The New York Times reports that a whopping large majority of Americans want the government, not the private insurance industry, to take charge and address the health care crisis. The New York Times/CBS News poll found that most Americans —
- Think the health care system needs to be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt (85 percent).
- Would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance (57 percent).
- Want a government-administered insurance plan that would compete for customers with private insurers (72 percent).
- Think government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector (59 percent).
Given these poll results, I believe that in nearly any other industrialized democracy in the world politicians would be tripping over themselves in the rush to provide universal health care coverage for citizens.
But not in the United States. In the U.S., politicians pat us on the head and tell us we’re confused. What we really want, we’re told, is to keep the private for-profit system that allows increasing numbers of Americans to fall through the cracks.
In the United States, the will of the people means nothing any more. What was once a vibrant democracy has been riddled with parasites sucking democratic values, not to mention wealth, out of it. These are special interest groups, big corporations and a small but well-funded — thus overrepresented in government and media — extremist Right.
In Washington today, just one lobbyist can cancel out the will of hundreds of thousands of voters.
For years the only point of view on health care presented in electronic media has been that of the parasites. The private interest, right-wing perspective has been preached at us incessantly on radio and television for years. I cannot recall ever seeing a balanced, substantive discussion on health care on American television, ever, and I gave up on radio years ago. Print media may sometimes present more substance, but it is usually in the form of showcasing “both sides,” that of the medical-industrial complex and that of an advocate for universal care side by side, with no attempt at editorial refereeing to sort the facts from the propaganda.
At this point, most of us fully expect that President Obama’s health care proposals — which were moderate and centrist to begin with, not nearly the total overhaul most of us wanted — will be watered down and compromised away to nothing but a collection of minor tweaks. And when the health care “reform” bill is signed into law there will be a great ballyhoo about it, but the American public will see no real difference. And the struggle will continue, and the Right will argue that we tried a progressive option and it didn’t work.
So we’ll continue to see charities established to deliver health care to third-world nations coming to the U.S. to provide health care to Americans. We line up for makeshift free medical clinics set up in old animal pens. Our young working adults set their own broken bones. More than one-fifth of Americans now are struggling, or failing — to pay for the health care they need. After a big hoopla about reform, these things will continue.
Years of government that cannot be made to respond to the will of Americans has resulted in political enervation. We’ve become resigned to an ever-encroaching shabbiness, an increasingly instability. None of the promises of reform made to us by the politicians we elect are ever kept to any meaningful extent, and we no longer expect them to be kept. Instead, we get reform theater, and nothing changes. That’s just how it is.
That wasn’t always the case. I am old enough to remember the attitudes of my Greatest Generation parents and their friends, who grew up with the New Deal and fought World War II. They came out of that era believing the American people, through their government, could accomplish anything. Now we’re grateful if our lights come on and our bridges don’t collapse.
Sorry if I’m feeling bleak today, but a number of news stories say the Democrats are going to be forced to compromise away the public insurance option — you know, the option that 72 percent of Americans support — to get a health care bill passed. And as far as I’m concerned that’s the only part of the package that really matters. It’s not a perfect solution, but it would make a real difference to millions of Americans and put us on the road to more genuine reform in the future.
And of course we may ask, with such broad public support for the public option, who is forcing the Dems to compromise? And the answer is, well-funded interest groups, the over-represented Right, and Big Money generally. We won’t get the reform we need, because it would cause a few well-connected people to lose money.
We’re told as if it were holy writ that health care reform would be bad for small business; I understand small business says otherwise. But the Powers That Be don’t listen to small business, either.
We can write letters and make phone calls and even hold massive rallies until we all grow feathers and fly. It won’t matter. We know that, because we’ve tried these things in the past, with this and other issues, and were ignored. That’s why so many of us have given up.
Some of us slog on, of course, because we have no alternative. As long as there is even a remote chance that the people’s will might be respected, we keep trying. What else can we do?
In the early 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of Democracy in America: “The people reign over the American political world as God rules over the universe. It is the cause and the end of all things; everything rises out of it and is absorbed back into it.” Not any more.