Saturday, April 13, 2013

Kevin Sorbo Has Once Again Inspired Me...

Fair warning, this is going to be a baldly political post on a blog not typically known for it, so if you aren't into that sort of thing, feel free to skip to the next bit where I'm probably talking about zombies or poop or something.

So anyway, I was on Facebook the other day when I happened to notice a post from beloved (to me anyway) cult actor Kevin Sorbo about Obamacare. If you didn't know or care, apparently Sorbo is a fairly staunch conservative Republican, which I should stress before I get into this, is completely fine. I hate that I even have to note that, as if the fact that we disagree about a lot of things somehow means I must hate him or think he's crazy. Though his political views are evidently diametrically opposed to my own, that doesn't mean either of us are bad people or that I can't appreciate his work as an actor and even respect his right to an opinion, just that if he ever runs for president, I'll probably vote for the other guy. Anyway, moving on.

As you might expect, his post on the Affordable Care Act was not one in favor of the recent law. The specifics are not important to this; the point is, I was moved to comment, but not in the way that might be expected of your average committed liberal Democrat. I didn't reflexively defend the law to which the president I just voted for is most well associated, but rather simply pointed out that its no wonder Obamacare isn't as good as it could be, because it was a Republican idea to begin with, and as the Bush Administration taught us, nothing Republicans ever think or believe about anything is ever, ever correct. Flippant and exaggerated, yes, but the point is, I didn't fall to the knee jerk impulse to stand up for it just because I happen to like Obama as president, and I think I'm finally to the point where I'm going to stop doing so altogether.

Now, to be fair, it's not like I was ever a full throated supporter of the ACA. Apart from deflecting the various stupid nonsense thrown up against it by those who opposed it simply out of Obama hate (i.e. Death Panels), I've always been quick to point out that it was based on a plan originally proposed by Mitt Romney of all people. Don't get me wrong, I think the ACA regime is much better than what we had in place before. If we're going to stick with the insurance model, more people having insurance from companies that are now slightly more restricted from taking advantage of their customers over things like pre-existing conditions is easily better than the situation where so many people are one bad trip to the hospital away from bankruptcy, or under insurance plans that deny them coverage as soon as they need it through some quickly invented loophole. That being said, slightly less terrible is still terrible, and I don't know why anybody should settle for that.

Its so strange to me that conservatives have attacked Obamacare like its some dastardly liberal scheme, and that liberals have let themselves be boxed into that framework, when both sides know the real liberal preference is actual Universal Healthcare, specifically Single Payer, or Medicare for all. See, I don't think Health Insurance should even exist. I don't think Healthcare should ever be subject to market forces. I believe we should treat Healthcare like we do any other segment of our national infrastructure, as that which is so essential to our well being that we collectively support it and by extension each other, as we do for the old with Social Security and Medicare now, executed by the Federal Government that, for all its flaws, is at least subject to the accountability of the voting booth in a way the board of directors of an insurance company are not.

The thing is, you're health is not a stereo system or a box of Pop Tarts. It isn't some commodity that can be bartered for and managed in the same way as most consumer goods. The normal rules of supply and demand do not apply, because its not the kind of thing that is always at the end of the day an optional concern. If you are in the market for a television, you can always buy a smaller one, or not buy one at all if you can't afford it, and if you can't afford cable, you can cut it and do without. If you have cancer and the only effective treatment costs more money than you have, you can't cheap out or do without. Well you technically can , but you shouldn't have to. Because Healthcare is a necessity for which there is no substitution, there will always inevitably be a point where the supplier has the demander over a barrel, willing to spend any price to save their lives, which is contrary to the free market ideal that led to the middle ground conservative compromise approach we now call Obamacare.

If you're asking if I really want the government in between patients and their doctors, I say emphatically "Yes," because right now the insurance company is in that space with no concern for the patient's well being, and government, if we work hard to elect people who actually care about it, can be an honest broker in a situation where regular people must place a lot of trust in experts that might not always have their best interests at heart. Yes, it would lead to a lot of bureaucracy and red tape, but no more than what already exists with any given insurance policy, and in this case, the fine print won't be a million different ways to cheat patients out of the coverage they paid for. And even though it would require an increase in taxes directly to support it, full government run Healthcare would also be cheaper, because it would cut down on the indirect costs of so many people without insurance who need Healthcare, not just in terms of emergency room visits, but also in terms of the bankruptcies and foreclosures that result from the often prohibitively high bills that have a cumulative effect on the economy.

Its hard for a lot of people to wrap their head around that, because the idea that competition always results in cheaper goods is so intrinsic to our capitalist ethos. Most of the time its absolutely true, but again, Healthcare is a different kind of thing. Competition hasn't made Healthcare costs cheaper so far, and in fact has only increased them as more and more expensive procedures can be overpriced because the people who need them have no way of saying no to them. A government monopoly would be able to set prices fairly and in a way that is, again, accountable to voters. If you don't like the way the system is run, vote for the other guys, just not the ones who want to abolish the whole thing in the first place. I know that sounds like a scary government takeover, but I don't get why people always assume corporations governed purely by a profit motive are better than an institution we elect to represent us that we ultimately control as constituents. The term constituent means to be a part of something, and we are not a part of a corporation. Government is a tool that can be used for good or for ill, not a zero sum thing where more or less of it is better or worse, and maybe government would work better if we didn't keep electing politicians who explicitly say they don't think government can do any good, because they probably won't know how to do any good with it.

The point is, I get the incrementalist approach that Obama tends to take when it comes to legislation, taking baby steps in the right direction when a more committed liberal vision wouldn't pass through a country that still has Republicans in it. The thing is, I'm already on board with that vision, whether the rest of the country is or not. I embrace the liberal tradition that brought us the New Deal and the Social Safety Net, the Civil Rights Movement, Union and Worker rights, and even the basic standard that Universal Healthcare is a legitimate cause, even if we can't yet agree on how to implement it. I don't need to hold anybody's hand or defend a position I do not hold simply because the people I support can't be as progressive as I want them to be. So I'm not gonna do that anymore.

So I guess what I'm saying is, thanks Kevin Sorbo for inspiring me to be more intellectually consistent. And also for Poolboy, cause that movie was awesome.

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