November 9, 2013

Yesterday Smut, my black lab, asked me why people are arguing about Obamacare. “Smut,” I replied, “you’re a dog. It’s a complicated issue that you might not understand.”

We had just finished a long walk in the fields behind my house. Smut had donned his smoking jacket and was relaxing in his favorite easy chair, an unlit cigar in one paw, and an empty glass in another, clearly signaling that he wanted me to pour him a shot of Scotch whisky and give him a light.



After I had, with mild disgust, reinforced his bad habits, he crossed his hind legs, leaned back in the chair, puffed his cigar and took a sip of the whisky. “I am a dog,” he said, “and the subject may be complicated, but don’t forget that you’ve often depended on me to set you straight when you’ve been faced with a sticky problem for which you couldn’t find a solution. So humor me and answer my question, please.” It’s not easy living with a precocious dog.

“Well, Smut, it’s like this,” I told him. “Congress, both houses of which were controlled by the Democratic Party, passed a healthcare act in 2010 that contains over 11,000 pages that would create a stack of paper 3 feet tall. No one in Congress read it before voting on it. The Senate vote was held by the Senate leadership prematurely Christmas Eve 2009 in order to give the opposing party little notice or time to mount substantial opposition. The House then concurred in 2010, after the Speaker said that the House needed to pass the bill so they could know what was in it, and then the president signed the bill into law. The major provisions of the law take effect in 2014.”

“That seems to have been a rather sneaky way to pass a law,” Smut observed. “What is the objection to it?”

“Well, for one thing, it appears that health care for most middle-class Americans under the AFA will cost more than under the old system, which was really expensive. Another objection is that anyone who is eligible for coverage under AFA must sign up or pay a penalty. And it was promised that anyone who wanted to do so could keep the coverage that they had prior to AFA, but it turns out that was a false promise made in order to get support for the law.”

“Why does it have to be so complicated?” Smut asked. “Can’t people just go to their vets, I mean, doctors, and get treated? What’s so complicated about that?”

“Treatment is expensive and people have to buy insurance to be able to pay for treatment. And the insurance is very expensive. So the politicians said they would create a system in which the insurance would be cheaper and everyone could afford health care. But as the government always does when it gets involved in anything, it created a system that is so complex and with so many regulations, that the effect is opposite what was intended,” I stated, proud of my ability to explain the situation.

“Is it opposite what was intended?” Smut asked, with a smug look on his face.

“What do you mean, dog?” I asked, not quite understanding what he was getting at.

He uncrossed his hind legs, took a long sip of whisky, and leaned forward in the chair. “Did the politicians really intend to create a law that would benefit you, or did they intend to create another government bureaucracy in which they could give jobs to their friends, and extend more government control over your life?”

“Smut,” I replied, “they couldn’t really be so evil as to do that!”

“That’s what they do whenever they pass such a program into law,” he remarked laconically. With a smirk on his face, he settled back once again in his chair, drained the whisky from the glass, and took a long, slow puff of his cigar and slowly exhaled, generating a cloud of smoke that glowed from the light cast on it by the lamp on the end table next to his chair.

With the shock of sudden realization, I knew the old dog was right.

“Don’t ask me anymore questions, Smut,” I said. “You already know the answers to them.”