Health Care: the Final Hurdle
By Alexander Hurst '12
219-212. That is how the House of Representatives voted to pass health care reform Sunday night; not one Republican voted for the bill. As a result, insurance companies can no longer drop people from coverage when they get sick or exclude people from coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they turn 26 and there will no longer be lifetime and annual caps in coverage. Individuals will be able to buy insurance through state-based exchanges and will receive subsidies to do so if they cannot afford it on their own.

Many on the left opposed the bill because it included a mandate without an accompanying public option. They see it as one of the largest giveaways ever to the insurance industry, guaranteeing millions of new customers. I am sympathetic with my friends on the left who share this view — did the bill go far enough? No. But its failure would have been the failure of any health care reform for at least the next decade. Just look at the portrayal of this relatively moderate bill.

Since the summer, the Republican Party has resorted to nearly every falsehood, embellishment, lie and method of fear-mongering possible to destroy this bill and health care reform. First, we had the death panels that would “pull the plug on grandma.” Health care reform was labeled socialist, communist and Nazi (such an accomplishment that I think we need a new adjective — let’s call it sociocommunaziism). The Tea Party went into a frenzy of racism, bigotry and ignorance, providing some of the simultaneously most amusing and disgusting protest signs I have seen in years. The Republicans, sounding eerily similar to their quotes from the past regarding the passage of Social Security and Medicare, claimed that this bill would destroy this country and the economy. Republican Senator Jim DeMint claimed that health care would be Obama’s “Waterloo.”

To let the Republicans claim victory based on all of their outlandish misrepresentations of reality would be a grave mistake. Though the bill could be better, it is a foundation upon which to build. Ultimately, Americans support reform, and the Republicans will run against it in November. They will run on making millions of young voters ineligible to stay on their parents’ plans, allowing insurance companies to discriminate based on preexisting conditions and to drop sick patients from coverage. Does that sound like a winning campaign platform? It does not to me.

Unfortunately, the ugly and the crazy were out in full force this week as well, following on the heels of health care reform and nipping at it right up to the moment of its passage. I am speaking of course, of our beloved Tea Party. Protesting outside of the halls of Congress on Sunday morning, they chanted the N-word at Representatives John Lewis and Jim Clyburn (former Civil Rights Movement leaders) and spit on their companion, Representative Emanuel Cleaver; they also shouted homophobic slurs at Congressman Barney Frank. None of that is a surprise of course, and neither was the action taken by the Texas Board of Education, dominated by the ideological neighbors of the Tea Party.

In what the Huffington Post deemed the “Texas Textbook Massacre,” Texas, which exerts influence beyond its own education system due to the volume of textbooks that it purchases, instituted what is an absolutely appalling example of revisionist history. Texas has downplayed Thomas Jefferson in its curriculum on the Enlightenment and is emphasizing the religious-right figure John Calvin. Teachers will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences on the Founding Fathers, but not to teach the separation of church and state. Students will not learn that the Constitution prohibits the government from promoting one religion above others. Textbooks will now vindicate Joseph McCarthy, and students will learn about major conservative movements like the Contract with America, the Moral Majority and the NRA, but not about liberal or minority rights movements. They will increase coverage of Ronald Reagan but not require teachers to cover Edward Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor or Hispanics who died fighting on the side of Texas at the Alamo. Oh, and Latin American social hero, Fr. Oscar Romero, as John Stewart put it, “disappeared for the second time by right-wing extremists,” apparently for not being well-known. One wonders if Barack Obama and this passage of health care reform will be present in a conservative textbook 50 years from now…

Issue 19, Submitted 2010-03-24 02:57:39