August 3, 2009 in Opinion

Outside voices: Take time with reform

 

About this column

Outside Voices is a weekly roundup of excerpts from recent editorials published in newspapers around the nation. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board of The Spokesman-Review.

ORLANDO SENTINEL, July 30: With Congress’ annual August recess looming, neither the Senate nor the House will be meeting President Barack Obama’s deadline for votes on health care reform before they leave town. And that’s just as well. It’s better for Congress to move deliberately in reconfiguring a system that accounts for one-sixth of the U.S. economy and affects every American.

Obama was right when he recently said that health care reform has been talked about in Washington for decades. The latest plans for reform, however, have only been taking shape over the past few weeks. They are enormously complex, and still undergoing revisions. If lawmakers acted on a plan before going home, few would have more than a rough idea what they were voting on.

The damage done by spiraling health care costs to government budgets, family incomes and business’ bottom lines makes it imperative for reform to rein in costs even as it expands coverage to the uninsured. Yet the head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office testified this month that the leading plan in the House would not contain costs. That’s reason enough for lawmakers to take more time to get reform right.

FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, July 26: The health care debate is tailor-made for demagogues. Radio and cable TV talk-show pontificators are proffering silly predictions of socialized medicine and rationed care and invoking the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Internal Revenue Service as models for what “government health care” will look like. Entertaining, but there is no basis in fact here.

ObamaCare is more of a slogan or rallying cry. The president has chosen to back certain long-term goals rather than a specific plan. This approach has strengths and weaknesses.

President Barack Obama has signaled that nearly everything is up for negotiation. His strategy certainly has a greater chance of success because he is attempting to shepherd a bottom-up process to create an organic legislative accord.

But Obama’s undue haste is counterproductive. By definition, collaboration takes more time. He knows historically the odds of reform shrink significantly in the second year of a presidential term because lawmakers become timid in a midterm election year. But induced urgency imperils his legislative goals and increases the chances for an ill-conceived plan. This is one-sixth of the U.S. economy we are talking about here.


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