Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What it says about us

Put the president’s lack of leadership aside. What does the inability to change our healthcare system – indeed, the mass insanity on the subject – say about America? How can the dispositive facts about this issue not prevail? How can we know that our healthcare costs twice as much as the rest of the modern world's, but delivers among its worst results – the fact that we’re mortgaging our and our children’s and grandchildren’s future in order to ensure that we and they will suffer agonies and die prematurely – and still refuse to change? How can we do so when (a) the way to fix this has already been figured out (indeed, there are multiple models to choose from) and (b) we ourselves have already crossed this Rubicon (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid)?

I think it can only be properly accounted for as the death rattle of our run at the top. This is how empires die – per Jared Diamond, and our own common experience. Only it’s not just calcified elites that aren’t changing here. It’s the whole place.

The astonishing and dramatic fact that Bob Somerby has made into his “Cartago delinda est” – that we are getting fleeced and killed, compared to our next-door neighbors (indeed, everybody else in town... that we're the prize chumps) – ought to end the debate, decide the trial, clear the deck. But it isn’t even being heard.

Contra Bob, it’s not, imho, because we Dems/liberals can’t “message.” He's holding onto an archaic view of media control and impact. Perhaps one might have argued this pov persuasively in an era of limited communications channels, when memes were controlled by a media oligarchy. But that’s simply not the case today. This idea is out there, is often reported, and is being ignored (rejected) by the people. Despite the fact that it’s literally a matter of life and death.

No, the fact is that, on balance, America is a guy who won’t stop to ask for directions, because he doesn’t want to self-experience as needing them. We would literally rather die than admit we’re not No.1.


Anonymous said...

I think you and Somerby are a bit off here. I would argue that the liberal opinion makers actually are not offering an opinion so different from that of the MSM. For example, most of the A-List liberal blogs have participated in the same blackout of single payer as the MSM. They, too, favor what amounts to little more than Romney Care, though they want a so-called "public option" no matter how meager and unable to compete with the private industry. They actually don't spend a lot of time talking about how we are spending twice as much as other countries on health care for worse outcomes. They spend all their time focusing on the buzzwords "choice" and "competition", which is strange framing to advocate a government program. I also disagree with your assertion that there are multiple ways to get affordable, high quality, universal care. Nearly every industrialized nation has some form of tax payer funded, single payer system to provide basic care(this includes France, which offers supplemental insurance on top of basic care, also paid with taxes, and Germany, that requires most of the population to carry taxpayer paid, single payer coverage, of which you can opt-out above a certain income threshold, most don't), or the government must set prices for all medical transactions(the Swiss). So there are not too many ways to skin this cat. The government must intervene as the primary payer, or the government must set prices. Even with the hobbled public option being bandied about in Congress, neither can be achieved with the current proposals. So I would disagree that Americans are the problem. I think most have been kept quite ignorant of why health care works in other countries and not ours, and that ignorance has been maintained by both the Left and the Right, both mainstream outlets, and the blogs. The only conclusion I can come up with is the upper income Left that controls the blog messages is as irrationally protective of their own private insurance as those on the Right.

Falstaff said...

I agree with a lot of what you say here. When I said "multiple ways," I meant multiple flavors of a public system.

What I disagree with is that it's possible any longer to be "kept ignorant." Obviously, the media that any particular person or even distributed community of people chooses to use can be skewed -- but there's nothing like a media monopoly any more. The Net has blown that away. If you want to be informed today, you can be -- for free. If you're ignorant, it's because you choose to be.

Also, I definitely agree that the A-list (A-hole) liberal blogs have been largely useless -- or worse, with their misogyny and fanboydom... on this as on many other issues.

More generally, I'm with Bob that the visible publishers on the left have been doing a lousy job of "messaging" (indeed, of any of the manifestations of a vibrant political movement) for a long time. What he says about seeding and building narratives is very smart, I think. I think there is a compelling bill of attainder to read against the post-Vietnam Democratic Party.

I also think the tide is turning, albeit slowly, and inconsistently, at any given moment. The Democratic Party today is, on balance, a more robust organism than the Democratic Party of 15 years ago, or 10 years ago, or 5 years ago. Maybe it'll even become a worthy political party during our lifetimes. Hope springs eternal.

Finally, I entirely agree with you that well-funded interests are aligned against the truth here.

But I don't think any of that is sufficient to explain this edition of "What's Wrong with Kansas?" The simple facts are stark: There is an overwhelming factual reality of how healthcare needs to be done on Planet Earth, circa 2009. That reality is very widely publicized, even if not as well as it should be, and even if it has to compete with a lot of lies and mishagas. And the outcome of this battle is overwhelmingly in the interests of the majority of Americans. Perhaps those facts will prove enough in the end to make this happen, even without real leadership.

But the apparent lack of success of "Let's just have what works in Canada and England and France" says to me that many -- most? -- people here would rather just keep repeating "We're No.1!" all the way to the grave.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to just have to disagree. Here, read. Out of the mouths of babes:

Lot's of people have never heard of single payer! They wouldn't begin to know how to search for information about it on the net because they literally have never heard of it. And, I do think a big reason why is not just because the media isn't telling them about it, but because the Democrats are not either. They want to pass Romney Care with a hobbled PO because it's easier not to fight the bad actors, and because they don't trust the voters to know a good thing when they see it. So, I'll disagree, I think a majority of the middle class is being kept ignorant by those who have the largest voices and the most reach. Finally, Medicare for All has had majority support in public opinion polls for decades and that is with almost no public discussion of the policy. I don't think the voters can be blamed for this one.