Thursday, February 03, 2011

Health Care Chaos and Egypt Riots

Two narratives dominate the news--the revolt in Egypt and the future of American health care.

How bad can a Pyrrhic victory get and how long can it last? As the Senate votes down health care repeal, Congress has wasted a full month on partisan posturing, leaving what was a national mess to the courts and states to scramble it into 50 forms of incoherence.

Just as the House and Senate split on undoing the Act, implementing it is breaking down by party lines as well with Democratic governors moving ahead on setting up health insurance exchanges required by the new law and Republicans either stalling or coming to a dead stop.

By the time the issue of its legitimacy gets to the Supreme Court, what the GOP loves to call Obamacare, which was designed to take years to come into full effect, may be in limbo for almost a decade.

Is this any way to run a country, especially on an issue that affects the lives of its citizens and could be critical to a recovering economy?

In today's political climate, it would seem so and, for the most part, in media darkness.

True to Marshall McLuhan's dictum that the medium is the message, news attention is focusing on chaotic crowd scenes in Cairo, an event of momentous importance in the Middle East, exciting to watch but with far less impact on the lives of Americans than the untelegenic paper shuffling in Washington and state houses.

Informed citizens are getting more news and opinions on the future of Egypt than the medical care they and their families will be receiving from now on.

Half a century ago, Mike Nichols and Elaine May would do a routine in which a fatuous couple agreed that moral issues are so much more interesting to discuss than real issues. Apparently they still are. But when things settle down, Egypt will fade from the news, and health care will still mean life-or-death for American families.

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