I have never been an overly political man. I like to stay fairly informed about the world at large - I read several news sources online and keep up with current events but I am not overly political. Mostly it's cynicism. Take a dive into politics and it's hard not to come out angry, bitter, disillusioned, and resentful. The system is well past broken on it's best days and these aren't really it's best days. There are some people that give hope (Lawrence Lessig and the Change Congress movement is a shining light) but for the most part I prefer to stay out of the fray entirely.
I figured it was time though that I finally weighed in on this heath care debate. The apartment was too hot last night and I wasn't able to sleep much and that led me to spend the dark hours working over the argument. It's something I normally do with story ideas but I was none so lucky last night. Now I am not overly informed about the intricacies of the 1,000+ pages of the actual bill (though it seems that that makes me more qualified to have an opinion on it) but the problem seems pretty simple to me. And when it came down to it, I just can't support this debate at all. There is nothing about it that is right from word one.
I don't understand what is so difficult for people. And this is likely because of my hated of halfway measures, but still. Either you support universal free health care or you don't care about other people. It is just that simple. Universal free health care or wanting poor people to die. Maybe the bill would be under less violent opposition if it were couched in such simple and plain language (but I doubt it). Now if you want the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the elderly to be without health care - fine, admit it and resign from office. People are entitled to their bigoted opinions but they should not be able to claim to use them for the public good. (And to think that the opponents of this halfass bill think that they are arguing against euthanasia).
This is of course why I don't understand why the debate is worried about insurance (why would we want to inflict that mess on more people? It's bad enough as it is.), big pharmaceutical interests and their prescription price fixing, and SOCIALISM!!!!! as if caring were somehow antithetical to the American character. Now, the argument can be made that the free market (not that we have seen one of those in a long damn time, free means no regulation at all) does not care about poor or sick people and that it is completely within the character of Free Market Capitalism to deny health care or health insurance to anyone who cannot be trusted to make the corporate interests money. And if you want to take that line when denying sick people medicine or just pricing it out of their means, feel free. If you are comfortable letting people die, that will be on your conscience. But don't try to sound like the good guy looking out for the little guy when you do it. If a small businessman can't afford to provide his employees insurance then he's kind of a dick for hiring them at all. But if health care was free to anyone who walked into a hospital or clinic needing it, well that would solve the issue there.
The insurance issue really seems to be the thing that is clouding the debate. People are afraid of the specter of "Government Run Healthcare" and not having choice of their own doctor and being operated on by a Mad Russian with a Soviet nuke in his back pocket: "Natasha, vould you pleez pass ze scalpel." My way seems much simpler - medicine = free, hospitals = free, check-ups = free. You go to your doctor or any doctor and there are no bills or co-pays at the end.
So now we get to the point where everyone screams at me for being a useless idealist. As if I could reasonably expect the Average American to care about his Neighbor. That's only something that Christians are meant to do (and a couple of those other religions where you are meant to follow that golden rule or whatever). And of course, where does the money come from.
Well, I am no economist. Just a guy tired of the bullshit of modern living but here is a tentative plan:
1. revise tax law entirely: As it is, raising taxes just pisses people off and raising taxes on the rich just makes more creative accountants. Maybe a flat tax would help.
2. legalize everything: By that I mean prostitution, gambling, and all illicit drugs. Under strict control and heavy taxation there is no telling how much money will be made. Plus the amount saved by eliminating the need to police, prosecute, and imprison perpetrators of victimless crimes would be a godsend.
3. tax the offenders: Raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol and begin taxing fast food, junk food, soda, and all processed foods. These are the things that are making us sick (diabetes, heart disease, various cancers) and if we want to continue to enjoy them, we should begin defraying the cost of their consequences.
4. raise gas taxes until it hits $5/gallon: While not directly related to health care there is no way that all that pollution is good for anyone. Plus it would lead to lower carbon emissions, reduced dependence on oil (both foreign and domestic) and hopefully cause an increase in new technology and public transportation.
5. legalize gay marriage: It is somewhat surprising how much money it actually brings in, but clearly there is no downside to treating all people as equal. There was some important document that stipulated that equality as a first principle.
Now before all you criticize my excellent plan with all your mindless jibberjabber about how American's can't afford more taxes or how we will turn into Sweden or "dear god, there will be heathens and junkies run amok in our schools! Think of the children, think of the children!" maybe take a moment and think about it. The legalization issues can still be decried as immoral from every pulpit in every sanitized, liminal-free megachurch. But it is not the business of the government to legislate morality. What people choose to do to their own bodies is their business. It's the government's job to make sure that everyone else doesn't die from treatable disease. And as for what American can and cannot afford; like I said before, if you want to admit to yourself that it is too expensive to care about poor and sick people, you be the asshole.