My formative years were during the 60’s and 70’s, it was an exciting time to be young. I remember going to baseball games with my father to cheer on the Washington Senators, being proud of the Washington Redskins as they won their first Super Bowl, watching basketball championships between the Lakers and Knicks and of course watching Cassius Clay, then later Mohammad Ali, dazzle the sports world with his inside the ring theatrics.
I played little league baseball. I was schooled in the competitive philosophy that it was important to win. The excitement of making a team was like winning a lottery to many of my friends. It was a good thing to just make the team, despite little hope of playing in the “big games” because you weren’t “that good”, in the end you were part of a winning team. Even kids living in my neighborhood were my mortal enemy during the little league season, all because they were on the other team. Other than making sport of each other for a bit after the season was over our attentions moved on to the next seasonal distraction.
Politics, at times, feels like a sporting competition to me. A new political sporting season can occur at any time. The event that currently dominates is this season’s political/social debate that focuses on a national healthcare strategy. This isn’t the first such competition…er… uh… debate. The last time our political parties squared off on national healthcare was in the early 1990’s.
In one corner the “Democrats Socialist Agenda Government Controlled Healthcare At Rich Folks Expense Team”, and in the other corner the “Republicans Wrapped In The Flag Protector of All That Is Good and Holy Sole Defender of Free Markets In Defense of The Rich Folks Team.”
The names have changed a bit but the teams largely wear the same colors as the last time. Those in favor of what we now call The Public Option won some early points by proclaiming they weren’t going to negatively effect the existing healthcare of the common people (…most of you reading this now), while those opposed invoked the terms “Socialism” and “Death Panels” to retaliate in an effort to swing public sentiment against some form of national healthcare.
Curiously, now that the dust is settling a bit, we find that both sides made claims that are so far removed from the truth we don’t know who to cheer for.
For example, one of the proposals on the table would have had the result of large and small companies opting to pay government imposed penalties rather than continue to contribute to their employees medical coverage. A neutral government agency concluded that on their own, after analyzing that particular plan. Another example is the suggestion the government would have death panels, whose only purpose in the machine was to unjustly “kill off” the God fearing citizens of our country, all because they decide their life ” simply cost too much to maintain.” Examination of the plan clearly exposed the failure of that claim too. How soon we forget that insurance companies actually do this on a daily basis and consider the possibility of a law suit a calculated risk they are willing to take.
This all brings me to the point of my discussion. Republicans have used the term “Socialism” with great effect at guiding a negative dialog regarding national healthcare. Our immediate association with socialism is all negative. Despite the fact that socialism had it’s roots some 300 years ago in a French Christian movement (…not a Catholic movement, it was one organized by a local French believer named Pierre Leroux), it’s modern day connotation is that of a political system that endeavored to remove incentives for people to excel because they couldn’t keep what they’d earned. That isn’t how socialism worked in the French movement, but it did have that impact in it’s modern experience. I won’t even begin to detail the impact of socialism that is faith-base verses socialism absent of faith, perhaps another time.
Without really realizing it, Americans came to terms with limited socialist ideals a very long time ago, though we don’t refer to them as socialist. We embrace publicly funded education for example. As a country we believed we could aspire to a higher level of excellence if everyone could read, write and do arithmetic. In fact, as a country we expanded the concept to colleges too. Another example, we embrace publicly funded interstate highways. To this day no one would argue the value of that national strategy, yet it is managed and maintained with public money.
So the question of a national healthcare strategy that is publicly funded shouldn’t suffer under the baggage of a political movement that was poisoned from the outset. It’s the equivalent of saying that Christianity is forever bad because of the Spanish Inquisition, or that Germany must forever hang it’s head in shame because of Hilter.
I submit to you, since we are a country governed by freely elected representatives, any publicly funded healthcare strategy implemented will never be “socialist.” It may be good or even bad legislation, but socialist, never! It was a socialist movement that caused Canada to implement it’s national healthcare plan, but it was a conviction, much like publicly funded education, that the citizens of the country were better served by having easy healthcare than not.
Perhaps the best way to understand this discussion is by asking the question,
If we returned all education taxes back to the tax payers and told them they had to purchase education for their families from now on, would you conclude the poor and middle class suddenly had “better options” in a free market system?
I believe our country is better served with a publicly funded healthcare system than not. I believe we craft laws that protect us from even the appearance of panels that decide the relevance of a procedure. I believe we crafts laws to protect the sanctity of life. I believe we can do this for less than what our country, as a whole, is paying now. I believe we are a more excellent country for making the effort to do so. In this sporting event we can all win!
Thanks for reading this far.