The Rickety Bridge: A Health Care Post

I haven’t written much in a political vein in a long time. In fact, looking at the dates on this blog, I see that I haven’t posted anything, period, in quite a while.

I blame the length between posts on my current job. Now that I am a partner in my own company (shameless plug: check out Clever Giraffe if you haven’t already), I’m busy all the time. And not just busy, but busy in a creative sense. All day long I write scripts, draw storyboards, edit video, create graphics, and compose special effects and composites. After a full day – quite long days, I might add – I just don’t have the energy or interest to write at night like I used to.

And as for politics, well, since Barack Obama took the oath of office, I really haven’t had anything of significance to say. Like everyone, I’m annoyed with the economy, but there is nothing to be done about that except wait it out. I was appalled at the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler – I thought they should simply have been allowed to go bankrupt and let that be the end of it – but it certainly wasn’t that big of an issue one way or the other to me.

And of course, I very much wish Obama and the current Democrats would go all out in restoring our essential liberties – close Guantanamo, prosecute the Bush Administration traitors, restore the proper balance between the three government branches, etc. – but sadly, I realize that that is just never going to happen. We’re not Japan or Germany – our citizens will never admit fault, and there will never be any trials or justice for the evil men who destroyed our country over the last eight years. In that regard, I kind of feel like the murdered girl in The Lovely Bones: better for everyone to recover and move on than to fixate on justice. I neither forgive nor forget, but I do accept it for right now.

But this health care debate. I’ve been watching, reading, and listening to this whole thing with astonishment. I assumed that passing a solid health care bill would be an absolute no brainer. We’re in the middle of The Great Recession. More people are without health insurance than ever before. Health care costs are higher than ever before. And, as happened with our financial system, we have learned the hard way that ignoring a problem does not make it go away.

I also have a personal oar to row in this boat as well. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve had to pay for my own health insurance. My company, at two full-time employees plus a few freelancers, is far too small to get coverage from any insurance company. There is literally no way to do it, not at any cost. So our only option is to pay for it as individuals. And for me, personally, that’s $345 a month. Three hundred and forty five dollars a month. Blue Cross / Blue Shield. And the only way I even qualify for that “low rate” is via the COBRA plan, since I had the same insurance company at my last job. So, after 18 months, that rate will go up significantly. And I know damn well that should anything major happen to me – anything at all – that coverage will be cancelled in a split second.

To me, that’s pretty damn unfair. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I’m not overweight. I’m 47 years old, and apart from the regular creaks and sighs of middle age, I am in pretty good health. I should not have to worry every single day about how expensive basic health insurance is, and whether or not I can even keep it at all.

I figured a lot of people are like me. So, when Obama said he was going to champion passing a bill that would attempt to rein in health care costs, guarantee that anyone and everyone could get health insurance, forbid health insurance companies from canceling willy-nilly, and provide a public health insurance program (aka “Medicare for everybody”), I thought, “Well, this will pass quickly and easily”.

How wrong I was.

I’ve listened to more misleading craziness in the past two months that in eight years of Bush nonsense. And every single bit of it is either pure fiction – I’m talking literally made up out of thin air, total and absolute fiction – or else is based on such shocking ignorance that even Cynical Me finds it hard to believe.

I mean, come on. “Death Panels“? Jeez, people, you can read the bill yourself. There’s nothing in there that even remotely, even vaguely, even hints at such a thing. Where did that come from? You can say over and over again “There is no such thing as death panels, there never was, and there never will be”, and yet people still keep insisting they exist, that Obama “wants to kill Grandma”. It’s as if legislation is being judged using the same standards as people’s belief in Bigfoot or UFO abductions.

Then there’s the “Government can’t run anything” fable. Right. So, let’s see, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, NASA, FBI, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the entire Civil Service… I guess they’re all terribly run and about to collapse at any moment? Because each and every one of those is a government service. And each and every one of those is budgeted and legislated by that exact same Congress and that exact same President.

I grew up in the military. I had government-run health care for my whole life, up until I was 21 years old. And I was in very good health, and so were my parents and brother and sister. In fact, my parents have had government health care for their entire adult lives, up to and including now, and I’ve never heard them complain about it once. Their health care rates never go up. They never get denied coverage. They never have to worry if they’ll have health insurance next month.

My favorite is the meme about “socialism”. Does anyone even own a dictionary any more? The word “socialism” means: the government owns the means of production. Now, the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler? That truly is socialism, since it was the government buying and running a physical means of production. Government regulated or government run health care? Uh, sorry, but no. That’s called a service, folks. A service. It’s even right in the Constitution: “Provide for the general welfare.” Article 1, Section 8.

Every time I hear people say that, I wonder… do these folks think police are “socialism”? Because that’s the government providing a service. How about firemen? The military? Government regulated health care is no more or less “socialism” that are any of those services. Now, you can have a reasonable and logical debate about which services the government should and should not provide. That’s quite sensible. But to call any possible government service “socialism” is just plain ignorant.

To me, our current health care situation is like a very rickety bridge that lots of people travel on. And so, since the opponents of health care seem to love myths and fables, I’ll provide my own:

The Rickety Bridge by Jonathan Henderson

Once upon a time there was a land with a great bridge that spanned an enormous river. The bridge had been built many years ago, at an enormous cost. Thousands of people went back and forth across the bridge every day. The fortunes of this land rose and fell based on how many people were able to cross the bridge.

But as time went on, the bridge got older and older. It began to break here and there. Toll-takers were set up at each end of the bridge, to decide who could and could not cross the bridge. “Sorry, you’re too fat”, the toll-taker said to one man. “The bridge is very rickety, and we can’t afford to fix it if your weight caves in part of it.” “No smoking!” said another toll-taker. “You might set the bridge on fire!”

The bridge, however, continued to rot.

The Experts noticed the bridge was crumbling. They told the King and his Ministers that the bridge needed repairs soon, or else it would collapse. The Kind agreed… but his Ministers did not. “Your highness, it will cost too much to repair the bridge”, one said. “It is not our job to fix bridges”, said another. “The bridge has been fine for centuries,” said a third. “Why should we risk repairing it?”

The Experts pushed hard. They told the King that if the bridge collapsed, the cost to build a new one would be far greater than repairing the existing one. And, of course, thousands of people would die if the bridge collapsed. And, there would no bridge for a very long time, so many people would starve because food could not be brought over the bridge. And business would fail, because commerce could not function without the bridge.

The Ministers did not like people disagreeing with them, so they went straight to the people. “The Experts want us to destroy your bridge!” they said. “They want to put trolls at either end that will eat your Grandmother, instead of letting her pass! The Experts hate you and the bridge!” The people, of course, got very angry, and yelled and threw things at the Experts.

The bridge continued to rot.

The Ministers began holding town meetings. They would invite Experts to the meetings. People would scream at them: “Why are you putting trolls on the bridge to eat my Grandma”? The Experts would sigh, and say they had no intention of putting trolls on the bridge. They just wanted to repair it. “Well, what about the trolls?” another would cry. The Experts kept saying they didn’t know anything about any trolls, but the people would not hear of it.

The bridge continued to rot.

Some people began falling through holes in the bridge. But since most people could still cross the bridge just fine, the people shrugged and said that only lazy or stupid people fell through the holes anyway. “Better than the trolls that the Experts want!” they said.

Big chunks of the bridge fell off.

Now the Ministers told the King that just maybe, possibly, there perhaps could be some rules about who might use the bridge, but certainly nothing more. The King sighed, and said he guessed that would have to do. He did not like to go against his Ministers.

By this time, many people could not cross the bridge at all.

And then, finally, the bridge collapsed. And the once great land fell from grace, and the people became poor and hungry. Only the very, very rich could get across the river now. The people huddled together, and remembered what the Experts had said. Many people wished they had listened to the Experts. Most said the Experts were right, that perhaps they should have repaired the bridge after all.

But the Ministers stubbornly insisted that they had been right all along.

“Well”, they said, “at least we didn’t get eaten by those damn trolls”.

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