It is both amusing and disappointing to see the silliness that surrounds the serious issue of health care reform. Examples abound: calls for keeping the government out of Medicare (a government-run health plan, for those keeping score at home); claims that a government-run plan will usher in an era of lower medical premiums buying better coverage; promises of death panels; and the list goes on.
The foolishness that seems to crop up most often are criticizing the bill for being too long. Some opponents of the bill have taken to printing out the 2,074 page Senate Health Care Reform bill (even longer than the House health care reform legislation which came in at 1,990 pages) and lugging it around on their shoulder. Or taping the pages together and rolling the result down the Capitol steps. The theory, apparently, is that health care reform is such a simple problem, it should be easy to accomplish in just a few pages.
I wrote about the importance of looking at what the bill does, rather than how long it takes to do it, in a previous post. But now the Associated Press has actually put things into (numerological) perspective. Here’s what the AP reports concerning the literal size of the health care reform bills being considered by Congress.
- The House health care reform legislation, HR 3962, is 319,145 words.
- The Senate health care reform bill, HR 3590, is 318,512
- The No Child Left Behind Act (supported by many of those criticizing the health care reform bills) was over 280,000 words.
- English translations of War and Peace, which some critics has claimed is shorter than the Democratic health care reform bills, are 560,000-to-670,000 words.
- When published in a more normal fashion than formal bills are (single spaced, normal font, regular margins) the bill comes to 209 pages.
Here’s some other meaningless statistics:
The Harry Potter series totaled 1,090,739 words. The longest: Order of the Phoenix at 257,045 words.
The Old Testament has 593,493 words; (No idea which English translation the source used).
How many words would it take to legislate the status quo? Considering the need to create Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans health care, regulate the private market, etc. etc., my guess is we’re talking about reams of paper.
Let’s focus on what matters – what the legislation does – not how many words it takes to do it. There’s plenty of substantive issues to debate. And now’s the time to do it.