A Champagne Toast to Your Health

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In June it was my turn to host the monthly meeting of the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club. How was I to know it would fall on the very day of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act?

You won’t be surprised to learn that the news made my day. I thought about serving celebratory champagne at the meeting but decided to hold off until November. I figured that the act’s constitutionality would only fuel the vitriol from the Right, and the coming months would see a fiercely fought campaign. So hold off on the champagne until after the election.

That evening other members of the NBWDC felt differently. Contributions to our potluck party included champagne and a large sheet cake, embellished with congratulations to the President.

It was a good call, I realized. Sitting in the garden, toasting the courage of Obama and the Democrats who had fought for this bill, it felt good to know that the country had, at last, joined the rest of the Western developed world to mandate better health care for its people.

So, hell yes, we celebrated this victory, though we did it privately, without yahooing it all over those who feel differently about the decision.

And while our mood was ebullient, there was also a more reflective aspect in play: As with many pivotal moments in life – the graduations and weddings so much a part of this time of the year, for example — after the bubbles have popped and the cake has found its way to our hips, come the mundane concerns of job hunting and building a marriage.

Or implementing the Affordable Care Act.

I have little patience with the subsequent Monday-morning quarterbacking over whether the act is indeed a tax – more on that in a moment. What’s important is that many more Americans will have access to decent health care. Will the transition be messy and inefficient? Of course it will. It’s a massive act, as was the transformative Education Act (Title IX became part of it) signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1972. That act has required years of adjudication and fine-tuning. Why would we expect the Affordable Care Act to be any different? So I applaud the president and the Democrats who worked with him for taking the moral high road – for that’s what it is – toward improved health care for the people of this country. It is a beginning.

As for the GOP, where was its concern for improving health care in this country? It hasn’t been a priority since the time of Nixon, and I say for shame.

The party’s protests of the Democrats’ fiscal irresponsibility don’t move me here, given its own propensity for waging irrational and costly wars and its co-dependence with corporate malfeasants. Do the math and tend first to your own extravagances, GOP. I respectfully remind the party that has, in my opinion, attempted to co-opt God, that this is Biblical: Matthew 7:5 (English Standard Version:) “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

The timing of the Supreme Court decision, coming days before the Fourth of July holiday, reminds me that only with the passage of time do we see our country’s seminal moments as “perfect.”

The Declaration of Independence was another audacious document. Yet it, too, was only a beginning; as such, it was imperfect. The subsequent loose confederation of states formed may have freed itself from George III’s taxation – which, incidentally, was but one of the signers’ many complaints against the king – but a few short years later, the (tea) party was over.

The Confederation was falling apart. In 1783 George Washington had managed to avert a military rebellion over the Continental Congress’s neglect of the soldiers’ pay, provisions, and promised pensions. By 1787, it was clear to the political leaders of the 13 very independent states that a new form of government was essential to the young nation’s survival.

The Constitution that emerged out of Philadelphia was a masterpiece of compromise. It provided for a national government that proved able to keep the young nation solvent and defensible. Its Preamble still thrills: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Noble though it was, the Constitution, too, was imperfect. It lacked a bill of rights. It begged the issue of slavery. It ignored the enfranchisement of women. Over time, those imperfections were addressed. But from the get-go, it empowered Congress to levy the “t” word: taxes.

In 2012, we still strive to form “a more perfect union.” We’re not there yet, but, as the Founding Fathers did, let us work on it together. The Affordable Care Act is a step in that direction.

Champagne, I say!

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  1. My stepfather forwarded a copy of this article to me. He and I differ in our political opinions but he respects my “left of center” point of view and he knew I would enjoy it (we often have healthy debate over my love of our current POTUS). Great writing!