I made the mistake of reading and then commenting on a WSJ piece about healthcare entitled The Health-Care Wars Are Only Beginning by Fred Barnes. Mr. Barnes is a conservative of the deepest hue, so any comment that does not agree with him is likely to draw rounds of flak from his supporters. And, yes, I knew that, but started typing anyway. If not me, who? If not now, when? Yeah, yeah… so my initial comments were:
(1) Only the jerks from Faux News call it “ObamaCare”. These are the same folks who brought you “HillaryCare”. You can tell how willing they are to engage in intelligent discussion.
(2) There is some truth to this opinion, unfortunately. Conservatives will battle healthcare reform as long as the insurance companies and healthcare related companies continue to put millions of dollars into lobbying and campaign contributions.
(3) What we need is either access to Medicare for everyone or a simple universal, single-payer system. This country cannot return to its former position of strength and economic power with a poorly educated, unhealthy population. It’s a rising tide that lifts all boats, moneybags. Didn’t you learn anything from Henry Ford?
Yes, item (1) was a tad intemperate. Item (2) is obvious to me. And item (3) is my opinion laced with a couple cultural references (and some name calling) I hope we all share. Conservatives do bring out the worst in me. In all fairness that was in response to the outrageous nature of the original article.
Mr. Barnes article was published on March 18, 2010. When I logged in this morning I found a number of responses to what I’d written and a total of 539 comments as of 9:30 am on March 19, 2010. That says something about the intensity of emotion around the topic.
Most of the comments I could dismiss as coming from sad Kool Aid drinkers. Then I came across one from conservative Gerald Meazell which inspired me to respond:
Wow, Mary, please explain to me how this country got to its “former” position of strength and economic power without government run health care. The fact is that this economy produces best when it is left alone. Henry Ford is a good example. He didn’t invent the automobile, he discovered a way to build them more cheaply. Now, if ol’ Henry had been working for the government and not allowed to profit from his work building cars, would he have cared to invent the assembly line? What would be his incentive? Government intervention in health care and its accompanying third-party payer distortions are what have brought the health care business to the state it’s in today. The solution simply is NOT more government, but less.
Since I was asked, however retorically, to respond, I did. People like that make me feel like Dennis Miller. Actually I’m a big fan of Dennis Miller, or was until he became still another conservative mouthpiece. But I enjoy Miller’s humor and consider listening to him an exercise much like a crossword puzzle. (How many references do I get? Never all of them.) My point here being that we share a culture. Unfortunately it is a big, complex culture and references to some obscure component thereof will not and cannot be understood by everyone. This leads to misunderstandings. Kind of makes you nostalgic for the 1700’s or 1800’s where, presumably, English speaking peoples had more universally accessible cultural references. What I think is common knowledge may not be. So this was my response:
There is no point responding to most of the comments above since there is no possible dialog with true believers. With respect to your comment, possibly a little reading of history and economics would help you. Europe was the world power up until World War II. There are a number of geographic reasons for this. After the Industrial Revolution we see power shifting to countries who actually make things. The US became increasingly good at making things. We built superior educational facilities for our children. We had great natural resources. World War II and its aftermath gave us incentives to activate production on all burners, so to speak. Our federal and state governments nurtured productivity and growth. Meanwhile Europe was becoming, as everyone would agree, somewhat more socialistic, if by “socialist” you mean concerned about the living conditions for everyone, not just the wealthy. As time went by in the US, some very smart people learned how to game the system really well. They developed risky financial instruments and they outsourced production jobs out of the US. Both of those activities have ultimately resulted in our current situation which consists of bad economic conditions and chronic unemployment due to jobs that aren’t coming back.
I did not say that Henry Ford invented the automobile. Please consider the history of the thing. Henry Ford developed assembly line techniques to improve production and he was admirably clever in saving money. He did, after all, make his suppliers deliver engines in wooden boxes to his specifications which were then broken down and used to make floorboards. He was brilliant and the sort of capitalist we can all admire. He also recognized that if he paid his workers well, they could buy cars and the cycle would spiral upwards. Ford paid his people extremely well for the time. Look it up. My point in mentioning Ford, which seems to have been lost on so many people, is that a rising tide really does float all boats. Economies tend to spiral up or down as conditions reinforce each other. Guess which way we’re going now? What do you think is driving our economy today?
Keep swallowing the conservative line and your children will be lucky to be dirt farmers in the ruins of the suburbs of Levittown. Have you been exposed to an economist named Hyman Minsky? Do you see why the recent economic explosion was called a “Minsky Moment”? Please, look it up. The conservative line expressed by so many is blind to the fact that we are less and less productive in this country. In recent years we substituted rising debt for the give and take of a productive economy. I’ve gone on long enough here. I hope you see where I’m coming from. Healthcare is just one factor which is making us uncompetitive today. Our superexpensive healthcare system is similar to the housing bubble. It can’t last. As a country our competitors all have universal healthcare. We pay a heavy price as a country, all 308 million of us, to make a few people wealthy via our healthcare system.
The solution actually is “big government” to dampen risk and provide economic stability, with an ongoing dialog about our values and our future.
There really is something about addressing conservatives that brings out the worst in me. Sorry. I’m also a big fan of Henry Ford. I could be wrong about him, but he strikes me as a very sharp businessperson, successful capitalist, and a man who understood that improving the life of his employees would improve his life, too. THAT is a capitalistic way of thinking which I can support. On the other hand, the people at the top of the financial and healthcare insurance pyramids add nothing of value to our country. They absorb wealth from our economy and drain it from the rest of the working class. Ultimately this will hurt not only our country but their own positions.
We all, I believe, want to live in a country where shared values include the best possible education for our children, steady advances in science which result in new businesses, and a healthy life for everyone while they pursue their view of “happiness.” Am I wrong here? I’d love to hear your view.
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” — Henry Ford