The reality, the phenomenon that is occurring all over the country, is that these town hall meetings have become passionate shouting matches, replete with crass insults and barely suppressed hatred... in short, they are real life replications of the nasty debates that occur daily on the internet.
So, what's behind all the passion? First, let's examine the health care issue.
Fear of Big Brother health care
There are genuine, legitimate concerns about health care reform. But those concerns aren’t being aired or debated. Instead, we have Sarah Palin talking about “Obama Death Panels.” We have private insurance companies hiring Freedom Works to perpetuate utterly false claims about government-mandated euthanasia.
The hard reality is that health care rationing is real. It always has been and always will be part of human society. It is an uncomfortable and difficult issue. I don’t pretend to know the correct course of action when, say, a 93-year-old is diagnosed with a kidney disease that can only be cured with very expensive treatments. I think those decisions are best left to the family.
But rationing is already being practiced by private insurance companies. Private entities deny health care claims based on the cost of treatments. Think about it: smaller payouts mean more profits! It’s capitalism. That’s the function of a corporation.
With a government-run health care system, modeled on the current successful and popular Medicare, the profit motive is removed. No one gets rich in government by denying claims.
Some of the objections to a public option are these:
- A government program would "squeeze out" private sector companies.
So, what's the problem? Why should a capitalist worry about the private sector? Laissez-faire capitalism is all about competition. If private insurance companies really are more efficient and provide better service than a government plan would provide, people will be willing to pay for their services, yes?
- Health care recipients, who now ostensibly have legal recourse if their insurance providers deny claims, would somehow lose this option in a government run program.
I don’t know what legal options will be presented to people who participate in a public option. But I do know that people go bankrupt all the time trying to challenge health insurance providers' claim denials. Generally, the providers are in much better position to afford legal bills than are private citizens. You can challenge private insurers in theory. But in practice you’ve got no chance. They can afford real lawyers.
- A government health care program would be enormously costly.
The Obama administration argues that reforming health care will actually save the government and the country money by containing health care costs. I shell out hundreds of dollars every month to my health care provider. Personally, I’d rather pay that same amount in taxes for a single payer plan run by the fed.
(And, of course, this sudden concern expressed by conservatives for fiscal responsibility rings a little hollow when we make note that few of them complained about paying for the Iraq War, which has cost $3 trillion over 8 years. And Bush kept all of it off the books, paying with supplemental funding that was all borrowed directly from Chinese banks.)
There's a lot of anger out there. I'm hesitant to complain about it. Fake patriots and deluded corporate shills have a right to scream and shout, just as left-wingers do (and did, throughout the Junior Bush years).
held accountable for torture and Constitutional abuses, people who despise Bush. So, no sense in complaining about the name-calling, eh?
But, I find it... amusing? interesting?... that there is so much passion around the issue. God knows, most of these people showing up at the town hall meetings have never before been to a public discussion. I believe that, at the core, there is an element of …something unseemly …in these town hall “protests.” I find it doubtful that the people at these town halls are all that angry about the health care proposal. I think what they are really angry about is that they lost the election; that they are politically exiled; that they are no longer dominant politically. They sense that the nation is fundamentally changing. Changing forever. And they will never again have the political dominance to which they have become accustomed.
They're afraid. They're bewildered and confused. And so they shriek and growl.
There is no political discourse in this country at the moment. I don’t know if we’ll ever return to anything that looks like civility.
Well, if it’s going to be mob rule, choose your mob and let’s get it on.