Like you, I was very concerned about the well-being of crazy right-wingers this summer. Their favorite party out of office, a Democratic super-majority in the Senate, the stock market dragging its feet—how were we, as a nation, going to keep these people off the streets? By staging a gigantic nation-wide debate about healthcare, that’s how. All over the country, the McCain vote had evolved from staging ridiculous “Tea Party” protests to staging ridiculous rants about healthcare. If Obama had proposed legislation declaring puppies are cute, these people would be out there burning stuffed animals and talking about how he’s some kind of tree-hugging fascist. If he had signed some executive order endorsing NASCAR, they’d be storming the tracks with pitchforks.
The healthcare debate has so little to do with the issues at hand that of course we’ll end up with some largely worthless bill that shies away from addressing the actual problems with healthcare while preserving the structures which got us into this mess in the first place. That’s fairly normal, but the rhetoric surrounding the debate would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. Our healthcare system kills people every day, and there’s no dearth of anecdotes to underline the point.
The status quo is always good enough for some people, provided they have some financial or political stake in it. What’s so ingeniously stupid about the health-care protestors is that they aren’t actually fighting on anyone’s behalf—they just feel threatened by Democrats regaining power. Yes, theoretically they are fighting on behalf of the impoverished healthcare industry CEO, but it isn’t clear that some new healthcare regime will actually kill upper-management (like it does their victims). Shock jocks and cable news hosts tell people to jump—and the audience asks, “how high?” And because most of these earnest American patriots don’t understand what the hell they’re talking about, their outrage becomes more ridiculous every day.
Like any good self-fulfilling prophecy, the media are now reporting that Obama’s healthcare plan (whatever that may be) is in trouble because Americans are turning out en masse to shout down their Congresspersons in the name of democracy and freedom. Most polls see the country split pretty evenly down the middle on ‘health care reform,’ and—surprise!—we’re divided in an eerily similar fashion to the 2008 presidential vote—along age lines. Old people hate government health care! Unless they’re on the receiving end, of course. According to a recent CNN poll, the majority of Americans over 50 are now opposed to Obama’s nefarious and somewhat nebulous plans to change healthcare. The majority of those under 50 are for it, of course.
Every other Western democracy had a moment (not unlike ours) where they finally figured out that the government runs health care better than anyone else, and then those entitlement programs become politically untouchable. For example, no matter how far to the right Canada’s ruling coalition may move, they would never think of dismantling the single-payer system. But that system has only been in place since the early 1960’s. The United States, on the other hand, was fighting a Cold War and had too much pride to let even the slightest whiff of Communism waft across our borders until that old pinko President Johnson instituted Medicare and Medicaid alongside Social Security.
In light of all this, you have to wonder about the people who are fightin’ mad about “socialized medicine” when the government’s single-payer healthcare runs a tighter ship (costs-wise) than the most profitable HMO. In the war of bullshit, this battle could be easily won by pointing out to those fearful seniors and working class parents who are being rallied against healthcare reform that their leaders have literally come out against their Medicare and Medicaid. If you want to fight fear with fear, you could very reasonably say that the same Republican and medical industry strategists are trying to kill Medicare and Medicaid on purely ideological grounds. How do we know? Well, we can start with the fact that (as reported by Media Matters):
On August 14, the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, and O’Reilly Factor guest host Laura Ingraham featured a recording of Ronald Reagan speaking in 1961 against “socialized medicine” for the American Medical Association’s Operation Coffee Cup Campaign against Medicare. Neither Drudge, Limbaugh, nor Ingraham, however, noted that Reagan was speaking out against an early version of Medicare, which has become very popular since it was enacted 44 years ago, or that Reagan’s dire predictions of curtailments of freedom were never realized.
(Side note: if every major liberal news outlet played the same clip with the same message on the same day, right-wing media would be foaming at the mouth with conspiracy theories. Liberal media knows that there’s a right-wing politburo coordinating the message and we’re already bored by it).
This is not to say that I am a supporter of the president’s proposed health care reforms. I am not. Because even though the president has readily admitted that he prefers, ceteris paribus, single-payer healthcare, and the fact that there is a Democratic House and Senate and the midterms are over a year away, he still wants to pass a defanged bill that won’t help Americans more than the debate is hurting us. I want to be clear: any system that is not single-payer (or at least universal with subsidized coverage) just isn’t sustainable. Furthermore, there are people with valid concerns about how the hell we might pay for any expansion of coverage (although, to be fair, if this were a war, anyone asking how we’ll pay for it is some kind of fifth columnist).
To hear almost any elected official on either side of the aisle tell it, because single-payer wasn’t invented in America (like television, or the pet rock) Americans want nothing to do with it. We need a “uniquely American” solution, says Obama. Well, here it is:
If those people who are truly opposed to any kind of healthcare reform Obama tries to pass on the grounds that he’s some kind of Nazi-Communist, the true believers who know that the government is the Devil and socialism is evil, those dyed-in-the-wool Reaganites who are homing in on the retirement age—if they would simply pledge to abstain from any and all single-payer healthcare for the rest of their lives, we could pay for it all by getting such louts off the rolls while these proud patriots can remain spiritually and physically pure. Everybody wins!
In order to help keep the peace nationally and make lots of money like Jesus wants me to, I’ll be selling high-quality embossed medical alert bracelets for healthcare reform protestors. Pictured below, these 100% metal-plated and attractively brushed accessories are lovingly embossed using the timeless and elegant Comic Sans typeface to let your EMT or physician know that nothing is more important to you than your health except their bottom line! Just sign a binding legal pledge never to avail yourself of Medicare or government-run hospitals and this wonderful keepsake can be yours for only $129.99:
In all seriousness, people tend to consume the most healthcare in the last six months of their life. So the operative question when it comes to healthcare is, how much do you want to pay to die? Call me selfish, but I dream of a world where I can die for free.