Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Congress fails to hear the people’s objections
to health care reform

It is fascinating to watch Americans who are satisfied with their health care try again and again to get their elected representatives to hear their objections to America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, the bill that will “reform” America’s health care system. The message they are sending is strong enough that even the dimmest bulb in Congress and the administration ought to be able to understand it: “We don’t like the bill, so pay attention and stop trying to pass it.”

Not only do a majority of Americans not like provisions of this bill, but they also don’t like the process. The bill’s opponents expect their elected representatives to behave like mature, responsible adults, and in addition to paying attention to what they are being told, they expect them to approach passing sweeping legislation like this with thoughtful deliberation. What they see instead is a bill of more than 1,200 pages voted on without being read.

We can partially blame President Obama for this, since it was he who told the Congress he wanted this bill passed before the August recess, and the Congress, being compliant folk, tried to obey. Of course, the Congress does not work for the President, a point on which both the President and the Congress seem confused; it is a co-equal branch of government with clear instructions for how to best serve the peoples’ interests.

The objections to the government’s do-everything-fast tactics were first voiced in earnest last April with the tea parties on Tax Day, and again on July 4th, all to no avail. The Congressional leadership and the administration wrote those protests off, figuring they were just fits of indigestion that would soon pass.

Now that the August recess is underway and members of Congress have returned home to touch base with voters, the message has gotten louder. Displeased that their representatives didn’t listen to them in April when they protested profligate government spending, or again on July 4th, the atmosphere has been rather tense in town hall meetings, with messages being shouted, and citizens chanting and carrying signs, all in an effort to get these public servants to pay attention.

You might think that since protests using these tactics were created by liberals they would be somewhat tolerant of them. You would be wrong: When the shoe is on the other foot, liberals don’t like protests very much.

The reaction from said public servants in the administration and the Congress has been disappointing, if predictable. Rather than acknowledge the widespread dissatisfaction, they choose instead to insult and demonize the citizen protestors, calling them “angry mobs,” and belittling their involvement as merely the result of an organizing effort, rather than a genuine protest. But isn’t that exactly what “community organizing” is?

In town hall meetings members of Congress have been given a message in straight-forward, frank terms accented by chants of “read the bill, read the bill” and “tyranny,” and “Yes we can,” and “Just say no,” and “You work for us.” Rough stuff, that. For the most part, impertinent behavior is the worst of it, and, no, that is not the best way to behave. But this sort of behavior is somewhat understandable, since Congress and the administration haven’t gotten the message after months of objections, and, more to the point, that’s the way liberals taught us to do it.

It seems that in order to get attention, you have to be loud and rude. Back in the 1960s, both the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-Vietnam War movement were routinely marked by offensive behavior, and those protests occasionally turned violent. We certainly don’t want anything like that. More ominous is that America was born of a protest ignored by arrogant rulers who refused to listen, and it eventually was settled by armed revolution.

Protest is a time-honored exercise in the United States. It is the right of every American to criticize his/her government at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all. And it is the government’s duty to protect that dissent, however unpopular or unpleasant the criticism may be. It is not proper for the government to in any way attempt to stifle dissent, and evidence that it may be planning to do so should anger every true American.

This bill will transform the health care delivery system, which comprises one-sixth of the national economy. Whether you support this bill or maybe just think some improvements are needed to the current system, the process cannot be taken as lightly as Congress and the administration are taking it, and such a dramatic and important transformation cannot be undertaken with a thin majority of support, let alone if only a minority supports it.

Most Americans think some changes to the health care system are needed, but most do not want the provisions contained in this bill and are giving their elected representatives an ear-full by letter, phone call, email, and in person.

It would be a very good idea for our public servants to pay strict attention to the message being sent, which is that this bill had better not become law.

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