Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Republicans and the Health Care Summit

President Barack Obama's health care bill is on the fast track to no where. He made a radical, socialized medicine, health care bill the center piece of his legislative agenda in 2009, even though unemployment had reached a high we have not seen in a quarter of century. Those who opposed a bill that would lead to higher unemployment, higher taxes, health care rationing, and injury to innovation have won the battle. This was seen in the rapidly falling approval ratings of many moderate Democrats who voted for the bill the first time around. This was also clear as the state of Massachusetts, which is 3 to 1 Democrat, voted Republican on a Senate seat held by a Kennedy for a half of a century. What is the connection? Massachusetts had a government health care program very similar to the President's plan for five years now and it has failed in virtually all of its policy objectives. The special election became a referendum on Obamacare and that agenda failed.

President Obama, with the determination and single focus of the Energizer battery bunny, keeps "going and going." In the last month we have had over 200,000 more jobs lost and almost 2,000 massive layoffs (sizable layoffs of 50 or more employees at one time), and instead of focusing on the important issue of jobs, he goes back to his socialized medicine agenda. He needs the Republicans involved in the discussion to give it legitimacy. He is providing the forum for the opposition's input, we are told, at a health care summit. The big question is, what should the GOP do?

I have been watching the GOP leaders on the news and in lockstep they are declaring that they will show up at the President's summit. They plan to pack the Blair House (across the street from the White House) and sit politely as the President lectures them again. After all, that is what they have been doing for years. The debate is ranging as to an appropriate GOP response and those arguments include:

  • There are those who believe the GOP should show up to the event and demand equal time for their views. Unfortunately, many Republicans are only offering a lighter version of the Democrats' fast track program. Essentially they are saying, "we know we are all heading to socialism, but we would rather stroll than run."

  • There are some who are actually saying they should go there but be silent. This would represent the voices of millions of Americans that have not been heard to this point. Unfortunately, I believe the media will simply interpret this as though the GOP has nothing to contribute to the debate.

  • Some are arguing that he GOP might like to learn that the definition of insanity is to "do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results." Congressional Republicans should simply say that "enough is enough" and stay on the floor of their respective Houses and argue for free market and other approaches that honor our federal system based on the powers reserved for the states. This, in my opinion, would send the strongest message to those who are advocating socialism in our health care system, both in and out of government. To not show up would lead to an instant reaction from the media and constituents who will want to know why they did not attend. That would lead to the type of debate that those opposed to socialized health care can win.

To simply show up would be interpreted as "business as usual" and I believe that would be a fair assessment. It is time for Republicans to make the loudest statement of all...the statement of silence in the Blair House halls.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is also host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650). Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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