Joe Atkins on Health care debate

The state’s leading politicians, used to such dismal statistics, are dealing with the issue in predictable manner. Gov. Barbour worries that federal efforts to expand Medicaid assistance for the poor might unduly burden the state with extra costs-perhaps even push Mississippi into some real tax reform.

Like most Republicans everywhere, Mississippi Republicans can be relied upon to oppose just about anything Obama supports. They remind me of the old Communists in Poland after they’d lost their power.

They had a magazine called Nie! Translation: No!-No to everything the new regime wants.

More interesting is the position staked out by Mississippi’s two leading “Blue Dog” Democrats: Congressmen Travis Childers and Gene Taylor. Both oppose the so-called “public option” that 57 percent of Americans support but which the health care industry has spent $263 million to oppose in Congress. The industry has hired 3,300 lobbyists to sway Congress-or six lobbyists for each member of Congress.

Among those lobbyists are the hired guns of the Breaux-Lott firm in Washington, led by former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, a Democrat from Louisiana, and Mississippi’s own Trent Lott, the most stalwart of Republicans. The firm thus far this year has made over $300,000 lobbying for the big pharmaceuticals.

As all these money transactions take place, the little guy out there continues to get socked with rising health care costs. In fact, health care costs to the average family are twice today what they were 10 years ago, and are expected to double again by 2019.

When you look back across the history of politics in this country – and in this state – maybe this “long, strange” trip isn’t so strange after all.