Liberally Speaking (1/28/10)

My Facebook status: Revisit health care

Jan. 28, 2010

By Steve Mount

Facebook, in case you’ve been living under a rock the past year or two, is a great Internet service for keeping in touch with friends and family.

According to Facebook, I have 173 friends. Most of the time, our interactions are simple. I post a status to say what’s new in my life and my Facebook friends do the same. Every so often, I or they are moved to comment on those status updates in one way or another.

Status updates are generally of the “Wow, that movie was awful!” or “The recipe we cooked tonight was wonderful!” type. The kind of stuff that comedians like to poke fun at.

Last week, though, I was moved to post this (in the ubiquitous Facebook third-person):

“Steve is lamenting the loss in Massachusetts, but is thinking it needn’t be the end of health care reform. It could just be the end to all the unseemly deals needed to get this far.”

The update was, of course, about the loss in Massachusetts of Democrat Martha Coakley to Republican Scott Brown for a permanent replacement for Ted Kennedy’s seat in the U.S. Senate. The win was a surprise not only because Massachusetts has only 13 percent registered Republicans, but because just three weeks ago, Coakley was still leading in the polls. Brown’s win was primarily due to his ability to sway the Massachusetts independent bloc, blowing pundit predictions out of the water.

The win means an end to the supposedly filibuster-proof 60-40 majority the Democrats gained once Minnesota’s Al Franken finally took office back in July.

My Facebook status post brought comments from one of my liberal friends and several of my conservative friends, stirring a mini-debate.

Political debates on the Internet are nothing new, but often the debates take place behind the veil of some degree of anonymity. This debate, though, was not with anonymous avatars, with people I’d never met and never would. This debate was with friends, family and co-workers. That meant that vitriol was at a minimum, and thoughtfulness and reflection were at a maximum.

Most of the posts agreed in particular with my final point — that the Senate bill is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the legislative process. My conservative friends said that the abomination was because Republicans had been left out of the process. I replied that they seemed to forget all the committee hearings where the Republicans had more than ample time to give their input.

What was really responsible for the ugliness of the Senate bill, I noted, was how the Democratic leadership allowed the bill to be held hostage by other Democrats. Mindful of the razor-thin majority, a few Democrats were able to demand some pretty sweet deals for their states, deals the rest of us would be paying for. The most egregious example: Nebraska’s Ben Nelson was able to guarantee that his state’s Medicaid bill would be paid for by the federal government in perpetuity.

Thus far, I’ve supported passage of either the House or Senate version of the bill, despite these types of deals, so that we can get something out there, something that will stop insurance company abuses and save lives.

But given this change in the Senate, perhaps it is time to take a step back and have a fresh look at the problem. The debates have already been held, the discussion has already been had. We know those parts of the bills that have some Republican support. Let’s pass those parts now. These include the complete elimination of pre-existing conditions and of retroactive policy denial, and a cap on insurance company profit-taking.

Then, using the momentum of change from these reforms and the goodwill they will create between the Congress and the people, we can continue to pound away at the health care problem, working toward a public option with teeth, rather than the limp impersonation that the current bills contain.

This sort of strategy should help both parties. The Republicans can tout their support for some reforms and hope the public forgets all the stalling tactics and the spreading of misinformation that started last summer. The Democrats can show some movement on an issue that the majority of the public wants fixed, giving them something to hang their hats on as election season nears.

Win-win for the parties; but more importantly, a win for the people. Something worth posting a Facebook status update about.


Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at or read his blog at