Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Imprudent politics: ends and means

I think that the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA), known politically as "Obamacare," is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed during my lifetime. Meant to bring about the long overdue reform of healthcare in the U.S., thus providing access to quality, affordable healthcare to everyone, it has wound up being a financial and administrative albatross, a drag on our national economy, which is trying to recover from the greed-driven financial meltdown of 2008. I hope everyone would agree that having tens of millions of people in the U.S. without access to quality healthcare, especially preventative care, was a problem that our nation needed to grapple with and to solve. Anyone eager to repeal the AHA needs to be able to clearly articulate how they are going solve this difficult problem.

It also bears noting that the way the Affordable Healthcare Act was passed, ram-rodded through by a narrow majority, one that was not willing to debate either the content or consequences of the bill (remember then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's infamous quip that the bill had to be passed in order for anyone to what was in it?), or make any compromises, is perhaps one of the worst moments in the recent history of the U.S. Congress, an institution rife with such prudential lapses. Worst of all, as the president, in his remarks yesterday about the impending shutdown, which has now come to pass, by vigorously invoking a woman's "right" to contraceptive coverage highlighted, yet again, what I find to be the most odious aspect of the AHA, which cannot merely be fobbed off as inadequate conscience protections, the bill's utter disregard and disrespect for the consciences of millions of U.S. citizens, which, in my view, constitutes nothing short of an assault on human conscience with an eye towards the evisceration of conscience in the realm of human sexuality.

The foregoing was a necessary prelude to what I have to say about the sheer irresponsibility of those who have worked so hard to shut the government down, primarily the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Affordable Healthcare Act is not a wildy popular law. According to a recent CNN/ORC International survey, conducted over the weekend, fewer than 1 in 5 people in the U.S. believe their families will be better off after the bill goes into effect. 40% believe they will be worse off and 41% believe they will be "About the same." Hardly a ringing popular endorsement of this problematic law, but not an outright repudiation either. A Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates that 63% of people disapprove of how "The Republicans in Congress are handling negotiations over the federal budget," while only 26% approve of their histrionic tactics and scorched-earth strategy.

When it comes to politics and morals, it is important not to be fooled into confusing ends with means. One of our worst societal afflictions is our increasing inability to make important distinctions. This increasing inability makes us easy prey for sophists. If modern politicians are anything, with very few exceptions, they are ideologically-driven sophists, shilling for themselves and the wealthy interests that finance them. As a result, there is almost no attention paid to what truly serves the common good. I believe that the end of either repealing, or seriously altering, some of the unacceptable and burdensome aspects of the AHA remains a laudable and even necessary goal. However, the means congressional Republicans are using to accomplish this end are unacceptable because they are both self-serving and short-sighted. After all, What is to be gained by adding to our nation's economic uncertainty? What is to be gained by making our public discourse more polarized? Where is the bi-partisan group, consisting of members of the House and Senate, who will present "The 10 Amendments Aimed at Fixing the Affordable Healthcare Act," which takes seriously the conscientious concerns of millions of U.S. citizens, while seeking to alleviate the financial burden on medium and small-sized businesses, and the heavy administrative burden levied on healthcare practitioners, even while preserving access to affordable, quality, preventative healthcare for everyone?

When politics becomes a zero sum game, everyone loses. In the U.S. politics has become a zero sum game. As a result, today we have all lost.

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