"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Universal Health Care Hurricane

So far, the majority of Americans despise socialism. At least the GOP hopes it's still a majority.

But Republicans had better brush up on the health care issue and pronto, because it's going to be a 2008 campaign issue, and bigtime. Costs are slamming the middle class, and then there's the problem of the 470 million Americans without health care.

So I surveyed a passel of my British penpals---National Health Service (NHS): Boon or Bane?

---8 agreed with "I love it. It could use improving, of course, but it's a system that works."

---2 agreed with "I love the idea, but it's broken and needs a major overhaul."

---Zero agreed with "Should move toward privatisation for most, as long as the most vulnerable are protected by gov't," and "Nuke it" probably would have finished at negative infinity.

An unscientific poll to be sure, but it backs the fact is that Brits love their NHS---it's a source of national pride. Everyone's taken care of, at least in theory, and that gives everyone a warm & fuzzy. Even the head of the putatively Conservative Party David Cameron devotes rather large swaths of time condemning the Labour government for the NHS' inefficiencies in practice.

Now, it's fair to say that Brits know little about the reality of the American health care system except the horror stories they're fed by their press, which is sympathetic to anything socialist.

It's also true that all whatever many Americans know about socialized medicine in the UK and elsewhere is the romanticized view given by our own press---and there are more converts to the idea every day as a result of that propagandistic film going around. Not only is it free, they even give you money for carfare!

(We should expect that film will find its way to DVD and cable and to a helluvalot of voters before November 4, 2008.)


Conservatives and libertarians are appalled, but they were also appalled at Bush's drug program for seniors. But it was an idea whose time had come, or at least a bill come due in the 2000 election. Bush was forced to promise a program to compete with Al Gore's. (Perhaps it was foolish for him to keep his campaign promise, but Bush is that kinda guy.)

So what can the GOP do to resist a rising tide of sentiment for single-payer health care socialism, another idea that has come due?

Try to let Americans know the facts on the ground in countries with socialized medicine? A risky proposition, but one woman on talk radio today told her tale of exporting her daughter to the US because the 2-year waiting list in Canada would have left the girl paralyzed. The caller herself had had failed ankle surgery there and warned that if you like handicapped parking spaces, you'll love Canada---there are a lot of spaces and a lot of new handicapped. Their government is not doing right, she said.


I don't know if the truth will work, that it's beyond government to do right for everybody. You won't find a lot of Britons testifying---over there it's still one for all and all for one. As a reasonably homogeneous society, they still believe in their government as representative of their society. Even while they hate whatever blokes populate their government, they love their NHS.

But there's no way the polyglot that is America will put up with waiting lists of a year or two. America hates not only its people in government but government in general, and even the New York Times won't be as mellow as the UK's leftist Guardian at failures in a US universal health care system, even if a Democrat is our president.

We want what we need and need what we want right damn now, and God help whoever's not giving it to us. It's true that Bush screwed up Hurricane Katrina, but imagine Katrina times 1000, for ever and ever and ever.

Americans will want the best care in the world for everybody, and every American will want the best health care in the world for himself and his or her family, which in principle is a reasonable demand.

But in practice, nobody's that good, not an executive, not a legislature, not an administrator. And I suspect that even God can't print enough money to cover their shortcomings. America, unlike the countries of the Old World, was built on the individual and his family, not the esprit de corps that cheerfully allows more handicapped parking spaces and cheerful patriots willing to be put in them.

I admire the civic spirit in other countries that tolerates such shared suffering. They seem to prefer universal suffering to working hard and/or disagreeably to get the dough to insure your family's health care. Americans have so far resisted, but universal suffering may become our fate after the 2008 election, forever and ever and ever.

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