Anyway, this is the second time I’ve sat through an entire Gingrich speech. Both speeches were political excellent works of craftsmanship. Like Rush Limbaugh, Ronald Reagan and other effective right-wing propagandists, his talk was a powerful mixture of charisma, humor, truth, fiction and omission. Unless you are well schooled in policy, it would be hard for me to see how you wouldn’t come away from his presentation convinced that Gingrich was one wise dude. You’d leave believing he was down-to-earth, imbued with an uncommon degree of common sense, and exactly the kind of man we need to lead this country in a time of challenge.
Of course, all of that would be bullshit of the highest order, but we should watch for him in 2012. Assuming he isn’t caught screwing a staffer, he’s gonna be a factor.
Anyway, I got the chance to ask him a question at the end of his book signing.
Yeah, I know, y’all would have loved it if I asked him about dropping divorce papers on his wife while she was suffering through chemo in a hospital bed. But… that territory has been covered, and the truth is that if I’m going to be doing this very long, I cannot call out every ancient scandal every time I run into a Republican. There are plenty of meaningful questions that need to be asked; I’ll save the personal attacks for when they are relevant. (As an example, I believe that my question to then-Senator Allen, “Have you ever used the word, “n*****”?” in the wake of the Macaca incident was entirely fair and under similar circumstances, I’d ask it again.)
Enough of the navel-gazing. Hopefully I’m not letting y’all down.
So, I asked about health care. In a section of his speech, he trotted out an old conservative criticism of government – that it is a bad manager. To highlight the point, he speaks of the fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. And ya know what? He’s right! Criminal syndicates exist solely to exploit these programs. Unfortunately, our criminal justice system is set up in a way that puts people away for 20 years if they are caught with a coupla baggies of dope, but if you are caught defrauding the government for millions, you may end up at a half-way house for six months. Moreover, if there is anyone responsible for decimating government enforcement and auditing… well, look no further than the Republicans. The Wall Street crooks, coal mine owners, defense contractors, private bankers, chemical and industrial giants, Enron executives and their accountants… well, we’ve seen that they all know the value of owning the cops and the legislators that put the cops on the beat – or, in the Republicans case, takes cops off the beat.
What I wanted to know is why Newt isn’t as angry about fraud and abuse in the Pentagon budget as he is about fraud and abuse in state-provided health care. I mean, both are meant to save American lives, right?
In fact, if the United States can spend hundreds of billions every year on national defense (maintaining our ability to blow things up), why can’t we spend to keep American’s healthy? Where are we going to save more American lives? Isn’t it more cost effective (on a lives saved basis) to vaccinate a child, screen for breast cancer, and treat for mental health disorders than building out Star Wars is?
And I can’t let this go without bringing up a point I made a couple of weeks ago: if we can run a military bureaucracy, there’s no reason we can’t run a health care bureaucracy. I’ve spent four years in the Marines – I, and anyone else who has served, know full well that things aren’t perfect. Likewise, I know things won’t be perfect in a government run health care system… But hell, things positively suck in the privately run health care system we have today.