David Hoppe

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:: Spitting on health care reform

The sky hasn't fallen  

By David Hoppe

I am sure there's a segment of the population that's still trying to make up their minds about whether this health care reform business is a good thing. Maybe they've never had a pre-existing condition like high blood pressure or a bout of depression. Maybe their kids have always been healthy as spring flowers. Or maybe they're independently wealthy.

In any event, I have to wonder what they make of the behavior of those who are against reform.

Snarling and spitting, predicting ruination and takeover by Nazis, communists and whoever else might be hiding under the bed has been the preferred mode of expression by those who have wanted to "kill the bill."

It didn't stop there. Andre Carson and fellow members of the Black Caucus of the House of Representatives, including John Lewis, whose skull was fractured by an angry mob in Selma, Alabama, when he was marching for civil rights in the 1960s, were taunted with racial slurs.

On the Sunday night that the House finally voted on health reform, one Republican after another stood up and said things like: "We are about 24 hours from Armageddon.this health care bill will ruin our country." (John Boehner, Republican House Minority Leader from Ohio) "The consequences of this bill will be frightening and horrible." (Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee) "The more I think about this debate, the more I think about what Ronald Reagan said in 1964. He said. it's about whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far distant capital can plan our lives better than we can plan them ourselves." (Mike Pence, House Republican Conference Chairman from Indiana)

Reagan, by the way, was talking about how terrible Medicare was going to be. He warned that if America provided health care coverage for senior citizens, the country would be on its way to becoming a socialist state where "you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free."

I wonder what America Reagan was talking about. The America of child labor and sweat shops? Perhaps he was talking about the America where slavery provided the business model for half the country. Or the America where women weren't allowed to vote. And let's not forget the America where John Lewis had to drink from a different drinking fountain and stay in a different part of town.

In a recent piece in The New York Times, conservative columnist David Brooks argued that, for the past century, Democrats "have built a welfare system, brick by brick, to guard against the injuries of fate."

Brooks, like Reagan before him, and now Pence and his fellow paranoid obstructionists, would have us believe that there's a kind of conspiracy afoot, that, "brick by brick," Democrats have been carrying out an agenda to make us less free. That government is a problem, not a solution. This has been the basis of Republican politicking for a quarter of a century.

And it's historical hooey.

Throughout our history, government has acted as the last resort when private or local interests were either unwilling or unable to address gross injustices. There are labor laws because businesses exploited workers. Voting rights laws because people were unfairly denied their franchise. Medicare and the latest health care reforms have been passed because the health care industry failed to find a business model capable of adequately addressing what is supposedly its reason for being: the treatment and care of those who are sick.

Democrats are politicians, too. If they could have avoided the health care hornet's nest they would have gladly done so. But the system is broken. Not only have tens of millions of people been either uninsured or poorly covered, the ever-rising percentage of household incomes dedicated to health care costs has been a major drag on wages and salaries and, by extension, the economy.

When Republicans talk about "freedom," it's hard not to think they're using a code word for "profits." Indeed, their benefactors in the health insurance industry will see a tightening of their profit margins because of this bill, although, in time, this might be compensated for by the larger pool of customers the legislation drives their way. We'll see whether the industry can adapt to the idea of health care as right instead of privilege, or whether it will continue to game the system, preferring penalties to service and thus force the creation of what Republicans would have us believe has been the Democrats' goal all along - a government-sponsored public option.

Meanwhile, the snarling and spitting continue. It is worth noting, though, that a number of Republicans who voted against the bill now say, well, there are things in it that aren't so bad. They're probably looking at polls finding that the more people learn about the bill, the more they like it. Snarling and spitting, at any rate, just isn't their style.