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Ideology, Not Health Care Reform Threatens Freedom!
Relatively recently—and not by choice mind you—I was forced to join the ranks of the not-so-elite club of the unemployed…and by extension the ranks of the uninsured. Since then, I have found myself in the position of actually having to defend my precarious socioeconomic position to those of a more conservative political bent. With a 190,000 jobs lost last month alone in an economic downturn unprecedented since the Great Depression, there are still individuals who believe that people are “lazy,” and simply “don’t want to work.” It’s funny how little facts get overlooked, such as there being anywhere between 6-10 people for every 1 job opening, the reality of the country’s devastated manufacturing base, the greed in the financial industry contributing to record evictions, and the fact that consumers’ penchant for curtailing spending habits in such tight economic times hinders hiring, completing a brutal cycle.
So in times like these, the need for affordable universal health care insurance coverage should be a no-brainer for the American people. However, the fact is that despite polls showing that more Americans favor reform with the goal of increasing access to health care coverage than not, there is still a vocal segment speaking and voting their opposition to such a noble, and long-overdue retooling of the current system, which leaves between 40-50 million Americans without substantive coverage of any kind.
The arguments against any proposal to reform the current health care coverage system—a system which is the chief cause of personal bankruptcy declarations in America in any given year—tend to be transparently ideological, inflammatory rhetorical, anecdotal, and/or diversionary. Take for example the protest gathering of so-called “Tea-Baggers,” and other anti-tax and anti-spending individuals and groups in Washington D.C. back in September. Ostensibly, the rationale for these protests was to display “public” objection to the “runaway spending” of the federal government, especially as it related to anticipated cost of reforming the health care system. In attendance at the gathering was a who’s who of conservative activists and political figures firing up the crowd in order to make their point. But given the runaway spending of the last presidential administration, mostly a result of a combination of ill-advised tax cuts and funding for the dual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, its curious that such vocal disenchantment for spending was not made so obvious then…especially since the costly war in Iraq was unnecessary to begin with. And if government spending is such an issue with these individuals, does their demand that spending should be curtailed include ending the appropriations (better known as “pork barrel” spending) that their representatives bring back to their home districts in the form of pet projects (in theory, I support the idea that people have the right to determine where their tax dollars should be spent, but let’s not forget that people like me pay—or rather paid—taxes too, and we have the same right)? Such an open book of political showboating smacks of partisan politics. These ideologically-and politically-bound actions mean that people like myself should just be left to our own devices—or lack thereof—simply because a few individuals cannot stomach the reality that the current system we all live under simply does not work for everyone.
Then there is the
rhetoric of how any proposal to reform the current health care system is
antithetical to the principles of the Free Market economy. My response as one of the millions of
Americans who would benefit from a government reform of the current health care
system is so what? Despite similar concerns voiced by those who
painted many aspects of FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Medicare proposals as “Creeping
Socialism,” “Communism,” and similar other “-isms,” Free Market America is
still here, still the largest economy on Earth, and ironically, still trying to
survive the excesses of free market—not socialist—practices which threatened to
end the international system of markets as we know it. Furthermore, this notion of health care
reform as being a foothold for creeping socialism has morphed into an
unrealistic impending “attack on civil liberties and personal rights.” Some opponents have gone so far as to assert that not only do health care reform
proposals threaten our "freedoms," but "tears at the heart of the of the Constitution" itself (unlike the secret
renditions, warrantless wiretaps and abuses, shrouded grand juries, and illegal
searches that were the ideologically-driven policies of the last administration). As one of the million of Americans in need, I
simply do not see the “threat” to my personal freedoms, except as it relates to
my freedom to avoid being disqualified for coverage because of a pre-existing
condition (oh woe is me). Talk of death panels, the government’s “intent” to
force us into public-run plans, and other such nonsense speaks to the
effectiveness of the health care reform opponents’ ability to con many
middle-class Americans into voting against their own self-interests. This is especially surprising considering
that many of these same middle-class individuals and families are often just as
victimized by inaffordability, skyrocketing costs, the threat of financial
ruin, and arbitrary decisions by insurance company policy-makers as any of
Leaders among health care reform opponents have used these unfounded fears to weaken the public support for health care reform, without offering anything in the way of substantive options for the failed current system. And the pitiful few alternatives they have offered are laughable, such as medical tax credits for employers and individuals, which do very little good in an economy where job losses outpace hiring. Such ineffective proposals provide an insight into the ideological basis for opposition…the unshaken belief that lessez faire principles will provide individuals like myself a system-based means of access to health care coverage. Needless to say, its somewhat disconcerting to know many of my fellow Americans can and do unflinchingly embrace political ideology over reality, even at the cost of common sense and rational thinking. And its actually scary to think that many are so self-righteous and ideologically-bound as to believe that we should live by their interpretation of what America should be.
Sadly, I find myself hoping that many other Americans—especially those among the opponents of health care reform—join me in the ranks of the recently unemployed. Only then, when more people are forced to realize that sometimes bad circumstances occur, that sometimes everyone needs help, and that the current system is not full-proof, will see that personal beliefs, ideologies, and dogmas are the real threat to our personal freedoms…and not a desire among our elected officials to help those in need.