I have a confession: I am cynical about Washington's efforts to pass good healthcare reform. Sorry for those of you who I just shocked; would those standing next to them please administer CPR? I know most of you trust our government to do what's best. Sorry to burst that bubble.
The reason I am cynical is that I think the real problem has nothing to do with healthcare; it has to do with the way our government runs. Here's why: let's wildly imagine that one party came up with a plan that would actually fix the problem. This plan would:
- Ensure that all Americans have coverage.
- Improve the quality of care, and set in place means to continue improving quality.
- Fairly reimburse medical professionals for what they do.
- Eliminate waste.
- Save money.
And let's say it did all this without pandering to special interests with deep pockets.
What would be the politically expedient thing to do for members of the other party? They should oppose this plan with every ounce of their strength. Politics is all about power, and if one party solved the healthcare problem they would be lauded as saviors. They would have enormous political capital and would gain much more control of the government. That wouldn't be good for the opposition.
So here's what the opposing party should do if they are thinking politically:
- Misrepresent this plan to the public as something that would result in disaster.
- Run commercials that would scare people.
- Get special interest groups to harass and threaten those who support this bill. Make it so supporting this good bill would be an end to their political career.
- Try to influence members of the other party to vote against their colleagues in exchange for more power.
Politically, this would be the best thing to do. It would also be the worst thing for our country. It happens with regularity.
The reason this happens because nearly all of the members of congress are constantly campaigning. They are constantly positioning themselves to get reelected, and this requires that they stay at or near the center of their own party. If they break ranks and side with the other party, they stand to lose in the next primary election. If the oppose the special interests with lots of money, they stand to have people spending that money to make sure they don't get reelected.
The system encourages partisans and punishes those who go by conscience or work for compromise. The system dooms us to legislation aimed at maintenance of power. The system guarantees that the better the legislation put forth by one party, the more the other will misrepresent and smear it.
Just like the headache isn't the main problem when a person ruptures an aneurism, the outward flaws of our government are caused by a much deeper problem: our legislators are far too vulnerable to abandon the greater good for the sake of political power. To seek good is to give up power. That dooms us to mediocre results at best.
There is one thing that would help undo this problem: term limits for members of congress. Limiting senators to 2 terms, and members of the house to 3 would rid us of career politicians who are totally out of touch with the country they govern.
What's the problem with term limits? It will take an act of congress to make it happen.
Unless the people force the issue.