Did you know AIG got $79 billion? There’s also our friends at Goldman. This got me thinking—some would argue that it in itself is noteworthy. There’s a reason nobody shed tears for these guys, and that is the average person has no connection to them other than what they hear on the evening news. We never got a car loan or a mortgage from them, so when they were dangling over the precipice we wouldn’t have lost any sleep had they been allowed to fail. Unfortunately, the reports of their death were greatly exaggerated.
American poet John Godfrey Saxe based the poem The Blind Men and the Elephant on a fable told in India many years ago. The poem is about blind men trying to describe the elephant solely on what they are able to feel. As they are all feeling a different part, they each think the elephant is something different from what it is and from what the other believes.
It feels like the reform effort involves an equally obtuse process—dozens of people in separate rooms, each with their own pad of paper and box of Crayolas. When they finished creating their vision of reform, the person with the biggest office stapled all the pages together with the big red stapler like the one they used in the movie Office Space.
Here’s how this all ties together—don’t blink or you may miss it. People weren’t vocal about AIG and Goldman because we weren’t connected, because it wasn’t personal. The opposite is true about healthcare reform. We are connected. It is personal. This is what Washington doesn’t get. If they don’t demonstrate that they get it, it will fail.
Nancy Pelosi has been the poster child for the reform effort. Her unfavorable ratings are at two to one. Sixty percent of Americans, also known as voters, are against the reform. I’d wager that nearly one hundred percent of those people have insurance, and rightly or wrongly, they believe that reform will take that from them. There is a small but important distinction here. They are not against reform per se; they are against the reform as is being discussed. Moreover, the snowball rolling down hill that Washington–and most of the east coast–can’t stop is that nobody can accurately describe what it is they’re against.
How can the average person know if reform will work? If reform can’t be explained clearly on a single page, Washington will lose the voter–they have. The opponents of reform had their message down to a page; the one bullet point is “change the bill.”