Steven Wright was a dead-pan comedian. Never cracked a smile. Never altered his monotone delivery. And when each dry joke finished, you had to wonder why it was funny, or if.
“I woke up this morning… went downstairs… Someone had stolen all of my furniture… and replaced each piece with an exact duplicate of itself.”
This joke, which isn’t really funny, except for the delivery, reminds me of the current debate over health care.
“We’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
It isn’t exactly the same, of course, because the House bill wasn’t an exact duplicate of the Affordable Care Act, and neither is the Senate’s effort, which was wavering at the time of this writing. That bill would reportedly leave almost as many millions of people without coverage as the House’s effort – which the President rightly called “mean.”
So, no, the replacement won’t be an exact duplicate, and if it actually does leave as many people without coverage as the population of Florida, the nation’s 4th most populous state, any reasonable critic would have to wonder, honestly, if we wouldn’t have been better off with the old furniture we had.
But I’m not arguing the merits of Trumpcare versus Obamacare. The proof will be in the pudding. (The studies are clear -- people get healthier, go to the doctor less, live longer when they have health insurance – and the overall cost to the taxpayer decreases. The proof of any plan will be in the health of the nation.) So I’m not arguing against the current proposals. I am arguing against the delivery of the message.
We are a fractured nation. The divisions aren’t new, but they are more obvious than ever. “A nation divided against itself cannot stand” – so any leader, on any level, who wants to lead will have to be interested in healing divisions, not highlighting them, bringing people together, not tearing them apart, finding common ground, not drawing lines in the sand.
“Repeal and replace” is a house, with “all new furniture,” built on that sand.
Because the honest truth (if we could be honest and true) is that “repeal and replace” actually just means “modify.” Doesn’t it? Republican members of the House and the Senate will allow, if pressed on the issue, that their plans would keep some, if not much, of what’s right about the ACA. So, it’s only a “repeal” in name, and only a “replace” if that means replacing most of the furniture with exact duplicates of what’s already there.
It makes you wonder if what’s really important in this conversation is the health of the people, individually, and as a body politic, or just scoring partisan points -- which, today, has a lot more to do with tearing the other party down than actually doing anything productive for the people.
There IS common ground in the health care debate. It’s the people who need the care.
Americans, left and right, should support any Republican modification of the Affordable Care Act that will actually provide more coverage for more people. That would be good for the nation, physically, fiscally, politically, spiritually.
And we should be smart enough to see “repeal and replace” for the not so funny joke that it is.
This article was originally published by The Clinton Chronicle