The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a health care bill, inspiring shouts of Hallelujah and Hosanna in the community of the "enlightened elite," as the Righteous Right like to call them. (Boy, they really know how to hurt an elite.)
It was trumpeted as a major step toward realizing the 60-year-old dream of health care for all, first proposed by President Harry Truman.
It passed by two votes, one of them cast by a Republican. Every other Republican in the House voted against the measure, apparently on the theory that health care for the poor would make them less willing to work for low wages, which would in turn lead to socialism, gay marriage and abortion on demand.
Thirty-nine Democrats, generally from the South, joined the Republicans in opposition.
So my question for the health care reform advocates is this: Why are you so happy that a badly compromised bill squeaked through the House? The House is easy, comparatively. It's the Senate that is the real bulwark against all progressive legislation.
There are reasons for this:
One: States in which hardly anyone lives (Alaska, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, etc.) have the same number of votes as giant states like New York, California, Texas and Florida. You can buy off the senators of six little states for less than one big one costs, giving you six times the bang for your buck. In other words, the Forces of Darkness have more influence in the Senate than they do in the House.
Two: It's not enough to get a majority of the Senate to go along on a bill. In the face of a filibuster threat, you need 60 of the 100 senators to agree to even vote on the bill. Since there are 40 Republicans in the Senate who, with one or two exceptions, refuse to support anything the Democrats suggest, you need all 58 Democrats plus the two independents to get a controversial bill passed. Democrats being what they are, it's hard to get all of them to agree on anything.
Three: The American people don't pay much attention. Take the issue of "the public option" for health insurance. This could serve sort of as an insurance of last resort for people who can't get it any other way. With 37 million now uninsured and tens of millions of others worried about losing their jobs (and their insurance), this should be a slam dunk. People should be out on the streets at night, waving torches and rioting for a public option. Republicans who fail to vote for it should be out on their ears come the next election.
That's not going to happen. Insurance companies and their best friends, the drug companies, have managed to convince a good share of the public that a government-run insurance program will result in rationing of health care, long waiting lines, even "death panels."
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a big insurance state, has said that the government would be "unfair competition" for insurance companies. To insurance and drug companies, pretty much any competition is unfair. They have a sweet deal going and don't want anyone or anything getting in the way of their business, which consists of gouging the public and laughing all the way to the bank.
We don't have a health care industry; we have a giant conspiracy whose goal is to deliver as little health care as possible for the most amount of money. Anything that interferes with that is socialism.
We still may get a decent health care bill out of this. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rolled out a new bill that would insure 31 million Americans who now have no insurance and save some money to boot. It's even got a public option.
You'd think that would be winner.
But I wouldn't bet on it. The Forces of Darkness haven't yet had their last innings.
Minuteman Media and retired Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.