Keep your eyes off my health-wurst

Rob Eder

Whether it was Otto von Bismarck or the 19th century American poet John Godfrey Saxe who first warned lovers of sausage and/or the law to never watch either being made, it is pretty clear that the Democrats don’t want you to know too much about how the healthreform-wurst is getting made. They don’t even want C-SPAN to see.

And that’s probably the worst mistake Democrats can make right now, and not just as it relates to their chances in November, but much more importantly, in terms of America’s chance to see any meaningful and lasting health reform any time soon.

So far, the two versions of the bill have garnered the support of exactly one Republican in the House and none in the Senate; and the rhetoric seems to be working—the more Americans hear about what’s in the sausage, the less of an appetite they seem to have for it. Sunday morning TV pundits expected that by November, the GOP could make Democrats choke on their sausage. Were that to happen, it’s quite likely that any health-reform package that were to be passed this year, ultimately could be dismantled, reinvented and recast long before it could be fully implemented.

While Bismarck may not have been the originator of the “laws and sausage” dictum, he is widely credited as the father of social insurance, having been a strong proponent of the modern world’s first social security program enacted in 1889—an idea for which many of the Iron Chancellor’s detractors would attempt to paint him in socialist red. Funny thing is, Bismarck really was trying to beat the socialists at their own game, providing the working class with important concessions that he believed made Germany a more productive country. “Call it socialism, or whatever you like,” Bismarck told his Reichstag opponents, “it is all the same to me.”

Bismarck also was the father of a brand of politics that members of the 111th U.S. Congress would be wise to remember and start practicing—Democrats and Republicans alike. It’s called “Realpolitik” and, in a nutshell, it means not letting one’s own bone-headed commitment to ideology stand in the way of progress. It is goal-oriented. Right now, the goal should be meaningful and lasting reform that reduces the long-term costs and improves accessibility to health care rather than producing a law that could have the life expectancy of a sausage-burp.

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