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This Motley Fool series examines things that just aren't right in the world of finance and investing. Here's what's got us riled up this week. If something's bugging you, too -- and we suspect it is -- go ahead and unload in the comments section below.
Today's subject: Remember the "Gang of Six?" Three Democratic and three Republican senators who were supposed to lead us to the promised land of health-care reform? You're excused if you've forgotten -- a lot has happened since last summer, the last time you heard anything constructive about a bipartisan compromise to health-care reform.
Instead the Gang never reached a consensus. Democrats pressed on by themselves. Only one Republican voted for the bill in the House and none in the Senate. Then Republican Scott Brown won the Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy's death, and suddenly Republicans were in the driver's seat with a caucus large enough to launch a filibuster in the Senate. President Obama called for a bipartisan public meeting to find a compromise -- to which I cheer -- and then proceeded to propose a plan without any input from Republicans. The newest proposal is pitched as a jumping off point, but it seems more like a threat: Agree to this or we'll ram it through Congress using the filibuster-proof reconciliation procedure.
I'm calling out the shameful partisan posturing on both sides of the aisle.
Why you should be indignant
We all have different ideas -- in fact, here's one -- on the best ways to solve the health-care problem, but hopefully we can all agree that health-care reform is needed.
There are tens of millions of uninsured Americans and that number could hit 65 million in another decade if nothing is done. Even if you ignore any moral ramifications -- as Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI ) CEO John Mackey would like us to do -- there's still a financial cost for everyone who carries insurance. Because hospitals can't deny care due to lack of insurance, the insured ultimately pick up the tab through higher charges that make up for the writeoffs from caring for the uninsured.
Covering the uninsured isn't the only cost that's affecting us, either. The entire health-care system is spiraling out of control. It's estimated that health care made up 18% of our GDP last year. Without reform that could potentially rise to 28% in 2030, and to 34% in 2040.
It's not just your pocketbook that will be hurt by spiraling prices -- the companies you invest in will be hampered by increasingly higher health-care costs. Large companies with a large number of employees like General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , Ford (NYSE: F ) , and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) will be left with the distasteful choice of either footing the bill themselves or passing the cost on to their employees. Either choice is likely to stifle the growth of the economy.
And let's not forget about startups. Will a company be able to grow into the next Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , or Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) if it's unable to attract talent because it can't afford health insurance for them?
Democrats and Republicans are scheduled to meet today, but does anyone have confidence that anything useful will come from it? They'll be on TV, so maybe there will be more pandering to constituents than they've done in the past, but I doubt much, if anything, will be achieved. It might be more productive to watch General Hospital instead.
Maybe the Gang of Six needs to get back together. Or maybe we should extend it to a Gang of 100. While we're at it, we might as well throw the 435 representatives and the President in there as well. The Gang of Six reportedly spent hours on end in a conference room to try and reach a compromise. Let's put all 536 bickering children into timeout chairs and lock them in a room until they can work it out on their own.
There are a lot of good ideas out there. In order to get this issue resolved, politicians, investors, and everyone else are going to have to learn to live with changes they might not agree with. Or else nothing will get done… and, as we've seen above, that just isn't an option.
Are politicians acting like childish babies or do you like seeing them stick up for their ideas at any cost? Let us know in the comments box below.