Friday, October 17, 2008

Morning lecture

I just watched an ad for Udall on Sullivan's blog (which I don't have a link to in the sidebar, merely because he's so popular, 'cause I'm a jerk.)

For those of you who didn't click on the link, the ad shows an Iraqi war vet, quite young, who is using one of those devices that Stephen Hawkings uses to communicate. He thanks Udall for the funds to help those with traumatic brain injuries. Udall ends the ad with, "I'm Tom Udall and I'm honored to approve this message."

Now, some might say that this young man is being used for political purposes. I don't. Politicians regularly use "regular people" as illustrations for their positions (as in "Joe the Plumber", which was both absurd and not very effective).

The Udall ad made me sit up a bit. I had already started to think after Wednesday's debate that my attitude towards the elections was getting to be too sports-fan like. This is not a game, as much fun as it may be for those of us who like this sort of thing.

I feel passionately about universal health care, for instance. Driving home from my knitting group last night, I heard Hannity talk about how Obama wants politicians to decide who's going to be in charge of peoples' health care. First of all, most of us don't have all that much choice to begin with, especially in rural areas such as where I live. We have a shortage of physicians and they all have long waiting lists. The rural health clinics all are short-staffed. The "city" of Belfast, Maine, doesn't even have a health clinic.

Last week I went to the emergency room because I had an excruciating tooth ache. I had no choice. I don't have a dentist and no one would see me on such short notice. My doctor is no longer practicing and I'm looking for a new one. So, it was to the emergency room I went, where I spent over four hours waiting. I knew the emergency room was a stupid place to go for a toothache, but I was hurting. That visit is going to be very expensive, but I'm low income and I won't have to pay for it.

On the other hand, last month I went to eye doctor because I had a pain in my eye, which I need to be mindful of, for I've had two conditions that could blind me if I get them again and they go untended. This visit was not covered by insurance. If I had gone to the emergency room instead, it would have been covered. What kind of sense does that make? The eye doctor's visit was $70. The emergency room visit would have been at least two hundred.

This is a snapshot of free market medical care, the kind that the Republicans think will work better if there's even more competition. Is competition driving the price of pharmaceuticals down? Not in the least. We pay more for medication here in the United States than any other industrialized nation. The Canadian government negotiates with drug companies for better prices. Here in the U.S., we're pushed pills via television ads that say "ask your doctor", as if they are the same thing as a new snack food that my neighbor might tell me is ultra-delicious.

The fear of "big government" espoused by the talk radio folks and the people who listen to them is just ridiculous (in my eyes, obviously). Government is already a behemoth. Then there's the idea that it's "not fair" for people who make more money to pay more taxes. I understand the idea that's behind this - that one should not penalize someone for being "successful". But really, think about a flat tax for a moment. Compare 10% of $20,000 to 10% of 200,000. Though the ratio is the same, 2000 dollars to someone who makes 20K is a lot of money. Of course, 20K is a lot of money, too, but it won't "hurt" as much. Yes, a progressive tax is "spreading the wealth around", as McCain calls it, but the consequences of not doing this are enormous.

Which would anyone rather have? It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent. If people on the low end of the economic spectrum don't have enough money to pay for health care, home heating and other neccessities, they will be paid for by others, regardless of how the tax system is set up. And the kicker is, just like all the filled up emergency rooms, when they are paid for in a pay-as-needed way (just so we don't look like socialists), they will cost more. Want higher taxes? Just keep voting to end the so-called "entitlement" programs.

If one is truly against help for those who need it, paid for by others, then we should allow people to go hungry, homeless, uncared for and uneducated. Period. That's a true free-market system. Is that what people really want? I've heard some people espouse these ideas and I wonder if they can truly hear themselves. I've heard people with solid educations, people who climbed up the "ladder of success", say things like "let them die", when speaking of those who are on Medicaid. If you didn't earn it by hard work and sacrifice (as if that minimum wage job or two that you may have isn't hard work and sacrifice), you don't deserve to live.

Honestly, I don't think that most people who need governmental help want it to be that way. But not everyone "succeeds". Contrary to the American myth, we are not born equal. Some of us are born with disabilities. Some of us are born with extraordinary gifts. Some of us are born into poverty and some of us are born into great wealth. We didn't do anything to deserve what we were born with or into. And not everyone can climb that imaginary ladder of success that leads to the American Dream of a home with a two car garage and 2.5 children who are all healthy and college bound.

Palin was here in Maine yesterday, to a crowd of 5000 cheering fans. I realized I was afraid of the people who attended her rally. I suppose those people may have been afraid of the 9000 people who came out this past snow winter to see Obama. It's more than time for all of us to come together, with honesty, and look at what we want from this country and from each other. I'm sick of slick ads for politicians, on both sides of the aisle. We do need "straight talk". We need it badly.

So, to end this lecture, I invite all of you to try talking to those who you know don't agree with you. Don't talk about "your candidate", but try talking about an issue, and make it personal. See what happens.

Now, I'm going to eat Breakfast.


TMC said...

Well I for one am glad you're over here talking about the real problems and issues because it allows me the space to chatter on about gum and Lil' Wayne.

I'm an idiot.

BTW, I hope your toofs better now. Next time come see me... I've got pliers and a utility knife and we'll just wrench that sucker right out.

Julie H. Rose said...

After I saw the dentist's bill that Dick came home with yesterday, pliers and a bottle of whiskey sound like they might be a plan.

Talking about issues does not make me not-an-idiot.