The big political news this week was President Obama's Health Care Summit, in which he invited members of the Republican Party to a televised debate in order to present their ideas for health care reform.
It was a pretty bold move; and put the Republicans firmly on the spot by demanding they actually present ideas, rather than simply snark and snipe and attack the bill that the Democrats have presented.
Televising it was also a daring move by Obama; as what the Republicans came up with would be broadcast for the world to see in stark relief; instead of being filtered through the protective spin of Fox News or Conservative Talk Radio.
I didn't get to see much of it (as some of us have copy to write.)
However, I did catch the highlights and I'll admit that President Obama was magnificent; cutting several people down to size (reminding Senator John McCain that 'the campaign is over') whilst also acting with class and dignity by acknowledging legitimate points the Republicans raised (a capitulation that left that same Senator, John McCain, speechless with confused and angry pride at one point.)
Ultimately, though, I can understand the Republican's frustration with the summit. The Democrats made one point abundantly clear - they weren't going to scrap their 2,700 page Health Care Reform Bill and start from scratch, with a true bipartisan approach.
While you can understand the Dems taking that position - which would drag reform out for months - it kind of soured the spirit of bipartisanship.
On the other hand, the Republicans are fighting a losing battle by claiming that the government should butt out of health care. Last year, average health insurance premiums rose by 25% at my company - yet the health insurance companies had the audacity to reduce the amount of coverage that insurance offered and reported record annual profits.
It's disgusting. I'm all for making a profit; but not when it involves denying people access to health care.
What really rankles me is the fact that the United States government already pours billions into providing health care for the population; enough per head of population to finance a National Health Service like the Brits have without raising taxes a dime.
The American tax payer is already paying more than France does to provide the best health care system in the world. The fact that Americans are then expected to pay between 40% and 90% more than that out of our own pockets is just wrong.
When it comes to politics, I do tend to lean slightly the right of center. I believe in certain Republican principles (or, at least, the ones they pay lip service to) like fiscal responsibility.
Therefore I want to know why Republicans think it's remotely acceptable or defensible that Americans already pay so much more for health care than the rest of the world.
Sadly, the only solutions provided for 'improving' our system seem to be a trillion dollar spending program by the Democrats, or the Republican preference for maintaining a system that sees even basic health care coverage rapidly being priced out of the range of most middle class American families.
The truth is, I think America will have a European-style, single-payer health care system within a decade - no matter what either side do.
The current system is making so many more and more people reliant on public funds - either in the form of 'free' health care coverage, or subsidized health insurance - that in a few years so many people are going to be on government-funded health care programs that we'll have a de facto 'socialized medicine' program in this country even if nobody ever sat down and voted for it.
(One would imagine that the health insurance companies would realize that hiking rates and dropping coverage would eventually eliminate their potential customer base - but one would also have imagined that the American auto manufacturers would have realized the same about churning out gas guzzling SUVs and pick up trucks. The fact is, private business is so short sighted in modern, corporate America, that it's literally eating itself alive - and seems totally oblivious to that fact!)