Healthcare reform needs some Obama mongrel

Presdident Obama has finally woken from his summer slumber to find the health care reform juggernaut almost out of his reach. It is time for him to show some political mongrel to regain control—for the sake of America, but also those around the world who would like him to be more than a one-termer

When it comes to the American health care debacle it has so far been quite acceptable to give it a cursory glance and move on armed with prior knowledge of how out of control and unfair it is and has always been. Few travel Stateside without an ever-present fear of becoming ill or having an accident.

But now ignoring the big, costly, complicated and unwieldy beast is proving problematic for the simple reason that it is in turn proving highly problematic to President Obama and his election policies of fair and equitable health care for all Americans. So, you say, who cares. That’s America’s problem to fix. Well there’s an element in this that has repercussions for us all given the U.S. remains at the centre of the global economic and political matrix and so much ‘hope’ had been placed on the direction Obama promised to take.

It is now glaringly obvious that the President’s sleepy summer is costing him politically. He has woken from his slumber to find the Republican Party and assorted wackos have taken the initiative on the controversial health care reform, and quite frankly the Obama White House is struggling to regain lost ground. Hence the extraordinary speech to the joint Houses of Congress—an action usually taken by Presidents to discuss issues of massive significance like the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

That Obama needed to make such an address shows how quickly and how seriously he had lost control of the health reform juggernaut. His ratings may still be stratospheric internationally, but domestically he’s not considered to be doing a good job. Of course it is worth noting no one else is within any sort of poll striking distance.

Sure the speech was great–Obama at his cool and sensible best. He opined afterwards that he really does want to make ‘sensible’ sexy–in a strictly political and family values way of course. It’s just that maybe now is the time to unleash a little political mongrel to frighten back to reality the weirdos who have turned up the heat in town-hall meetings on health care reform, in some cases armed. Obama sexy needs a little bit of dominatrix.

And so the contentious screaming matches continue throughout the States, and people quite within their rights turn up with their guns. There is bigotry and crying and often a sea of ill-informed and therefore scared people lashing out at the poor schmuck of an emissary sent from the White House to effect clam and reason, and hopefully dispel some absolute and deliberate disinformation..

This of course includes the Palin-inspired bumper sticker beauties about so-called ‘death panels’ which would deny care to ‘grandma’ and of course Palin’s Down Syndrome child and other such nonsense. Has anyone taken count of how often Palin uses this child for political point scoring? Obviously she has been spending too much of her non-quitter free time watching for Russians from her lounge.

It has to be said, though, that the marches on Washington and the venomous ferocity of the anti health reform brigade have taken not only Obama & Co. by surprise, but have caught international attention because of the tangible and serious damage being done to ‘The One’. Chat of “one term” is often not far enough down the paragraph to leave it unrelated to Obama. Even more so when combined with the quagmire that is Afghanistan.

It is clear that the Republicans, supposedly dead in the political pond, have been able to seize this issue and shake the proverbial out of it. A flatfooted Obama administration has every right to be worried given mid-term elections looming next year.

When you start reading into some of the cases that emerge from the US health system it is difficult to imagine why Americans don’t want inclusive reform. Media is consistently full of health woe. People die because they can’t get insurance for pre-existing conditions; thousands laid off in this economic recession lose their health coverage as well as their jobs; young couples who are insured for a baby delivery end up mortgaging their house or going bankrupt to pay for a birth complication that’s not covered; a prisoner turned down parole because the only way she could have her cervical cancer treatment continued was as an inmate. By any standards in the affluent ‘West’ that’s a crappy system.

In tackling it however, Obama has inadvertently created a perfect storm of all that is ugly. The health care debate has revived the election campaign spectre of xenophobia in (erroneous) talk of privileges for illegal immigrants; it slags the Canadian/British/French systems as socialist and even communist, ergo, any nod towards collectivism as opposed to the almighty individualism is inherently evil; it has stirred the abortion debate with all sorts of (again erroneous) claims about taxpayers funding abortions; and it has given voice to some of the most ill-informed and blind prejudices from middle and geriatric America.

It is this last group–people with time on their hands, people who generally turn out to vote, and people who in Obama’s case did not much care for his kind of ‘change’—who are on the rampage, often fuelled by Republican ads targeted at their biggest fear: that Obama is going to mess with their Medicare. Never mind that the Republicans tried to slash the government-funded Medicare some years ago. That Little Red Riding Hood in reverse, as White House staffer David Axelrod calls it, nevertheless seems to have taken root.

“Obama Lies, Grandma Dies”, or “Socialist fascist pig” may get the headlines, but those carrying such placards don’t seem to realise that outside their country, their “world’s best” health care claims are little more than an unsubstantiated, panic inducing and bankrupting joke. It is the battle of the ‘I-have-mine-and-it’s-not-my-problem-you-don’t-have-yours’ brigade. Such is the culture of supreme individualism that it can perpetuate a system where people who are so desperate for health care turn up, usually with their kids, to mobile clinics around the country and wait for hours to be examined and treated by medical professionals in makeshift tents, caravans and even livestock stalls. That is not pretty.

America’s health care may be awesomely super high-tech for those who can afford it and their doctors may order more expensive tests and prescribe more expensive treatment and medicines than any other country but that doesn’t mean it's great, let alone the “greatest”. It simply means it is expensive and class-based. It’s a safe bet most people would rather get sick in New Zealand, Britain, Australia or Canada, despite the shortcomings of those systems.

Surely the man who is supposed to be in charge can now see that force needs to be met with force rather than compromises–by which he will be ultimately judged. He doesn’t have to scream and shout and lie. He just needs to make sure he challenges directly all those nut jobs who are screaming and shouting and lying and expose them for what they are–screamers, shouters and liars. If Obama wants to make sensible sexy, he needs to get out his whip and, in a caring, sharing and sensible fashion, use the damned thing. Sometimes needs must.