From the very beginning of the now nearly year long most contemporary discussion on health care reform there have been two vocal sides to the debate. One side has centered a discussion around seeking solutions to an immensely complicated issue that affects nearly every American. The other side has spent the year inventing rhetorical hyperbole in response while offering precious little in the way of pragmatically constructive compromise.

Seldom has a political party remained as steadfastly united in opposition to something so basically moral as access to health care as has the Republican Party in its opposition to any kind of health care reform. From claims of “death panels” and “ cutting off granny’s oxygen” now comes the analogy from Congressman Mike Conaway that the most recent vote on the house bill was “a little like two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for lunch.”

Well, all joking aside, members of Congress are among the fortunate ones that have a cushy policy. And ironically the Republican National Committee has a policy that reportedly also includes access to abortion services, the most recent target of the other side’s collective angst.

And after all, the health care reform debate has essentially given Republicans a year off in that they have spent little time in serious open debate or constructive discussion except of course for the summertime refereeing the town hall brawls. Certainly the claims that they have been shut out of the discussions may be legit, but they ring a little hollow after eight years of their being in power and “zippo”, “zilch”, “notta” word about health care reform. Certainly, there must be a compromise suggestion somewhere in the dissenting camp but, it has been kept remarkably silent.

But in fact, the Congressman’s carnivorous analogy does indeed have a ring of authenticity to it. Caught in the ravages of two bloodthirsty wolves, Congressional Republicans and health insurance lobbyists, are somewhere between 30 and 50 million helpless sheep being torn to fiscal shreds…… those with no insurance for whatever reason, those underinsured and those that are currently defined as uninsurable.

The plans currently under discussion are miles from being perfect. They are expensive, but adding millions of people to the ranks of the insured will be regardless of how you shape it. The ideological and philosophical differences are mountainous. And it really is all about the money. Not because insurance is expensive, which it will be irregardless, but that reform will seek to redistribute the dollars being spent on health insurance premiums to benefits and healthcare services and outcomes rather than dividends and CEO salaries. There remains the intrinsic fear that whatever passes may work and be wildly popular, like medicare, and then where does that leave the insurance companies and their lobbyists? Reinventing rhetorical hyperbole one would guess.

Commentator Garrison Keillor recently suggested that, “ health care is too complicated for Congress. The whole issue should have been handed over to a blue-ribbon commission of living, breathing economists – let them draw up a plan, defend it and stand up to the ranters and rug chewers- and let Congress do what they do best, which is to uphold virtue and decency and denounce narrow self-interest and partisanship, and then go to lunch.”


John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesdays. E-mail him at