The best system since the dawn of time

THE BEST SYSTEM SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME…. There’s a script Republicans lawmakers are supposed to stick to on health care. They’re encouraged to engage in anti-government demagoguery, but they’re also not supposed to defend the status quo. After all, if there’s one thing most Americans agree on in this debate, it’s that the current system is a mess.

It’s why I found Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Ala.) remarks on Fox News yesterday pretty interesting.

“One, we don’t know how much [a reform package is] going to cost and who’s going to pay for it,” he said. “Secondly, it will be the first steps in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known.”

Really? The current U.S. health care system is the best, not only in the world, but in the history of the world?

I haven’t seen this quote generate much in the way of attention, but Shelby’s remarks yesterday strike me as a possible opportunity for Democrats. Here we have a prominent Republican senator defending the status quo as the best system “the world has ever known.” Do the tens of millions of Americans with no coverage agree with that? How about the Americans who’ve had to declare bankruptcy because they couldn’t afford their health care bills? Or the workers who’ve seen their premiums quadruple? Or the families who wait in long lines for care? Or the businesses who struggle to compete because of health care costs?

It seems like a fairly difficult position to defend — Republicans think the dysfunctional status quo, which costs too much and covers too few, is “the best care system the world has ever known.”

Seems like a loser for the GOP, should Dems try to capitalize on this one.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.