Saturday, March 20, 2010

What does KU losing tell us about health care?

I've been fed up with my friends list lately.  For those of you who don't know, Facebook aggregates the comments and status updates of all your connected friends into one convenient list that scrolls chronologically.  For the last week, mine has been rife with two subjects:

1) Kansas basketball in the NCAA tournament

2) The impending House vote on the health care bill

These are incredibly partisan issues, each with a vast quiet middle group forced to listen to the extremes bicker loudly at each other.  This drama plays itself out in my friends list, but it will move into a different phase by this time tomorrow because of one thing that HAS happened, and one thing that will.  The former is that the University of Kansas -- favorite to win the NCAA tournament, ranked number one in the nation -- has been eliminated in the second round by a #10 seed team.  The latter is tomorrow's vote to decide the fate of the health care bill.

In the wake of the embarrassing Kansas defeat, my list was filled with people commenting.  The most common opinion seemed to be that even though it destroyed all of their betting brackets, they were glad to see it happen.  The KU supporters were crestfallen, taking critical commenters to task for not showing more "tact" and sensitivity. 

This seems a bit rich coming from one woman in particular, who regularly crows when KU wins over bitter rivals like Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, or Texas.  She's the biggest cheerleader for KU I know of who isn't ACTUALLY a cheerleader for KU.  I became so full on schadenfreude listening to her plead for moderation and sympathy that I may not need to follow Kansas City politics for a whole month!

And tomorrow, a similar scene will occur.  Whether the health care bill passes or fails, one side will be triumphant and other will be angry. 

There are people shouting as loud as they can (in capital letters) not to let the government take over health care.  I've got people fatalistically saying that the bill's chance will be blown, just like everything they've ever hoped for.  It's a serious tizzy, and not unlike the fuss surrounding the pre-game of your favorite team.  There's people invoking God's will (or prayer) on both sides, and lots and lots of finger pointing and armchair analysis. 

I wish that the Democrats and Republicans would come out with a document about health care that has "talking points" (or whatever we call them) that BOTH sides can agree on.  What I'm looking for are facts about health care and every list I've ever been shown seems to slant one way or the other.  A webpage called "the truth about health care reform" may seem like it's going to get me somewhere, but when ALL of the points are negative... that's not helpful. 

There have to be real concrete reasons why people like and hate this bill, right?  That's what I'm looking for.  I thought I had it in the Congressional Budget Office numbers which revealed the bill would generate more money than it costs over 10 and 20 years.  The CBO is a nonpartisan operation whose entire job is to deal in facts, especially regarding numbers and money.

But lots of people don't trust the CBO numbers:  they might be tainted.  By witchcraft.   Or sorcery or whatever the current fear is.  After I pointed out the numbers, a friend was shocked.  "You don't actually accept those numbers, do you?" he said in a tone of voice he'd use if I just suggested that cows were made of grass and fairy dust. 

But I do, actually.  I'm not an economist.  I can barely balance my checkbook.  So when a group of economists that has a neutral affiliation spends untold number of man-hours crunching numbers on a jaw-droppingly complicated piece of government legislation only to come up with figures, I just go ahead and believe them.  Maybe I could take the bill, put on my "Beautiful Mind" thinking cap, and solve all the problems.  But I doubt it. 

So I don't really have a problem leaving those decisions to more knowledgeable people.  If it were a matter of national security which trombone position B-natural was in while using the first trigger, I wouldn't want the public masses forming rallies to press the president to answer "4" just because it was a popular idea that got into the public "head space".

I'm not sure what happened to facts, I guess.  I mean, if it costs me $1.29 for a pack of Skittles, that's a fact.  If my income tax rate is 18%, then that's a fact.  If I propose a plan to take a cruise and intend to spend $5600, then the fact is that "I proposed it would cost $5600." 

But when one side says "it's a government takeover of health care" and the other side says "it's NOT a government takeover of health care", then there's a serious problem.  They could both be wrong (maybe it's a partial takeover), but those statements can't both be factual at the same time.

I know: it's regarded as a mug's game to try to apply logic to politics.  I just can't get past the realization that, unlike the open loyalties of the basketball game, there are reasons why people will be happy or sad at tomorrow's vote which have nothing much to do with keeping people healthy.  Furthermore, the awareness that the entire issue of health care may actually be a proxy fight for a set of less important (to me) pissing contests makes me sad.

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