I’ve been wondering recently how well the health reform debate can be freed from the bickering of partisan politics. I’m getting more and more cynical about it, and here’s why: The most apolitical objective research one can conduct is certain to become fuel for the political fire for one side or the other. Granted, the researcher can–and should–remain objective in his or her analysis, unless we count the selection of which questions to investigate as inherently biased–which it may well be. The problem is that the results of research do not make decisions. Rather, decision-makers do and these individuals are typically awash in a sea of politics. Consequently, the decision-maker usually has some idea of what they want to do, and they are looking to the research to confirm their inherent wisdom. When it fails to do so, the problem lies with the research, not the decision-maker, and the results are cast aside. I don’t like this, but I can understand why it happens.
But what about the public? Why are they so quick to discount evidence in favor of things like feelings? Why do people who loudly proclaim their distrust of government look more to politicians for guidance than they do independent research? Is it merely that they distrust those in the government who espouse a different view from their own, while in all matters blindly trusting those who agree with them on some issue? Why, for instance, do people continue to think that President Obama is not a natural-born citizen even after the White House has made two versions of his birth certificate publicly available? That should serve as ample evidence of the man’s origins regardless of whether or not you agree with his policies.
Similarly, how many people do you need to hear say that we already ration health care in this country before you acknowledge that fact? How many well-argued pieces do you need to read to understand that health care doesn’t work like most other goods and services? That health insurance has very real limitations? That the system isn’t fair? Well, according to the results of a recent poll, we might finally be getting somewhere. And yet, there are politicians on both sides of this issue, and the people only seem to be responding to their own economic crises. Perhaps we’re no closer after all, and health reform and politics can never be disentangled.