By Elizabeth Burke
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report
Before I proceed on this week’s post, I just want to express, like everyone else in the country, my deep sadness and heartbreak for the victims of the Tucson shootings. I am not going to pontificate on any of it as all that can be said has been said, and all we need now is to keep all the victims in our minds and pray for full recoveries for those that survived.
Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, a national holiday and, for most of us, a day off from work. But in the wake of the recent violence, it might be wise to remember, for a minute, a man who fought for basic civil rights against a very strong, well-financed and loud opposition. He fought not with vitriol, violent images or gun-sights set on those politicians who opposed him, but with words, thoughtful actions and marches that were hundreds of thousands strong. He fought without giving up his belief that, in the end, a strong showing of solidarity, nonviolent activism, kindness and the will not to be silenced by those shouting louder can make this country stronger and more unified with civil equality for all.
Now, onto the never-ending story of the healthcare repeal-or-bust movement of the Republican Party. I thought we were done with this issue. Town Halls were had, debates were done, votes were taken and a law was passed. That’s how the legislative process works, as far as I understood this game. And it is a game. I have no idea why this needs to come up again except for the fact that the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, likes to show off how much time and money he can waste. Even with most of the GOP realizing that this repeal would never pass the Senate or, barring that, would never override President Obama’s inevitable veto, Boehner’s charade must go on.
They can certainly go ahead with this repeal. I’m willing to listen to reasonable arguments regarding specific parts of the reform they disagree with. But I also expect the GOP to have alternatives. I would expect that a year after the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act they would have had plenty of time to discuss which elements they’d take out and what they’d put in. Exactly what changes do they want? Did they create a new health care bill? Did they determine different ways to pay for the current bill? Will they keep such provisions as making it illegal to deny those with preexisting conditions basic health care? Do they want to continue the part of the bill that allows children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health plan? Or maybe they think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect someone like me, who, if not for my current job, would have pay over $400 a month for the most basic of healthcare — which will be great if I get hit by a bus, but not for much else.
I have no idea what the GOP wants. I haven’t found anything to tell me what their plan is. When I looked at the GOP’s website, I found it wasn’t very helpful. Click on either of the links, under “The Republican Plan: Common-Sense Health Care Reforms Our Nation Can Afford.” Both are empty. So I went to the GOP leader’s website and got: “Server Error in ‘/’ Application.” Maybe they’re working on the website — putting up flags, streamers, celebratory Americana stuff. But I found it peculiar that the week when they want a debate, both websites have nothing at all about their party’s plans.
Which begs the question again: Why? Why are they doing this? They clearly have no plan. Oh, right — the only thing this can be is pure political theater. Right out of the gate, they’re playing games with our time and money. Maybe I’m overreaching but it seems to me they’re playing to the Tea Party, yet again. The GOP’s fear of this gang is palpable. The repeal vote is a classic cover-your-ass tactic. Now they can always claim to have “tried” to overturn that “job killer” Obamacare with their Repealing the Job Killing Health Care Law Act. This, the GOP believes, will quiet dissension in the ranks. But it’s an exercise in futility and we all know that. It’s clearly an interesting way to try to get Congress’ approval ratings over 20 percent.
On an interesting side-note, when the new GOP freshmen were sworn in, they were called out in a letter by 60 Democrats to decline the health care plan afforded to them as government employees. Only three members opted out. In fact, during the freshman orientation, Andy Harris, the new Republican Congressman representing Maryland, interrupted the proceedings to demand an answer as to why his government-sponsored health care wouldn’t kick in for a month. How dare they make him wait a month for his government-subsidized welfare! This is the same type of plan to be offered under Obamacare that the good Congressman wants to deny everyone else. Nice to meet you, Congressman, I hope your rash doesn’t spread for 30 days.
I look forward to this year. I’ve always said that theater and politics, two things that I love, are very similar. So much passion, love, betrayal, wars and words — and if you do it right, it forces people to think a bit more deeply and care more sincerely about the people and issues surrounding us. And it’s always entertaining.