Outside looking in

Johann Hari for The Independent (normally, I hate cutting and pasting, but I liked what Mr. Hari had to say; his entire essay is worth reading):

Since Obama’s rise, the US right has been skipping frantically from one fantasy to another, like a person in the throes of a mental breakdown. It started when they claimed he was a secret Muslim, and – at the same time – that he was a member of a black nationalist church that hated white people. Then, once these arguments were rejected and Obama won, they began to argue that he was born in Kenya and secretly smuggled into the United States as a baby, and the Hawaiian authorities conspired to fake his US birth certificate. So he is ineligible to rule and the office of President should pass to… the Republican runner-up, John McCain.These aren’t fringe phenomena: a Research 200 poll found that a majority of Republicans and Southerners say Obama wasn’t born in the US, or aren’t sure. A steady steam of Republican congressmen have been jabbering that Obama has “questions to answer”. No amount of hard evidence – here’s his birth certificate, here’s a picture of his mother heavily pregnant in Hawaii, here’s the announcement of his birth in the local Hawaiian paper – can pierce this conviction.

This trend has reached its apotheosis this summer with the Republican Party now claiming en masse that Obama wants to set up “death panels” to euthanise the old and disabled. Yes: Sarah Palin really has claimed – with a straight face – that Barack Obama wants to kill her baby.

You have to admire the audacity of the right. Here’s what’s actually happening. The US is the only major industrialised country that does not provide regular healthcare to all its citizens. Instead, they are required to provide for themselves – and 50 million people can’t afford the insurance. As a result, 18,000 US citizens die every year needlessly, because they can’t access the care they require. That’s equivalent to six 9/11s, every year, year on year. Yet the Republicans have accused the Democrats who are trying to stop all this death by extending healthcare of being “killers” – and they have successfully managed to put them on the defensive.

 It is that last paragraph that really gets to me.  The Democrats have bungled health care reform to it’s very core because they were simply interested in rushing it through legislation.  They didn’t think they would have to make the case that providing health insurance for people is a good thing. 

Hari, in his one misstep, repeats the notion that Republicans want to defeat health care reform here in America, because their pockets are being lined generously from Insurance companies and big pharma.  But the same is true for Democrats. 

More likely, Repiblicans don’t want a government option because many of them simply don’t believe the government exists to help people outside of the military, delivering the mail, etc.  They have to draw the line somewhere and health insurance is it.  Also, because much like with Bill Clinton, if universal health insurance passes they won’t benefit from a strategic point of view.  Democrats and Obama get the credit and conservatism will be pushed further into irrelevance.  Even if I don’t agree with that, I understand where they are coming from. 

Still, it’s funny that the health care debate isn’t even about health care anymore.  It’s about Democrats not making the case for why this change should happen and Republicans screaming into the void about Nazis socialist death panels. 

Either way it’s a sad and frustrating time to be an average American barely scraping by and realizing that no one is looking our for you.

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