A president may fancy that he has a mandate (and, morally, he may well have one), but the two separately elected, differently constituted, independent legilatures whose acquiescence he needs are under no compulsion to agree. Within those legilatures, a system of overlapping committees dominated by powerful chairmen creates a plethora of veto points where well-organized special interest can smother or distort a bill meant to benefit a large but amorphous public. In the smaller of the two legislatures - which is even more heavily weighted toward conservative rural interests than is the larger one, and where one member may represent as little as one-seventieth as many people as the member in the next seat - an arcane and patently unconstitutional rule, the filibuster, allows a minority of members to block almost any action. The process that results is less like the Roman Senate than like the Roman Games: a sanguinary legislative Colosseum where at any moment some two-bit emperor is apt to signal the thumbs-down.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Why health care reform is paralyzed...
In the Aug. 3 issue of the New Yorker, Hertzberg writes a concise and lucid description of why we are the only wealthy democracy on this planet that has failed to get either universal health care or some form of guaranteed health insurance. Other democracies can actually make democratic decisions, we appear to be unable to: