The best system in the country

THE BEST SYSTEM IN THE COUNTRY…. In general, even most opponents of health care reform maintain the pretense of concern about the failures of the status quo. It’s not unusual to hear Republicans say, for example, that they’d like to support reform, just not the reform proposal on the table. It’s a shallow talking point, but it’s intended to shield them from criticism that the GOP is satisfied with the broken system that most Americans don’t like.

Michael Steele missed the memo.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, in an interview this weekend on Univision, said, “I don’t think we need a comprehensive overhaul of our health care system.”

“Because our health care system,” he continued, according to a transcript posted by Latina Lista, “while it remains the best in the country and while it provides largely the services that people need and the quality of those services are very, very good, there are costs associated with this system that needs to be address more directly.”

He explained the Republicans’ plan for health care, describing it as “elbow grease” that requires neither regulation or taxation.

“It’s common sense solution, it doesn’t require a nationalizing of our health care system, and it doesn’t involve or require a great government intrusion through regulation and taxation and other confiscatory policies,” he said. “What it requires is applying a little, you know elbow grease, to allow those businesses, those Hispanic businesses for example, under the market place and get the health care that they need.”

It’s hard to know where to start with this, though it’s hard to miss the fact that Steele thinks our country’s health care system is “the best in the country.” I suppose that’s true, in a circular kind of way. It’s also worth noting that Steele still thinks there are Democratic plans for “nationalizing of our health care system,” reinforcing suspicions that the RNC chairman has no idea what he’s talking about.

But more important is how badly out of touch Steele is. Even now, after months of debate, he’s convinced “a comprehensive overhaul” is excessive, and would prefer to just tweak the system around the edges. That’s not where the country is — the most recent CBS News poll found that 53% of Americans believe “fundamental changes are needed” to the U.S. system, while an additional 31% believe our system “has so much wrong with it that we need to completely rebuild it.” That’s a combined total of 84% who want, at a minimum, some serious changes to the status quo. What’s more, those numbers are even higher than in September, suggesting the appetite for an overhaul is growing.

As for the “elbow grease” plan to fixing the broken system, there’s a reason Steele has insisted, “I don’t do policy” — the poor man is clueless. Does he even realize there is no Republican reform alternative?

Earlier this month, there were reports that Steele was read the riot act by GOP congressional leaders who wanted him to stop talking about substantive issues altogether, and focus solely on party building and the upcoming elections. Maybe they need to have another chat with the RNC chairman?