Monday, November 9, 2009

The Forgotten

From the outset of the healthcare debate I have been amazed and deeply troubled by the tone of the debate. I was not troubled by the tea-baggers and town hall crazies; they can be explained by the history of our country’s corporate takeover of any serious debate concerning changing the status quo. I wasn’t even troubled by the Republican’s complete abdication of their responsibility to this country’s future by deciding that short-term political expediency trumps long-term engagement in the political process. No, the thing that has troubled me the most is how this healthcare reform debate has focused not on those who have needed it most (the uninsured) but on those who currently have healthcare. Somewhere a political calculation was made that the best way to pass reform was to downplay the moral imperative of having at least 46 million uninsured and thousands dying every year from lack of healthcare.

I wonder what does it say about a country when you have to frame an issue like this in what’s in it for me? Have we become so selfish and insensitive that we have lost the capacity to care for our fellow citizens who happen to be not as fortunate as we are unless there is something in it for us? Granted with the current economic downturn we all could use some relief and it is only human nature to seek out our own self-interest, but this latest trend of everybody for themselves is a little disheartening. It appears that the only folks who have been the recipients of charitable giving are the ones who least need it, i.e. bankers, CEO’s, etc.

Not since the death of Senator Ted Kennedy has anyone in politics spoken of our moral obligation to one another to give everyone in this country healthcare. It is amazing to me how the Republicans and health insurance companies have frightened the Democrats into abandoning the argument that people are dying every day from a lack of healthcare coverage and not only that but people’s long-term health is being seriously affected by their lack of access today. Rather than treat a cough today we prefer the current system that waits until it becomes pneumonia before providing the highest cost and least effective treatment available. I don’t understand how anyone can get traction from the argument of screw your neighbors because it is going to limit or ration your care. Would this argument be persuasive if we were stranded somewhere and had to rely on each other’s provisions or would we setup “death panels” to decide who was worthy of compassion and who was not? This argument that there is only so much healthcare to go around and that if you share it you will lose what you have goes to the heart of something dark and sinister in the human soul.

With the historic passage of the healthcare bill by the Congress it is still surprising that to me that we have not had a national outpouring for the right of all Americans to have healthcare. When it comes time to transfer wealth from the bottom up we never see commercials talking about how the corporate welfare system is running our “way of life”, but whenever we speak about transferring some of that wealth down to be shared by all Americans we have commercials and rallies comparing having compassion to communism. So let’s be clear, all of the other industrialized nations in the world who provide healthcare for their citizens are communist? The sad part is that the majority of Americans don’t even know what a communist is and so it’s this red herring used anytime anyone threatens the status quo. We must decide as a nation if access to healthcare is a privilege for just the wealthy or a right for all Americans. This I think is the fundamental question that this debate has failed to ask or to answer and as long as we have not answered that question then we continue to address peripheral issues and not the fundamental question of if it is a right then what is the most efficient and cost effective way to do it.

It is unfortunate that the majority of those 46 or so million of uninsured do not vote, so they are the forgotten or the invisible. Who speaks for those who have no voice? We have ads now asking folks to adopt animals like we use to have for adopting children, but there are no ads depicting the carnage of watching poor folks die of curable and common illnesses because they could not afford proper decent healthcare. Who comes up with this stuff? There has to be some mastermind behind this, I cannot believe that we have become this hardhearted on our own. We are willing to speak up for defenseless animals, but defenseless humans they’re on their own.

Real charity doesn't care if it's tax-deductible or not. - Dan Bennett
The Disputed Truth

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