Sep 012010
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Article first published as President Obama and His Frankenstein Monster on Technorati.

Associated Press released an article yesterday entitled Some states suing feds also claim health subsidies. The story tells of seven states, amongst the 20 now filing suit to overturn President Obama’s healthcare legislation, that have also filed to receive subsidies from the program. Many would conclude that it’s hypocritical to take money from a program that you’re fighting to end, but while a valid opposition argument is hard to imagine, it’s equally difficult to assign full blame on the deceit of these states.

It is the duty of every state to best serve the needs of its citizens, so if there is funding available through the program, it would be irresponsible for a state to not seek the subsidy. In a similar manner, if the presumption is made that the suits being taken against the purchase requirement are motivated from a desire to serve the people, then that action too must be considered appropriate. So, if these two assertions are true, wherein does the hypocrisy originate?

Of course, purported motives could be a sham; certain state officials may actually engage in litigation for purely political purposes, but that’s unlikely to be a universal rule. So, does this mean that there is no hypocrisy in the cases where the motives are honestly associated with the good of the citizenry? Perhaps not — but such cases beg the question of how an action can simultaneously be so duplicitous and yet pure.

One possible conclusion is that the duplicity is inherent in the object — that the healthcare legislation itself contains the hypocrisy. It was sold as a progressive solution to address inequities in the American healthcare system. It was also touted as reform, yet resulted only in expansion of the system that was already in place by adding government subsidies and mandatory purchase requirements. Whether or not anyone chooses to accept this as hypocrisy, the act of pushing legislation under some pretense, like reform, but really providing nothing of the sort, must be considered duplicitous.

I’ll not even offer an opinion regarding the legality of requiring everyone to purchase healthcare insurance, but I will suggest that it stretches the interpretation of regulating interstate commerce — the constitutional basis upon which the law has been justified. It would seem that the medical insurance industry could be regulated without making mandatory the purchase of medical insurance. And it’s true that the very premise that people can be required to purchase something without the ability to opt out is unique to this case in all of American government.

What occurs to me is that President Obama may have had pure motives when he set out to address healthcare, but in the end he created a Frankensteinian system. There was really only one legitimate method of creating a hybrid public/private system that could provide healthcare to those who would otherwise not have it — that was through the establishment of a “public option.” The public option would have addressed the issue of reform by establishing both a source for coverage of the uninsured and also competition within the industry. President Obama created this Frankenstein monster when he caved and allowed the medical insurers and Big Pharma to write the legislation which guaranteed them 32 million new patients and did nothing to reduce costs.

Sadly, the state suits protesting the healthcare law are perhaps the least significant consequence of the President’s creation. The real horror is that his hybrid abomination is truly a Frankenstein monster and as such is destined to contribute to his ruin. When the President should have been focused squarely on the economy and Wall Street reform, he was instead off in his Dr. Frankenstein laboratory making deals with the health services lobby. He then used up all of his political capital to pass healthcare legislation, with which neither the left nor right are happy.

Roll the calendar forward, and new financial legislation was passed but was weak and diluted, the economy is still in the dumper, unemployment refuses to subside, and healthcare costs are higher than ever. Had President Obama forgone healthcare and been more focused on the economy, would we be in better shape now? It’s hard to tell, but one thing is certain — there wouldn’t be this Frankenstein monster lurking about, and the Democrats would likely be in much better shape for November.

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