One can only be glad that so many white middle-class conservatives are fairly late in life learning the joy of protest, the feeling the thrill of the barricades, and experiencing the carthartic wonders of getting involved.
Let’s face it, public protest is exhilarating. To see so many otherwise stodgy people on an adrenalin high as they shout down their elected representatives and lay siege to the very idea of a town-hall meeting as a forum for ideas, is to take one back to civil rights marches, anti-nuclear demonstrations, picket lines and construction protests.
You’ve not lived until you’ve yelled your heart out in public. Protest–even misguided protest–is good for the soul.
Day after day we see really nice respectable people giving voice to their dislike of the Obama administration, their sense that the America that has been so generous to them is changing; that it may not be as generous to their grandchildren.
Righteous anger is as good as a whole slew of martinis, and there are no calories and no hangover.
After all, this all about heat not light. You’re out there yelling in public for one of two reasons: (1)You’ve missed doing it since the days of Vietnam War, protests, or (2) It’s something you’ve never done because the beastly liberals were doing it.
These protesters want to take back America. But first, they want to wrest the joy of public protesting from the liberals. For too long these crypto-socialists have had all the fun, from free love to smoking exotic cheroots and pouring into the streets to protest every conservative initiative, social policy or war. Just think of Victor Hugo.
Begone liberals. You can’t have all the fun because now we have some of it. And if any of those crackpot, socialistic, inconveniently elected Congress types try and sell their Dr. Government health care schemes by town hall meeting, we’ll be there, golf shirts and pants with a touch of spandex freshly laundered. Protesting is no longer for the unwashed; people with Brooks Brothers suits in the closet can now head to the barricades to fight for the right.
These town hall meetings are the gift that keeps on giving. There’s really no impediment to the joy of protest for the aging guys and gals who find
retirement a yawn. Public policy activism is the tonic these people need. Get out there and let Obamacare take it on the chin. Tell them that old people are left to die in England, that rationing dominates in Canada, that the French are forced to guzzle wine in lieu of medication, and that the Japanese are falling like flies.
Isn’t this a great country in which even conservatives can have a go at hitting the bricks?
You’re the rebels now, at the baracades, standing strong against the forces of the evil reformers. Compare socialized medicine with the post office. Beat on those bureaucrats, who you claim are going to be making health care decisions instead of doctors.
Here is a quick guide for the neophyte protester:
Don’t use an out-of-state car. Don’t wear too many diamonds. Journalists don’t understand; besides they’re in the tank for Obama. Try to look like a liberal: shabby. Don’t mention daddy’s fortune, your Palm Beach pied-a-terre, or the place in France. Go forth and shout for America.
Just one more thing: Whatever you do, don’t let it out that you are on Medicare. Sadly, it’s one of the most popular government programs ever. –For the Hearst-New York Times Syndicate
President Barack Obama starts from a pretty compelling argument: In the rich industrialized nations, the rich and the poor should be able to afford to get sick. They surely will. Disease does not means test.
But after that, the health care argument gets away from the president. In fact, he hasn’t made his own argument.
This week Obama has argued passionately for reform, as he did in his prime-time news conference Wednesday night. But we have yet to hear his personal view of what an American health care system should look like. One suspects that it is the solution that dare not speak its name: a single-payer system, a government system. Yes, a–dread word–socialist system.
The empirical evidence from Australia to Ireland, Canada to Norway is that this is the way to go. Every country with a national health service pays less for health care per capita than does the United States. And not one has contemplated canceling their system.
Yet it is a concept that may be too radical for Americans. It also may be too late in the evolution of the health care industry to nationalize the system.
Canada had the most difficulty nationalizing health care of any major country, and is still groaning. Canada did not plunge in; it waded into a state system, and put it all together in an age of sophisticated medicine. But it is not without problems: for example, Canada failed to comprehend that if everyone who needs to see a doctor sees one, more doctors will be needed. There is a chronic shortage of doctors in Canada.
Britain, by contrast, nationalized its health system after World War II, when medicine was simpler and the process was easier. It was also a time of post-war idealism. Today, like most state systems, it functions well enough but not perfectly. Well enough for Britons living abroad, including in the United States, to fly home for major surgery.
The world of single-payer does allow for private insurance, and it is flourishing in countries like Ireland. This provides a second tier for those who feel the basic system is too rudimentary. Under this arrangement if you want a procedure for a non-life-threatening ailment, which would require a long wait in the state system, you visit the specialist–called a consultant in the British Isles–and the insurance company picks up the tab. The idea is that the well-off get what they want, and the rest get what they want.
Obama’s problem is that he can diagnose the problem but has failed to prescribe a solution that he appears to believe in. He is waiting for Congress to produce something that he can sign onto, called reform, and that will not expand the budget. Where European and some Pacific countries have allowed private systems to piggyback on state systems, Congress is struggling with the reverse and the president is going along. Congress is planning to have the state piggyback on the employer-paid system.
The idea that employers should carry the health care burden probably goes back to the 19th century when railroads, coal mines and ships found it best to employ a doctor to keep workers on the job. Today, it is an incongrous burden on American firms in an age of globalization.
The three principal schemes for a new day in health care seek to preserve private insurance as primary, mandate portability, demand that commercial insurers do not reject pre-existing conditions, and provide some kind of safety net from the government. And, yes, the whole new edifice will be revenue-neutral.
At his press conference, Obama was ebullient, funny at times–the very picture of a man about to get what he wants. By contrast, in the halls of Congress, the lawmakers who are supposed to deliver this package are despondent. They do not know what the president will accept and are not persuaded that huge federal spending will not result. There is real political fear on Capitol Hill. Wednesday night did not allay it.
We have all heard about “too big to fail.” How about “too big to be denied?”
Step forward two commercial sectors that are certain to get in the way of President Barack Obama’s reform plans: the nation’s health insurers and its defense contractors.
The former are bound and determined to hold their lucrative position in any extension of health coverage to the uninsured. In this way, a new health agenda will be designed as much to accommodate the insurers as the patients and providers.
Likewise as Defense Secretary Robert Gates struggles to reform defense procurement and to cancel some weapons systems, he has to deal with the massive power of the defense giants. In defense, the customer is always wrong; and the vendors, through their congressional sponsors, overwhelm the department and get what they want, not what field commanders need or the national interest cries out for.
Ironically the Clinton administration strengthened the defense lobby, and its ability to push around the Pentagon, by orchestrating the consolidation of defense contractors into a few behemoths, as part of the downsizing of the military in the 1990s. Norman Augustine, chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin from 1995-97, told me that during his tenure, Lockheed Martin had absorbed 19 small contractors.
The big contractors of today–Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, BAE and the European wannabe EADS—have conscientiously scattered their manufacturing among many states. One program has components made in 44 states. That means jobs, and jobs mean political clout.
The health insurers, who succeeded in sinking the Clinton health care reform effort, are ready for some concessions, but only enough to insure their dominance. The health insurers and their conservative allies are expert in predicting the arrival of creeping socialism, unless the private insurers retain their supremacy in financing and profiting from the health care system. Ironically, they claim any larger government role in health care will lead to rationing. Yet it is the insurers who ration health care now; and if you are in an HMO they ration it severely, cruelly and sometimes lethally.
A favorite argument is that health care reform will substitute the judgment of doctors for the judgment of bureaucrats. One of the more appalling aspects of the current situation is that the insurance companies day to day substitute the judgment of clerks for that of doctors.
The health insurers will not be denied, but they feel it is reasonable to deny the evidence against them. When health care was in the operating theater in the l990s, and Hillary Clinton was poised to plunge in the scalpel, the insurers rose up against anyone who had evidence that the system was serving the companies, not medicine and not patients. They succeeded in banning from the debate what they dismissed as “anecdotal evidence.” They wanted the debate discussed on a level where they could dismiss reports of their own shortcomings, and conduct the debate in terms of capitalism versus socialism.
It is only now, with business crying out for reform, that the issue is being aired again.
My anecdotal evidence is this: I have lived under government-run medicine in England. It works well enough. The young are favored over the old there, whereas here the old are favored over the young here. Now I am on Medicare,which is remarkably like being on the National Health Service in Britain, except I am being favored over the young.
For 33 years, I ran my own publishing company in Washington. After payroll, the biggest expense was health care. To keep the cost down we changed the carrier frequently, to everyone’s inconvenience and a lack of continuity. When one employee had a rare and painful cancer, the insurance company paid for radiation and chemotherapy but denied payment for painkillers.
For years, ATT ran the telephone system and ordained that plugging in a phone could not be performed by a customer and black instruments were all that should be offered. They were, they thought, too big to be denied.
Robert Gates has shown guts in trying to deny the oligarchs of defense. Congress will need bravery in denying rent-takers in health care. Meanwhile, those who are too-big-to-be-denied are pumping dollars into Washington’s K Street, where the lobbyists carry their water.