Wednesday, August 5, 2009

right wing idiocy

I think it's wise to be skeptical about the value of the health care reform law that will end up emerging from the sausage factory and being signed by Obama. First, given that giant health care companies have been for some months bombarding members of congress with hordes of lobbyists and massive amounts of money, it stands to reason that the most likely effect of any new health care legislation will be an almost unprecedented giveaway to the aforementioned giant health care companies. Second, any new government spending that isn't paid for by commensurate savings or tax revenue will only make our increasingly severe deficit/national debt problem even more severe -- possibly even catastrophic. Third, even if new government spending is paid for by tax revenue, this isn't necessarily a good outcome unless the money is well-spent, because any increase in tax revenue will inevitably correspond with less money being available for spending in the private sector, which hurts the overall economy.

Meanwhile, of course, the health care system in this country is broken. Every other western democracy has found a way to provide health care to all of its citizens while spending a lower proportion of its overall resources on health care. Not to mention all of the crazy and stupid problems Americans -- those who actually have health insurance -- encounter in actually getting their health insurers to, you know, pay for their treatments, and the constraints the current employer-based system puts on people who might want to change jobs, start a new business, take a sabbatical, etc.

These are complicated problems with which even very smart, well-informed, well-intentioned people will struggle. But making these problems even more complicated (say, by several orders of magnitude) is that in this country we, on the whole, do not have smart, well-informed, well-intentioned people debating these issues. We have bought-and-paid-for politicians, and a bunch of ignorant asshats going around spouting nonsense. For example, people who say that we can't have some third party coming between us and our doctors, dictating what types of treatment we will receive (hint: this third party already exists -- its called your insurance company, PPO, HMO, etc -- and it only makes money to the extent that it can limit its expenditures for your treatments (e.g., deny coverage)), or people (like a senior citizen of my acquaintance) who insist that the government keep its dirty, incompetent hands off of their Medicare. Yes, you read that correctly. But even those senior citizens who do in fact understand that Medicare is a government program overwhelmingly oppose legislation which would provide government-funded universal health care. "For me, but not for thee," I guess.

As I say, I'm skeptical that this situation can be improved. Because not only is our health care system broken, but our government is broken. And not only is our government broken, but a high proportion of our electorate are "informed" by reading and listening to dishonest partisan ideologues whose personal interest in fixing either health care or government is exactly zero. Their sole objective is to endlessly spout nonsense designed to confuse and enrage. Seriously: only 42% of Republicans believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States.

Bonus right wing idiocy: I've spent the last day reading and hearing about prominent right-wingers criticizing Bill Clinton for bringing back those two girls from North Korea. Apparently this was some kind of "appeasement". Or, alternatively, it's being called (without citing any evidence) a "hostage ransom", wherein Clinton Gore and Obama desecrated the honor of our country and endangered its national security by giving those North Korean terrorists something (what? who knows!) in exchange for the return of these hostages. And, as all good right-wingers know, America Does Not Negotiate For Hostages!


Rap Music said...

very nice blog, keep it up.

Gleemonex said...

Senior citizens of my acquaintance also are ... let us say, insufficiently armed with facts. It's kind of astonishing.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit the right has made anti intellectualism an art form. However, just because the Fox News/Toby Keith crowd pisses you off doesn't mean the Dems health care plans are brilliant.

If the Dems "fix" healthcare it just means the system will be captured by beuraucrats and sold to big Pharma/insurance companies.

You seem to say that the system is broken and run by morons, but those morons should design a universal health care system? The tension between those two positions is causing my screen to vibrate.

I'd post some policy ideas but it would just be a reason/CATO rehash.

Damn good writing.

HHL said...

Robert, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope I wasn't too unclear... I don't think the Democrats can fix the system. The problems themselves are too complex, and what with all the money sloshing around and the political climate, well, it just seems impossible. The best we could hope for is a marginal improvement that doesn't bankrupt the country -- and I'm not optimistic about that either!

One other small clarification: the "morons" in this equation are the folks who don't understand the issues (across the ideological spectrum) and who just have knee-jerk emotional reactions that manifest themselves in ideological partisan sputtering. I don't necessarily think the politicians are morons (though some of them are, for sure). I say they are compromised, both by interest groups throwing money at them and a need to pander to the aforementioned morons within their constituencies.

We can probably both agree on the above. Where we may part ways, on the other hand, is my feeling (I have to call it a "feeling" since I really don't consider myself an expert on this stuff) that in the particular case of providing health care, the market is not well-suited to achieve certain objectives that I, personally, feel are important -- primarily, a basic level of health care for the least fortunate among us. And just to be clear, while I do believe that this idea rises to the level of a moral imperative for a society as rich as ours, I recognize that moral, principled people can disagree on the issue, and therefore I certainly don't mean to demonize any (moral, principled) person holding the opposite view.

Thanks again for reading.

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