Sunday, August 30, 2009

Melancholy and Health Care

I had something in mind, but then Ted Kennedy died, so I'll bump that idea for a bit.

It's not that I'm a big Kennedy fan, Teddy, Jack or Bobby. My father was a fan of Jack and Bobby. Some of the more treasured items I have are pictures of him when he went to DC in '63 for Jack's funeral. Coincidentally, my father also died right around this time in '92, so that adds a little more to the reflective mood.

Teddy certainly pursued many causes he believed would help Americans live happy, healthy lives, particularly in education and health. Whether he pursued the right course to achieve that end is a matter of perspective and debate. Like most people, he also had his failings in his personal life. And that brings me to the tools who can't let the dead, and their families, have a moment of honor. It took no time at all for me to hear Chappaquiddick raised as a sword, aimed at slaying any accomplishments the man, or even the entire Kennedy family, may have had.

Invariably, the Chappaquiddick obsessed fall to the right of the political spectrum. In part because the left is going to forgive one of its own more readily, but more so because it's so much easier to holler "Chappaquiddick, Chappaquiddick, Chappaquiddick!" than to make a substantive address to policies Kennedy supported. Why take the time to think and argue about the merits of health reform, education policy, labor policy or economic policy when you can just yell something irrelevant that makes a personal attack on a proponent of the opposing view?

Look at the town hall meetings on health reform. We have a former vice presidential candidate stoking the fires with an outright lie that government panels are going to decide who lives and dies, like some ersatz Logan's Run. We have viral e-mails laying claim that the government will collect personal information and have private businesses (or are they now an arm of the government?) laying surcharges for unhealthy buying practices. Never mind that corporations already have data on your buying habits and tailor their efforts to you based on those habits, nor the fact that the only efforts to keep your private information your business are the results of government laws.

So, in the midst of this vapid and scurious "information" we have the town hall meetings. Then what do we get? The allegedly liberal media coverage of idiots shouting down their representatives and those idiots being portrayed as somehow representing the majority. Uncritically, the mass media shows these incidents. The only time there's any upset in the media is when some of the more exteme idiots show up toting weapons. How are these idiots the majority if the representatives are elected by a majority in their district? Even in Maryland, a heavily Democratic state with a more than 2-1 registration advantage to the Democrats, the media portray a few extremists yelling at Senator Ben Cardin as representing some vast groundswell of opposition.

I'm not arguing that Obama's plan (which, by the way, doesn't actually exist. There are several possible plans percolating in Congress, none of which were put forth by Obama) is going to make health care available and affordable to everyone, including the government. Any one of the plans should make health care more available to everyone, which I think almost all would agree is a good thing. Whether it's affordable to the individual and the government (read taxpayers) is the more contentious issue. Except that issue isn't even being addressed. Instead it's just a bunch of lies and idiocy. I don't think that can be encapsulated any better than the fool who yelled at his representative that he didn't want the government getting its hands on his Medicare. How stupid do you have to be not to see the contradiction in that statement?

In the midst of this hooplah, I also read an article in Newsweek( about the dearth of doctors able and willing to perform third trimester abortions. These are rarely performed operations but are occasionally necessary to save the life of the mother or because some fatal flaw is discovered in the fetus. And I don't mean some shallow reason for aborting late in pregnancy. I mean the fetus, if it survives to term, will die within moments or days due to some uncorrectable flaw. These are not abortions of convenience but of medical necessity, arrived at after difficult discussion between a woman and her doctor. But they're increasingly hard to get, particularly in the West and Midwest, where there are vast geographic distances between doctors who can and will do it.

The reason for this is the self same opponents of health reform, at least as the shouters embody those opponents. These people who decry socialized medicine, government involvement in their personal health care decisions, and liken Democrats to Nazis are all too happy to step into a pregnant woman's health care. In fact, on the cultural conservative front, a woman more or less ceases to have any rights as a person the moment she conceives. From that point until birth or miscarriage, the fetus takes supremacy. Purportedly this is to protect the "innocent" fetus, thus elevating the fetus above the woman in value. It's an interesting value judgment that's part and parcel of the cultural baggage of virgin birth, but be that as it may, it's the government stepping in to make health care decisions for a private citizen. And let's not forget the travesty that was the Schiavo situation in Florida. There the state legislature attempted to intervene to prevent a husband from making medical decisions for his wife, who was without brain function, again in the name of protecting the "innocent".

Ah, me. I suppose it's unusual to find melancholy as a stepping stone to being fed up with political and cultural irritants. I y'am what I y'am.

So, we have a health system that leaves millions without the resources to get necessary care, preventive or reactive. That same system is not very cost effective for the remainder who do have care (or do you like high deductibles and/or limited choices in doctors through HMOs and a dollar cap on lifetime care?). Congressional Democrats, at the urging of President Obama, put forth plans to address these problems. They're not perfect. Cost is a big issue, probably the real issue that should be at the focus. What do we get from the GOP? Death panels. Socialized medicine. Nazis. Not an opposition based on the cost of the proposals. Not an opposition based on flaws in how the coverage might be brought to individuals (public, private, co-ops?).

The shame of it is, aside from the possibility that we'll be stuck with the same broken system for a lot longer, is that the GOP is digging its own hole deeper. Appeals to irrational, gut attacks on the opposition as somehow evil have a limited base. That base is shrinking and is on the short end of the demographic stick. That's wonderful for the Democrats, but it's not so wonderful for the US. A viable opposition with policies that propose rather than oppose is necessary for the health of the country. The only saving grace is that Democrats, to paraphrase Will Rogers, are not an organized party. Internal divisions will always make it difficult for Democrats to pass legislation of any radical nature. The status quo will never be in any danger. Hell, they have 59 Senators and a large cushion majority in the House and still can't just pass some health care plan for a president of their own party.

And that's the somewhat rambling "truth".


  1. A biased truth. Labeling opinion as truth is an interesting way to base an argument.

  2. You're forgetting my position that there is no such thing as truth, in the objective sort of sense. Truth is in the eye of the beholder. Facts are objective. Truth is relative. Hence "truth".

  3. LOL - Well then I withdraw my remark.