health care reform: it’s about community, stupid

My latest HuffPo piece …

“About 80 percent of Americans are happy with their health insurance,” I said to my Swedish wife over coffee, the baby squealing with glee as his sister danced around him. “So, you see, it can be a hard sell to actually create change.”

I was proud. This was it, the reasonable explanation for Americans’ completely unreasonable failure to fight for health care reform. People say they like the President. They say they want health care reform. They even say they support the public option. But they seem willing to let the wacko minority scare them with paranoid brooding and crazy talk.

Maybe this is a weakness of the internet passion that got Obama elected – it ran wide but not deep. Now no one will follow him into a tough spot.

But this explanation was better. Surely my wife would understand that such a great majority would have trouble sacrificing for a minority (20 percent of the US population is what, only 60 million people? Just the population of Italy … no biggie.)

She stared at me.

“So that 20 percent includes all the people uninsured?”

“Probably. Who would be happy being uninsured?”

She turned back to cracking her hard-boiled egg. Not another word.

Here in Sweden, forsaking your neighbor is the unforgivable sin. Even if you let the state do the caring, even if you never smile at them, you do not forsake them. It is part of a wider northern European sense of consensus and community, one that leads to the world’s leading welfare states, where no child would ever be left without medical care.

This is clearly not the case in the good old U S of A, according to The Gaggle over at Newsweek:

But, as pollster Bill McInturff, who along with Peter Hart conducted the most recent NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll, told reporters in a round table discussion last week, most Americans are convinced that covering the uninsured will require some sort of sacrifice on their behalf, and most people simply aren’t prepared to give up anything to ensure that everyone has access.

A couple weeks ago, I read a Swedish newspaper story about a town hall meeting. It ended with a guy turning to a woman and asking, “Why should I pay taxes for your daughter?” Standard stuff at your local Little League field, I am sure. Taxes bad. We are becoming Russia. Blah, blah, blah.

I can’t wait to see these people turn down socialized Medicaid when they hit 65. Somehow, I think they will swallow their pride and take my tax dollars.


But here is my answer to that tax question.

You pay taxes because communities, and on a larger level, societies, benefit when they care for their members basic needs. It is why we have socialized schools and socialized national defense and socialized pensions.

And America is as much about community as any think tank-produced creed of craven capitalist individualism. Pick an era, any era. You got the Pilgrims and the Continental Army huddled together to endure hard winters. You got settlers (or invaders, if you like) bound together on wagon trains through deserts and attacks.

The American tradition of community is about the government lending a helping hand in the Depression and the nation sacrificing almost everything in the depths of World War II. It is about the spirit of the 1960s, maybe America’s greatest moment of communal expression, if not action. Just because the baby boomers lost their momentum and nerve does not taint that spirit.

We do better when we take care of our brother. It is both a practical and moral imperative, not to mention an economic one.

Obama is clearly not a street fighter, at least on this topic, or he is playing too subtle a game for me to understand. I hope he comes out with unexpected clarity and strength in his address to Congress.

He needs to fire up the crowd. For there are monied special interests spreading lies, and more people believe them every day, and the people who are supposed to fight for health care reform (yes, I mean you) are just standing by.

If you are an Obama supporter, you have to do more than agree that Obama is groovy and feel good about your vote. You need to step up and insist on this reform. You need to convince your neighbor, argue with the guy at the Little League field.

We cannot leave our fellow citizens behind. We can never forget that America is built on a community coming together to grant its members freedom, on a nation of immigrants coming together to provide a foundation for liberty.

But you cannot have the liberty without the foundation, and the foundation will not hold unless we reform our health care mess.


4 thoughts on “health care reform: it’s about community, stupid

  1. Unfortunately for you there are only two sides to the argument: Americans who don’t want this abomination and Liberals who do. That doesn’t leave any room for discussion.

  2. While I can agree that some degree of health care is a right for citizens (not non-citizens), you forget the framework for a capitalist society is reward for effort. One of the rewards that my wife and I have for our hard work, sacrifices, and good choices over the years are jobs which have great health care as a benefit. I don’t see any way in which our health care can get better under any plan, especially a plan influenced by government. It can only get worse. We worked hard for this. What is our incentive to keep making good choices if it will just be diluted by the desires of the masses? If others want to improve their coverage, then they need to examine their career choices and work ethics and plan accordingly. While you may claim that this is “forsaking my neighbor”, please remember that my neighbor has the same opportunities to have what I have, without the gun of government, and without taking from my family. America is about equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

  3. i guess paying more or less taxes is not the question, but rather how efficient the government is with those tax dollars. health care wise, it costs the us double per citizen than say the uk. even though there are millions uninsured in the us. i believe in free trade and the benefits of a capitalist economy, but keeping people healthy and productive is an investment. not an expense.

  4. when we stand together, there is strength, when we are separate, there is weakness.
    I agree that we shouldn’t need much more by way of taxes for health care, it’s a matter of priorities. so many people wouldn’t end up on disability welfare if it wasn’t for the fact they hadn’t been able to afford going to a doctor.
    having thorough health care makes a dramatic difference.
    for example, even people on state insurance in much of the U.S., do not have dental coverage. or, they live in areas where none of the dentists accept state insurance. this means they have to wait and wait, until either their teeth become so bad that they have to go to the ER, or they take matters into their own hands.
    (I’m a big fan of self-reliance, but oral surgery IS one of those things usually best left to the professionals…)
    not to mention, there is rediculous amounts of proof that people without dental care are far more likely to have heart problems, liver problems, kidney problems… et cettera. the body is systemic. if you ignore one system, it affects all the others. …much like a country.

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