Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Government is the enemy until you need a friend." -- Sen. William Cohen, (R) Maine, 1996

Columnist E. J. Dionne spoke at the Families USA, Health Action 2009 conference in Washington this week. He confirmed this feeling in America that, perhaps, government isn't the enemy after all. Perhaps Ronald Reagan was wrong? Or, at least partly so.

Dionne's rapid-fire presentation swung from references to Leuchtenburg's 1963 tome "Franklin D. Roosevelt And The New Deal," to the musings of former South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings (D). Hollings, it's said, was amused by a WW II veteran who, despite life-long assistance from the VA, Social Security, Medicare, the GI Bill, and the Farm Bureau, wanted assurances that the Senator would keep government off his back .

The room was primed for Dionne's presentation, and they met his observations with enthusiastic applause. Folks clearly felt vindicated by the results of November's election. Reality, however, followed close behind.

Throughout the 3-day meeting, excitement about the new possibilities for our country was tempered by concerns about the battle to come. More precisely, folks worried aloud about the resolve of our "friends" on Capitol Hill and the White House to ensure universal access to affordable and meaningful health coverage.

My 2 "take-aways":

  • It will be impossible to correct our economic crisis without reforming healthcare, and impossible to reform healthcare without correcting our economic crisis.

  • While we'll need to be pragmatic in our effort to reform healthcare, pragmatism must be grounded in our moral commitments.


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