Some say if Congress fails to pass meaningful health care reform, it will mean a defeat for President Obama. I'll let the pundits decide that. They love those discussions.
If Congress fails to pass health care reform it would mean other, more significant failures for our society. They will be failures of people and failures to people -- failures revealing erosion of our nation's character.
It will be a moral and ethical failure. We're the only rich nation without some health care coverage for all its residents. We're the only rich nation where people die for lack of health care. We're the only rich nation where people are forced into bankruptcy because of medical costs. We can't claim any moral high ground from the bottom of the heap.
It will mean a failure of purpose. Some question the cost of health care reform, but that concern is misplaced. A comprehensive plan, with true reform, will result in significant savings in our total health care costs.
Even with some additional costs, however, we must acknowledge that our nation has committed itself to other, more costly, endeavors -- endeavors without the same moral imperative. Examples are: a national highway system, putting a man on the moon, invading Iraq, bailing out companies that pay its executives obscene bonuses. By most measures, providing health care is a more profound purpose.
It will mean a failure of rationality. While some valuable questions have been raised in public debate, it's impossible to ignore the endless repetition of empty, distorted complaints about the proposal. To warn about "socialism" when Medicare, public schools, the armed forces, federal supervision of transportation, public monies for sports arenas, etc., are such egregious examples of socialism already serving our society, is to have abandoned simple logic. To warn about "pulling the plug on Grandma" is to be dishonest about what is actually being proposed.
It will mean a failure of congressional responsibility. The indications are inescapable that some of the legislative resistance is driven by the desire to discredit Obama and cripple his leadership.
Although the number of these irresponsible politicians is small, I'm appalled that there are any. I'm more outraged that their party colleagues allow them to get away with it.
It will mean a failure of civility. It's good to see recent demonstrations against health care becoming more disciplined. No true citizen of our nation, however, should tolerate those who call themselves "patriots," but compare our president to Hitler.
(And yes, I objected when people compared George W. Bush to Hitler.)
It will mean a failure to millions of fellow Americans. That list includes those who will remain without needed health care options. It includes those who lose coverage and then are unable to purchase new coverage. It includes those with pre-existing conditions, who become locked out forever. It includes those whose coverage is inadequate to meet the financial demands of a major medical emergency.
Frankly, I'm too proud of our nation to let it fail in these ways. I trust others share my love for the U.S.A. I hope and pray that our nation--and our legislators can move forward to find ways to help us succeed again in regaining the high moral ground.
The Rev. William McCartney is a retired pastor and district superintendent of the United Methodist Church. He lives in Delaware, Ohio.