The baffling fight by ordinary Americans to defeat healthcare reform
"The best test of a civilised society is the way in which it treats its most vulnerable and weakest members."
That the majority of the rich and powerful in America, particularly those on the right, are vehemently opposed to universal healthcare and instead support the present free-market private insurance system is hardly surprising. Clearly they have nothing to fear, as it's highly unlikely that they will ever find themselves without coverage and they're certainly never going to be choosing between treatment and bankruptcy.
This stance—though truly despicable, completely devoid of compassion, and totally self-absorbed—isn't really all that difficult to understand. It's simply the latest manifestation of that age-old philosophy: "Hey, I'm alright. Screw everyone else!"
What IS extremely hard to figure out, however, is the mindset of all these regular, ordinary working class and middle-class, right-wing nutjobs who have been showing up all summer long at these town hall meetings chanting:
"Socialism! Communism! Stalinism!"
Not to mention: "Obama is Hitler!"
And: "Better dead than North Korean or Canadian!"
I mean, seriously, what's up with these people anyway? Don't they understand just how much they potentially have to lose? They may be feeling quite secure about their insurance coverage today, but that could so very easily change tomorrow.
Craving Some Karma
When you see these people on the news do you ever find yourself—as I so often do—hoping that they'll one day wind up extremely ill and in need of treatment, only to discover that their beloved for-profit, free-market insurance company has denied them coverage, forcing them into bankruptcy and leaving them completely destitute?
Now that may sound mean-spirited, but someone has to say it.
Because it's simply infuriating to see how they so scornfully dismiss and deride the genuine efforts of all those who have been working so hard to ensure that everyone in America has adequate healthcare.
And what of all these right-wing, anti-healthcare-reform senators and members of Congress? Wouldn't it be especially great if they were someday denied coverage right when they most needed it?
But of course that will never happen.
However, it most definitely could happen to any one of these rage-filled, right-wing, regular (that is, neither rich nor powerful) Americans, any one of whom could at any time find themselves sick, with their insurance company denying them coverage.
Seriously, wouldn't it just be so karmically perfect if, after battling so incredibly hard to defeat the implementation of a universal healthcare system, they found themselves unemployed, unwell, and uninsured?
Now, obviously I don't really want that to happen to anyone, but it is something that's hard not to think about when you see these people so passionately arguing against something that is—regardless of what they may have heard to the contrary on FOX News—for the long-term good of not just the nearly 50 million presently uninsured, but the whole country, including—at least potentially—themselves and their kids and grandkids.
A Communist Scheme?
You can argue that Obama's present plan is seriously flawed and that what the country really needs is a single-payer system—and I'd be the first to agree. But what these people are arguing against is not the specifics of this particular plan; they're arguing against the very idea of having any sort of government-run plan to begin with.
What they seem to be oblivious to is the fact that America already has a universal, socialized, government-run, single-payer healthcare system—at least for everyone over 65. It's called Medicare. And I certainly haven't heard many of these right-wing town hall shouters, yellers, and screamers calling Medicare a Communist scheme.
Besides, as it's been pointed out by many others before, universal medical coverage is no more Communist than government-run, tax-funded schools, libraries, and fire departments—and the police, Coast Guard, and search and rescue for that matter.
But of course this isn't a reasonable, logic-based debate, is it? No, this is a war against "a Stalinist takeover of America".
Irrational, Confused, and Nonsensical
This opposition to universal healthcare by ordinary Americans is almost as sensible as, say, Jews campaigning for the Nazis, African Americans donating money to the KKK, Cambodians clamoring for the return of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, or Americans electing Dick Cheney as president.
Or perhaps a more apt analogy is with the thousands of women in Mali protesting in recent weeks against a new law guaranteeing them equality in marriage. "We don't need equality", they shout, "it's just a Western plot to destroy Islam".
Give me your stupid, your ignorant, your muddled masses
Which brings me to my main point: Why do so many ordinary Americans consistently vote for and support politicians and policies that are so unambiguously opposed to their own interests?
This illogical support of politicians and leaders who oppose just about everything that's actually in one's own best self interest is not unique to America of course, but it's certainly nowhere near as prevalent in any other Western democracy.
Selflessness is great and all if you're working to help the homeless or orphans or anyone else in need. However, supporting Republicans who launch pointless wars that your kids will have to fight and die in, who lower taxes for the rich meaning your taxes will stay higher and your government services will remain underfunded, who fight against universal healthcare putting you at future risk of being uninsured, who... well, I think you get the point. It's just plain crazy.
Bangin' "Family Values"
One explanation is that these right-wing Republicans give lip service to the radical fundamentalist Christianity that so many of these "regular folks" follow (and which really explains where their minds are at in all of this).
But you'd think that after the umpteenth "Family Values" Republican of the religious right was caught banging his mistress down in Argentina or Alabama or some such place (or, say, caught hitting on adolescent Congressional pages, or caught in another financial scandal, or...) that it'd become pretty obvious that these people's real priorities have nothing to do with Christianity or "family values" and a lot more to do with power, wealth, and, well, banging their mistresses.
The Good Ol' Days
The fact is if you try to imagine a country that doesn't provide education and police, firefighting, postal, or search and rescue services to all of its citizens then you're either imagining a Third World country or you're thinking back to the "good ol' days" of the 18th or 19th centuries.
And that's exactly how the rest of the modern, industrialized world views America, a country with unlimited wealth and resources when it comes to launching wars in any given corner of the globe, yet somehow unable to provide the most basic of government services—healthcare—to its own people, leaving nearly 50 million citizens with absolutely no medical coverage whatsoever.
Imagine what it would be like if, like the current healthcare-insurance industry, some of the following government-run vital services also operated on a purely for-profit basis:
"Nope, sorry, we can't educate your kid, he seems a little slow. It'd cost us extra resources. However, you can always watch educational shows like Sesame Street at home."
"No can do, we're not going to deliver mail to the countryside anymore. The profit ratio is simply too low. You could always move to the city."
"No, no, no! How many times do I have to tell you, we're not going to police your neighborhood. Too much crime there. You could always buy yourself a gun."
"Look, I understand that you want your son back, but both Search and Rescue and the Coast Guard are businesses and therefore you can't really expect us to attempt a rescue until the whole operation has been paid for up-front and, hey, let's be frank, it's pretty obvious that you can't afford it. Of course you could always go look yourself—just don't get lost."
"Sorry, sir, we'd like to come put out the fire and save your home, but to save money we've decided to only fight fires in wealthy neighborhoods where the pay is much better. You could always use your garden hose. Good luck!"
And one last thing: Yeah, death panels most certainly do exist. They're called for-profit insurance companies and they deny treatment and/or coverage to millions of Americans every year, many of whom—you guessed it—end up dead.
But, alas, those who need to hear this message aren't really listening to logic or reason now are they? They're simply screaming "Communism!" and, most bizarrely, "Fascism!" as they attempt to stop America from joining the modern world.
Mike Cowie is a freelance writer who writes about politics, music, film, travel, and much more. You can read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.
Canadians Vote Against Their Interests Too
Sep 4, 2009 at 7:12pm
This article is so true. And let's not just point the finger of incredulity only at our American friends. Many Canadians of lower socio-economic status routinely vote for and are adamant supporters of right wing political parties, even though, if they would just take the time to think things through, they would perhaps realize that they would benefit far more from government funded social programs and progressive income tax systems put forward by the left.
Sep 5, 2009 at 12:58am
The whole debate in the US is only about whether or not the government can tell you what to do. Simple as that. Under the US Constitution no government is allowed to tell you what to do since it violates the basic rights and freedoms (unalienable rights) meaning you have a right not to be bothered by the government on any topic. The system today is only the result of the merger between corporations and the government. America has no free market the way Adam Smith described it in his books. (most consider him the founder of capitalism) (neither does any other country)
Universal health care is nothing but a disguise for more government intrusion into people's lives. It has nothing to do with government caring about people. In the olden days doctors would help people when they needed it regardless of whether they could afford it or not. The whole problem is the money obsession of everyone. People outside the US just don't want to hear it because they have no freedoms at all left. Their governments control their lives 100% from birth to death. At least Americans still have some freedoms left and are willing to fight for it.
Sep 5, 2009 at 1:02am
Oh yes the blessings of the Canadian system. I can be homeless and get no help. I can starve on the streets and people will call me a bumb or loser. I can be suffering without shelter and food. But I have free healthcare. Yippie!!!!. I get fixed up and tossed right back out onto the streets. You gotta love Canada for their beautiful humane health care system. Wow. Yes Americans should really adopt the same system.
Sep 5, 2009 at 1:38am
Why is so hard for the loony left to understand that many people can take care of themselves and their families without government interference - including health care. The worst day in the USA is better then the best day in Canada. No American desires to move to Canada. Half the Canadian population dreams of becoming America..all except the loony left.
Sep 5, 2009 at 3:32am
The US State of Massachusetts has mandatory healthcare.
Since its introduction health care costs have soared by 40% in the State.
People without health insurance get fined over $1,000 for the year 2009. (it's cheaper to pay the fine then to pay for insurance)
If you don't pay the State can garnish your wages
If you can't afford to pay you have to apply with the State government for a statement that you are too poor to pay. But of course there is an application fee for that. Of course Americans don't want it.
Yes the blessings of universal healthcare.
Look at another country such as the Netherlands where mandatory healthcare is a total disaster. Some people pay over 20% of their income on premiums alone (100 euro's per month for basic insurance). If you don't pay you are fined 130% of the premiums up to 5 years. And how do they catch people? By comparing the mandatory insurance files with the mandatory civil registration files to see who's missing. Then we haven't even coverd "own risk" and additional things one has to pay for that are not covered by health insurance. On top of the mandatory liability insurance in the country, high taxes, expensive utillity bills etc. you get the picture. Lots of hidden poverty in this socialist country.
Sep 5, 2009 at 4:01am
It was Albert Einstein who said "you can judge a society by the way it treats its animals". Ghandi copied that and changed it. Not very original
Sep 5, 2009 at 9:35am
Where are these right wing wacko's coming from anyway?
Is Russ Limbaugh being rebroadcast in town?
Does this same bunch make up the Straight's global warming denier contingent?
Sep 5, 2009 at 3:42pm
Let me start off by saying that I'm American, although during the "W" years did I often claimed to be Canadian. 20 million Americans have the above mentioned mindset. Out of 300 million, not so many. These are people that don't like those of color, don't believe evolution is a fact, believe that the earth is a few 1000 years old, etc. They are very conservative, and like sheep, are easily stirred up by their shepherds. They're frightened that their way of life is waning. And fortunately, they're correct.
And for the record, I wouldn't mind being a Canadian one bit. I've visited Canada 4 times, so far, and love the people and country.
Sep 5, 2009 at 11:19pm
"The worst day in the USA is better then the best day in Canada. No American desires to move to Canada. Half the Canadian population dreams of becoming America..all except the loony left."
w.t.f. Glenn Beck, is that you?
Sep 6, 2009 at 6:43am
Right, left, republican, democrat, liberal...blah, blah, blah. They are all crooks stuffing their pockets at the middle class taxpayer's expense. If I don't want insurance that is my choice. I don't need government fining me because I choose to pay my "regular" medical expenses. Why can't we just pay for our primary care out of our pockets and carry catastrophic insurance to cover costs if and when we need it. One reason is all of the hypachrondiacs out there who go to the doctor everytime they pass gas. Another is frivolous law suits. Another is covering illegal immigrants for FREE. The main problem is corporate health care profits. Health care should not be a for profit enterprise. Period.