Ignore Ignorance

This world is a funny place…

“You better hope Blue Cross doesn’t consider ugly a pre-existing condition!”

Posted by Brandon McKoy on September 6, 2009


We are about to enter a very important week in the health care debate. On Wednesday President Barack Obama will deliver a health care speech to a joint session of Congress in an attempt to change the tone of the discussion. So far things haven’t been going so well for the Democratic party. Not only is there no single bill that they can present to the public, but they aren’t even able to agree on the type of bill they wanted. Should there be a public option, a co-op, or what? Some people think meaningful reform can’t be achieved without a public option, while others think a public option would mean the end of private insurance companies (even though private companies compete with the government in many, many other markets and still do just fine).

Let’s put aside the talking points of both sides for a moment. There’s one fact that I think most of us can agree is quite discerning: The United States of America is the only western democracy without universal health care. Whether or not you think universal health care is a good idea, there is something unsettling about the fact that all other democracies have it; as a country that claims to lead the fight for freedom and equality this just doesn’t sit well. We have tried to attain universal health care before and it’s no surprise that we are engaged in this battle again. Health care in this country is run by drug companies, health insurance companies and wall street. I don’t have to tell you this, but that makes absolutely no sense. Imagine if we allowed the food industry to run the FDA, would you trust any of the food you ate to be clean, healthy or relatively nutritious? Companies that are in business to make money cannot be trusted to regulate their industry, that requires a separate, objective entity. The primary interest of drug and health care companies is to make money by increasing the value of their company share; this is certainly a good business model, but it is not the way to decide who lives and who dies. When we value profit over the health of our citizens we expose ourselves to be greedy and ignorant. It’s amazing to me how people can say that America is the best country in the world and at the same time defend a profit-driven health care industry in order to fulfill some kind of blind allegiance to capitalism. Capitalism is all well and good, but not everything in this country needs to be for profit. If we don’t reform the health care system, our country will quickly go bankrupt:

Here’s a few important stats (courtesy of the previous link, National Coalition on Health Care) –

  • Without health care reform, small businesses will pay nearly $2.4 trillion dollars over the next ten years in health care costs for their workers
  • 178,000 small business jobs will be lost by 2018 as a result of health care costs
  • $834 billion in small business wages will be lost due to high health care costs over the next ten years
  • Small businesses will lose $52.1 billion in profits to high health care costs
  • 1.6 million small business workers will suffer “job lock“— roughly one in 16 people currently insured by their employers.

Health reform is no longer an option, it’s a necessity if this country wishes to remain financially viable and competitive. Besides, health should not have a price tag, it should have a value, and when you get right down to it this country does not hold the health of all its citizens in high regard.

In order for Obama to achieve any kind of reform whatsoever, he needs to do what JFK did with civil rights and present universal health care as a moral issue. To do this Obama first needs to regain the communication skills that helped him win the presidency. During the campaign, the Obama team got a lot of credit for their ability to use technology and the Internet to get their message out. From Facebook and Twitter to their very own iPhone application the Obama team had multiple avenues at its disposal to communicate with it’s supporters. Since the campaign, Republicans have seen the importance of the Internet and the need to effectively use it as a battleground of ideas, even if those ideas are blatantly false. It’s great that the Internet can be used to spread ideas and information, but when that information is false and misleading it has a negative effect on important conversations being held. The GOP is going right to the playbook here, they are playing on the base emotions of the public and spreading falsehoods to take control of the health care debate. How is it that the party that nearly destroyed the economy over the past eight years is now preaching fiscal responsibility as a reason to not take on health care reform? Even so, I can understand why the Republicans don’t want health care reform (no matter how much they say they do). If Obama were to achieve any kind of reform whatsoever it would be a huge blow to the GOP’s chances in the 2012 elections. Right now, they’re just trying to delay any serious reform before the 2010 elections so that they can regain some seats in the House and the Senate. Sure, this sort of behavior is putting politics over the needs of the country, but do you really expect anything else?

Wednesday night we will see just how influential Obama’s speech is for his political colleagues. He can take all the hard-line stances he wants, but if the people in that congressional chamber don’t believe him, they will not pass the legislation that he wants. As Bill Moyers recently said in an interview, great presidents “have the power to move people with words, and then by making the choices that back up those words.” The speech on Wednesday is a nice starting point, but Obama needs to back up whatever he says with strong decisions. In regards to the use of political capital, Obama needs to treat health care like Bush did Iraq; not lie about it, but essentially push it through with force. He needs to dig in his heels and pound his fist on the table, to say that we need health care reform because it is the right thing to do. The war in Iraq was a war of choice, health care reform is a necessity. Yesterday it was reported that the White House will draft it’s own health care bill if necessary, which is great news. This way, everyone
can point to a single bill that they know has the President’s approval, and debate what is in the bill rather than rumors and fiction.

Even though I remain optimistic, I have my doubts about just how much reform can be achieved. As I said before, health care is run by the drug industry, health insurance industry, and wall street. These three sectors are also the same groups that will determine just how successful Obama’s re-election bid in 2012 will be. During the campaign in 2008, Obama received a lot of funding from these groups, and no matter how much public support he has going into 2012 he will still need the big money interest groups to fund his campaign. So, how can there really be significant change in health care when this administration (and the vast majority of politicians) has strong ties to corporate interests? Money rules Washington, even more so now than it used to. Fortunately, the old saying that money is everything isn’t quite true, there’s one thing that’s more important: votes.

Yes, it’s cliché and people sound like a broken record when saying it, but it remains true that when people join and rise together for a cause there is nothing they can’t achieve. One of my favorite quotes from the ever-insightful Margaret Mead reads, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world…indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” There needs to be a movement of liberals and progressives in this country, one which hasn’t happened since the 60’s, where people demand their representatives to do what they voted them to do. Barack Obama was voted to end the war in Iraq, fix the economy, and really reform health care; essentially he was voted to put this American house back in order. Now that he’s been elected President, people seem to have said to themselves “okay, my job is done, let’s see what you’ve got.” That’s the wrong approach to take. No matter how well-intentioned Obama is he can only do but so much. He’s going to need the undying backing and support of Democrats to push through any sort of meaningful, effective health care legislation. I’m not saying to devote yourself to Obama and stop asking questions, no-siree-bob; but Democrats need to support Obama with as much fervor as Republicans supported Bush if they want anything to get done. It’s time to take all of the hard work that was put in to get Obama elected and now double that effort for health care. Electing a president that represents one’s ideas isn’t enough. The people need to move together and demand the change they so desperately seek. Blaming the media won’t do anything, what else do you expect them to cover? Television is all about ratings which are driven by sensational stories. That’s the way it is going to be for the rest of time. But if there is a serious movement of progressives who are all focused on achieving health care reform, it will be sensational enough to make the airwaves.

Democrats need to remember, Obama was voted into office less because of his ideas, and more because Bush messed up so badly (yes, Palin helped too). This is the way it’s been for the last three Democratic presidents (Obama, Clinton, and Carter). The Republican who was in charge before messed up, so the country chose the other party. It’s time for Democrats to fortify as one, to remember how to use the spine that they’ve got, and do what’s necessary to bring this country back from the brink. It’s time to stop sitting on the sidelines, we need to get in the game and make it loud and clear what we want and why we want it. Be educated in your opinion and support it with charisma. Don’t demonize the other side, name calling and childish behavior won’t help the cause. Refute their ideas with facts and stay on topic, don’t get drawn into ignorant conversations about death panels and birth certificates. Obama is going to need all of the help he can get from his supporters, and we need not waste any energy bickering amongst ourselves when we all have the same goal in mind. Time to get involved before this crippled giant falls. Well, actually…that depends on a completely different yet equally important issue: Afghanistan… but that’s a story for another time; stay tuned.

—————-
Listening to: Wyclef Jean – If I Was President
via FoxyTunes

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