Wednesday, 24 March 2010


The signing into law of the Healthcare Bill is, as VP Biden colourfully said, a big deal, an historic moment happening in our lifetimes. So I asked Munguin’s Republic’s own ‘Alistair Cooke’ for his point of view on the subject…. And he very kindly gave it……………… Thanks Danny.

Regular readers of Munguin’s Republic will know that for about a year their colonial cousins have been gripped in a titanic political struggle to establish a program of universal healthcare for Americans regardless of their means. Such a program has eluded presidents for many decades, not least the high profile failure of Bill and Hillary Clinton almost twenty years ago.

With President Obama’s signing last Tuesday of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the US now how such a law, which Britain, the European nations, and almost every other developed nation on earth has had for decades.

The effort has demonstrated how really hard it is for the federal government of the United States to pass a big, controversial piece of legislation, requiring as it does, the simultaneous agreement of three constitutionally independent, and separately elected political powers….the two houses of Congress, and the President.

Tris has reported some milestones along the way – the passage of a major parliamentary hurdle last December in the Senate, and the imminent passage of the final bill in the House just a few days ago. Along the way, he documented the spectacular and ironic loss to the Republicans of Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, which promised to derail the whole process by the loss of the Democratic 60 vote senate supermajority. Finally, he’s posted a report on the emergence of the right wing Tea Party Protest movement, and Republican fear mongering on the health care issue.

Politically, this centerpiece of President Obama’s legislative agenda was accomplished by the House of Representative’s passage of last December’s Senate-approved version of the bill as written, with the promise that the Senate will immediately consider a package of changes in a so-called reconciliation bill, now being debated in that body. But regardless of the outcome of that debate, and regardless of the Republican bluff and bluster about efforts for immediate repeal and constitutional challenges, the bill is now the law of the land and very likely to remain so.

Whether Democrats will be rewarded or punished for this in the upcoming mid-term elections is not at all clear. Right wing Republicans…..the Tea Party protesters and others…..skillfully wrested the political message away from the Obama administration last summer. The administration was caught utterly flat-footed over a Republican crafted political outcry about this new federal government “takeover” of the American health care system.

The program was called Marxist, Communist, or Nazi, every despicable word in the American political lexicon. Pictures of Obama as Stalin, Hitler, and Chairman Mao flourished during last summer’s rallies. Sarah Palin told us that “death panels” would be established to rule on whether or not your life would be worth saving. (In fact, the program is an insurance-based system that works within the existing private health care delivery system, and heavily favors the private insurance industry.)

The willingness of the Republicans to deliberately frame the “debate” in the manner they did, and the gullibility of many Americans in believing it, speaks poorly of the American political process. I’m sure that there are fringe political groups in Britain, but it’s hard to imagine that such utter and complete insanity could ever infect Britain’s mainstream political discourse.

The bill received a glittering ceremonial signing in the East Room of the White House with dignitaries and private citizens of all stripes in attendance. And we can always depend on Vice President Joe Biden to inject some unintended humor into such an occasion. After a lavish introduction of the President, Biden whispered into his ear…..AND directly into an open microphone….. "this is a big (BLEEPING) deal.”

But of course he was right. It is precisely that.

Pics show (1) the president signing the bill into law, and (2) surrounded by some of the people who made it happen, including a brave little lad who lost his mother because they were too poor to pay for medical care.

You may also be interested in I found it moving, and at the same time funny.



  1. Tris,

    I would love to debate further with you on this bill.

    Maybe a wee email to you direct with a couple of points. I sadly have to disagree.

    You see
    Mrs LOTF is widely reported in my blog. I feel far more lies have been told in order to push a half arsed health care reform act through the US political system.

    However I respect your views and indeed your right to say it. We have agreed on most but sadly not this.

    Saor Alba

  2. LoTF:

    Well, we can't be expected to agree on everything mate.... That would never do!!!

    I suspect that Danny, who wrote the piece, would agree that the bill is not perfect. I don't think that it's what Mr Obama imagined when he set out to get it through, but I'll leave Danny to discuss that, because he's the expert and I'm not.

    I just know that Americans that I know are grateful that they won't spend the rest of their lives being one sickness away from bankruptcy, sold houses and American dream down the Swanee.

    But I'm always glad to hear another point of view, as I'm sure is Danny.

    By all means email me personally, but as I say, it was Danny who wrote this piece, and I'm certain that we can have the discussion out on the boards....and that way involve him, and his first hand knowledge

    It's up to you though. I'd be pleased to hear your viewpoint in whatever way.

    LOL.... I knoew we wouldn't be able to agree on everything for ever..... Even if we do both speak the most beautiful French.


  3. I suspect the Democrats are going to get hammered in the mid terms over this. It may even cost Obama a second Term.

  4. It's very good news for Americans. And now we know that Obama is going to be a Johnson rather than a Clinton.

  5. Tris....Nice of you to defer to my knowledge of the subject, but of course you know that there are few people right now who can honestly be called experts on such a complex piece of legislation which runs somewhere between 2000 and 3000 pages. (Outside of the hard working Congressional staffers who actually wrote the bill.)

    All bills of this magnitude are vast (sometimes ugly) compromises which accommodate a range of political and economic interests. On the right, people are furious about federal government involvement in the issue at all. On the left, the liberals who might like to have seen a European style single payer system, are calling it a giveaway to the private insurance companies.

    In the center, it is viewed in terms of its important insurance reform aspects, and its extension of affordable health care to the tens of millions of working poor and others who have not previously had the means to purchase basic health care.

    A nice discussion of the major elements of the bill is now posted on the White House

  6. Aye QM. Wouldn't it be refreshing if we were to have a minister who did the right thing, instead of what would bring him another term, or a seat on the top table.

    I'd prefer a leader who cared about the poor and the excluded instead of a useless self serving prat, like the ghastly Brown, who cares only for his career and will do anything to maintain it. I'm pretty sure if that meant abandoning all the poor to starvation he'd do it without a thought.

  7. Munguin and Tris....

    Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, was mindful of presidential history, when she used the same gavel to declare the passage of the current health bill that had been used to declare the passage of Medicare during the Johnson administration.

    It's noteworthy that for some time Obama has, in political rallys and meetings of the Congressional Democratic caucus, taken the theme..."I don't know how this will play politically, but it's simply the RIGHT thing to do."

  8. Danny: I defer to your knowledge because all that I know about this subject has been thanks to your tutelage.

    Your understanding of the complexities of the American governmental systems at state and federal level, both current and historical, seriously awe me... and I’d not dream of trying to comment on anything that you’d written.

    Once again I’d like to thank you for writing this piece for Mungiun’s Republic....

  9. For those readers with a masochistic streak who may actually be interested in a summary of the detailed provisions of the 2400 page bill, Google "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." In particular, Wikipedia already has a good article. Click on "Provisions" and "Remaining Uninsured." There is also a short summary on the Dow Jones Newswire:

    The reports on the website of the US Republican National Committee should be viewed with suspicion.

    Under the new tax provisions of the bill, I note that a 10% excise tax on indoor tanning salons takes effect July 1, 2010. This must be a bitter pill for House Minority Leader John Boehner who maintains a skin tone which Barack Obama once jokingly commented has not heretofore been observed in nature....LOL.

  10. I believe history will be on Obama and the Democrats the end decency will prevail

  11. Quiet Man.....There's no doubt that the health bill will be the premier issue in the mid term campaign, and very likely the 2012 presidential race. And surely the Democrats will get hammered in the mid term election, as the incumbent party always does, to one degree or another.

    But what's almost beyond belief is the extent to which the White House and the Democrats lost control of the health care message and allowed their signature issue to be defined and demonized by the Republican right wing. Now Obama must scramble to gather support for what is very largely a moderate bill of insurance reforms....which should actually enjoy wide approval across the entire political spectrum. The Republicans should LOVE the small business tax break, the ban on insurance policy rescissions, and the assurance of insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, to name a few. No politician of either party would dare oppose these popular individual features of the health care plan.

    It's not by accident that the immediate Republican cry of "repeal" has by today become "repeal and replace." Replace with what you may ask?.....By all the popular features of the health bill just passed!

    How could the Democrats have screwed up the PR message so badly? From my partisan perspective, they totally underestimated the campaign of lies and misinformation....the pure political venom.....that the Republicans were willing to throw at them to stop Obama's program by any means possible.

    In American history, no other social legislation of this magnitude, from Social Security to Medicare to Civil Rights, passed Congress without a single Republican vote.

  12. Mr. Mxyzptlk.....I love that thought. I hope you are right. I'll try to keep the good thought. But, in the short term, the political climate in America is pure poison. And bitter ideology seems to be trumping political decency and simple rationality at every turn.

  13. Danny

    "I think over again my small adventures
    My fears, those small ones that seemed so big
    For all the vital things I had to get and reach
    And yet there is only one great thing
    The only thing
    To live to see the great day that dawns
    And the light that fills the world."

    - Unknown Inuit

  14. That's a nice sentiment Niko.

    I believe that decency will prevail. I hope that this will be the basis for improvements as time goes by....

  15. Lovely words Mr. M.

    In a spirit of optimism, I'm reminded of words of the British post Arthur Hugh Clough. John F. Kennedy quoted them on occasion, as did Winston Churchill in one of his war speeches:

    And not by eastern windows only,
    When daylight comes, comes in the light,

    In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
    But westward, look, the land is bright.

  16. Hmmmm....Well Mr. M,

    Arthur Clough was in fact a "poet" not a "post"...LOL.

  17. LOL... Danny.... One very smart post I was thinking....

    But I think at least some of us agree that the land is brighter in the west because of the work of this president.

  18. A great thought Tris.

    I do think that Obama may achieve even more great things. From an historical perspective, we often forget how much the Republicans hated FDR. His friends and Hyde Park neighbors of the New York Hudson River aristocracy considered him to be a "traitor to his class."

  19. I hope he does Danny, He's had a remarkable life to now, and broken some barriers down;l barriers that just shouldn't exist in teh 21st century.

    I think he could do yet more for America and hopefully for the world.