Wednesday, March 10, 2010

President Obama and The Health Reform Time Machine

In 1936 Charlie Chaplin produced a classic film “Modern Times ” at the height of the Great Depression. The film’s theme was – “A story of industry, of individual enterprise - humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness.” The film featured a Time Machine, which fed worker automatically so they didn’t have to stop for lunch and to make sure the workers kept producing. A Big Brother foreman incessantly drove them, depriving them of their humanity and their health.

The modern version might go like this.

The hero is President Obama. The time is the Great Recession, featuring unemployment and hard economic times. Our hero, decked out in a cape and yielding a magic wand, flits from backroom to backroom, handing out money and favors, telling workers they are being deprived of health care by evil employers, imploring workers to accept him as their savior, promising to stamp out fraud, abuse, and waste, and blasting health plans and other profit-making health industries as the enemy of the People. And so the story goes: Profit is your enemy. Government largess is your friend.

It is a compelling narrative. Our hero is a magnificent speaker. He speaks loftily of social protest – of organizing the American community to throw off the forces of the health industry. He will restore the people’s humanity and their happiness by insuring their health and by extracting money through high taxes from their oppressors – the rich, profit making businesses , particularly those in health care – private health plans, drug companies, device manufacturers.

The message is: Government is your friend. I will set you free from the shackles of free enterprise, which is not free and which imposes upon you unaffordable health costs.

But alas, our hero has distractions – a unified opposing political party, a skeptical public that supports individualism, a Tea Party movement that keeps citing Constitutional rights, and a political Time Machine, which feeds his supporters and keeps his administration ticking.

Unfortunately, the hands of the Time Machine indicate - in September, December, and now March – that our hero is not meeting his deadlines for getting the job done. The Machine says he must get it done before November, or else, he may never get it done.

P.S. I welcome comments – good, bad, and neutral. I will comment on your comments.

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