Reporter's Note: The Senate now plans to vote on approving its version of health care reform on Christmas Eve. Nothing says Christmas quite like a steaming bowl of lawmaking, eh? So like a captured solider on a forced march I continue trying to follow it all, and writing my daily letters to the White House.
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Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
A group of friends and I went golfing once, and this guy Craig said, “Hey, let’s put some money on the game to make it interesting.” Not being a regular or particularly skilled golfer, my immediate response was, “My tee shot just sliced over two fairways and knocked out the beer cart girl. Don’t you think that’s interesting enough?”
Apparently it wasn’t, because we all agreed that a side wager would be fun. So then Kevin, who golfed all the time chimed in. “OK, let’s keep it simple. We’ll go with a Manhattan Low, over-under split bet on the even holes, with the best putts trumping the best drives for triple backpays on the odd holes. Bogeys are a buck. Fair enough?” We all stared at him in dumb wonder and asked for a more complete explanation. Five minutes later as he continued to make the little abacus in my head clatter uncontrollably, I interrupted. “How about this, Kev; let’s just play and when we’re done, tell us how much we owe you.”
That’s pretty much how I feel about health care reform now. Trying to figure out what a final deal is going to look like, and who is going to vote for it, and whether it will pass, and how much it is going to cost whom and when, and what might we be overlooking in the whole equation, is exhausting. The trapezists in Cirque du Soleil spend less time calculating angles and timing. The effort is sapping my will and robbing me of sleep.
My health care concerns wills soon be at and end, because I am slipping into a fatal ennui of the type that takes down so many heroic characters in Russian novels. (If reading aloud, please insert a giant sigh here.)
It’s not like I don’t care about the concept anymore, or that I’ve just given up. It’s more like, I find myself saying too many times on too many days, “If I’m spending endless hours reading this stuff, studying analyses, talking to experts, and grinding through the language of the actual bills and I can’t grasp it, what is a normal voter supposed to do?” Granted, plenty of normal voters are much smarter than I am, and perhaps they are consuming the finer points of the debate as easily as peeled grapes. Maybe in their blessed land, health care reform is no more complicated than an Etch-A-Sketch. But not in mine.
Here’s what I’d love to see. Give me a great on-line calculator, calibrated for the language of this proposal in all its various forms. Let me plug in the numbers of my life, then give me a price tag and a read out of what I’ll get for that money; plain and simple. Then put next to it what I am paying now and likely will pay in years to come.
Show me clearly how my fellow citizens will fare. And leave all the political sales jobs at home. That’s really the only way I know to honestly decide if a deal is good. And if you did that, and the numbers ran as true as your fellow Dems say they will, I suspect your sales job on this legislation would get a lot easier…and I would start sleeping nights again.
Call if you can, and don’t worry about the hour. I’ll be up studying.
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