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Cohen and Robinson (and teacherken) - thoughts on health care

by: teacherken

Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 06:51:17 AM EST

All the fear-mongering talk of "nationalizing" 17 percent of the economy is nonsense. Government, through Medicare and Medicaid, is already administering almost half of American health care and doing so with less waste than the private sector. Per capita Medicare costs for common benefits grew 4.9 percent between 1998 and 2008, against 7.1 percent for private insurers. Why not offer Medicare as a choice - a choice - to everyone? Aren't Republicans about choice?

That is from Roger Cohen's NY Times column, THe Narcissus Society

If the party is going to take a political hit anyway, it might as well get the benefits -- which are considerable.

That is from Eugene Robinsons' Washington Post column, Democrats: Find your spines and pass health reform.

It seems as if editorial voices are more than ready for health care reform.

So am I.

teacherken :: Cohen and Robinson (and teacherken) - thoughts on health care
Perhaps there is little need for one more diary on the topic.  And certainly one might well expect that both columns will be featured on the front page pundit round-up of Daily Kos (where this was first posted).  But there are things that caught my attention in each piece, both glanced at as I arose this morning.

Let me continue with Robinson. He writes

Democrats have already paid a political price for tackling health reform at a time when voters are hurting from the recession, anxious about the economy and wary of new government initiatives. There is no way they can avoid facing this line of attack in the fall. The question, at this point, is whether Republicans will be able to toss in allegations of gutlessness and incompetence: The Democrats controlled the White House and all of Congress, and still couldn't get it done.
 And that may provide a window, a way to buck up those Dems worried about the election of Scott Brown and a warning about what they might face if Democrats pass nothing on health care.  

Robinson is right about the Dems already paying a price. But then he writes, in the rest of the paragraph with which I began

When Republicans scream about "big government" and "socialism" and all that, Democrats need to be able to tell voters that this exercise brought real change: No refusals of insurance coverage due to preexisting conditions. No arbitrary increases in insurance premiums. Coverage for 31 million Americans who are now uninsured. A major step toward limiting the unsustainable long-term rise in health-care costs.

unsustainable long-term rise in health-care costs  not only is that true, but thanks to Wellcare Anthem a significant number of Americans now know what it will mean if there is not control over the power of the insurance companies.  And I would argue that the fear of similar rises in insurance costs for them will make Americans more willing to accept government interference to protect them.  For most voters it is not a political philosophy that matters, it is what happens to them, to their pocketbooks, to their ability to care for themselves and their families.

It is also something else.  Cohen writes in a larger context, one not immediately clear from the title of his piece.  In his opening paragraph he quotes a French psychologist on the "privatization of human existence."  

Cohen then talks about the loss of the sense of community, and writes

Feelings of anxiety and inadequacy grow in the lonely chamber of self-absorption and projection.
 He adds
Sometimes, it seems, we are as lonely as those little planes over the Atlantic in on-board video navigation maps.
  The occasion of these thoughts is a recent stint as a grand juror, which causes him to reflect on
how rare it is now in American life to be gathered, physically, with an array of other folk of different ages, backgrounds, skin colors, beliefs, faiths, tastes, education levels and political convictions and be obliged to work out your differences in order to get the job done.

Here I note that in my adolescence as a male I experienced one of the places that brought large numbers of Americans together, albeit not by age, the American public school, now very much under attack, and I looked forward to the other, compulsory military service.   Even in their imperfections these two tended to bring more Americans together in a sense of common purpose, of community, than anything around us today.

We may attempt to find other means of bringing us together.  We will say "support the troops" even if our actions as a society do not demonstrate that we really believe it.  Many will look for things like Olympic moments as an occasion to transcend our differences.  We might in an earlier time have taken common satisfaction in the recognition of our President with a Nobel Prize, although the last sitting President to win that honor, Woodrow Wilson, was perhaps even more embattled than anything Obama has experienced.

Cohen writes about healthcare within the larger context of his column. Having lived much of his life in other nations, he notes the need for us to recognize "when it comes to health, we're all in this together" and that the most efficient way of achieving a healthier society is pooling the risk among everyone, which is what other nations -  who do NOT have 30 million uninsured - do.  

 Cohen offers arguments similar to those of Robinson.  He writes

Now, as I understand it, the Tea Party movement is angry about waste, bail-outs for the rich and spiraling debt. They detest big government. But if waste and debt are really what's bothering them, how about the waste in the more than 1,800 daily health-care related personal bankruptcies, the 25 to 30 percent of some corporate insurers' costs going on administration (versus 6 percent for Medicare), the sky-rocketing health premiums that are undermining U.S. corporations (and so taking jobs), the endless paperwork of private reimbursement procedures, and the needless deaths?

He is in favor of the public option, perhaps because he sees it as one way of rebuilding a sense of community.  And in his conclusion his title becomes more clear:  

The public option, not dead, would amount to recognition of shared interest in each other's health and of the need to use America's energies and resources better. It would involve 300 million people linking arms.

Or we can turn away from each other and, like Narcissus, perish in the contemplation of our own reflections.

Robinson in his conclusion is blunt about the political implications, and equally blunt in what he thinks must be done:  

House Democrats, who passed a more progressive reform bill, may have to hold their noses to accept Obama's proposal. Senate Democrats may need their spines stiffened to go through with the reconciliation maneuver; perhaps it will give them courage to imagine how they would look if they reject a bill that is all but identical to one they passed a couple of months ago.

The hour is late. The time is now. Just do it.

And me?  I am just a high school teacher.  I have good health insurance through my job.  But I think beyond myself.  I think of my trips to volunteer at Wise and Grundy for Remote Area Medical / Missions of Mercy free health care events.  In just under 3 weeks I will volunteer again, at an event in Northern Virginia, this time accompanied by several of my students.  Two weeks after that I will travel southwest to Roanoke for yet another health care mission.  I may be honored to serve like this, but it should not be necessary.  I will again be reminded that we are leaving too many Americans behind.

In many ways what happens this week will have a profound affect on the future of this nation.  The impact will be political, as both Cohen and Robinson acknowledge.  It will be financial, because we all know our current path on health care is financially unsustainable.  It will be moral - are we really going to give up on helping the millions of Americans who are not included in our current understanding of who should be included in the American Dream, a dream which itself should include some measure of security on the ability to obtain and pay for health care.

And it is far more basic.  In the Christian bible, Jesus asks the lawyer whose questions led to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, who was neighbor to him set upon by thieves? and receives the answer that it was he who cared for him and bound up his wounds.  Neighbor -  because the Jewish Scripture commands that we love God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves.

Or we can go even earlier, to the tale of Cain and Abel.  Cain tries to evade his responsibility, answering a query from God with "Am I my brother's keeper?"   The clear answer to that query is a definite yes - my neighbor, my brother, myself.  We are all interconnected and when we attempt to justify otherwise, we condemn ourselves - and each other - to hell on earth.

I do not pretend that my words will carry the impact of two nationally known columnists.  Their thoughts are important, and powerful.  My words are offered in response.

It must be more than words, from them or from me.  But words matter.  Words can help us understand, persuade, motivate.

This week is critically important for this nation, for us all.

And we need to remind our elected public officials of how important.  And that we are watching.


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I know I will be on the phones tomorrow
calling to support passage of health care reform.

It is shameful that so many Americans think it is ok to not care about our neighbors.

Agree n/t.

"One person, one vote" died at the hands of SCOTUS, January 21, 2010

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