The ever-evolving healthcare narrative is getting stranger by the day. First it was “astroturfing.” That tack didn’t take, you know, because real people figured out they were neither plastic nor in anyone’s pay. (Strike one.)
Then, Obama’s media tried ridicule: Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow and The Daily Kossers would be unstoppable! ‘Let’s pick on people for having views different from ours. That’ll show ‘em.’ Turns out people don’t like having their core beliefs ridiculed. It didn’t work for the teaparties and it didn’t work for the town halls. (Strike two.)
‘Okay, then let’s find a few of the looniest, angriest rednecks, grandpas and protestors (or plants) we can find in all those town hall audiences and magnify them our way. Statistically, there will be at least one at every event. It'll look like they are the norm and not the exception.’
And hell, maybe the vulgar town-hall-er is the norm from their elitist perspective. But holding a mirror up in front of most of America and yelling “see” isn’t going to convince people they’re behaving badly, much less that they’re wrong for holding a certain view. Nor will it convince people that socializing medicine, partially or wholly, is somehow a good thing. Shall we appeal to the left’s elitism in order to explain why? We might follow Mencken in saying: “That Americans, in the mass, have anything properly describable as keen wits is surely far from self-evident. On the contrary, it seems likely that, if anything, they lie below the civilized norm.” But, just like you can’t admonish a five-year-old for acting like a child, you can’t pick on Americans for being Americans—left or right.
(Strike three.) You’re out.
Now, here in the eighth inning, things aren’t looking so good for Obamacare, at least as it was originally conceived. Obama’s media are turning now to a plea for “rational discourse,” which is actually just a riff on the failed third strike, above. The narrative is now that the right has destroyed a rational debate with conspiracies, racism and radical activism (complete with swastikas, death panels and accusations of socialism!). Some in the liberaltarian salon are buying this appeal hook, line and Twitter. I don’t know whether it’s that these liberaltarians are longing for a return to those halcyon days when intellectual chess in the philosophy department breakroom actually had rules; or, if it’s that they don’t want their champagne-socialist friends to stop inviting them to Beltway bashes. For whatever reasons, some I can respect as a former student of philosophy, some of my fellow center-libertarians are trying to stand athwart the ugliness of bipartisan America yelling “Discourse!” Mind you, these are some of the same liberaltarians who didn’t like the Iraq War… But I will – as they conveniently did – pass over the oceans of pink-bedizened, effigy-toting, Bush-Hitler-costume-wearing “discussants” that routinely clogged the streets of D.C. and elsewhere during the height of the war. To these liberaltarians I say, it would have been nice if, in the interests of “rational discourse,” you had given us a little equal opportunity idiot-bashing back then to go with your sanctimony, now.
When it comes to “rational discourse,” I won’t, however, pass over the hordes of mindless Whole Foods shoppers that were bent on boycotting their favorite store because John Mackey didn’t share their statist opinions on healthcare ”reform.” For people so eager to engage in “rational discourse,” how many actually considered Mackey’s non-coercive proposals earnestly, much less thought about the portion of boycotted profits that would no longer be going to microfinance initiatives on the poorest parts of the earth, or the revenues that would no longer feed a massive network of organic growers and farmers whose “ethical” business practices Mackey helped take mainstream. The very idea that these Machiavellian misfits pulling the “rational discourse” card – as if they’d ever cracked open an Intro to Logic textbook – well, defies logic. I have carpel tunnel syndrome from the sheer number of times I’ve typed the phrase “g-e-n-e-t-i-c f-a-l-l-a-c-y” every time I read a leftist dispute a counter-claim to global warming hysteria on the grounds that the author’s employer got a donation from an oil company. Rational discourse to a leftist is like Speed Stick is to a Frenchman. So please, spare this educated redneck any sanctimonious claptrap about having a rational goddamn conversation.
And if any among y’all are truly interested in engaging any of us in such a conversation, try straightforwardly to answer the following questions without smearing, sneering, joking, changing the subject, setting up a straw man, stinking up the comments with red herrings, dropping non sequiturs, changing the context, whining about “the children”, questioning people’s motives, asking who’s paying us, or accusing us of lies, or making things up yourselves:
- Is the public option a step towards single payer (socialized medicine) or not? (Note: Socialism means the government owns the means of production, whether for a good or service. So the public option, like an ownership stake in GM or AIG, is socialist.)
- If the public option is not a step towards single-payer, then will it exist without any public subsidy whatsoever? (If yes, then will it be allowed to go out of business if other companies out-compete it? If no, why should we expect other companies to be able to compete, which would take us to single-payer by default?)
- If the public option is, indeed, a step toward single payer, then do you deny that the public option will lead to rationing, if the public option doesn’t itself ration? (If no, then do you understand the difference between my choosing to or even having to forego lobster, cookies or caviar at the grocery store is not the same kind of “rationing” as a bureaucratic forcing me to forego those items? // If you deny that the system will involve rationing, then how do you expect that you will a) control the costs of medical care, or b) suspend the laws of scarcity?
- If a single-payer system rations, i.e. forces people to get on long waiting lists for diagnostics or procedures that will save their life/ease their pain, how is forcing them to wait, or denying their care, humane? Isn’t it possible that people will die because they weren’t diagnosed in time or because their procedure didn’t come soon enough?
- If the public option doesn’t pass, Congress is considering an individual mandate plus guaranteed issue, both of which are supported by the insurance industry, that gets to live, if not profit handsomely. Guaranteed issue has driven up insurance premiums in states like New York by 4 times that of other states, making it unaffordable for people, which makes them go uninsured. The individual mandate would force everyone, including “young invincibles” into the risk pool, which would theoretically drive down costs. But in Massachusettes, where this exact system is in place, premiums are now the highest in the nation. Are you seriously prepared to accept a compromise that looks like a cross between Hilarycare ‘08 and the Massachusettes failure? What if the nation suddenly looks like Massachusettes – what then?
The most egregious media narrative was framed perfectly by a Facebook friend and left-leaning journalist whose name I won’t mention, because he was probably an innocent casualty of “framing.” He asked his FB friends for memorable stories of people on “pro-reform” side who had gone to Townhall meetings (presumably for a retrospective he was writing). Of course, this framing, which I’ve seen done over and over again, presupposes that people on the right who oppose healthcare socialization are “anti-reform.” Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s why I will ask my leftish friends, so eager to engage in “rational discourse,” why they haven’t deigned to consider, discuss or otherwise entertain the great reform ideas that have been put forth by the center-right, which – though full of illiberal concessions – are far less an affront to liberty than Obamacare:
· Allow people to buy health insurance in others states, as the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution demands. (This would lower the costs of purchasing health insurance for millions.)
· Expand the parameters of health savings accounts (HSAs) so that people have the ability to pay premiums from their HSAs. They would also have incentives to be cost-conscious, save for old age, and embrace preventive care. Providers would be more responsive to patients in both price and quality. This would be a massive step in mitigating the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Medicaid. (This would also lower the costs of purchasing health insurance for millions.)
· Offer refundable tax-credits (healthcare money) for poor and middle class people to purchase health insurance, health savings, or health care from the private market. (This would also lower the costs of purchasing health insurance for millions.)
· Decouple health insurance from employment in order to get rid of that MASSIVE distortion while ensuring that people don’t lose their healthcare when they lose their jobs. (And I’m not talking about COBRA, either, which just has the distortions built into it, making it too expensive for the jobless.) The current system actually subsidizes wealthy and employed people via the tax code and leaves out the working poor! (This move would also lower the costs of purchasing health insurance for millions, because it would remove the anti-competitive distortions and lessen overconsumption.)
· Stop adding all these crippling, cost-ineffective, special-interest-friendly coverage mandates that make healthcare unaffordable—especially for young people. Introduce federal “Mandate Lite” legislation that would force companies to offer certain items, but allow citizens the freedom not to buy them if they so chose. (This would lower the costs of purchasing health insurance for millions.)
· Create a national high-risk pool for people with pre-existing conditions so that they can get affordable health insurance. This is far preferable to “guaranteed issue,” a mandate which raises premiums astronomically and makes insurance not insurance. (This would lower the cost of purchasing health insurance for millions.)
If in all of these ideas you can’t find a way to get the 45 million (or 35 million?) uninsured in America a policy, then you are a slave to the fetish of your own creation. That fetish is single-payer and all the political power and permanent special interests that comes with it. So come on, let’s have some rational freakin’ discourse.