Albert Einstein supposedly said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”And to see that psychology in action, we take you now to Capitol Hill, where the House Republicans today are poised to vote – for the 33rd time – to repeal the health reform law that finally enables America to join the rest of the western democratic industrialized world.
Their vote, of course, will be as meaningless as the other 32. They’re aware that in 2012 they have no legislative shot at actually turning back the clock and leaving America’s 30 million uninsured out in the cold (although, as John Boehner said yesterday, “Hope springs eternal.”) No, what really matters here is the symbolism, the politics of gesture. They do the same thing over and over again because it’s a handy way to heave red meat at the ravenous conservative base, to keep the base ginned up for the presidential race – and for a Republican candidate whom they (rightly) view with suspicion.Republican congressman Allen West, who was last seen claiming without a shred of evidence that as many as 80 House Democrats are communists, told ABC News on Monday night that the 33rd futile repeal vote is necessary “to let the American people know were we stand.” As if people don’t already know where they stand – on the wrong side of history, that is.West also insisted that “the American people don’t want this (reform law). They want it gone.” This guy would be wise to venture outside the Republican bubble, because apparently he has no clue what “the American people” are thinking. According to the newly-released ABC News-Washington Post poll of Americans nationwide, “there’s little support for complete repeal – just 18 percent.” Moreover, support for the law has spiked since Chief Justice Roberts gave the reform law a bipartisan imprimatur. Back in April, the ABC-Post poll reported that only 39 percent of Americans wanted the law, while 53 percent did not – a thumbs-down gap of 14 points. But now the gap is gone. Today, Americans are evenly divided on the law, 47 percent apiece. Even within the subset of people who dislike the Roberts ruling, only 33 percent want full repeal. And when Americans were asked which presidential candidate would be best at handling the health care issue, they favored President Obama over Mitt Romney by one point, 46 to 45.But ideologues pay no attention to the real world outside their heads; they prefer to define their conservative base as “the American people.” And so it’s Groundhog Day yet again on Capitol Hill, another waste of time, resources, and rhetoric. Indeed, the rhetoric is all about repealing the law, because they naturally have no plans to talk in specifics about how they would replace it. (That would require actual governing.)And speaking of rhetoric, here’s an argument you won’t hear from the Republicans today: “Insurance mandates, far from being unique to Obamacare, are all around us. States require drivers to carry liability insurance. Your state government also provides you with — and charges you for — insurance against losing your job. The federal government mandates flood insurance for anyone living in a flood plain who has a federally insured mortgage. Social Security is mandatory insurance against a penniless old age, and the premiums are deducted from your paycheck, whether you like it or not….”Mark Browne, a professor of risk management and insurance at the University of Wisconsin School of Business, says people with middle-class incomes or better should chip in more against the risk that they’ll require long-term care someday. ‘If something doesn’t change, it’s going to be a huge issue for the states and federal government,’ says Browne….(He) asks, ‘Are we just responsible for ourselves, or are we a community, and everybody’s responsible for each other?’ If it’s the latter, then with the benefit of the safety net comes the responsibility to share in its cost.”So says the capitalist organ known as Business Week.Cue right-wing attacks on Business Week.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1