I have been out in the country recently. Curiosities of circumstance and all that.
Earlier this week I went into the local store; a haven of junk food and fishing tackle.The owner of the store was standing behind the counter watching an old television — old enough that it had a VCR built into the bottom.
There was some sort of news program on, though it was difficult to ascertain from what outlet. The picture was foggy and the program’s host, perhaps rather ironically, was blurry; wearing the same suit every host wears, speaking in the same generic accent. I have often thought it curious that of all the places I have visited in North America, I have never come across an indigenous population with that particular accent.
The host was speaking excitedly about a poll they were conducting — the definitive poll, according to their presentation, regarding public opinion on the healthcare debate.
Option number one, “repeal Obamacare, replace with Trumpcare.”
Option two, “leave Obamacare.”
I thought immediately about Noam Chomsky.
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”
The definitive poll on health care was a strict choice between two options people hate.
How perfectly emblematic of the American political system.
This led me to think of a conversation I’d had earlier in the week with a conservative and self-styled “patriotic” friend of mine regarding healthcare.
To his credit, my friend has come around on the idea of a single-payer system. He would tell you he was swayed by the opportunity for a universal system to eliminate all of the bureaucratic red tape involved with the current (failing) patchwork of US healthcare.
He repeated this week, as he has many times in the past, that what annoys him most is when people like Ted Cruz start to list off the problems of single-payer systems in places like Canada or the Scandinavian countries — wait times, “rationing,” rich guys not being able to jump to the front of the line for minor ailments. (Ok, that last one was mine)
He almost always launches into the same rant, which, if I could paraphrase for you, goes something like:
“Who cares about the failures in those places?!? We’re fucking America! We can’t figure out how to do it better than a bunch of Swedes? Come on …”
I admit that I like this rant. Mostly because it enunciates how pessimistic, how defeatist, how *gasp* unpatriotic people like Ted Cruz really are.
Where my friend most often goes with this line of thinking is towards the support of a two-tier system; where everyone is provided with healthcare, but those with the economic means can purchase private care if they so desire.
He revealed to me that someone had countered him on this point earlier that week. They had said that a two-tier system inevitably leads to a system where the rich get better healthcare than the poor, the private side being able to lure the best medical professionals with higher salaries, and sway government policy with the best lobbyists.
It is not a terrible point, particularly when looking at an example like the education system; where gradually, and with the support of government, money has been siphoned from public schools to private, contributing to the catastrophic state of the U.S. education system.
However, I suggested to my friend that he might counter the argument in one of two ways.
First, some might suggest that a system in which the rich have better healthcare than the poor should not be compared with a hypothetical system where all have high-quality, equal care. Rather it should be compared to the existing system, in which the rich have fantastic healthcare, and millions have none at all.
Secondly, I suggested that if the problem being foreseen was the diversion of government funding from public to private entities in a way which sways the overall quality provided by both, then perhaps we should work on campaign finance reform so that the politicians making these types of decisions are not funded by the entities they are making decisions about.
And if the problem was to be the diversion of high-quality healthcare professionals from public to private, perhaps we should create more high-quality professionals. How about free undergraduate programs at universities and colleges, or cheaper medical school with better and more forgiving student loans? How about easier accreditation for experienced medical professionals coming from other countries?
Heck, we could even rethink the plan next time we were going to fire off $75 million of missiles, and just build a hospital instead.
At this point in the conversation, my friend raised his hands above his head and, wide-eyed, shouted, “Oh God! Not Bernie Sanders!!”
He was mostly joking.
I think about these types of conversations when the media presents two options people hate as the only two options that exist.