There was once a major league baseball player named Rube Waddell, who may well have been the best pitcher there ever was. He set major league records for shutouts, strikeouts, you name it.
Unfortunately, he had one little problem. He was easily distracted. As in, attention-deficit disorder to the max. He more than once left the dugout when fire engines came running by, to go chasing after them. Opponents soon found out they could throw him off his game by having someone hold up shiny objects or puppies.
He forgot how many women he had married and was constantly getting hitched to new ones. His contract had to spell out that he could not eat crackers in bed. He could not, in short, concentrate on anything, or be managed. Soon, his baseball career was over.
He went on to wrestle alligators for a living. What does this have to do with anything? Simple. Those who are opposed to health care reform hope the American people are just like Rube Waddell. They hope you are easily distracted, that their constant barrage of lies causes you to hesitate and not demand that Congress pass President Obama's sensible and sound health care plan.
They want their mammoth profits to keep rolling in. They want to confuse you, so you allow them to keep screwing you. They did it to you the last time someone tried to reform health care, in 1993-94, and they are doing everything they can to do it to you again.
So they are lying, lying, lying, figuring that if they throw enough mud, some of it will stick. True, President Obama's Democrats have sizable majorities in both the House and Senate. But the forces of greed have vast pots of money, which they are only all too happy to use to try to tempt your representatives into doing the wrong thing. They will buy off enough of them, too, to win — unless you keep the pressure up, telling your congressmen and senators regardless of party that you want them to pass President Obama's plan.
Pass it, that is, and keep the "public option." Some of the forces of greed know that they are likely going to have to live with some health care bill. If that's the case, they want one that is as weak as possible. That's why all the lies. Here's the truth:
The President is not proposing a "government-run health care plan." What he essentially wants to do is require everyone to have basic health care insurance. Most would do so through private insurers, but a public option would also be available.
Besides that, he wants to make it illegal for insurance companies to deny people health insurance because of a "pre-existing condition." The working poor would have more protection.
Businesses would be strongly encouraged to offer basic health care, but many of the smallest firms would be exempt.
What slowed this bill for a good while was, in part, a good faith on the part of the president to try to work with Republicans. If they had better ideas, he indicated he was more than willing to listen.
But no. Their only idea was "no." Other, that is, than shrieking and smears, like Sarah Palin's false charge that the bill includes "death panels" to decide when old people should die.
Fortunately, the president finally decided that the liars' time was up: "I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it is better politics to kill this plan than to improve it," he told the nation two weeks ago.
Things are moving again now. The package of health care bills was introduced in the Senate by Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who just happens to be the Senate Finance Committee chair.
This will be a key test. The committee is sort of a mini-Senate, with 23 members, including our own Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. The Baucus bill isn't terrible — but it doesn't establish a public option plan. It will almost certainly be changed.
So far, various senators have proposed more than 500 amendments to it. You could do yourself and your nation a big favor by contacting Stabenow, and any of the other members of the panel, and demanding they pass health reform and restore the public option.
Above all, don't listen to the idiots who say we need to "study this more," or "go slow and start over." They just want to kill health care, period. This nation has the most screwed-up health care system in the world. There are tens of millions of decent people, hard-working parents and children with no health care.
They can't get a checkup or a basic inoculation, but they can let themselves go, end up in an emergency room and cost us collectively millions of dollars.
A neurosurgeon told me of such a case where a teenage mother without insurance had a crack baby; the cost to the hospital was more than a half-million dollars. I have a former student who has a degenerative condition; Medicaid pays more than $1 million a year to keep her alive. But one of her part-time caregivers has no insurance at all; he is a middle-aged man who works in a movie theater.
We need to fix it, and fix it now. Every day we wait you pay, in many more ways than one.
Detroit newspaper follies: For months, the Gannett-controlled Detroit Media Partnership has continued to lower the quality of what they sell us by laying off journalists and shrinking the amount of news they cover. They've made the papers harder to get, by refusing to deliver them more than two or three days a week.
Not surprisingly, this hasn't vastly increased the demand for their products. Don't worry, however; their marketing geniuses have come up with just the solution: They are going to double the price of the daily printed paper, from 50 cents to a buck a copy!
That'll teach you to try to take home a paper, instead of reading it on your laptop as God intended you to do. I asked a person familiar with the situation if he thought this was an effort to make it easier to kill the printed papers and drive everyone to cyberspace.
"You might conclude that, if you didn't know how stupid and shortsighted these people are." They just want more money, now. What is sobering is that this will be hardest on the poor and elderly, many of whom will now be forced to be even less well-informed.
Trivia time: Who said this?: "Journalistic integrity, you know, fact-based reporting, serious investigative reporting, how to retain those ethics in all these new media and how to make sure it's paid for is really a challenge. But it's something that I think is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy."
Answer: President Obama, in an interview last week with Dave Murray, my colleague at The Blade in Toledo.
As to blogs, our prexy added: "I am concerned that the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking and no serious attempt to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void."
Sounds like a good way to speed our nation's falling apart. But, hey — what do I care? I have 721 Facebook friends, a few of whom I have even met in person, and a big bag of chips!
So what do I need democracy for?Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]