2009: The Summer of Hate

Posted September 13, 2009 on 2:14 pm | In the category Healthcare, Obama, Politics, Press | by Jeff

Autumn has not come soon enough. The summer of 2009 was characterized by some of the ugliest and most stupid political nonsense that the country has ever had to put up with. Birthers question Obama’s citizenship and search for evidence of his secret African, Muslim birth certificate; Obama’s efforts to reshape a disastrously expensive and inadequate healthcare program has turned into accusations that he wishes to organize death panels to move the country toward forced government-run euthanasia; dumbbell radio has initiated rumors that Obama is plotting to put conservative, white voters in prisons, etc. ad nauseum.  Republican senators and congressmen are making careers out of outright lies and there are enough people looking for reasons to hate Obama that those lies find fertile ground. Former Governor Palin continues to shock us with her vapid stupidity and ugly posturing, Senator Grassley suggests that death panels might actually be in the wind, South Carolina gives us a Congressional mediocrity who shouts “you lie” at Obama and thousands of less than ordinary people march in Washington shouting stupidities and lies into the TV microphones. “Town Hall” meetings to discuss healthcare reform frequently included the sideshow of idiots with guns, roaring their disapproval of healthcare reform while screaming their rights to carry assault rifles to political rallies. What do we do with people who rant they want no government role in healthcare and in the next breath rave about keeping government’s hands off their Medicare? What can be said to people who in one breath call Obama  “Hitler” and in the next, “Stalin”? What can we make of Fox cable commentators that promote the lie that Obama  wants America to be a “socialist” country – or even a communist country? Or that Obama “hates white people”?

American politics has always had its nutcases but mostly they have been on the fringe and political parties have tolerated them while trying to maintain at least a moderately high road of discussion and dissent. This is no longer the case with Republican politicians milking the cow of hatred and fear to further their meager agendas and much of the press reporting their lies and fabrications as if they deserve equal time. The current healthcare debate is the focus of much of the ugliness and it seems increasingly likely that we will get a watered down mess of a bill that will fail to reduce costs and improve quality largely because of the stupidity of a small portion of the country, the cowardice and venality of politicians on both sides of the aisle, and the pathetic performance of a mainstream press that focused on process issues and largely avoided calling out the liars.

A more general question is why such ugliness? Has any president in memory been insulted, lied about, and threatened the way Obama has? There has always been a robust political discourse in America but the current atmosphere is different – and I join Maureen Dowd who in today’s NY Times calls it by its hidden name: racism.

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The GOP: Grand Obstructionist Party: Part III – Healthcare Reform

Posted March 9, 2009 on 12:54 pm | In the category Economy, Healthcare, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

There are two things about the U.S. healthcare system that are obvious to all but the comatose: one is that it is the most expensive system in the world and the second is that it is far from the most effective.

A 2005 study by the Commonwealth Fund reported that the annual per capita cost for health care in the U.S. was $6697. The next highest, Canada’s, was $3326. Virtually all of Western Europe followed, just below Canada’s cost. The Fund’s measurements of effectiveness AND efficiency in delivering health care placed the United States behind virtually every industrialized nation in almost every meaningful measure: infant mortality, access to care, mortality amenable to health care, healthy life expectancy at age 60, etc. To see the Fund’s reports go to this link.

The Republican opposition to any and all administration suggestions for action has focused on scare tactics that are clearly not relevant and a vague threat that Obama wants to “Europeanize” us. This would presumably mean making us more like France, Germany or Italy with their programs of universal health insurance and accessibility to the best healthcare available in those countries. Since healthcare in those countries ranks as high or higher than care available in the U.S. in almost every category – at approximately half the cost in terms of per capita dollars spent annually as well as in relation to national GDP- it is hard to see the Republicans’ downside.

If indeed we were to Europeanize our health care system we would in effect cut costs in half, improve the measurable overall health of the population, reduce infant death rates, increase longevity and make health care available to all Americans. The existence of powerful private sector lobbies will most likely keep us from replicating the plans in France or Germany or Italy and that is too bad. But clearly some action is required to reduce costs, increase accessibility to health care, and improve the overall quality of life in America. And if taking on a slight French accent is part of the cost, well, c’est la vie.

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