03.07.10

Scrap the Health-Care Bill!

In a revelatory Q & A, Christopher Buckley explains that health insurance is well and good, but driving the country into bankruptcy isn’t going to help anyone in the long run—and why we’d all be better off if Warren Buffett were president.

For anyone who, like your faithful blogger, is a) thoroughly confused, b) thoroughly anxious, or c) thoroughly bored by health-care reform, herewith a Q & A.

President Obama declared the other day that “Everything there is to say about health care has been said and just about everyone has said it.” Is this correct?

Apparently not, to judge from the papers, which contain some pretty hairy predictions about what lies ahead if health-care “reform” goes through.

Such as?

Continued skyrocketing costs, less actual health care, and massive bureaucracies. And although we're told that the bill is "deficit neutral," Washington's way of saying, "It's not going to cost a dime, who, really, believes that? As P.J. O'Rourke says, "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free."

I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.

But isn’t that just the usual partisan/ideological bickering?

Not unless you consider, say, Warren Buffett “partisan” or “ideological.” You’ll recall that Buffett was an early supporter of Obama’s candidacy. But following the “health-care summit,” he advised the president to scrap the health bill and start over. As he put it, the critical issue with health care is “costs, costs, costs.” And until we attack that aspect, everything else is essentially beside the point.

Are you saying insuring people with no health insurance is “beside the point”?

No, but driving the country into bankruptcy isn’t going to help anyone in the long run. Wouldn’t you agree?

I’m asking the questions here, smart ass. Getting back to Buffett, why should we listen to him?

Because in addition to being one of the wealthiest self-made Americans alive, he is also one of the smartest. You may recall that while Alan Greenspan, more or less the entire U.S. Congress, Fannie Mae, and Wall Street were all gaga-enthusiastic about subprime mortgages and derivatives and credit default swaps and other toxic instruments, Warren Buffett, almost alone, was calling them “weapons of mass financial destruction.” You may also recall that in September 2008, they went ka-boom.

Yeah, I kind of remember that part. So it’s WWWD? What Would Warren Do?

I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.

Well, where do the American people stand on the issue at this point?

The American people could be accurately described as “nervous as hell” about all this. They are basically good folks, Americans. They want to extend a helping hand to those who can’t afford health insurance. But their confidence level in Congress is basement-low. They are also suspicious of bills that run to 2,074 pages. Can you imagine if the Congress today were put in charge of writing the Declaration of Independence?

Let’s not go there, please.

OK by me. The bottom line is—polls show that more than 60 percent of Americans are against the current House and Senate bills.

But surely 100 percent of Americans are tired of all the back-and-forth, and want action taken.

Ask yourself: Is taking action in itself a virtue?

Who are you, Socrates?

Far from it. But consider: There was a lot of debate back in 2001-03 about whether we should go to war in Iraq. President Bush finally stamped his feet and said more or less what Obama is now saying, namely: “The time for talk is over.” Do you think we did the right thing in 2003?

Are you saying that health-care reform could be Obama’s Iraq?

I hope not, for all our sake. Not to sound like Pollyanna, but we’re all in this together.

Do you have Warren Buffett’s phone number?

Christopher Buckley's books include Supreme Courtship, The White House Mess, Thank You for Smoking, Little Green Men, and Florence of Arabia. He was chief speechwriter for Vice President George H.W. Bush, and is editor-at-large of ForbesLife magazine. His new book is Losing Mum and Pup, a memoir. Buckley's Daily Beast column is the winner of an Online Journalism Award in the category of Online Commentary.