Friday, January 21, 2011

On Civil Discourse

Seacoast, New Hampshire (Hampton Beach in distance)

                                                             --Edward Hopper

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power...In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike."

                   --Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Barack Obama, ladies and gentlemen calls himself a patriot...Now I understand why he was so reluctant to wear an American lapel pin...Obama 2001:Scrap the Constitution. Spread the wealth.

                 --Rush Limbaugh

Much has been said since Gabrielle Giffords was shot about the need for more civil discourse, but of course polite and less rancorous discussion is a two way street and the sad truth is, one side of the political dialogue in this country is dependent on strident speech. The paranoid style of the paranoid right is not just a style, it's part and parcel of what the fear mongers, the irate right has to sell.

Part of this has to do with marketing--emotion sells.

Part of this derives from the substance of what Rush and Glenn and Sean have to sell: We are in grave danger of losing everything, the Titanic is sinking, so listen to me. It's not appropriate to speak softly when the ship is floundering; you have to get the crowd's attention.

The Democrats basically believe that the private enterprise system produces winners (for which everyone is happy) and losers, and the winners should be taxed to pay for a safety net. So the winners get to keep most of what they win, but not all of it--in the interest of keeping the game going for everyone.

The Republicans, the irate radio right, believe the winners should get to keep everything, that taxing the winners to support the losers amounts to theft; taxes and regulations are tyranny thwarting the liberty of the haves in order to rescue the undeserving poor. 

There really is no middle ground here.

As Paul Krugman noted in the NY Times, the way this played out in health care reform, the Dems saw health care reform as fulfilling a moral imperative to care for all the citizens, no matter how poor or "undeserving" while the right saw this as extending health care to the uninsured and poor as a moral outrage, and assault on the right of citizens to spend money as they choose.

The Republicans begin every fight by inventing a clever taunt for what they don't like--so they brought out "Obamacare," which sounds like some sort of socialist, Big Brother plot. They are really brilliant at renaming: So the Estate Tax becomes the Death Tax. Who can abide the idea of a tax on dying? But with healthcare, they weren't satisfied with Obamacare and now it's that Job Killing Heath Care Law Which is Going to Destroy this Nation. Not one of their more clever appelations.

It's always dire with the GOP. Nothing the Democrats do is ever just mildly misguided--it's always a nefarious plot to kill the nation.

They do complain a lot about how the Democrats just won't talk nice--and it's remarkable how they have all colluded to call the Democratic Party the Democrat Party. The most elemental form of courtesy, to call someone by the name he asks to be called by, is simply beyond Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and all who sail with them. They would call Muhammed Ali Cassius Clay until he died, if they weren't afraid of what he might to to them.Republicans were sputtering mad at the idea of a mandate to have health insurance--you cannot make me buy something I don't want to buy. This idea is if I want to take my chances, I ought to be able to. To make me make plans for misfortune is tryanny.

Of course, what every doctor who has ever worked in an emergency room knows is whenever you see the young guy carried in, a quadraplegic  from his motorcycle accident, he never has health insurance; he is always  the guy who was invulnerable, who never thought he needed health insurance and he winds up in the ICU with someone else paying for his live free or die fantasy. Except they don't die. If they died, then they'd have a right to their delusions, but they don't die. They wind up becoming a burden to their fellow citizens, because they are uninsured. 

Nobody has the heart to send these train wrecks  out of the ER to die in the gutter, and it wouldn't be legal if we did anyway, and so they  become dependent on the hospital and ultimately the bill is paid by his fellow citizens out of various accounts, either in the name of the hospital, the federal government or the state government.

So this disciple of Rush, and Rand and Glenn--and they are always from that persuasion-- this disciple  claims a  right to live free and not die but be sustained on a respirator. And once he is on the respirator, it is my obligation, , to rescue him from his own folly.

We have motor cycle helmet  laws in many states. (Not in New Hampshire). The citizens, the government demand you protect yourself because we are sick of taking care of all the brain injured people who we gather up from the road --road near- kill ,who litter  our highways. In fact what the government is insisting on is not so much that you buy something you don't want, it's insisting that you insure yourself against becoming a ward of the government. We don't want you on our account books. If you are uninsured, you are a charity case waiting to happen.

So now we say, no you can't take that chance with our money. You have to buy health insurance, not for you, but for us.

We require people to buy auto insurance. That's a government mandate which exists in almost every state.

But when we require people to buy health insurance, oh that's different.

Well, you don't have to drive, so you don't have to buy auto insurance, Rush argues. 

But that's a bogus retort-- you really do have to drive or die or rot in your home, unless you live in New York City, a car is not an option; it's a necessity to suburban and rural life.

So, yes, your fellow citizens have a right to require you protect them from having to pay for your care, so they have a right to require you wear a seat belt and your fellow citizens have the right to require you to buy auto insurance to pay for the damage you do to others and your brother citizens (who do not want to be your keeper)  have the right to require you buy insurance to pay for the damage which you do to yourself .

It's a case of the practical experience in the real world vs. the ideologically pure Republican bull that no citizen should be interfered with by the government requiring him to spend his money.

By that reasoning, we should repeal the income tax which takes away a lot more money from the average citizen than health insurance ever would.

But, according to the Republicans, the nine scariest words in the language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." 

As if.

As if, government can't do anything right: 

Except of course for Medicare, and Social Security and the national defense, and launching spacecraft, and defending against terrorists and putting out fires and providing for police and providing the launching pad for a little thing called the Internet and providing a GI bill which invested in the human capital of the Greatest Generation and several generations to follow it, and sent huge numbers of people to college, and provided the jump start to the housing industry. And while we're at it, dont' forget the interstate highway system and the air traffic control system and the Coast Guard and even the much malaigned FEMA and the guys who watch over drugs to be sure they don't poison us (the FDA) and the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control and the NOAA which prevents the fishing stocks from being completed depleted and the National Parks.

And those are just the few things our government dose which private industry could not do better which leap to mind.

And if you really think private enterprise does everything better than government just ask yourself whether you have an easier time dealing with your profit motivated private health insurer than your mother has dealing with Medicare.

I wish I could have Medicare right now. At least Medicare's mission is to provide for healthcare, as frustrating as it can be--at least it's not trying to avoid every expenditure as an insult to its bottom line and its stockholders.

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