Saturday, July 25, 2009

Obama's Latest Albatross: Health Care

Because inheriting quagmires in both Iraq and Afghanistan, an erosion in diplomatic ties with allied nations, an economy on the brink of collapse, and a panoply of federal agencies that have, for eight years been pervaded by cronyism, corruption, and fecklessness wasn’t enough. 

But unlike many fickle Americans (51 percent as of today) who can only seem to criticize The President’s mission on this issue, I applaud his effort (while somewhat disagreeing with his policy).

I can understand why the public is more than a little uneasy about the Obama-lead $700 billion-plus financial bailout, especially since we still haven’t seen any change in the corporate culture of the banks that have benefited the most. Still, I can’t help but fear that most people expect every aspect of the financial markets to have been repaired by now. I mean, come on already: It only takes my microwave burrito two minutes to cook all the way through: What the hell?

But to use the glacial pace of the stiumulus as a touchstone for Obama’s health care policy is misguided. 

Predictably, most Americans are also leery about an increased public presence in the health care sphere, primarily because it involves the g-word - government (Or, what GOP House Minority Leader John Boehner and other conservatives more ominously and hyperbolically refer to as BIG government.) Sadly, though, despite the fact that the Dems currently have the bully pulpit in the White House, as well as clear majorities in both houses, the left still yields the verbal framing on policy issues to Boehner and his GOP brethren, bless their nostalgic donkey hearts.

Incidentally, by now we know that conservative Republicans are exquisite at three things: Hijacking elections, running up massive budget deficits, kowtowing to corporate greed, initiating preemptive war, engaging in adulterous trysts, and appealing to the disproportionately huge fear center that resides in red-stater reptilian brains through the usage and repetition of trigger words and phrases such as “family values,” “free markets,” “death tax,” and “socialized medicine.” 

These words, chosen with utmost care by Republican pollsters, coincide nicely with the American “bootstraps” mythology, reinforcing the enduring yet fallacious notion that all Americans are ultimately headed for unlimited wealth, health, and prosperity, providing they live lives of chastity, hard work, and religious piety. From George Lakoff’s bestselling Don’t Think of an Elephant:

In the 2000 election Gore kept saying that Bush’s tax cuts would go only to the top 1 percent, and he thought that everyone else would follow their self-interest and support him. But poor conservatives still opposed him, because as conservatives they believed that those who had the most money...deserved to keep it as their reward for being disciplined. The bottom 99 percent of conservatives woted their conservative values, against their self-interest.


It is claimed that 35 percent of the populace thinks that they are, or someday will be, in the top 1 percent, and that this explains the finding on the basis of a hoped-for future self-interest. 

Yesterday in The New York Times, a cross-section of families were asked to give their take on Obama’s Thursday press conference. In the article, the Brown family, struggling by on $38,000 a year, seemed more concerned about how American the new policy would be, rather then whether or not it would provide their family with consistent, stable health coverage:

Mr. Brown said he realized his escalating insurance premiums, which have doubled since 2006, had suppressed his wages. He noted that he and his wife were still struggling to pay off $3,000 in uncovered medical expenses from the birth of their youngest child. but the Browns said Mr. Obama and the Democrats had not convinced them of the need for radical change. They said the notion of establishing a new government health plan to compete against private insurers seemed un-American. They questioned the wisdom and fairness of taxing the rich. And they said individuals should bear more responsibility for staying healthy.

“I know the system is not perfect, but I’m not completely convinced it’s broken,” Mr. Brown said. “And even if it’s broken, I’m not sure the government is the solution.”

Somewhere, Karl Rove cracks a demonic smile and Frank Luntz french kisses his own reflection in the mirror.

As Obama has implied in the past, at its essence, health care reform is about finally seizing the moral high ground. Simply put, a nation cannot continue to claim to be morally righteous when millions of its citizens are forced to go without basic health care. Sound bytes are nice, but we can no longer merely claim to be a just society. We must act.

For tomorrow: Why single-payer is the only solution...and why it will never happen.

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Stop the Inanity. by Brock Cohen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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