Monday, August 10, 2009
I simply don't get it.
Quite aside from the fact that the plan to disrupt health-care town-meetings is overtly to stifle honest debate on a very difficult subject, and despite the fact that there isn't even a bill yet (only a House version and several Senate versions that need reconciling), and even imagining that the anger is real and not ginned up by the distortions and outright lies of the right wing media or fomented by interest groups with a long history of ripping off the health care system for legal profit -- not to mention being fined one point seven billion dollars for fraud -- overlooking all of that: what the hell are these people so mad about?
As far as I can tell, the proposals out there -- the ones that are actually in writing as opposed to the absolutely insane claims of the Rush O'Beckly axis of a$$holery -- are fairly weak-kneed attempts at maintaining the status of most of the quo. Are people really that upset about a bill which aims to prevent their care from being disallowed? Is making insurance portable, and preventing the companies from pulling the plug on coverage when you get sick really that infuriating? Do they comprehend the power of an advanced directive? In what way is any of it socialism? Do any of the protesters even understand the word? I know Sarah Palin frequently says things that make George Bush seem like Demosthenes, but is she really so stupid as to believe her latest? Or is she just another of what passes for Republican thinkers, willing to say anything in order to scare people into accepting the current quo? Which enriches insurance companies at the expense of everyone else.
I have no doubt that plenty of people will buy what she's selling, like it was a 99¢ flat screen TV. Scared people. Bitter people. Malleable, credulous people. (For a thoughtful response to the ex-governor, read this.)
There are plenty of problems -- huge problems -- with reforming health care. Which is exactly why the stifling of discussion is so tragic. Can it really be that those screamers and yellers and shouters like things the way they are? Premiums doubling every few years? Losing coverage when they lose a job? De facto rationing by insurers bent on keeping as much of their money as possible, not spending it on actual health care? Is that what they want? Do they really hate Medicare? Are they so content with the way things are that their only plan is la la la I can't hear you? What do they like so much about the status quo? Has anyone asked them? When they stop screaming?
What's so entirely dispiriting is the extent to which these mobs have been whipped up to argue -- once again -- against their own interests. In the most cynical of ways, for the most ignoble of reasons -- ratings, on the one hand, vis a vis the insanity that is Fox News; and pocketbook, on the other hand, vis a vis the insurers who are off-loading billions of dollars intended to provide medical care -- people have been spun into outrage based on a series of outright lies. Socialism. Coming to kill Grandma. Death panel. It's no less disconnected from reality than if they'd been convinced to complain they weren't being sent to prison. It's unbelievable.
Except that it isn't. Headlong and happily, we're heading off the cliff, cheered on by the very people for whom the system is working fine: making them rich indeed while millions suffer. It shouldn't be possible, it shouldn't be that easy to deceive, but most clearly, it is. What I don't know -- and it's truly scary not to be able to know -- is how much of a threat such people are. (And may I say once again, it's NOT that there are those who disagree with the current iterations of health care reform plans: it's this mindless hatred that's being stirred up, using entirely false accusations.) Most clearly, it's a danger to the President himself, and to various Congresspeople, all of whom have had threats on their lives. One can only hope the Secret Service remains up to the task.
But there's also the threat to us all, as a country, not just of violence, but of destructive manipulation. It simply can't be argued credibly that the health care structure of the US doesn't need serious reform. Nor do I have much belief that either house of congress, nor either party therein, have the wherewithal to do it right. But the prospect that, because of these crazy implanted fears, we might get nothing at all, is depressing. And there are much broader implications: for any of our problems, various entrenched and cynical interests have only to follow the same playbook: lie unrepentantly, scare thoroughly, rely uncontestedly on the ability to misinform and misdirect. There a people aplenty to fall prey to it, as we see now most clearly.
We simply are no longer, as a society, equipped to deal with difficult. It's not in us. Not in enough of us, anyway, to change anything. So I fear, watching the disruptions, reading Sarah, hearing the RWS™ with their latest outrageous outrage.
The only thing I can't figure out is this: where do those guys plan to go when this country, at their urging and entirely of their making, is fully down the tubes?
[Yesterday I read a good suggestion. We should capitulate to the right, and move on.]