As the L.A. Times reported over the weekend, Congressional Democrats are talking about what seems to be the only way to ensure passage, at least through the Senate. That is passing the bill through what is known as reconciliation( i.e., requiring 51 and not 60 votes for passage).
Democrats hope to use a process known as budget reconciliation, which allows budget-related legislation to be passed with a simple majority in the Senate rather than the 60-vote majority that has become necessary given the threat of Republican filibuster.
But many House Democrats do not want to vote on the Senate bill until the Senate passes the fixes they want.
And it is unclear whether the Senate could approve a package of changes to its bill before the House approves the underlying legislation, according to senior Democratic aides. Democratic leaders hope to agree on a procedural path forward by the end of this week.
Despite the hurdles, there is a growing consensus that a modified Senate bill may offer the best hope for enacting a healthcare overhaul.
However, it's going to be awhile before we see this happen. Certainly, nothing this month, perhaps not until April. But most Democrats know that some form of legislation on health care they believe is essential, before they go back before the voters this year to discuss what they've been up to since 2008.
And that brings me to today's column written by the always provocative David Brooks of the New York Times . In his piece, labeled "The Geezers Crusade", the columnist revels in new studies that show how people get better with age. Brooks writes:
People are most unhappy in middle age and report being happier as they get older. This could be because as people age they pay less attention to negative emotional stimuli, according to a study by the psychologists Mara Mather, Turhan Canli and others.
Gender roles begin to merge. Many women get more assertive while many men get more emotionally attuned. Personalities often become more vivid as people become more of what they already are. Norma Haan of the University of California, Berkeley, and others conducted a 50-year follow-up of people who had been studied while young and concluded that the subjects had become more outgoing, self-confident and warm with age.
The research paints a comforting picture. And the nicest part is that virtue is rewarded. One of the keys to healthy aging is what George Vaillant of Harvard calls generativity providing for future generations. Seniors who perform service for the young have more positive lives and better marriages than those who dont. As Vaillant writes in his book Aging Well, Biology flows downhill. We are naturally inclined to serve those who come after and thrive when performing that role.
As somebody who will turn 47 in a few weeks, I embrace this data that beckons well for all of our futures. But Brooks has indulged in perhaps a wee bit too much optimism here, when he says because of our broken down political system (no argument here), the only group that can save us in terms of making the hard financial choices in the future are.....the elderly. He concludes:
Spontaneous social movements can make the unthinkable thinkable, and they can do it quickly. It now seems clear that the only way the U.S. is going to avoid an economic crisis is if the oldsters take it upon themselves to arise and force change. The young lack the political power. Only the old can lead a generativity revolution millions of people demanding changes in health care spending and the retirement age to make life better for their grandchildren.
It may seem unrealistic to expect a generation to organize around the cause of nonselfishness. But in the private sphere, you see it every day. Old people now have the time, the energy and, with the Internet, the tools to organize.
The elderly. They are our future.
Earth to David Brooks. Did you see who was at those town hall meetings last summer creating a ruckus? In many cases, it was our seniors, absolutely terrified that the government was "going to take away their Medicare." Now, perhaps they were right to criticize the health care proposals, in particular the one House health care bill that raised objections last August (though the phrase "death panels" seems to have been highly manipulative and outright false).
Polls show that no single larger demographic is opposed to the calls to reform our health care system then seniors. They also are one of the loudest groups to protest any serious discussion on Social Security reform, at least as it has been presented in the past.
Maybe I'm taking Brooks too seriously here. When he writes about the elderly leading the way, he's talking about civil minded people who are engaged in following government affairs, and want to contribute to the dialogue.
I'm not really sure what he means. I do think he's a serious thinker, and it's easy to criticize somebody else's column (or anything) without offering a solution. But why the old, and not the young? The young will be our leaders (obviously) in the future, and there are so many who are actively engaged in their communities and social and political affairs. They have to be our solution, our salvation, as it were. So many were brought into the political process for the first time during the Obama campaign.
True, some of those folks that I've spoken with are a bit disaffected. But so many others are truly engaged. And it's their lives that will be deleteriously affected by crippling deficits, and shortfalls in Medicare and Social Security funding, not the people who are relying on those entitlements right now.