Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Reality for Dummies

Health care reform oppponents like use the word takeover (often accompanied by the adjective "socialist") to mobilize people against any sort of government intervention to regulate or intervene in the unhampered operation of the free market. So, in recent times, the word takeover has been used in relation to the bailout of the financial sector (as in "the government has taken over the bank system"), or to describe the help extended by the government to beleagured car manufacturers. Never mind the fact that the stated goal of government intervention in these areas is not for the government to take over the banks or the auto industry, but to give them subsidies to save jobs in the middle of a recession and to prevent the recession from getting more dramatic, turning into a depression. No one in their right mind would believe that the American government is really seeking to nationalize free enteprise in America. It is absurd, simply because the corporations that own it would not allow it (and many people would revolt against such an attempt.)

Regardless of the fact that the word takeover completely misrepresents what the government has done with the bailouts and is trying to do in attempting to reform health care, those who like to throw the word around so glibly would do well to remember this: There would be no reason for this supposed takeover and for health care reform were it not for the fact that health insurance companies, drug companies, some doctors and hospital chains regard Americans as consumers of the products they offer (and America a nation to pillage and plunder), instead of a people to serve while making a reasonable profit.

Remember: it is not reasonable for the CEO of a health insurance company to walk away with a figure in excess of $700M in stock options, when a good chunk of that money is not earned by running a company that provides a needed service but by running one that sees to maximize profit by letting people die and taking cover behind the laws written by the regulators the commpany buys every 2, 4, and 6 years. This is not hyperbole. It is a shamefully accurate description of the way a large number of health insurance companies operate in this country, aided and abetted by complicit politicians.

Opponents of reform also raise the threat that the entrance of the government into the health insurance market will eventually drive insurance companies out of business. This is an unfounded claim, as it has not happened in other countries where the government plays a greater or smaller role in providing health insurance to its citizens. The risk is also not born out by the domestic examples that the president has mentioned last night and in the past, and those that we can easily identify ourselves, if we stop to think about them for a minute:

- public and private schools coexist, and in fact the push is to allow a larger number of private schools, not to eliminate them;
- the USPS exists along with Fedex, UPS, and other courier services (though they do not provide exactly the same services);
- community colleges and private universities exist in a rather healthy mix
- PBS and NPR are no threat to major networks or cable channels, though they do provide a healty and necessary non-profit service;
- and, finally, my favorite example: there is ample access to all kind of non-government provided beverages along while water is being provided by public entities.

In other words, there a few examples of public and private concerns coexisting in our society, where public does not threaten private (if anything, it's usually the other way around).

Finally, government intervention, government regulation, and government takeover are completely different concepts that cannot and should not be used interchangeably; unless, of course, the true intent of doing so is to deceive. Pro-corporation conservatives would have you believe that any intervention and regulation always equals a takeover, as if the United States was Cuba and Obama were Fidel Castro. But, hear hear, not every person who supports health care reform is a communist in disguise, not even president Obama. Those who would have you believe otherwise are peddling reality for dummies, as in the type of reality that can only be sold successufully to the ignorant and the misinformed.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and think about how best to mobilize people in support of socialized medicine, for the glory of our Supreme Leader.

What a great country!

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