President Obama was in town last week to tout his landmark health care law. It was a beautiful day, and the president got a rousing reception.

There were protesters, to be sure, but the overall energy was positive and supportive — lots of enthusiasm for the president and his message.

Over the months of the debate on health care I have heard the president give several speeches on the topic. In all of these I have been impressed with his clarity of thought, with the way he has made a complex issue understandable, and with the commitment he brings to the issue of health care for all Americans.

One can differ with the president on the merits of the bill, but no one can doubt his sincere belief that bringing affordable health care to all Americans is a good thing.

This is why I have supported the extraordinarily clumsy and partisan process that produced health care legislation. The notion that the wealthiest nation on Earth should not be able to provide health insurance to 30 million to 40 million of its citizens is an inequity that it is time to redress.

The Declaration of Independence states that we Americans have certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Certainly having a basic health-care safety net is part of the 21st century version of the pursuit of happiness.

Should you doubt this, read T.R. Reid’s excellent book “The Healing of America.” Reid had a strong hand in convincing this fiscal conservative that universal health care was an idea whose time was long overdue.

President Obama provides a compelling rationale for the new legislation. In Portland he emphasized the immediate benefits: tax credits to small businesses that provide health care, improvements in Medicare benefits for seniors, and protection of individuals from having their insurance cut off because they get sick or exceed coverage limits.

He also dealt with many of the criticisms of the new law — that it is too expensive, it will drive up the deficit, and it will lead to a government “takeover” of health care.

The president is actually pretty good at rebutting all of these arguments and, for the most part, he has the facts on his side. He cites the analysis of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the health care bill, which will cost nearly a trillion dollars over the next 10 years, will be paid for with a combination of new taxes, mainly on those earning more than $250,000 per year, and savings from efficiencies in Medicare and Medicaid. Moreover, the CBO states that the law will reduce deficits in later decades.

All this is factual. However, there are legitimate reasons to be skeptical that all of the Medicare and Medicaid efficiencies will be realized. Congress has been notoriously unwilling to follow through on previously scheduled Medicare cuts.

Moreover, no one is quite sure how the impact of covering so many more people will play out in practice. This potential for cost escalation is a legitimate concern. Likely, more fixes will be needed over time to address the escalating costs of medical care — and to his credit Obama does acknowledge this as well.

In short, when I listen to Obama he comes across as sensible, reasonable and much more responsible than his predecessor, George W. Bush, in trying to pay for new programs without expanding the deficit.

Why then the bitter invective from the right on this issue? It is called a government take-over of health care — this, about a program similar to that proposed by Richard Nixon that is largely delivered through private insurers; it is said that it will add trillions to the deficit and bankrupt our country — for a program that attempts to pay for itself without adding to the deficit; and then there is the all-inclusive argument, “We are losing our liberty,” to which I can only say, “Get serious.”

Those who buy these arguments are either uninformed or they are easily influenced by the right-wing talk show and Internet jocks. If this group represents a significant proportion of Americans, I fear for the republic. I believe they are a small but vocal faction whose importance is over-amplified by the Internet.

Americans have a basic common sense that is capable of understanding fact from rhetoric. It may take some time, but the basic advantages of universal health care will win the day. That is what the president is banking on. Me too.

Ron Bancroft is an independent strategy consultant based in Portland. He can be contacted at: [email protected]



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