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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 5, 2009 9:44 AM. The previous post in this blog was Total recall. The next post in this blog is About that "fuel surcharge" on your plane ticket. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

What we're really struggling with

Europeans don’t get why Americans don’t agree that universal health coverage is a fundamental contract to which the citizens of any developed society have a right.

I don’t get it either. Or rather I do, but I don’t think the debate is about health....

Post-heroic European societies, having paid in blood for violent political movements born of inequality and class struggle, see greater risk in unfettered individualism than in social solidarity. Americans, born in revolt against Europe and so ever defining themselves against the old Continent’s models, mythologize their rugged (always rugged) individualism as the bulwark against initiative-sapping entitlements. We’re not talking about health here. We’re talking about national narratives and mythologies — as well as money. These are things not much susceptible to logic. But in matters of life and death, mythology must cede to reality, profit to wellbeing.

I can see the conservative argument that welfare undermines the work ethic and dampens moral fiber. Provide sufficient unemployment benefits and people will opt to chill rather than labor. But it’s preposterous to extend this argument to health care. Guaranteeing health coverage doesn’t incentivize anybody to get meningitis.

The whole thing is here.

Comments (28)

Honestly, if folks can't see that insurance lobbyists--not logic--have dictated the recent train wreck of a debate, I don't know what to tell them. What could a half-billion dollars in lobby spending mean, other than preservation of massive corporate profit?

Meanwhile, opponents of a "public option" will continue to collect Social Security, receive Medicare, cash unemployment checks, and take advantage of a host of public goods (Fire, police, maintained roads, sewer infrastructure, water infrastructure, public parks, etc.).

As long as you keep blaming lobbyists, 'AstroTurf', and whatever else you perceive to be the reasons for conservative & libertarian opposition to this so-called health care reform you're never going to get the whole picture.

As long as you keep blaming lobbyists, 'AstroTurf', and whatever else you perceive to be the reasons for conservative & libertarian opposition to this so-called health care reform you're never going to get the whole picture.

Apparently, you're not getting the "whole picture" either. This isn't a "conservative/libertarian opposition" problem, since several Democrats at various levels have opposed it too.

But let me make it simpler: what's *your* explanation for why the half-billion has been spent by the health insurance industry on lobbying efforts? It's unprecendented in both amount and scope.

the whole picture

Joey Link is right. In addition to the corporate self-interest crowd, there is a gaggle of nut jobs out there who are perfectly willing to take the country down (which is what the present trajectory of health care in America represents) rather than accept a moral principle involving a community of interest. The Hayek quote in the OpEd piece is worth a careful look. Why the funding of and payment for health services are activities suitable for profit-making in the private sector is something no one can explain.

My comment was specifically about what's happening in Congress, not at local town halls and blogs or popular sentiment. In other words, I think the linked article is right on, but in Congress, lobbyists are pulling the strings that matter in the debate. And so far, it looks like the've succeeded.

Watching our "leaders" try to explain in plain language why true public health care should not be available in our country would be a laugh riot--if it wasn't so serious.

But let me make it simpler: what's *your* explanation for why the half-billion has been spent by the health insurance industry on lobbying efforts? It's unprecendented in both amount and scope.

If your industry was under threat of nationalization, you'd spend a lot of money on congressional lobbying as well.

which industry has spent more on lobbying to keep the feds out of their business: Tobacco or Health Insurance?

It's Parasite Story Day at bojack's -- first the e-coli and now the insurance industry, both deadly parasites that fester in dark, anaerobic environments like intestines and Congressional back rooms and that are perfectly willing to kill anyone who is unlucky enough to be vulnerable and happen to get in the way of their growth.

The solution now is to make sure the Democrats know that this is it for them -- strong public option or bust. If all they do is ram through a huge subsidy to the insurance gang with mandatory laws then they are going to get wiped out in 2010 . . . the R's won't vote for them under any circumstances and folding on health care will ensure that everyone else will be so disgusted that they lose a bunch of seats. If the Dems want to have a chance in 2010, better no reform than anything that pleases the GOP and comes at the cost of backroom deals with Big Pharma.

Who here believes that the health care decisions being made about your loved ones should be driven by a profit motive?

If your industry was under threat of nationalization, you'd spend a lot of money on congressional lobbying as well.

Which is beside the point. What's at issue is the behavior of Congress in response to that massive spending.

It's not enough for the industry to cover property, casualty, and life while enjoying an exemption from price fixing?
They also will continue to provide "supplemental" policies for Medicare and any public option which might result, if reason prevailed over profit.

I dont think the government plan will be much better. They may not have a profit motive, but you can be damn sure they will have one similarity with the insurance companies...they sure will do whatever they can to keep costs down. Which means denying costly procedures just like the money-makers do now.

Which industry has spent more on lobbying to keep the feds out of their business: Tobacco or Health Insurance?

The oil industry.

they sure will do whatever they can to keep costs down. Which means denying costly procedures just like the money-makers do now

I'm not sure of that at all. In fact, every other first-world system keeps costs down by minimizing administrative costs, not "denying care".

And guess which country's health care system has the highest administrative cost in the world, often twice as much? And, guess why?

Don't worry George; the Democrats are doing a great job killing their chances for re-election even before the health care issue was on the table. If unemploymnet stays above 9% into late summer next year, lots of the people in Congress now will be gone after the elections.

Dave A., I don't know if "lots of the people in Congress now will be gone". The demos and repubs will fund the same old incumbents with the same policies, and neither will back new thinking for the open seats. It is like here in Portland-no real choices much different than the existing or the newbies.

And guess which country's health care system has the highest administrative cost in the world, often twice as much? And, guess why?

I know ours is highest. But without single-payer, none of that will change. If anything, it will get worse. Insurance companies will milk the government more than they milk you and I now. Bet on it.

If the folks in D.C. really cared about health reform, they would have taken over the healthcare industry, not the auto industry.


Actually, while the USA became "independent" almost 230 years ago, American society still operates like a colony. Colonies are organized to exploit people and things ruthlessly, taking as much as possible while giving back as little as possible. We just can't kick the habit and now, with "globalization," we have the spectacle of colonizing ourselves. Think about it -- like the buffalo or Indian tribes, the labor movement is now largely confined to government-sponsored reservations or refuges like the teaching profession and other public employees. There is nothing - not your house or your health - that private corporations don't want from you if it's worth a dime. And as with the colonialists of old, with their "white man's burden" and "mission civilitrice," there are plenty of apologists to tell us that national impoverishment for the good of our superiors is good for us, too.

I know ours is highest. But without single-payer, none of that will change. If anything, it will get worse. Insurance companies will milk the government more than they milk you and I now. Bet on it.

We're in agreement, I think--I want single payer too.

LW: Actually in Nevada, where we are moving to later this month, there is a major revolt brewing against Harry Reid, John Ensign and many others.

Dave A., who will be the replacements for Reid, Ensign and others? Will it be the same o same o?

I'm going to AZ for obvious reasons. Several of my friends have recently bought homes in WA. But the media and politicians think its not happening. Many of these people are astute business people that finally have called it quits with Portland and Oregon, even if they are native Oregonians.

We're in agreement, I think--I want single payer too.

Im still not sure if I want it. I just dont trust the government to get it right. But I do know that if we are going to get universal healthcare, single payer is the only way its going to work. Otherwise, its just payday for the insurance companies, and our taxes skyrocket to give them billions more.


Point to the express provision in the Constitution guaranteeing the right of the people to health care from the government, or the Article I Section 8 grant of power to Congress to legislate it. I looked for them and I couldn't find them in there.

I guess the poor people should just die. Voices like yours are what makes America so great.

There is no express right to health care in the Constitution. However, it is Constitutional (or, more precisely, not unconstitutional) for Congress to offer universal health care through the federal govt. (See, e.g., Medicare, which we are allowed to opt out of using if we wish). Congress has constitutional authority to tax for whatever it likes, and to offer federal benefit programs (though we could run a tab for universal health care just like we do for Iraq, AF-PAK, and TARP, etc.).

On the other hand, what likely is unconstitutional and vulnerable to a successful takings challenge is an attempt to force unwilling citizens to buy health insurance from private for-profit insurers or pay a penalty.

Basically, it's public schools and fire protection, only in this instance with the federal govt. in the role that states play with schools and cities play with fire protection. They offer a universal benefit and pay for it with public funds. You are free to buy other schooling for your kids or to pay for additional fire protection if you want, but you don't have to.

Point to the express provision in the Constitution guaranteeing the right of the people to health care from the government, or the Article I Section 8 grant of power to Congress to legislate it.

Here we go again. Here are just a few other things you've enjoyed that are not "guaranteed rights" in the Constitution:

* Interstate highway system
* Public education
* The right to vote
* The right to privacy
* Marriage
* Unemployment insurance
* Social Security
* Fire Departments
* Medicare

And so on.

In fact, I think even the word "democracy" is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. I think it's fair to say that absence of a "right" in the Constitution does not imply it cannot or should not exist. Otherwise, what would be the purpose of a Congress?

"In fact, I think even the word "democracy" is nowhere to be found in the Constitution"

Neither is "Liberty"

But I'm pretty sure a with everything ecohuman listed, healthcare might be considered a fundamental right stemming from the "penumbras and emanations" of the Constitution.

Or not.


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