I’ve tried, but I do not understand the hysteria of those opposed to health care reform. The terror of a mad dash toward Socialism, the assertions of a federal government intent on intruding into and controlling private lives, the solid belief that government is bad and wasteful while private industry is good and efficient make no sense to me.
The simple fact that health care costs 17% of GDP and is the most inefficient and unjust health care system in the entire industrialized world is not just ignored, it’s disbelieved. Anger at the economic meltdown does not translate into understanding why we need to re-regulate the financial industry. Daily reports of shootings in malls, offices and factories simply heightens the demand that every person have the right to be armed at all times with any weapon of their choice.
Where were these people when domestic spying, warrantless wiretapping, illegal wars and secretive energy deals were the staples of government policy? Where were they when No Child Left Behind unhelpfully inserted its unfunded self into every classroom in America? Where were they when previous administrations exploded the national debt through unwise tax policy and spending programs? I know they were out there. They are the descendants of those who opposed government inspection of food supplies, elimination of child labor, establishment of minimum wages, introduction of Social Security and, of course, Medicare.
Oddly enough, their strength appears to be in the farm belts of the nation that are the beneficiaries of the most socialized industry in America (apart from defense). If it was not for the periodic renewal of the giant farm bill, a huge portion of farming as we now know it would simply collapse. The ultra-conservatives in our part of the country are especially fond of their rights to the dams, power, irrigation water and roads provided by that most hated of all “Socialists”, FDR.
Don’t get me wrong. Government, especially the federal government, needs to be carefully watched. It only has one power, and that is the power of coercion. It must be granted with care and conservative judgment because once granted it cannot be reclaimed. It is equally foolish to believe in the myth of free enterprise only to be entrapped by petty corporate dictatorships resembling nothing more than medieval baronies and dukedoms. I say this as one whose retirement lifestyle is tied to the performance of the stock market.
I wish I knew what the answer is, but I don’t. One thing I’m pretty sure of: it’s not about electing better members of congress. We’ve gone down that road from time to time with no discernible results. All we got last time was Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay. I think the answer probably has more to do with abandoning unreflective national hubris, gaining broader faith in the rule of law, having the corporate maturity to ignore hate and fear mongers. How likely is that?