The sad lesson of Jon Stewart's valiant speech

The fact is that our government has done a terrible job budgeting for the populations to whom it has already promised a safety net. There is every reason to believe that a program to pay for health care for 329 million people would be a failure of unprecedented proportions, with catastrophic results.

Stewart said, “9/11 first responders shouldn’t to decide whether to live, or to have a place to live,” and that frankly no American should “face financial ruin” because of medical expenses.

He’s right there, too. But as his testimony showed with painful clarity yesterday, the federal government has neither the ability to pay for adequate care for its citizens nor the interest in even doing so. The government’s chronic mismanagement of hundreds of billions of dollars puts the health of its citizens — not to mention the fiscal health of the nation — at risk. We need to learn our lesson.

Stewart’s speech rang with the kind of articulate passion that often accompanies a run for office, and it will not be at all surprising if we soon hear calls for him to do just that. But if he does, I sincerely hope that he can see in the treatment of the 9/11 first responders the larger pattern of consistent government failure at the highest levels, and that he will join the ranks of those of us calling for alternatives to the disaster that government-run health care would be.