There was a time when few people would know the name or recognize the photograph of any obscure senator from Arizona or West Virginia. I’ve always been sort of a nerd, so I could pick Robert Byrd or Jon Kyl out of a lineup, not to mention Jay Rockefeller or Barry Goldwater.
But these days, if you are bothering to read this column, you probably know Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin by name and face. They basically run the legislative branch of the federal government.
And right now they are deciding the fate of a big piece of legislation that will impact corporate taxes, health insurance benefits, and the climate. I am not so interested in the personalities as I am in the actual legislation, and from my reading it seems like there is good stuff in the bill that will help lots of folks who struggle with medical bills, worry about the environment, and want some fairness in the tax system.
The bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, previously known as the Build Back Better Act, tackles some important healthcare issues. For example, it will finally allow the federal government to negotiate fairer pricing for prescription medication. That is an idea that has historically had bipartisan support, and if the government can actually help people afford their medications, then I am all for it. The bill will also cap health insurance costs at 8.5 percent of income for Obamacare enrollees.
Of course, I would also love to see our communities support better health initiatives by encouraging healthy eating and exercise. If we can find ways to get people out and moving while also making healthy, whole foods affordable and appetizing, maybe we would not have to be so reliant on prescription medication for health maintenance.
One of the great benefits of the changes we have experienced in our lives over the last two and a half years is that work flexibility has created more opportunity for exercise and better eating habits. For those folks who can work from home, or enjoy flexibility in their working hours, the opportunities to move, exercise, and cook abound, and that necessarily will lead to better health if properly embraced.
The Inflation Reduction Act also includes investments in clean energy. I think that all of us, everything being equal, would prefer cleaner air and water and a safer living environment. If that can be achieved with clean energy, it is hard to disapprove. The friction arises where delivery of clean energy leads to higher costs for homeowners or job loss. Quantifying cost is not as simple as just looking at monthly bills from the utility companies. There are long-term hidden costs in wellness, infrastructure, and quality of life that can rarely be quantified when figuring the equation. So, generally, clean energy is probably an overall benefit.
Reduction in fossil fuel usage is obviously good for the environment. And that again is where the new work experience for many has been helpful. Less time spent commuting to an office that requires large amounts of energy to function is an overall benefit to the planet and those of us living on it.
It seems to me that taking incremental steps toward improving the lives of Americans makes good sense. By reducing medical costs, creating more tax fairness, and protecting the environment, the Inflation Reduction Act seems to hit the right notes right now.