In the Arena

Closing Arguments

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As Kate Pickert notes below:

Even so, Republican opposition was still in full force all day Saturday with House Minority Leader John Boehner saying passage of the Democratic plan for health reform would constitute “Armageddon” that would “ruin our country.”

You have to wonder what Boehner and the others will say on Monday morning–or on some stray Monday six months from now–if the sun is shining and the birds are singing…and America has, somehow, survived Armageddon and is, in fact, stronger than it is today, and people have health insurance that can no longer be taken away. The fact is, as the President has said repeatedly, health care is not going to change for the vast majority of Americans. And it is going to improve dramatically for those who don’t have health insurance now or who worry that they’re going to lose the coverage they have. The cost will go up a bit…but less so than if no legislation is passed…and, ultimately, if the health care exchange superstores have the same effect on competitive pricing that Walmart has had on consumer goods, the costs will come down.

Conservatives are poised to stand on the wrong side of history–as they have with every major piece of social legislation that has been passed since the New Deal. Which is too bad for our democracy,

because the improvements to the bill that might have been made if the Republicans had chosen to play–medical malpractice reform, strengthening the exchanges and weakening the expansion of Medicaid–are going to be needed before long. But the Republicans have chosen to go rabid, to fear-monger to the point of ridiculousness, as John Boehner demonstrates above…and as Karl Rove, the epitome of Republican tactical cynicism, displayed this morning on This Week, in a stupefying performance of crazed, incomprehensible fulminations.

Rove’s eruption ended any lingering doubts I might have had about the political effect of this bill: if Rove, who only thinks in political terms, has gone off his meds about this legislation, it must mean that it will have benign effects for the Democratic Party.

As for the substantive impact of the bill, I believe it will have benign effects for the nation over time–but only if it is the beginning of a process that moves, eventually, toward a system where health care benefits are no longer tax-free, but are funded through a progressive system of tax credits; where doctors are paid by salary rather than by services provided; where the burden of health insurance is lifted from employers–in short, where we move toward the sort of single-payer system first proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and which is operating successfully right now in Switzerland and elsewhere.

I’m also happy that this will soon be over. I’ve lived through health care fights twice in my career now. There are other issues out there, other problems that need to be addressed. It’s time to move on.