David Broder writes that President Obama’s quest for rational, evidence-based public policies is likely to be derailed by the tunnel vision of people acting like heat-seeking missiles, pushing and shoving in their single-minded struggles to get what they want:
… [This highly rational, comprehensive approach fits uncomfortably with the Constitution, which apportions power among so many different players, most of whom are far more concerned with the particulars of policy than its overall coherence.
The energy bill that went into the House was a reasonably coherent set of trade-offs that would reduce carbon emissions and help the atmosphere. When it came out, it was a grab bag of subsidies and payoffs to various industries and groups. Now it is stymied by similar forces in the Senate.
Schambra's essay anticipated exactly what is happening on health care. Obama, budget director Peter Orszag and health czar Nancy-Ann DeParle grasp the intricacies of the health-care system as well as any three humans, and they could write a law to make it far more efficient.
But now it is in the hands of legislators and lobbyists who care much less about the rationality of the system than they do about the way the bill will affect their particular part of it.
Everyone has a parochial agenda.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for example, wants to be sure a new cancer treatment center in Nevada has favored status.
(Emphasis and extra paragraphing added.)
Of course, at an individual level this tunnel vision makes perfect sense. Harry Reid knows full well that his chances of reelection hinge more on his being able bring home the bacon than on whether he enacts policies good for the country as a whole. (On a related note, see also this post about a mother whose tunnel vision enabled her to rescue her child from a polar bear.)
One of the very unfortunate elements of all the uproar and divisiveness within the Episcopal church has been how much it resembles the tone, techniques and content of some of this very low level secular debate over various political issues. Much as I despair the way all political discussion has become some kind of Glenn Becked parodized extension of radio/TV extremism, a development that I think has hear fatal consequences for a Republic built on Madisonian faith in the intelligence of leaders and the citizens, I really get the blues when I see how precisely it morphs into the halls of the church.
The President hardly has a chance to prevail with a reasoned, empirical explanation of the complexities of the health care issues we face if the opposition is built on buzz words and scare tactics. It is a horrendously complex policy issue that requires great mental discipline and knowledge to address meaningfully. It requires virtually no investment to trash it out.
Posted by: NoVA Scout | September 26, 2009 at 06:11 AM