This week the MPCA book club read pages 43 through 104 of former Senator Tom Daschle’s book Critical: What We Can Do About The Health Care Crisis. MPCA AmeriCorps Program Director John A. Taylor provided this response:
Like a scene out of the Star Trek™ franchise, “Resistance is futile,” seems to be the mantra coming from a monstrous entity composed of special interests intent on destroying the framework for health care reform.
Tom Daschle’s portrayal of The History of Health Reform from the early 1900’s to the late 1990’s is indeed a reminder that there is a “. . . tortuous history of health reform” (45) that strikes fear in the hearts of those brave enough to consider tackling the issue. Recent political events in Daschle’s own life have convinced me that the challenges the current presidential administration face, regarding the issue of health care reform, must be accessed through the lens of the past if the giant is going to be slain.
Presidential ambitions and dreams have been dashed against the rock of health care reform. Presidents from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton have watched as their hopes for the American people have been crushed under the weight of special interests, using the weapon of fear to sway the population away from an issue that is strangling the United States economy, wounding its citizenry, and building a wall of confusion around the issues.
Perhaps, it is fear that must be first addressed as competing sectors sit around the bargaining table to deal with a system that “. . . is fundamentally flawed . . .” (103). In his memoirs, Harry Truman reminds us that this is the issue that he unsuccessfully addressed, when he said, “I cautioned Congress against being frightened away from health insurance by the scare words ‘socialized medicine,’ which some people were bandying about. I wanted no part of socialized medicine, and I know the American people did not” (50).
In assessing Daschle’s work Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis, I find myself not as interested in the solution Daschle offers, as I am in the history of the battle. Fear seems to be a dominant part of the struggle. As Franklin Roosevelt reminded us in his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Yet it is apparent that even this great enemy of fear found his health care reform plans dashed upon its shores.
As citizens, it is essential that we break free from the fear of what might happen in order to accurately assess the fear of what will happen if we don’t do anything to curb the tide of rising medical costs. We must be concerned about those in need, we must be inclusive as we consider the implications of our decisions, we must recognize that health reform is one of many fundamental issues we need to address, and not allow it to be pushed aside by other seemingly more pressing problems. Difficulties that may in reality be symptoms of a need for fundamental changes in the way our society governs itself.
Daschle reminds us, as he reviews the history of this giant issue, “. . . without fundamental change we can expect medical costs, and the number of people without insurance to grow” (103). That call to innovation has been the strength of the United States, and it remains the hope of its citizens as we move forward in this new century. It is the challenge of this generation, and history will judge us by the decisions we make. Will we give into fear’s roar, or will we be bold and compassionate as we face the challenges ahead? I can only hope that it is the latter.