Saturday, August 8, 2009

Healthcare Reform: "It's dejavu all over again."


I recently wrote to a friend about the decline in the level of discourse in the healthcare-reform debate. Both sides in Washington, the administration and those opposing it (mostly conservative republicans) are at fault. Questionable republican tactics (organized disruptions at meetings designed to inform the public) lead to democratic name calling (disruptive "mobs", "brownshirts", "fascists") which helps to galvanize and rally more opposition against the administration doing the name calling. What gets lost, then, is any substantive discussion of the actual content of the damn thing that so sorely needs fixing--healthcare. One would think it's exactly what the republicans wanted in the first place. The president is seen as a failure, the status quo remains, and nobody has to take responsibility for the failure.

Look, I'm all about discourse. I'm a debate coach. I get the whole Hegelian thing: Thesis met with Antithesis=Synthesis. Democracy is supposed to work in a somewhat similar manner. But what's happening in America cannot lead to any real resolution because those opposing the thesis are simply not offering anything other than a "shoot the messenger" antithesis. What we'll wind up with, after all the acrimony and handwringing and self-flagellation and claims that we need to secede and dissolve the government is the status-quo. The broken thing itself.

Of course, it's only broken if it doesn't work for you. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for those voiceless, powerless Americans: The working poor. It works fine for people like me (I'm a teacher), for those who are, generally, of a higher educational status and have secure and well-paying jobs. Oh, and it works for those entrepreneurs and business owners who have, through their own blood, sweat, and tears, created and grown a thriving company and are thus able to purchase their own coverage. For those people, health care works. That's all that matters. We don't want to change it because we don't want to have to suffer so that others can have some minimal amount of care. And so people take to the internet, to sites like freedomworks.com to learn what they can do to stop the government from forcing them to help solve a problem that doesn't really effect them.

Of course, it does effect them. But they don't know it, or refuse to think the government can solve it. And such ignorance is hard to remedy for it is the Sysiphean task of the teacher. Teachers have to get students to do something they know is good for their students, but the impact of which is hidden from them because they are so young. Similarly in healthcare reform, the government has to get people to do something they know will be good for them (help fix the healthcare system so that it doesn't bankrupt us all or at the very least sentence an entire segment of the American population to death by denying coverage) but whose true impact is hidden from a great deal of them because they are: a) unaware, b) uneducated on the system, c) comfortable (and thus unwilling to help others lest it make them less comfortable).

And so what have those opposed to healthcare reform done to help solve the problem of "ignorance" or "discomfort"? They've counseled their masses to yell down the senators and representatives at meetings designed to help teach the public about the healthcare reform possibilities. They've labeled the plan "obamacare"--a thinly veiled, sophomoric debater's ad hominem attack conflating existing hatred of the president with the plan to reform healthcare. And through it all, they've offered no real counterplan...no antithesis. Instead of being part of the solution, they deny there's any problem to begin with, they counsel that private enterprise and the invisible hand of the freemarket will solve the problem, and they foment fear by spreading lies and deceptions about the ideas coming out of Washington.

But here's the real kicker. Everything I just said, could have been written over 15 years ago. And it actually was. Ok, so it's a "left of center" magazine, but for christ's sake! History does repeat itself, and such a repetition as I note here only serves to validate the source.

Read it. If that isn't enough to force you to question whether the health insurance industry and conservative republicans cut from the same cloth as Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey have your best interest in mind, then I've got a doctor with a six-shooter 'sez he can cure your migraine before you can even blink.