Lions and Tigers and Health Care! Oh My!

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, played by the incredible Judy Garland, and the Scarecrow, and Tin Woodsman are making their way along the Yellow Brick Road through dense forests. In those forests, they imagine all sorts of horrors and chant to themselves, “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

Then they meet a lion, and he fails to meet their horrific expectations. In fact, he becomes a beloved member of their little family and helps save Dorothy from the Wicked Witch.

This morning after health care reform passed in the House of Representatives, I find myself wondering if all those who are wringing their hands in concern and predicting doom and gloom aren’t worrying about lions and tigers and bears. Oh my.

I’m a big fan of Dwight Eisenhower’s — I’ve written a book about him called Lead Like Ike: Ten Business Strategies from the CEO of D-Day. And some of his presidential experience strikes me as pertinent to the current political climate of America.

Ike is the last Republican president to balance the federal budget. And yet, when Republicans and conservatives are touting their heroes, does Ike’s name come up? No. You’re much more likely to hear about Ronald Reagan, who managed to double the national debt.

There’s another reason Republicans and conservatives aren’t big fans of Ike’s — he championed the single largest and most successful public works program in the history of the United States: the Interstate Highway System. That’s right, a Republican drove the creation of the largest federal/state job program in all of history. A Republican intervened in the local economies of small towns nationwide — the most pervasive and long-lasting stimulus program ever enacted by the Federal government.

The highway system’s initial build lasted thirty-five years, and with ongoing maintenance, refurbishing of existing roadways, and building new highways, the system is still an active public works program in the twenty-first century, creating employment and gigantic, beneficial ripple effects throughout the American economy.

But, because all of this was and is federal largesse, the folks who hate big government don’t like to mention it or the man behind this incredible success.

Where’s the connection to health care reform? I quickly surveyed a number of news sources this morning (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, and MSNBC) and they all seem to agree that the reform bill that passed late last night will be a boon to insurance companies and healthcare providers. More insurance customers, and more patients. In other words more money.

Another boon: Since more people will be covered, the general quality of America’s health could improve, which might well lead to a drop in total health spending, saving the country money.

And finally, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — which makes the official judgments on how much bills cost and save — says reform will cut the deficit by more than a trillion dollars over 20 years. Yeah, but how reliable is the CBO, anyway? “I consider CBO God around here,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, said.

So the Obama administration has pushed reform that will benefit patients, insurance companies, healthcare providers, and save the country a trillion dollars. What’s not to like? It requires Federal intervention — that’s what. Nevermind that it will work, it’s the philosophy of the thing.

But President Obama shouldn’t worry. His distant Republican predeccessor, President Eisenhower, doesn’t get any credit from his own party for the stunning positive impact of the Interstate Highway System.

The folks on the Republican and conservative side of the spectrum are still worried about federal lions and tigers and bears. Oh my.

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