Healthcare Reform: The Left’s Running Sore
Year two of the Obama administration began with the president riding high, at least among his supporters, for having managed to somehow ram a healthcare bill through congress as 2009 drew to a close. The president signed the landmark bill into law on March 23, but that was hardly the end of the issue. Indeed, passage of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” seemed to be merely the end of the beginning. Multiple states filed suit to challenge provisions of the Act , with the mandate to purchase insurance being the most popular target. Republicans made plans to neutralize “healthcare reform” and the massive projected costs of the healthcare bill further invigorated the resolve of the increasingly important Tea Party Movement.
Thus, neither the president nor his party have been able to truly cross “healthcare reform” off of their “to do” lists. Instead, what would come to be known by critics as “Obamacare” became a symbol of big government largesse in 2010, serving as a rallying point for everyone who believes this administration is mortgaging our children’s and grandchildren’s futures in hopes of achieving a socialist, nanny-state nirvana. With the economy stuck in the mud throughout the year and the utter failure of stimulus spending to create the jobs Obama promised it would, Democrats would pay a heavy political price for running up the national credit card bill, but that part of the 2010 story comes a bit later.
Tragedy in the Caribbean
On January 12 a massive earthquake, measuring 7.0 on the Richter Scale, struck Haiti with an epicenter just a few miles from the nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince. The devastation was horrific. Over 200,000 Haitians were killed, hundreds of thousands more were injured and perhaps a million people were left homeless after the collapse of hundreds of thousands of poorly built buildings.
Relief efforts were initially hampered by nearly non-existent infrastructure in the poverty-stricken nation, as well as the corruption and weakness of its government. As a result, chaos reigned in Haiti for the first few weeks after the earthquake struck and the world looked on in horror. Billions were raised for Haitian relief, President Obama called upon former Presidents Clinton and Bush to head up fund-raising efforts in the United States and America’s military might was dispatched to help restore some semblance of order and distribute supplies. Almost a year after the earthquake ripped the heart out of Port-au-Prince, things are marginally better, but the outlook can hardly be described as hopeful. Cholera is rampant and, according the Haitian government, about ninety eight percent of the people who lost their residences on January 12 remain homeless.
Victory For Freedom of Speech
To the horror of the left and the delight of the right, the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act on January 21. “If the First Amendment has any force,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority, “it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” The decision removed bans on corporate spending for political campaigns that McCain-Feingold had imposed. By overturning the ill-conceived finance reform bill, conservatives said the court redressed an imbalance whereby well-healed left-leaning organizations like big unions were allowed to donate lavish amounts to candidates of their choice, while corporation were denied their first amendment rights to do the same.
On the other hand, the left’s frenzied, appalled reaction featured a level of hyperbole and hysteria that was truly remarkable, even for them. MSNBC’s ever-frenetic Keith Olbermann thundered that striking down McCain-Feingold presaged the end of the democracy in America. Not to be outdone, President Obama said that the decision was “…a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.” He went so far as to call out Supreme Court justices over the decision during this year’s State of the Union address, a event that would prove far more embarrassing to the man hurling accusations and insults during what is supposed to be a solemn occasion than it would prove to be for the accused.
Disaster in the Gulf
On April 20, an explosion ripped through the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and unleashing a flood of sticky crude into the gulf. It would take a few weeks for everyone to come to grips with the magnitude of the disaster, as it slowly became evident that there was no quick and easy way to cap the gusher. The well, which was operated by Transocean Ltd. under contract to BP-Amoco, was equipped with blowout preventers, but they had been mangled in the explosion. Both BP and the federal government struggled to contain the spill and to find a way to cap the deep well, with each facing mounting criticism as weeks stretched into months while crude continued to boil up into the waters of the Gulf.
A temporary containment system was eventually able to capture the leaking oil and redirect it to a ship where it was burned off. This was the effective end of the crisis, achieved on July 15. The well was subsequently permanently sealed on September 19. While there was certainly substantial ecological damage as a result of the spill, the extent of that damage wasn’t nearly as bad as many predicted. Indeed, the question “what happened to the oil?” became more and more prevalent, as many beaches and other coastal areas remained unaffected. A combination of biological activity in the warm waters of the gulf and herculean efforts by responders appeared to have mitigated the worst potential effects of the spill. The long term economic effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster will be far more serious. Citing concerns over the spill and industry safety practices, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would later announce a seven year moratorium on the issuance of new oil drilling leases in the Gulf and along the Atlantic Coast. Many view this decision, which significantly reduces America’s ability to tap into domestic sources of energy, as the greatest tragedy of all that one can attach to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.