America must get used to the new normal

By PAT WATSON

If you like television courtroom dramas or soap operas all the main ingredients are there in high level politics – the villains, the good guys, the hidden agendas, the stretching of the law to make a case. But all of that dueling to the death has a powerful influence on our very real lives.

With American television viewing being the larger than life, surreal world that it is, the media reports on the machinations in American politics rate highly.

The latest installment in the story has been the “Battle for Healthcare Reform”. The main players have been U.S. President Barack Obama  – ‘the good guy’ (depending on your point of view, economic status and political bent), the health insurance lobby – the bad guys (again, depending on your point of view), and the American public, the innocent and/or ignorant victims in the middle.

In an environment where the terms ‘supersize’ and ‘fast-food’ are nutritional mottos for too many everyday people, the issue of health maintenance is no small matter. Exposure to all manner of carcinogenic chemicals and compounds is a serial occurrence in everyone’s daily life. We know that cancer rates are reaching epidemic levels, and that also goes for diabetes. We know that the people we refer to as the baby boomers are now aging and that more than 60 per cent of them have serious health issues. And, we know that powerful lobbies will stop at nothing to ensure that the firmly entrenched corporate culture of unbridled greed continues.

All of this drama to the south matters to us here because we too have a healthcare funding challenge that must be addressed. One of the forestalling tactics that has keep successive American administrations promising health insurance reform without meeting the goal is to play good system/bad system against the Canadian model. And, of course, Canadian governments and related groups with vested interests here have used the same strategy. Note the ongoing debate about a two-tier public/private healthcare system and the worry about evolving one system for the poor and another for the rich.

The healthcare reform drama is what led to one of the sharpest minds in Washington in decades – Democratic president, Bill Clinton – being figuratively tarred and feathered by Republicans who became his sworn enemy on the issue. This, despite the fact that Clinton was responsible for a significant number of conservative reforms. One might have thought that all the drama about Clinton’s questionable real estate dealings and sexual indiscretions – for which he faced impeachment hearings for lying under oath – were about his fitness for office. Rather the attacks on Clinton were the means to thwart his efforts to reform healthcare. And they were successful, which makes the achievement of the Obama administration all the more remarkable.

Obama apparently has no such Clintonian chinks in his armour, so the powerful health insurance industry and opportunistic interests groups found other ways to influence the opposition Republican Party into intransigence. Fear was one of them.

But the healthcare reform drama is not just the latest installment in the saga; rather it is another indicator of a superpower in flux. The American ethos of smaller government, less government interference, laissez faire market regulation is what led to the collapse of the banking industry in the U.S. and farther afield. Americans who get their time at the podium keep leaning on their history lessons as a means of finding their rudder again. They refer to the vision of governance of George Washington and the like. Yet, it is their own corporations seduced by lower production costs in China that has shifted the balance of power away from the once mighty United States. Just as it is their own corporations – fronted by politicians – that are telling them that healthcare reform is bad for them.

So, while Obama as president must assert confidence in the power and might of his nation, the rest of the world knows – as does America, even if it dares not openly acknowledge it – that other world powers are on the rise.

America is just having a hard time getting used to the new normal.

A note on the current weather…

For sale: One snow shovel, ergonomic design, only slightly used this past winter, thanks to the recent El Niño. Will accept best offer or trade for an energy efficient home cooling system in anticipation of El Niño effects during the coming summer weather.

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