Of DC, duds and dunces

John Taylor: June 15, 20070 Comments

Coin of the realm in DC is $2.  That usually buys you a bottle of water, and you'll need to replenish the moolah frequently. Humid, thunder-showery, no-bottles-past-security, a normal stretch of June.

Just back from five days, detecting the pulse of health-care politics and, with other safety-net hospitals like Community Medical Centers, gauging how much cut 'n' gut pressures are aimed at budgets that care for the poor's medical needs.  A lot of same ol' --- if you need more, where do you want less? And regulatory agencies, like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, trying to impose rules that force budget cutbacks, actions that are normally the province of Congress and make some lawmakers see red (but which is worse, seeing red or being blamed for red ink?). 

Lived and worked in DC 10 years ago, been there many times since. This year, this place of so much awe looks like it's been captured by Santa Cruz or Coney Island.  Tube tops, swimwear and other barely-there clothes flip-flop their way through the Capitol Rotunda, where the nation's leaders lie in state.  Cops yell at teens to take their gangsta-tilted hats off while they're in the House Visitors Gallery.  School is definitely out (parenting, too).

The flea-market ambiance even flavors the hallways of legislative digs, like the Longworth House Office Building.  A lamp sits with a "fix me" note, not far from an off-kilter chair with a "take me" tag.

One question popped from staffers of state lawmakers and big-cheese visitors from California hospitals -- what is up in Fresno County?  I didn't have much to offer because the confusing controversy over an intergovernmental funding transfer (IGT) that could have brought $54 million in new federal money for the Valley's health needs was playing out several twilight/time zones away.

In the abrupt, pushy and (sometimes) get-it-done-right-now world of DC, lots of heads were IGT-shaking.  

My friend Dr. Mike suggested a while back that I read a particular 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, and I'm glad I finally did on this trip. It's called "A Confederacy of Dunces." Published decades after its author killed himself, the novel is set in New Orleans and has virtually nothing to do with politics or health care.

The title is drawn from Irish satirist Jonathan Swift who wrote: "When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."