Obamacare: An Overview of American Politics
By: J. Marlando
I was a kid in Colorado in 1949 the very last days of doctors making house calls: The doctor would drive to your house, carry his black bag in and typically charge around $5.00 to $10.00 for his services. He always charged us $5.00 because he could look around and see that we were poor as church mice.
I often get swamped these days with hate male against Obama. Well most of my friends are right-wing-ideologists. Since I was a devout Republican for well over fifty years they all believe that I will agree with their accusations and conclusions. I don't. And no, I haven't switched over to the democrats either. In fact, after years of observing the politicos on both sides I have decided that while the Democrats are in the business of dirty politics, the Republicans are in the politics of dirty business. (Don't tell anyone I said that).
I wasn't always so cynical. In fact, I was raised to believe that we were the freest, most caring country on the planet; that our politicians were by, for and of the people and that's all there was to it. The first time that I was old enough to vote, I voted for Richard Nixon I like him to this day although not for the reasons that my right-wing friends believe to be true. Richard Nixon was a humanist who supported the Clean Air Act. He gave us the Environment Protection Agency. Everyone in big business and most on Capital Hill are opposed to the EPA for obvious reasons. In fact, it is said that President Nixon probably imposed more regulations on the economy since Roosevelt's New Deal. Nixon was, after all, a known supporter of a minimum tax on the wealthy and a guaranteed income for ALL Americans. (Nixon was also first to sanction goals to break barriers to minority employment; he set the ground work for, what else, affirmative action).
Not that I am in favor of regulations (I have always had a touch of the anarchist in me) but the point is, had Nixon been a Democrat, the Republicans would have been burning witches in front of the White House as they symbolically are doing today because our president happens to be black and a Democrat..
And, speaking of Nixon and Obama, both had a national health plan. In deed, Ted Kennedy said that one of his biggest political regrets was that he opposed Nixon's health-care plan. Obama is just short of having one in place.
The truth is that I'm not "wild" about Obamacare. First of all when Obama was running he promised that anyone who liked their insurance companies and liked their doctors would not have to change. This is proving untrue for a great many Americans. Of course, what U.S. President do you recall who never told a lie? Johnson
It has gotten so that, truth be told, we don't actually have a Republican Party or a Democratic Party anymore, we only have the Government Party spouting two different ideologies. The Republicans accuse the Democrats of wanting to enlarge government. Yet, under Carter's government, nonmilitary employees were reduced by 8,000 and increased under Reagan by 238,000. George H. Bush, however, reduced the nonmilitary government employee count by 30,000. Then. during Bill Clinton's federal employees were reduced by 380,000. (Now that's impressive). Then arrived George W. Bush who increased nonmilitary federal employment by 53,000.
Omaha's presidency, at this writing, has but 2,747,978 federal employees, a few thousand less than George Dubya so which party actually reduces government?
My (real) point to all this is that our country's woes are not the result of one party opposed to the other but rather are based on the system itself. And, this is what the rest of this article will be addressing.
The Medical System
To understand a major fly in today's health-care is to ask the question, why did unions win in a country that was opposed to unionization. Clearly the earliest U.S. unions had communist sympathies and affiliations.
The unions gained power and popularity because industry and bigger business were treating workers more like slave labor than employees; there were "sweat shops" where men, women and children "slaved" for twelve to fourteen hours a day...for pennies and in horrible environments. While the few were getting very rich, the many (workers) could not readily afford food, clothing and shelter.
There were many terrible and shameful incidences such as the Ludlow Mine Massacre: The strike began in September of 1913 when coal miners, working for Rockefeller's Fuel and Iron Corporation, went on strike in Colorado. First gunman were hired and when that didn't stop the strikers, the Rockefeller interests literally hired the National Guard to come in and force the miners back to work. The miners, living in tents by then, celebrated when they saw the National Guard march in because they were sure they had come to help the worker. Instead, they opened machine gun fire killing thirteen--eleven children and two women.
As a result of all this, Unions became essential and with the growth of their population, wages, benefits and working conditions began to improve.
Had industry only been fair and conscientious with their employees the Unions would never had had a chance but capital over labor has never been truly fair and we see that today in many low paying and other minimum wage jobs. (We hear so much negative talk about Mexican and other Latino pickers but few Americans would do their work in their unhealthy environments for what they are paid. Read my IB article Tomatoes: The Unexpected Story to learn the horrors of what I am talking about. (See link at nd of this article).
With the above said, we'll return to the subject of health care. Around twenty years ago when I was working for a magazine, I convinced a nurse working in a hospital to "lift" some financial records for me. She did and as it turned out I discovered some outlandish price gouging. That is items that cost the hospital 15 cents were paid upward to $15.00 by patients. There were lists of these kinds of mark ups and the pharmaceutical companies do the same thing. For example, It cost around $6.00 to make a hundred Lipitor tablets. They cost the consumer $272.00. That's a 4,696 percent markup. If you think that's bad, a hundred Claritin tablets costs around 71 cents for ingredients. The consumer pays $215.00 for the tablets so the markup is 30,306 percent. The list goes on not to mention today's doctor/specialist fees and so forth. (If you need to all an ambulance your be charged, of you will, an arm and a leg).
While insurance companies do not pay what a consumer would pay for medicine and treatment, whatever they do pay is passed on to the consumer so the average Jane and Joe bites the bullet for high-cost insurance often paid for by employers who simply up their prices making products and/or services expensive. That's the system in a kind of nut-shell. As a result, the rich get richer and the poor poorer.
One of the nastiest problems with our medical system is that (1) people can go broke paying necessary medical and hospital bills even losing life savings and (2) people actually suffer and die because they don't have money or insurance to cover the high cost of medical treatment. Because of this, a great many human beings need a national health plan.
Obamacare, as far as I am concerned, is a long way from being a perfected, national plan but, on the other hand, for people who need it, it is so-far the best plan around. What is right with the Obama projection is that people will be able to pay for their healthcare based on their earnings and that's how medicine ought to work!
It is simply inhuman for a human being to die or suffer because of lack of funds but it happens far too often because of the very profession that is supposed to be caring and empathetic.
Just as it took unions to win fair wages and better working conditions for labor it seems it is going to take a national healthcare program to make sure everyone gets medicine and medical care when needed. It's as simple and complex as that!
Obamacare and other challenges
There is a major problem with the Obamacare plan. While it is NOT socialized medicine it will be run by a government agency and historically government agencies are far too impersonal and inept to be involved in human-care. Indeed, we have a big percentage of our population that resents food stamps and welfare checks. Those who resent these modern necessities are both pompous and self-serving individuals who have never tasted (real) poverty.
(Incidentally, there is no such person as a self-made man or woman. EVERYONE has had a helping hand by someone).
And so, we have a similar dilemma that labor once had: Unions soon enough became more self-serving than employee-serving while government begins with self-serving motivations. Indeed, in many instances government employees become robotic in their treatment of people, giving the minimum amount of service. There are a few exceptions but mostly government (nonmilitary employees) slide into a lackadaisical mode and remain there throughout their careers. Great examples of this are our congress people and senators!
Here is the rub: If the insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations, laboratories, hospitals, clinics and finally doctors themselves won't create a helpful, affordable health care system then what alternative is there but government intervention?
Remember, a fellow by the name of Joseph De Maistre, way back in 1858, remarked that, "Every nation has the government that it deserves." This holds more truth, as said, than readily meets the eye.
Like a great charity, our national government began with the highest ideals: Individual freedom and the pursuit of happiness for all. Then, also like great charities, our government began to turn inward. That is to become by, for and of itself. As a result, individual freedom and the (individual's) pursuit of happiness have gone by the wayside.
This is probably the great fault of so-called democracy. This "fault" has been there since the ancient Greeks! Democracy quickly becomes a mere disguise worn by plutocrats. Indeed, "most" of our country's earliest leaders were wealthy and that has not changed for hundreds of years. Obamacare truly cuts into this tradition!
The right-wing population would like us to believe that it is on the left's agenda to "rob" the rich and give to the poor. The left itself is far too self-serving to do this but...the left also supports a greater distribution of the wealth and this is, by any standard, a positive desire. Most (not all...but most) poverty in the world and so the USA is unnatural and the result of the systems of the world. By and large, poverty is unnecessary. It is a creation of man and not nature; by governments and not droughts and storms.
There will always be richer and poorer of course and that is how it should be since there will always be people who excel or work harder or even get luckier. No problem! But that medical care discriminates, because of money, is obviously wrong. The dental profession is even more callous. If you happen to be poor and need work done on your teeth...you'd best have cash or, in most instances, you will live with your pain.
In the far reaches of all this, the system itself has become based on what can be called, social-Darwinism in terms of survival tactics.Hospitals are Darwinistic when it comes down to who gets what treatment...thankfully for Medicare and Medical as they have literally saved countess lives.
The right-wing condemns all government programs but they have never offered a sensible or workable alternative. They curse F. D. Roosevelt but never say what they would have done in his position that would have been more effective...or even as effective in pre-war America. The New Deal simply worked! And speaking of pre-war America, today the economic austerity (adjusted to today's dollars) is pretty much the same as it was during the "Great Depression."
Indeed, 72% of al U.S. wealth is held in the hands of 5% of the population and 42% of that wealth is held by 1%. This means that the poor are getting poorer and most of the middle class is living in heavy debt which is a form of deep poverty in and of itself. This also means that the entire system is dysfunctional for "most" Americans. As a result of all this, a healthcare program must be provided to avoid a medieval environment.
In this light, Obamacare is simply not enough.
American Minds and other Outdated Models
Nearly all my friends are conservative republicans with a very few democrats among them. Out of those friends are at least a couple of Tea Partiers, right wings politicos that pomposity mirror themselves as the "real" Americans. What they are, however are mere ideologues bloated with ideals.
While it is true our country was founded under the greatest ideals the world had ever known, they have NEVER been put fully into practice and the Jeffersonian ideals that most of us love, are mostly pie-in-the-sky politics. Our country began losing its traditional individualism and freedom around the 1870s and the final years of the frontier. Remember, in our times, the United States has more people locked behind bars than any other country on the planet.
Most of my friends who talk politics and condemn Obamacare and the entire left wing as being "un-American" are themselves spouting nothing less than outdated ideology; they are American ideologues who have conveniently missed the fact that labor is not the country's cornerstone anymore; that the traditional family unit (once called the backbone of the country) has been corrupted by the high cost of living or that government, left and right, has grown into a massive, self-serving and self-focused bureaucracy. We can no longer mark off a few acres, build a cabin and farm them. Most people can't even have chickens in their back yards. In fact, the idealism of yesterday is just that, "ideals belonging to another time." Our freedom, as James Bovard says, is in chains.
We now live in a time when the gap between rich and poor is being experienced as opposed to just being seen as a calculation. The very wealthy are really all over there living in a kind of modern feudality. There is nothing new in this, there has always been a certain amount of American elitism but while the billionaire numbers are very small the numbers of the poor are very large and...growing rapidly. In light of this, I will ask the reader this: If two human beings walk into a medical facility with a serious disease and one is very rich and the other is very poor, who has the greatest chance of recovery?
There is no place in modernism for ideology; ideology has historically always been the social engineering tool for the demagogues of warmongering and high finance. Demagogues are all those who tell us what is right and what is wrong, what is of value and what isn't and what is worth living and dying for. It is time to sweep all these absurdities under the historic rug and begin asking, quite simply, what is the cruel thing and what is the kind thing? What does any individual or nation need to know beyond this?
The kind thing is to give ALL people the medicine and medical care that they need. For this to be fair, the cost needs to be based on people's incomes or ability to pay. In this way the multi-millionaire and the homeless person would be given the same chance to get well and survive. In other words it would then be a compassionate system as medicine should be.
Obamacare is flawed, no doubt about it. The entire system is flawed or else we would not have people living in unnecessary poverty or living in unnecessary impoverished conditions. The social engineers love to keep us thinking that poor people are poor out of choice or laziness or ineptness of some kind but this obviously isn't true. The rich have their ne'er-do-wells just as the poor do). In any case, the "system itself" is the maker of ghettoes and ghetto living as most historians will agree. Also remember that poverty is inherited just like wealth is.
We know on the other hand that socialized medicine is inadequate at best so we can't imitate it even in a successful way. By and large the price is right in socialized medicine but it's the service that sucks. Imagine having an appendicitis attack at the DMV and asking a clerk for help, "sorry sir/ma'am, you'll have to get back in line." That's the scenario for socialized medicine in most instances.
We need to do something, however, and Obamacare will be giving help to the over 45 million Americans who lack health care coverage. In fact, a Harvard group tells us that people who lack insurance has a 25% risk of death higher than those who have insurance. And, those over 65 years of age with insurance have a 40% chance of surviving than those that don't.
This is obviously neither ethical nor moral!
It's all over the world, folks. Over 200 million children under five do not get basic health care and ten million of those die annually. We can only guess how many human beings are suffering unnecessarily right now and who will soon enough die unnecessarily too.
As I see it, Obamacare is only a small step in the right direction. My concern is that it will be cemented into the system merely as a cornerstone of a foundation never to be made whole.
For those who are against Obama care, please replace it with something that will not be flawed and will assure that every man, woman and child, regardless of race, color or creed will be given all that is needed to recover from illness and/or injury. What human being does not deserve at least this much and...who is justified in throwing the first stone in anycase?
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