Despite the altruistic rhetoric about security and shared sacrifice, the debate over healthcare reform has disintegrated into petty politics.
In a combative campaign year, the talk likely will grow uglier. America will not be better off in a debate that ignores quality and patient-care issues while focusing on cost-containment, access and taxes. This showdown is about dollars and has little to do with sense.
All gloves are off, for example, when House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sam Gibbons (D-Fla.) accuses the hospital lobby of "scaring the American people" to protect the industry's bottom line.
Or how about our fiery President Bill Clinton? He is pleading with the American people not to let fear-mongers (meaning Republicans) "frighten the United States Congress into walking away from the opportunity of a lifetime."
One such Republican (obstructionist?), Sen. Bob Dole, the minority leader from Kansas, said, "If they want to pass a bad bill this year, then I think we will say no bill is better."
Then there's that crackerjack cynic Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who wants to know what the Clinton administration is so afraid of that it can't wait until next year for a bill to pass.
And how about the influential (demagogue?) Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who continues to press for government healthcare aid for auto workers and executives who have taken (been forced into?) early retirement? As Mr. Dingell will tell you: What's good for General Motors Corp. is good for America. But has he seen that recent spate of robust earnings statements from the Big Three? Let GM pay for its own early retirees, while Congress sticks to insurance market reforms in 1994.