For years I’ve heard the cry, “we need take back our country!” My question is simple. “Take it back from whom?”
Implicit in the phrasing “our country” is a very serious and disturbing sense of ownership and entitlement. I’d like to get a definition of exactly who makes up the “our” group.
Before you read too much into this piece, it is not an attack on Republicans, per se, but if in calling out the vitriol leads me to there, so be it. The acerbic rhetoric has been escalating for years. For some time before, but definitely after 9/11 the politics of persuading through fear has gone wilder than drunk coeds on spring break.
Recently, we’ve witnessed Joe “You Lie! Wilson during the state of the union in January. Just yesterday Bart Stupak, who had been threatening to block the health care reform bill in the House of Representatives because he believed it provided federal funding for abortions, was hecked with “baby killer!” by Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer on the floor of the House.(Neugebauer has subsequently clarified, if you will, why he shouted that phrase. Clean up on Aisle 9!)
I understand there is a throng of small government people out there who fear that the federal government is becoming this all-controlling entity. I’m sure most of us could sit down and, in a manner of minutes, enumerate a few government initiatives or programs that seem invasive or expansive. I’m not one of these people who feels the government can or should cure all ills. However, I do feel there’s a role for the government to play in making sure that people with smallest of means are treated just as fairly as those with the most.
This is what is particularly interesting about the protesters. Most appear to be low, to middle-income individuals. I can’t help but wonder if this hostility terribly is misplaced, and the federal government has simply become the easy target. Unfortunately, I fear that there’s something a little more disturbing lurking behind the patriotic sloganeering. Why are people so angry? The hostility is open and raw. No longer are feelings being veiled behind nuanced, code words. It’s in your face with a extra heaping of spit in your eye.
What seems to be at the heart of this “I’m taking back my country” movement is fear. Whether real or imagined, it’s clear that this groundswell of Tea Party picketers believe that their freedom is eroding…quickly. It’s amazing that, given all the mess that we’ve experienced in the last decade, fear of being reduced to serfs on a manor overflows just a year into Obama’s presidency.
People have been freely tossing around terms like socialism, communism, totalitarianism. I was listening to one exasperated caller after another on C-Span last Sunday during the health care reform votes. It became very clear that most of these callers were merely repeating slogans and sound bites they heard from Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or some other pot-stirring commentator. I have a profound affinity for intelligent people. Accordingly, I admit that I harbor a fair amount of loathing for ignorant people. Just because you disagree with me–even passionately–does not translate to ignorance. It’s when you cannot stand on your own two feet and defend your position that I lose respect for you.
Is Obama moving too fast, and risking our financial future? That remains to be seen. Is there a chance that this administration is going to run this Titanic into a glacier and sink the country? Highly unlikely. In my opinion, the fear-driven actions of the uninformed and uneducated could prove to be far more destructive than a shift in how health care is delivered in this country.
I need to treat this post as a sticky note because I will probably come back and post more as I learn more and develop clear thoughts and positions.
Generally before I comment on something, I like to have as many, if not all, of the facts. I, almost embarrassingly, have to admit that I cannot say that this is the case with the current health caredebate. There remains a lot of material and positions that I need to cull through. Today, there is a health care summit with the President and members of both parties from the House and Senate, and I’m trying to catch as much as I can while at work in the hopes of learning where politicians are coming from on the issue.
Just last night, Rachel Maddow laid down a poignant perspective on her show, and it really resonated with me.
Call me a socialist if you must, but I think Rachel is on to something. The way we conduct, or even label, health care in this country is fundamentally flawed. There is compassion in ROI (return on investment). You cannot expect a for-profit insurance company to have paying out claims to be in it’s best interest. When I was investigating state insurance regulation (or the lack thereof) many years ago, I learned that people buy insurance like a lottery ticket–hoping it will pay out in case something happens. Conversely, insurance companies take premiums betting you won’t get sick or hurt. There’s a reason why there are actuaries. Those individuals are the very reason people don’t get insurance, or get dropped. To use gambling parlance, we, as the insured, are basically playing with the House’s money. It’s playing a game where the odds are stacked–I’d even say FIXED–in the insurance companies favor.
I am not suggesting that this is an easy fix. However, we need to strip away the hypocrisy. You cannot support Medicare and Medicaid, but be against health care run by or strictly regulated by the federal government. You can’t be against a federal public option, yet pay federally negotiated low premiums as part of the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. For all the talk about standing up for small businesses, why is there opposition for pooled health insurance programs that would create affordable options for small business owners to offer to their employees?
There finally appears to be some progress, and some acknowledgment that the market can’t cure or solve all problems. Just yesterday the House passed a bill to finally repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which gave insurance companies an antitrust exemption–meaning they could fix prices and bypass federal regulation, among other things.