April 9, 1865, marked the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. It followed the four most divisive years in American history. People expected President Lincoln to give a victory speech. Instead, he shocked everyone by delivering a somber call for re-unification. His inaugural speech a month later “With malice toward none, with charity toward all,” echoed his original sentiments.
I believe we find ourselves in a similar moment in time. We are in the midst of a fundamental debate over the future of our nation. Some feel we are better served by a strong central government that plays a daily role in our lives. Others feel the central government has gone too far; injecting itself too deeply in our everyday lives. In this context, I’d like to address the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “ObamaCare.”
Prior to the law’s passage, we were in a mess. Our health care delivery system had become far too expense for too little result. Americans who could afford health insurance were paying for those who could not or worse yet, would not. Something had to give. The election of 2008 marked the beginning of our current “war.” Candidate Barack Obama advocated expanding the social safety net to include health coverage for all Americans. His opponent John McCain opposed so-called “universal care” in favor of tax credits to help families pay for their own private health care choices. The fundamental truth is – neither approach solves the problem.
My personal belief is that we have to make a choice: The government can extend a baseline of care for every American (as it already does for millions through Medicaid) and expand it to provide free or reduced preventative care (which could keep us healthier, longer). However, the government cannot provide a baseline of preventative care, AND unlimited chronic or end of life care. Statistics show 18 to 20 percent of Americans spend their last days in a hospital’s intensive care unit, at roughly $10,000 per day – not saving their life, but extending it – for a few more days. Believe me, I want every last day I can get too, but I also want an Infiniti – but I don’t expect the government to buy it for me.
Here’s my point. I give President Obama credit for doing “something.” However, like many Presidents before him, he resorted to the tried and true tactic of bait and switch (mandate vs. tax) to get it done.
In 1864, President Lincoln had a choice. Many were encouraging him to delay the November elections until after the war; an election he could have very well lost. Lincoln refused. In his second inaugural address, he said “Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good – Let us therefore study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.”
President Lincoln faced the music, and won re-election. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, we know that ObamaCare comes – not with a mandate – but a tax. A tax on a small percentage of Americans who could afford health care, but have till now, relied on insured Americans and other taxpayers to foot the bill for them.
On Election Day Nov.6, President Obama, like Lincoln, and every President before and since, will face the consequences of his actions. Until then, let’s hope for a more honest and civil debate.
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