Thursday, August 20, 2009

American Sickness: A BogsBlog Special Edition

ABOVE: Pete Bogs getting "socialized" in the UK.

Pete Bogs here, revving up BogsBlog for a one-off post about the ongoing health care reform (aka healthcare reform) debate raging in the United States right now. And it is raging. Apparently, it takes a special issue to turn some people into noisemakers. I honestly can’t remember any issue eliciting such vitriol here – not the war in Iraq, not our own government spying on us, not the way our values have been so compromised in front of the world in recent years.

And this universal health care debate is at heart about American values. In broadest terms, it is a battle between those who care about money and those who care about people. On one side, defiantly ignorant hordes who use the fear of government-run “death panels” – seemingly drawn from some dystopic sci-fi story – and their profiteering enablers in the corporate world, who stand to lose the most (money) from a socialized, government-run health care system; on the other, those who believe health care is a basic human right that should be fostered from the top down.

Earlier this year I enjoyed visiting friends in Scotland and England, countries where everyone receives health care regardless of profession, social status or ability to pay. They love America and Americans, with some reservations (it’s not an unconditional love), but they consider it madness that one of the largest, richest, most developed countries in the world doesn’t provide health care for its people. And I agree with them 100%. We should be leading the world in progressive health care thinking; instead, we are way behind our friends. They don’t necessarily think their respective health care systems are perfect, but they also have made it clear they wouldn’t want to live without them.

The “American sickness” is our fear of making positive change because of the prevailing influence of misguided, even dangerous ideological ("special interest") groups. Yeah, let’s keep those assault weapons legal and easily acquirable. Let’s even allow people to brandish them outside an event where the president was speaking on health care reform. We’re smart people who always take sensible steps to do what’s best for us. No question.

We constantly congratulate ourselves on being the best at everything, but these notions are rarely based on empirical knowledge. They’re assumptions based largely on jingoism and ignorance (sorry for the redundancy there). The proponents haven’t looked at the world, nor do they often care “how they do it in (insert location here)”. So they can’t really say with any authority what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, they seemingly just can’t make up their minds.

Socialized medicine, as it has sometimes been described, can and does work. Canada has it. Britain has it. These are some of our closest allies in the world, by the way. We’re not talking about Soviet-style socialism here, though judging by the overwrought reaction of some Americans, we may as well be. And we’re not talking about National Socialist Party-style philosophies either, but that is apparently lost on this woman, and this woman.

Again, I think this issue comes down to whether one cares more about people or about money. The first thing that comes up in any discussions I’ve personally had with health care reform opponents is, “Someone has to pay for this (universal healthcare).” Of course; nothing worthwhile comes without a cost. It all comes down to priorities. And I am ashamed by the misplaced priorities of so many of my fellow Americans. I am saddened, too, that a lack of information is often what drives their views on health care and so many other things.

My own mother – an extremely intelligent and liberal-minded woman who was a nurse for four decades – was opposed to socialized medicine. But I believe she was basing her position on outdated and/or inaccurate information. The true story isn’t coming from here, it’s coming from countries where universal healthcare is a reality. And I believe that if my mother knew the true story now, she’d feel differently. She certainly cares a lot about people, and always has.

There is no wrong in caring for your countrymen; the opposite is actually true. So people can shout and gnash their teeth about a “nanny state” or whatever they want to call it. I believe it’s a core function of government to protect and take care of its people.

Which brings me to a non-rhetorical question. Seriously, please answer it, at least to yourself, but preferably as a comment on this post. If you take nothing else away from this post, take this question, which is actually a series of interrelated questions:

How can some of the very same people who want large sums of money spent on traditional national defense also object to us spending money on health care for all citizens? Isn’t keeping Americans alive and healthy the common goal of both our defense system and our health care system? How can you say you want to prevent an anthrax attack from terrorists upon your neighbor, yet not be concerned about preventing or treating a naturally occurring cancer or infection in that same neighbor? How can you want to stop bullets and bombs from raining down upon someone, but be completely indifferent were they to be injured in another context? Who funds our defense system? We all do, because it is for the common good. We should give health care no less importance, starting now.

If Congress does not take this opportunity to make universal health care – including a “public option” – a reality for Americans, we need to vote to yank health benefits from them. Use your salaries to pay for your own, guys. If it’s good enough for the people you represent, it’s good enough for you. This seems like a sensible proposal to me. Anyone? Anyo