August 17, 2009


Okay, I cracked - My .02 on Healthcare



“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”

Dr. Adrian Rogers

This quote, now being bandied about virally through the right-wing haunts of Blogovia, represents what I see as typically disingenuous conservative talking points. Full disclosure – I am, as some 12-steppers might characterize, a “recovering” conservative. I have shifted (or more accurately come full circle) to a belief that government is a tool that, when wielded properly, is very effective for tasks that cannot and should not be done for profit. Am I naive in thinking that healthcare should not be done for profit? It turns out a huge chunk, if not a majority, of healthcare professionals agree with this.

Taxpayers already pay for the healthcare of people who are uninsured. If someone without insurance goes to the ER and cannot afford to pay for treatment, then the hospital gets tax money to offset the costs. We partially pay for most hospitals in this country through public funds. If we didn’t do so these hospitals would go bankrupt, and then the next time you or a loved one needs emergency treatment, it had better not require experts, extensive facilities or after-hours care.

We also pay for a number of things for the common good already. Our property taxes help pay for schools, but do we all have kids? I’m sure you get that an illiterate, poorly-socialized mob of kids who can’t get jobs is bad for you specifically, as well as the country at large, not to mention horrible for the kids. We help pay for police and fire service, but few of us ever need to be rescued by a firefighter. Your actual chances of having life or property saved by these services are pretty dang slim, yet conservatives don’t object to this form of socialism (we can all bitch about the taxes). Military, too - we haven’t had a bona fide military attack on our soil since the War of 1812, so the common good is well served through the provision of the common defense (exponentially - we spend more on our military than the rest of the planet combined. I wonder where we could reallocate some of those billions?). Oh, and the above mentioned things have been done successfully for quite some time in a nonprofit capacity.

With our current healthcare system we also pay in ways that are harder to calculate - lost productivity, inefficiency, etc. It is no good for the common good to have a large pool of unhealthy people who only seek medical care when it’s an emergency, work when they are sick with god-knows-what, get no follow-up care, etc. This creates a standing reservoir of disease. How would you like to see TB come back (it’s making a valiant effort)? It also creates an easy vector for some god-awful strain of the flu, or any other pandemic bug, to rip through this country. A healthy society will always benefit society at large. The minority groups who may not derive benefit from this are small and often have ulterior motives that are counter to the common good (*cough* folks sponsoring anti-healthcare reform rallies).

And characterizing the people who can’t afford health care as ‘lazy’ is the worst kind of derogatory nonsense. Millions of people in this country work jobs that provide no benefits, and unfortunately these jobs rarely pay enough for the employee to afford the exorbitant health insurance premiums of an individual policy. Millions of middle class families with both parents working cannot afford $1,600 per month in premiums, not to mention costs for visits, referrals, tests, prescriptions and procedures not covered. Laziness has nothing to do with it for the overwhelming majority of un- or underinsured people in this country. I believe conservatives either know this and have contempt for people who do necessary jobs that simply don’t pay enough, or they are truly ignorant of this state of affairs. In either case I urge them to read widely, challenge their assumptions, go outside their comfort zone, meet people outside their socio-economic niche, travel, etc. Good news - most of these things can be done easily (and cheaply) on the Internet.

It is easier for me to trust people than entities whose sole aim is to gain as much short-term profit for themselves as possible, and which view all else as obstacles, sometimes including the law. If I had to sum up the progressive ideal, I would say this: Progressives seek to do the greatest good for the greatest number while doing the least harm to the least number of people, using any tools that do not contradict the first part and do not abridge individual rights. Yes, the common good is always tricky, always a dynamically-maintained balance that will change over time. There will always be disagreements, abuses and people who are harmed by measures taken to implement it. The trick is to, again, do the most good for the most people. These town hall decriers of healthcare reform being a “systematic dismantling of the American way of life” are just blowing bogus talking points based on fear.

By the way, the late Dr. Adrian Rogers was a Baptist minister from Memphis, TN and is also attributed with this quote:

"I feel slavery is a much maligned institution. If we had slavery today we would not have such a welfare problem."
I can't say that his statement isn't 100 percent true.

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August 13, 2009


Puppet show?

When I decided that I would vote for Barack Obama last November, I was not as pie-eyed about him as millions of his supporters seemed to be. Despite the fact that Obama was my first winning ballot cast for president, my vote didn't seem any better or worse than its predecessors - it still possessed that hold-your-nose, lesser-of-two-evils feel that has dominated our national elections probably since they began.

So there is an article by Drew Westen that, besides providing some perspective for those who may have been a little drunk on the Big O and his suspiciously meteoric rise to power, brings hearty agreement from me. My apologies to those who have accused me of leaning on my pundit appreciation too heavily, but honestly (Blogovia take note) - what's the point of me blathering on about something when the likes of Mr. Westen can provide so eloquent a treatise. Besides, I think he gets paid better for it.

Oh, and as you read Westen's article, bear in mind the possibility that Bill Hicks was spot-fucking-on:

"I have this feeling that whoever is elected president, no matter what you promise on the campaign trail - blah, blah, blah - when you win, you go into this smoke-filled room with the twelve industrialist capitalist scum-fucks who got you in there. And you're in this smoky room, and the lights go dim and this little film screen rolls down silently from the ceiling. And a big guy with a cigar goes, "Roll the film." And it's a shot of the Kennedy assassination from an angle you've never seen before. It looks suspiciously like it's from the famous grassy knoll. And then the screen goes up and the lights come on, and the big guy says to the new president, "Any questions?"

"Um, what's my agenda?"


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