Yes, there is a Santa ClausWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently watched a compilation episode of the public television series “Antiques Roadshow” in which the original letter that Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the editor of the New York Sun in 1897 was displayed, along with a faded copy of the famous printed response penned by Francis Pharcellus Church. I couldn’t help but think of it when watching the recent antics in the Senate over health care.
For it was obvious that Santa Claus was alive and well, and handing out presents to good little Senators in order to secure their votes.
The senators from Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming got increases in their Medicare payments for their states. Iowa got some increases in payments to low-volume hospitals, much to the delight of Senate chairman of the health committee Tom Harkin. Vermont and Massachusetts instead got a “healthy” increase in Medicaid presents from the federal government as their present. Vermont also got another nice present in the form of a provision to use $10 billion to expand community health centers across the country, with at least two of these going into Vermont.
Sen. Dodd of Connecticut seems to have found $100 million under his tree for construction of a university hospital in his home state. New York, Pennsylvania and Florida found a nicely wrapped package of Medicare Advantage beneficiary protection, at a time when other states across the country are facing cuts. Michigan got an exemption for nonprofit health care insurers in their states (at this rate, won’t all of them be nonprofit?) from the $7 billion tax that becomes law with the passage of this health care legislation. And, of course, we’ve all heard about the package of more than $100 million Nebraska can put under its tree if this legislation passes come Christmas Eve, a sum bettered only by the $300 million under the tree of Louisiana on the House side.
Handing out presents in the Senate and House has been going on for some time in this country, and such gift giving is seldom restricted to Christmas. And much as many Republicans would hate to admit it, neither is it restricted to the Democratic Party. Few if any Republicans can say that their hands are clean, and the most honest of them admit that there is a history of bipartisan generosity by our legislators that appears to know no bounds, including that of our ability to pay for it.
We need not admire the apparent greed with which our Senators beg (and even demand) such presents. There is little praise merited by the squalling done by these spoiled children to gain their support, whether you want the health care bill to pass or not. Neither is there commendation due as these supposedly grand politicians take a “principled stand” before their fellows (and any available microphone) to “vote their conscience,” only to later sell it rather quickly to the highest bidder. We are told that such behavior is simply a senator fighting for his state and constituents, but it appears that this noble battle can only be ended by blackening the eye of every other state.
I won’t attempt to argue the case for or against the health care legislation on the table here, as by the time that this is published this stage of the debate will be over one way or another. I will continue to argue against the process going on these days; however, as partisan politics embraces an inherent greed in politicians in a mad dance on the backs of the taxpayers.
I would like to say that we can’t help but admire the Christmas spirit of our legislators, for like the reformed character of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” they appear to be able to keep the spirit of Christmas every day of the year in their distribution of gifts. Like the jolly old man with the white beard (Santa Claus, not Uncle Sam), they seem incapable of doing little other than handing out brightly wrapped legislation to the anxious children on both sides of the aisle.
So yes, there is a Santa Claus. He is not, however, the joyous gift giver of legend that we have come to know, but apparently a cynical, self-serving fat cat who extracts a Faustian bargain for each package delivered. The gifts under this tree may be brightly wrapped, but there may yet be a terrible price to be paid for them.
But have no fear this Christmas, for yes, Virginia (and Vermont, New York, Michigan and Nebraska), there is a Santa Claus.
Tim Higgins blogs at http://justblow ingsmoke.blogspot.com/.