricing more Americans out of that market. It is as though those who have just spent millions in lobbying fees to prevent a public option are now helplessly leaving millions of Americans with no option at all.

Truly this is a storm that won’t pass us by. The health care crisis continues to spiral higher while the propagators of that crisis spiral lower and lower. I have to wonder if this wasn’t Obama’s plan after all, to wait patiently while the situation worsened, while Congress exhausted itself in back biting, infighting and backroom deal making, and while the public stewed impatiently over the “business as usual” in a government that seemed more broken than normal. Now Obama rides to the rescue with a bill of his own, shorn of the most offending items, and calls out the Republicans for their do-nothing stance at a time when it is more evident than ever that something must be done.

Thomas Carlyle, noted English essayist of the 19th century, once wrote, ‘If something be not done, something will do itself one day, and in a fashion that will please nobody.”

Will the public option become the only option, by default?

Ronald M. Horvath lives in Camden.

 

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