My irregular musings on city life, politics, baseball, roller derby, and whatever happens to be getting my goat today.

Friday, June 19, 2009

America Ain't Ready for Reform

At heart, I think people - or at least sane people - all want the same things. Among these are absulute power over everything, and to live forever and never die. Also love, sex, tasty food, and victory for your local sports team etc. but I really feel that much of human motivation is a semi-conscious groping for immortality and absolute power.

Now absolute power, as far as it goes, the problem is as the movie says - "there can be only one." Since the odds are slim that it would be you, most of us in the modern world have decided that it's better nobody than somebody else with the absolute power, and have arrived at some form of democracy as the second best answer.

But as for immortality, that's a different story. Back in Buddha's day the only choice was to achieve a state of mind where you could forget that old age, sickness and death existed, but in the modern world we are coming intriguingly close to finding a cure for these things.

Which brings us to health care reform. I just don't think we are defining this problem the right way. The way I usually hear it talked about is, "health care is too expensive," meaning too large a fraction of our economy is the health care system. I'm not sure what this means, and I don't think I agree. You don't hear too many people complain that too much of the economy is the automobile industry. You don't hear too many people complain that too much of the economy is the software industry. In fact, when these industries grow, it's "good news," and when they shrink and lay people off, it's "bad news." You don't even hear people complaining that too much of the economy is the adult entertainment industry. But health care? Too big. I don't get it.

I get that the fact that many people can't afford coverage.

I get that the US has crappier outcomes than other developed contries in terms of infant mortality, cancer survival, diabetes, etc. These things are legitimately problems.

If you re-state the problem as we're not getting our money's worth then I'll agree with you. But just saying "we're spending too much on health care," I don't get it. What are we supposed to be spending money on instead? Big screen TVs? Bigger houses? New cars? WHY?

The answer you usually get is that spending on these things is economic growth and creates jobs. But isn't the same true of health care? I mean, doctors and nurses and phlobotomists have jobs, don't they? Isn't that economic growth?

So here's my health care plan/economic recovery plan/stimulus package. We convert all of the slack resources of the economy into health care, and launch a Manhattan Project/Moonshot type program to eliminate old age, sickness and death. We could stop building homes and TVs and cars for a whild and just do medical research all the time, and treat all the sick and disabled people in the world with really top flight medical care.

You think I'm being facetious, but let me ask you this - do you think it's reasonable, or even sane, for Senators to be backing away from universal, quality health care because it's too expensive? The problem here is that the country has been infected by the conservative trope that people know how to spend their money better than the government does. I call bullshit. You don't see the government spending all its money on malt liquor and Swank magazine and conducting the people's business in a trailer, or an abandoned apartment building on West 69th, do you? The economy is in crisis because people did completely stupid shit with their money. Do you seriously think that individuals spending their money on Hummers and flat screen TVs, and then borrowing someone else's money to buy a mini mansion they know they'll never be able to make payments on, is a better use of their money than high quality health care for everyone? Would you rather add 30 productive years to your life, or be able to buy new games for your Play Station Portable? If you really think consumer spening is a better use of our resources than medicine, you are probably an idiot. Or a "libertarian."

How many libertarians does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. If they can't manufacture a light bulb themselves in their very own bomb shelter, they'll just live in the dark and be "free."

But I digress. The point is, health care uber alles. If you don't have your health, you don't have anything. Once Congress sees the light and enacts my health plan, I will release my plan for achieving absolute power. Keep watching this space for more details.

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