Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Passes. Right?

Politicians are what we have made them. It's popular now to growl menacingly about the next election when things don't please us. Then we turn around and complain that they're always campaigning and they'll take funds from Satan himself to pay for the next election victory. Thinking is always someone else's job, and then we complain about how it gets done.

Because leadership in this country is a popularity contest every leader loses the ability to lead in the process of getting elected.

The private sector is no better. I've experienced the management style and social skills of a number of business leaders. They can be as loud, confident and wrong as Joe Biden is reputed to be. It's great to have their energy and their delicious money behind projects like a local bike route, but some of these go-getters make up in decisiveness what they lack in cycling experience and technical knowledge. And their egos restrict who they will allow to educate them.

A manager does not need to know how to do everything. He or she needs to know where to find the people who do, and how to motivate them to produce it. If the underlings don't do well with the overlord's personality, less gets done, or it gets done less well. Observers on the sidelines can simply watch the waves crash on the shore as the two forces interact.

Because the campaign never ends, politicians need to show miraculous results on questions that don't succumb to quick fixes, like health care. We needed to pass some comprehensive legislation a couple of decades ago (or longer), but we could dicker about it for 20 more years and never get anything better than we just got. So there it is. If it survives the court challenges already brought against it it will still be a deformed monster put together by the mad scientists of Congress.

Truly progressive citizens complain rightly that it doesn't go far enough. Conservatives complain that it exists at all. They say they want to do something, but they want to do it thoughtfully and, by their reckoning, "right." A good time might be several Congresses after all of them have retired as Taxpayers' Heroes and gone on to that great golf course in the sky.

Let's give the supporters of this bill credit for going out on a limb with it. They have much more to lose than the opponents, because things WILL NOT get instantly better. The opponents will have plenty of time to say "I told you so" before the next election. They can blame domestic turmoil on the failed bill rather than their own obstructionism.

Imagine some people clinging to a rock as heavy surf smashes them. Progressives say we should make a human chain toward the cliff and try to climb up to a more secure perch. Conservatives point out that only a minority of people are getting sucked into the ocean to die, whereas this hare-brained human chain project looks dangerous to them. The status quo is manageable.

The human chain requires more people than the progressives can muster. Every attempt to make the human chain with only the willing ends in disaster. The conservatives look on smugly as their prophecies of failure come true time after time. At the same time they inch higher on the rock, oblivious to the rising tide which will eventually crest above its peak.

No comments: