March 22, 2010

Much Ado About Not Much

In the gestural world of American politics, symbols are now everything. Why were the Democrats mostly for health care reform? Because they had made it their signature issue and needed to prevail in order to show that "big things were still possible." And why did the Republicans oppose HCR so vehemently (and unanimously)? Because the Democrats wanted it.

Did the substance of the bill have anything to do with these polar positions? Not that I can see. It seems like no huge, courageous accomplishment to eliminate preexisting conditions, beginning in 2014, as a reason to deny health coverage. It's amazing the American public (and their elected "representatives") tolerated this outrage as long as they did. It should always have been part of the charter of every health insurer to provide some means of insuring the "uninsurable," or to create at least an assigned risk system. Nor should they be allowed to drop someone from coverage because they get sick while insured.

Beyond that, we have a very complicated method now of subsidizing the purchase of insurance by those near or under the poverty line. The private system is not only maintained, it's enhanced by additional customers, driven to them by the federal government and its refusal to do anything vaguely "socialist" like a single payer system.

So what on earth was all the sturm und drang about? One test I use is to ask whether this bill will have any effect whatsoever on my personal life. Bearing in my mind that I am what used to be thought of as the Epitomized Standard American (ESA), that is, white, male, Baby Boom and self-employed, I can say that, as always, the "system" assumes I can take care of myself and so the various enactments of our "activist" Congress never have anything to do with me. Nothing will change at all. I will continue to pay $8,000 per year with a $5,000 deductible for health insurance which I hope I never use. Since Congress, to show everyone how tough they are, did not provide any sort of coverage mechanism for "undocumented Americans," these people will continue to use emergency rooms as their primary care physician and so, in the event of an accident or actute illness involving me or a loved one, that situation will remain unmitigated.

It's scary to think that such an innocuous piece of legislation, bringing together in one place, finally, bits and pieces of ideas that should have been law long ago, could spark such implacable hatred and partisanship. A very, very bad sign. I never watch or listen to any of the Right Wing hatemongers (Rush, Beck, Hannity, et al), so I'm uninformed, I suppose, as to the tidal forces pushing the Right toward hysteria. One sad effect of all the confusion is that it allows the real miscreants, such as the bandits on Wall Street, to get away with murder, while the Tea Party rages on about Obama as Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot and the rest of his predecessors in evil. The complete severance of popular movements from any rational basis should be freaking people out, but it appears there is nothing that can be done. You can't reason with mob rage when there is no underlying rationality. The lock-step Republican Congress hopes to ride this wave of nihilism back into power in order to accomplish...what, exactly? I suppose what any authoritarian national party uses power for, to wield it with the assistance of the Useful Idiots in the mob supporting it, much as Hitler (him again) employed the systematic violence of the Brown Shirts, in pursuit of the grandiose and delusional.

Meanwhile, polarization just gets worse and worse. Rather ironic, I think, that the post-partisanship President should wind up presiding over the most schismatic populace in American history since the Civil War.

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