Friday, August 28, 2009

Fear & Waiting In America

Steve Inskeep’s piece on the historic use of fear to scuttle healthcare reform devoted a lot of time to “the science of fear.” But what really interested me was the brief history of the movement to reform our healthcare system which introduced the piece.

I was especially struck by this information from political scientist Jonathan Oberlander of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:
Oberlander says opponents used scare tactics the very first time the idea of national health insurance was broached — around 1915 — by tying would-be reformers to the nation's then-greatest international threat.

"They said that national health insurance was a plot by the German emperor to take over the United States," he says.

Damn. Should I laugh or cry? I don’t know which is worse: that we’ve been trying to get national health insurance in this country since 1915 or that fear-mongering about Kaiser Wilhem II actually worked.

You know, every time I see that news clip of Marsha Blackburn telling us healthcare is so “important to the American people” that “we need to slow down and do this right” I want to tear my hair out.

What, 94 years isn’t slow enough for you? How slow is slow enough? We tried to get national health insurance in 1915, Roosevelt took it out of the Social Security legislation in 1935 as a concession to the AMA, we tried again in the 1940s and were told it would lead to the Red Army marching down Main Street USA. We weren't successful getting anything until the 1960s when Medicare passed--over the dire warnings of Ronald Reagan that we'd all spend our sunset years "telling our children and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free."

Let me repeat what I wrote back in July when I first addressed the “slow down” meme:

I'm starting to question your commitment to the issue.

Of course, “slow down” is part of the fear message: haste makes waste! If we rush we’ll screw it up and then it will never be fixed!

Can someone tell me why the idea of giving all Americans access to healthcare is so scary that for nearly 100 years certain factions of the country have yelled “BOO!” every time we tried? Don’t you people want the American workforce healthy?

Oberlander says:

”[...] And I think the reason that people use fear again and again is that it's effective. It's worked to stop health reform in the past. And so they're going to try and use it in the present."

I still say this stuff wouldn’t work if the media didn’t let them get away with it. How many hours of television time were devoted to debating “both sides” of the “death panels” issue, as if there were any side other than the “this is absolute bullshit, total fearmongering, and you should ashamed of yourself for even trying it” side?

Anyway, I found this issue brief on the history of major health reform movements in America. Seems like every 10-15 years we’ve tried to get some kind of national health program going and the best we’ve been able to do is Medicare and Medicaid.

So, yeah. I think it's time we stopped diddling around, scaring the crap out of people using whatever boogeyman resonates with the American people at the time (the Kaiser, the Russians, the "government bureaucrat/death panel," etc.). Because we've waited long enough.

Congressman Blackburn and the rest of the "slow down" crowd, it's obvious you have no intention of fixing this mess anyway. All of the years the Republicans had Congress and the White House you never uttered one word about this. All of the tax cuts and deregulation and free hands of the market didn't give us anything.

I'm done waiting.