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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
Is There Only One True Progressive?

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

Against "Government-Run" Health Care


There is a theme, a mantra you will hear regularly expressed by those who oppose President Barack Obama's push to overhaul the national's health care system: their all-out resistance to any "government-run" health plan.

This past week on the Senate floor, when not a lot of press people were paying close attention, Democrat Sherrod Brown, the first-term U.S. senator from Ohio, took on those who denounce any and all "government-run" care plans. Brown's remarks probably did not make him many new friends in the Senate, but he made a lot of sense.

Here is what Brown, a longtime supporter of the federal government's making certain that every citizen has access to health care coverage, had to say: "I am always surprised when I hear my colleagues, first of all, almost all of whom are on the government health insurance plan, talking about the government not providing a decent health care plan."

He may have violated the unwritten rules of the Senate when he went on to point out that "most of my colleagues are on the government health insurance plan paid for by taxpayers ... ."

Brown, you see, from the first time he ran successfully for the House of Representatives in 1992, has declined to accept the first-class health insurance coverage available to all the members of Congress and generously underwritten by the nation's citizens. His reasoning was and remains very simple: He would not take the congressional health plan until every Ohioan has health care coverage.

That has meant that for the last 16 years, Brown has paid out of his own pocket for his health insurance. No plaster saint, he minimizes his own burden: "I have been lucky and been healthy, and because I get paid a very good salary here in Congress, I have been able to buy a plan with a high deductible."

But it is fascinating to see the very same senators and House members who lambaste "government-run" health care in congressional debate then walk just a few steps to the attending physician's office in the Capitol to have their ache or pain examined.

Oh, yes, that accessible and helpful Capitol physician is also part of a "government-run" operation.

All of this came to mind on Thursday listening to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at a reporters' breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. He was asked about President Obama's repeated insistence that he wanted any health care reform to be bipartisan, preferably winning the support of 70 U.S. senators. But, unlike 1994, when the Clinton White House — where Emanuel was working — rejected, much to its eternal regret, the inspired compromise of Rhode Island Republican Sen. John Chaffee (which would have won the backing of at least 30 GOP senators and would have meant Clinton's securing nearly 90 percent of what he had proposed), the Republican Party — like the U.S. economy — is in its worst shape since the 1930s.

After absorbing two consecutive national election defeats — without modifying either their positions or their message after either defeat — Republicans in 2009, unlike in 1994, are not players in the health care debate. They are passive, negative onlookers. As Emanuel commented, there are no John Chaffees today — "the Republican Party doesn't have that voice anymore."

The time could be fast approaching when the olive branch of bipartisanship is withdrawn, and instead, the tough political case is made to congressional critics of all health care reform: If you don't like "government-run" health care plans, why are you letting the taxpayers provide you and your family with one that's gold-plated?

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




5 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... The republicans may be down, but they are not out... And because no one has troubled to round them up, and send them to re-education camps they are still around to pollute the pure waters of intelligent debate.... In this they have an ally and aid and comfort in the meaness of this people... If we have it we wish to deny it... If we want it we wish to make it exclusive... The idea that some one might need health insurance because of moral turpitude makes us want them all the more to suffer...We blame the victims, and we will not stand before God's just punishment of the wicked... We will not follow God down the street like Abraham, trying to bargain for the lives in Sodom and Gomorrah...Give us a moment, and look away, and we will torch it ourselves... Never mind that public health is a public issue...Never mind that those denied health care when they need it only have another grudge to hold dear against the rich and the powerful, and all of us...Never mind that the diseases the poor contract can spread wholesale through the population...We are not so rational as we make out, and the republicans and their bosses know this, and they can make the population fearful, and hateful all at once... How we got so vengeful as a people I cannot say...I have my suspicians, but the point is that you cannot count on Americans to behave as human beings so long as some one with a banana is encouraging them to act like apes... I will accept the good my neighbor knows if it will do me some good... The cost is the same, but the danger is so much less with a single payer system...A health care system that works is what is needed... A bad case of swine flu is enough convince anyone of the need for a good pubic health care system... What if it becomes a route??? What if swine flu cleans our clock??? Sure; it wil be good for business...There will be enough of resources for a time....But what if it is your parents, or your child, or your husband or wife that dies because your government cannot govern, but lets itself be swayed by the worst strains in our collective character??? Is it being swayed, or is it encouragng the general fear of change??? A good public health care system is sorely needed... The rich have built up huge fortunes on the misery and illness of the people...It is time for them to disgorge their wealth, and if that means that they will have no better care than the poorest -I know they will bring up the average...Mr. Shields; as you make clear, the health care of our so called leaders is great, but it is an impediment to a good health care system for all...If they had no better care than average they would improve the average...Having the best, they have no incentive to improve anything... They think they are getting what they deserve... We all deserve as good...We do not elect these people to be kings, but to keep us up, defend our rights, and improve our society... While they have theirs we will never have ours...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Jun 27, 2009 5:37 AM
Make the war mongers do the actual fighting, make those government leeches who oppose sharing their healthcare with the rest of the nation try paying for it like the rest of us, take those who oppose welfare off of welfare. Seems so one-plus-one-equals-two simple, but somehow those purveyors of hyppocracy keep on racking up the sales. When are folks going to wake up?
Comment: #2
Posted by: Masako
Sat Jun 27, 2009 8:28 AM
Re: Masako;...Everyone has to be responsibile for their own alarm clock... Worry about your self...We can all smell the coffee or the crap as the case may be... There is enough rightious indignation on both sides to roast weenies over....Stop cooperating... Drag your feet...Make a point of expressing your opinion... If you do not like it make a stink over it... That is what we all have to do; and then change will wait only on a simple trigger... Some big breakdown will make it obvious that the government cannot function...It only functions now with our cooperation... So quit... Disenchant yourself....Disenthrall your self...Be patient... If the government can do no good, it is not worth keeping, so it will fall...Don't ask when...Know it is certain...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Jun 28, 2009 9:06 PM
I did not know that Senator Brown from Ohio does not accept the Cadillac health plan for Congress. Finally, a member of Congress whose actions speaks volumes. Quite simply, begin the process of addressing the health care crisis in America and you will start the process of putting our economic house in order. Those who obstruct health care reform for political gain will be seen by the enlightened public for the calculating and partisan hacks that they are. The window is rapidly closing for meaningful reform-let us see if our leaders have the courage and will to make something happen.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Jeff Beall
Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:15 AM
Mr. Shields fails to disclose that the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, like other employer plans, is administered by private insurance companies competing against each other. He also fails to point out:
* the cost shifting that occurs due to the inadequate reimbursement rates of existing government payors, resulting in ever increasing premiums.
* the composition of the often cited 46 million uninsured, roughly two thirds of which consists of people already eligible for a government run program, people making in excess of $75,000 wgi elect not to purchase coverage, and the illegal aliens. These numbers are easiily verifiable and available on the CBO.
The system is in need of help, but let's be honest.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Chad
Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:06 PM
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