I’ve been thinking a lot about the current healthcare brangle here in the U.S. You can’t really call it a “debate”, since there’s precious little rationality emitting from the conservative end of the spectrum. That in and of itself is very revealing — if this were a clash of principles, or a clash of competing solutions, we wouldn’t be seeing town hall shoutdowns, bizarre distortions such as the “death panel” meme, and flat out idiocy such as the Investor’s Business Daily editorial sanctimoniously informing us that Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have survived under the British National Health System.
These are not the tactics of a faction with a coherent viewpoint, let alone a leg stand on. Conservatives appear to favor the current system, where 40 million people are not covered at all and most of the rest of us are one lay-off notice away from risk of medical bankruptcy, over any possible attempt at change. Otherwise they’d be engaged in the process, either collaboratively or competitively.
That many of the town hall shouters against government healthcare are likely either Medicare or VA beneficiaries is an irony which seems lost on everyone. That the United States already has the third highest public expenditures for healthcare in the world (ie, tax dollars, specifically) is a fact which seems lost on everyone. That our healthcare outcomes put us near the bottom of the top 40 nations ranked is a fact which seems lost on everyone.
The system is broken. Badly. Without good insurance, I’d be bankrupt or dead right now, thanks to my ongoing cancer adventures. I am one layoff notice away from that fate. And I’m one of the lucky ones.
But conservatives would rather shoot down any chance of liberal-progressive success that admit the current system is broken, let alone attempt to fix it.
I’ll go back to what I’ve said about conservatism before. As a movement, and through its political standard bearer, the Republican party, conservatism has failed on its own terms. These are people who say, in their party platform, that they believe in:
An optimistic patriotism, driven by a passion for freedom. Devotion to the inherent dignity and rights of every person. Faith in the virtues of self-reliance, civic commitment, and concern for one another. Distrust of government’s interference in people’s lives. Dedication to a rule of law that both protects and preserves liberty.
This devotion to freedom, dignity and rights expresses itself as a howling drive for forced pregnancy, government control of consensual private behavior, destruction of educational quality in the name of religious dogma, wholesale abrogation of constitutional rights, domestic spying, perpetual imprisonment, and deficit spending practices that would shame a 1970s era Congressional Democrat. To name a few.
Conservatives can’t even get their own narrative straight, how can they respond to a competing narrative?
Through lies and hysteria. Hence the current healthcare brangle. The most bizarre manifestation of which is the so called “death panels.” Considering that it’s a time-honored conservative impulse to deny benefits and privileges to people who cannot afford them on their own, assigning to liberal-progressives this putative desire to “put granny down” is the worst form of projection. I suppose a lot of conservatives believe that liberal-progressives will shunt old people aside, simply because they recognize their own willingness to shunt children, the poor, and immigrants aside, and can’t imagine that liberal-progressives might rise above that tendency. Given the long-standing conservative disgust at liberal “giveaways”, it’s a very strange charge indeed. Not to mention counterfactual.
As I said this morning on Twitter, Conservatism is the morbid fear that someone, somewhere, is enjoying an undeserved privilege at your expense.
Except healthcare isn’t an undeserved privilege. Not in a society of our means. I think conservatives should fight for lower taxes and smaller government and individual liberties. (We’ll ignore the Bush Administration for the sake of that.) That fight benefits us all, or can do so. But fighting to keep people sick and dying without recourse? That’s not a passion for freedom, and that’s not devotion to the inherent dignity and rights of every person. That’s just a sickness born of fear.
Live up to your own words, people.