Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Freedom of Choice?

With a topic as emotionally charged as healthcare reform, illogical arguments are bound to run rampant. Of course, outright lies are running pretty well rampant, as well. Those lies, however, are only believed because of the basic underlying (and illogical) argument against public healthcare coverage. It should be noted that no one in our government is actually proposing the kind of government provided healthcare enjoyed by the bulk of modern democratic nations. Perhaps the reason for this is because of the inability of so many people to see past the illogical arguments against such a program (well... that and the millions of dollars donated to politicians by the health insurance industry).

The basic argument against publicly provided healthcare is that it is an unwelcome intrusion by the government into the private lives of it's citizens. Essentially, it's viewed as a power grab by a government intent on controlling every aspect of our lives, and paying for it by taxing the living daylights out of us.

Well--no one likes intruding governments OR taxes.

The illogical nature of the argument is exposed when one considers our current system. You know-- the really expensive one in which private insurers make all our medical decisions.

It seems ridiculous to me that people, ostensibly in the name of democracy and fiscal prudence, can be so opposed to an elected government providing healthcare coverage at no profit, while defending unelected corporations providing healthcare coverage at a large profit.

One could argue that the corporations have been elected by people choosing to do business with them. Maybe. But, really, what is health insurance that it needs to be complicated by choice? You pay a regular fee, and the insurance company pays for your medical treatment. Naturally, in our choice-laden system, it isn't currently that simple. How it currently works is you pay a regular (and ever increasing) fee, your insurance company pays for some of your medical treatment, and if you ever get really sick they will pay up to a certain amount, unless they can cancel your coverage-- which they will attempt to do. After they have finished paying as much as they will-- or have cancelled your coverage-- then you are no longer amongst the "lucky." You are now one of the millions without healthcare and your fate is to die penniless, writhing in unimaginable pain.

Okay, that last part is exactly the kind of emotional, non logical argument I don't espouse. What actually does happen, however is that you are likely to be forced into bankruptcy. And because you have not donated millions of dollars to politicians, this will be a bad thing.

Of course, you can currently choose to which company you pay your monthly fee, and what your deductibles are, and at what point they will cut you off (providing they can't cancel your coverage. That you can't choose--they WILL try to do this).

Generally speaking, I am for freedom of choice. However, what is the point of having rotting meat available in a candy store?

And expensive rotting meat, at that. It seems obvious that, if part of your monthly fee does not need to go to corporate profits you will either: A. get better medical treatment; B. have to pay less of a monthly fee; or C. both.

For my part, I would rather pay my regular monthly fee to an organization that is chosen by the people it serves, and has no motive to charge me more that it needs to provide the service I'm paying for. But I don't have that choice.

Where's the logic in that?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Hitler Stick

I'm a fairly calm person in the face of many things that infuriate others. For instance, if I receive the wrong order at a restaurant I'm likely to eat it without comment (if there are no onions involved). Likewise, I'm fairly zen about traffic jams. However, one thing that sets me off is blatantly bad logical arguments. I'm neither bothered by, nor immune to, occasional logical slips. However, when an argument is consistently bandied about publicly that is so jarringly illogical that anyone could see it, if they so chose, I get all tense through the chestal region. I'm fairly certain that I will one day die because of this, but until then I choose to sound off about it. Maybe this will act as a pressure release valve and extend my life slightly.

Lately, the flagrant misuse of thousands of years of human consciousness that has bothered me is the invocation of Hitler when discussing the health care debate. Opponents to universal health care (or, more accurately, any sliver of an iota of universal health care) have pointed out that this was one of the programs of Nazi Germany.

Now, in all fairness, I have no idea whatsoever if this is true. And, perhaps unfairly, I have no intention on finding out because I don't care. I'm going to concede the point. In fact, let's assume, just for kicks, that it was Hitler who came up with the whole idea of universal health care and outlined his plan for a public option somewhere in Mein Kampf's appendix. The logical leap into the abyss that conservative lawmakers, pundits, and banshee-voiced town hall protesters are making is in assuming that this was a defining characteristic of Hitler.

Hitler was, no argument, a monster who spent much of his time contemplating and implementing evil things. This is well established. What is less well established, but also true, is that after a big turkey dinner he took a nap, woke up, and went to the bathroom. By all accounts, so did Stalin. The point is, while Hitler did many evil things, he also did many other things that all humans do.

When some conservative break out the Hitler brush to paint Obama over health care reform, they are doing so with a non-defining attribute of Hitler. So many innocuous countries have universal health care coverage that it is ridiculous to label it a Nazi policy. It is akin to someone labeling me a Nazi because, like Hitler, I both inhale and exhale.

Now, this is not the first time in recent years that a president has been hit with the Hitler stick. And I think it was probably unfair (of me, occasionally, I admit) to use it on George W. Bush. However, when we think about the defining attributes of Hitler, what comes to mind is. . .wars of aggression with dubious premises. . . detaining people without charge and torturing them. . .

I'll stop there because, as I said, I don't think Bush was Hitler reincarnate. I'm just pointing out that sometimes illogical thinking and hypocrisy make very nice bedfellows.