We shall now contemplate how we are being manipulated, why Bill Hobby is a very wise man, whatever happened to juvenile delinquents. Let’s go. President Obama recently began a news conference with: “Before I take your questions, I want to talk for a few minutes about the progress we’re making on health insurance reform….” The insurance industry proudly proclaims: “America’s health insurance companies supporting bipartisan reforms.” AARP gets into the fight with: “8 health care reform myths.” Headline: “Health Care Reform and You.” Yes, health care reform is all the rage these days, but what do people mean when using the term? Almost anything and absolutely nothing, because it calls for something far different in the Obama White House than it does on K Street among the health care and pharmaceutical lobbyists. (Incidentally, if you really want to sound sincere, you say “comprehensive reform.” That is even more reforming than the vanilla reform.) So how can all these varying and competing groups be trumpeting the same term when they are diametrically opposed? Easy. Reform sounds good – it signals change, usually change for the better. Few would admit to reforming something for the worse. If it ain’t broke, etc. But if re-form means, obviously, to form again, does recess mean another cess? That doesn’t sound too appealing. Repeat? Peat it again, Sam. Before shooting the revolver, do we volve? It is not just all sides on the health care issue which are beating reform – or even comprehensive reform – to death. Are you for tax reform? Well, you’ve got company. There is a lobbying group called – surprise! -- Americans for Tax Reform. Their title doesn’t say so, but they are for lower taxes, cut taxes, no taxes. It is not clear if there is an opposing lobbying group called Americans for Higher Taxes. Some would say there is. It is called the Democratic Party. How do you feel about immigration? No matter where you stand, or sit on the fence (or climb over it), there is a reform group for you. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is for reforming our immigration policies with landmines, guard towers and pit bulls. OK, I’m kidding about the landmines. On the other side of FAIR is FIRM (Fair Immigration Reform Movement) which wants open borders, or at least amnesty, plus full Social Security benefits, a car, house and country club membership for all illegal immigrants. Still, all sides are for reform, it’s just that no one can agree on what that means. I want immigration reform, so long as it doesn’t affect my yardman, restaurant bus boy or the crew at the car wash. Then there is campaign finance reform, which can either mean buying an office-seeker or restricting the First Amendment. Both sides are for campaign finance reform, and a few zealots are even for comprehensive campaign finance reform. Elsewhere, we hear demands that Wall Street be reformed. Same with the banking industry. Educational reform meant eschewing the tired, old three r’s and getting Johnny to express his inner being. It was the modern way to teach until when we discovered Johnny still couldn’t read, so we went Back to Basics, reforming the reform. Some of these lobbying groups demanding reform sound too good to be true. Here is The Campaign for an American Solution, which is obviously a sensitive group looking out for our health and happiness. It is, we are told, “a non-partisan, educational and grassroots initiative of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP),” which is actually the national trade association for health insurance companies. Nonpartisan, maybe. I’m sure AHIP gladly hands out vast campaign donations to both the elephant and the donkey. “Grassroots initiative”? Are you kidding? Former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby wisely observed, “Reform means taking something away from someone.” That’s true. For example, the health care industry – that includes pharmaceutical, medical and insurance industries – has a gold mine under the current system, and wants to keep it that way. The industry’s lobbyists gave $167 million in contributions to Congressional candidates in the 2008 election campaign. Health care companies poured another $484 million into lobbying efforts in 2008, and should beat that amount this year. Healthcare businesses now spend about $1.4 million a day on lobbying efforts. That is pocket change: Profits at 10 of the country’s largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose from $2.4 billion to $12.9 billion (that’s 428 percent) from 2000 to 2007. The CEOs of these companies in 2007 alone collected an average pay package of $11.9 million each. You think they want that situation to be reformed? We have Reformed Judaism, the Dutch Reformed Church, the Protestant Reformation. America has had abolitionism, temperance and women’s rights – all reform movements. Today there is a political group which is calling for sweeping changes, the Reform Party. It held its national convention in Dallas last year, and absolutely no one noticed. There are Texans for Lawsuit Reform: “Working to restore balance to the Texas civil justice system.” Balance? That’s a sneaky way of saying they are against the little guy getting big settlements. Opposed is the Trial Lawyers Association which prefers larger settlements if the lawyers get 35 percent. Suit yourself. Texas once had reform schools where we sent our juvenile delinquents to learn how to become adult delinquents. The state agency that ran those institutions was called the Texas Youth Development Council, then the Texas Youth Commission. The change was made, no kidding, after several reforms. Our reform schools will soon be called Institutions for Legally Challenged Youths. In Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” Humpty Dumpty tells Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.” So who will finally master reform, especially if it comprehensive? Ashby is reforming at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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