Public Health, Public Good

There is rarely genuine public debate about almost any important issue in American society. Listening to healthcare reform on the corporate media, I was reminded of this. It didn’t slip past my notice that the entire frame of discussion is seeking corporatist solutions to corporatist problems in a corporatist political and economic system. The fact of the matter is that there is no way to provide better and cheaper healthcare to more citizens, as other countries do, through the capitalist system. In particular, the last thing in the world we need is further aligning big business with big government.

Here is what is rarely brought up. Consider the simple fact that 40% of the deaths worldwide are caused by pollution. And that is one small part of externalized costs, externalized often by corporations that make immense profits from that externalization that goes hand in hand with internalizing benefits. Most of the people harmed by these externalized costs are the lower classes who are the least able to seek healthcare to treat health conditions caused by wealthy and powerful interests. First of all, we should stop these corporations from externalizing costs. But to the extent that isn’t always possible, we should tax these corporations to pay for those externalized costs, which is to say those who benefit the most from the system should pay the most to offset the costs of the system.

This is common sense. Only a sociopath could argue against it, but sadly we have a system that promotes the sociopathic mindset and gives a platform to the sociopathic rhetoric that justifies it. The plutocrats who are harming others for their own self-interest have the morally depraved sense of privilege to complain that taxes are theft. These are the same plutocrats who have spent their lives stealing from the commons, stealing from the public good. They internalize  and privatize the benefit from resources taken from public lands, from their dominant use of the public infrastructure, from highly profitable government contracts (often crony no bid contracts), from control of the government (through lobbying, revolving door, regulatory capture, legalized bribery, etc), from free trade agreements written in their favor to help them dominate global markets, from a military that serves to protect their interests (maintaining international relations, keeping open trade routes, ensuring access to natural resources on foreign public lands, etc), and on and on. All paid for with public wealth and resources. This gives the appearance of legitimacy to the illegitimate.

There is an important point that gets lost here. The plutocrats are half right about one thing. We shouldn’t rely on taxes of plutocrats to fund the public good. Rather, we simply shouldn’t allow plutocrats to steal from the public good in the first place, such that taxation becomes necessary. Once that theft has happened, the plutocrats will treat this theft as their right and privilege. As they see it, everything that is public is theirs to take, even the government itself. It’s all theirs and so if we don’t let them rape and pillage freely across the world, we are stealing from them just as the starving peasant was stealing from the lord when he gathered some food for his family from what once was feudal commons. They accuse others of theft out of bad conscience, knowing that their entire way of life is theft.

The reality is that the US is the wealthiest country in the world. In global capitalism, the public wealth and resources regularly given away and wasted for private interests is easily in the trillions of dollars on a yearly basis. It might be trillions in just considering the direct benefits corporations have on US land and waters. The precise amount has never been calculated because the corporatist don’t want to know or rather don’t want the rest of us to know, although I’m sure they have a good sense of the approximate amount of what is being sucked out of the system. Whatever the exact amount, it’s guaranteed that it could pay for healthcare for every US citizen, along with so much else.

There is the basic problem that healthcare can’t operate as a free market for many reasons, the most basic of which is that sick and injured people aren’t in the mindset to be able to make rational choices, even if we had a system that offered real choices. The problem goes so much deeper than that, though. It’s the entire system that has failed and so no solution can be found within the system. In fact, this system is designed to fail according to the standard of public good for the simple reason that the interests it is designed to serve are not we the people.

This is what is never stated in a straightforward manner. There is no lack of public wealth and resources. The question is where is it going, when it is redirected away from the public good and siphoned off into the private sector. This question is not allowed to be fairly and fully discussed in the corporate media and corporatist politics that the plutocracy controls. The final proof that we live in a banana republic is that we the public are effectively silenced in public debate about our own public good, such that the majority has yet to realize it is a majority. The public majority demanding public healthcare reform that benefits most Americans should be heeded by the political system claiming to represent we the people.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Every time they raise your tuition you are paying for the cost of empire. Every time they cut funds to the state of Wisconsin you have to make up the difference. Everywhere I go… and, when I pick up the local newspapers, it often seems like the same paper and every paper has the same story for a while, factoring when the fiscal year was ending, it would say: ‘State facing huge deficits’, ‘City council voting cuts in budget’…
“That is the cost of empire. What happens then is our economic democracy is under attack.
“Not everyone, as they say, pays the costs. Some people profit immensely.”
~ Michael Parenti, Ph.D.

* * *

An Invisible Debt Made Visible
True Costs are ‘Punitive
Losses Outweighing Gains
Costs Must Be Paid: Social Darwinism As Public Good
Socialized Medicine & Externalized Costs
On Welfare: Poverty, Unemployment, Health, Etc
Athens is starved so that Sparta can be fed.
On Infrastructure and Injustice
Investing in Violence and Death
Government Efficiency: Public’s Lack of Knowledge
Public Opinion on Tax Cuts for the Rich
Most Oppose Cutting Social Security (data)
Public Opinion On Government & Tea Party
Democracy and Propaganda
Public Intellectuals As Thought Leaders
The Establishement: NPR, Obama, Corporatism, Parties
Corporate Bias of ‘Mainstream’ Media
What Does Liberal Bias Mean?
The Golden Rule and Reality
Homelessness and Mental Illness
A Sense of Urgency
A System of Unhappiness
Capitalism as Social Control
It’s All Your Fault, You Fat Loser!
Social Disorder, Mental Disorder
Social Conditions of an Individual’s Condition
Rationalizing the Rat Race, Imagining the Rat Park
Frrrreeeeeddoommmm?????
Not Funny At All
Protecting Elections From Democracy
Of Dreamers and Sleepwalkers
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
By What Right?
But Then It Was Too Late
Then What?

Health Care Reform: What is the real issue?

Here is a discussion I had on Facebook in response to this article about Obama’s health care reform (or rather health care insurance reform). It ‘s not a bad article and makes a good point, but I’m ever the critic. Here was my first comment:

I’ve never been one to think in black/white terms. I didn’t assume the health care reform either had to be a total success or a total failure. It has both some good aspects and some less-than-good aspects. From my perspective, it simply isn’t what the majority of Americans wanted which was either public option or single payer.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/health-reform-public-option-polls-other-info/

If not for lobbyists, we would already have public option or single payer. But Obama threw those off of the table. Why should we be satisfied with crumbs instead of demanding the whole pie? Yes, crumbs are nice when you are starving, but that should be the bare minimum of a starting point.

I understand looking for the positive. Anything is better than nothing. But let us not be overly grateful in begging for these crumbs. We shouldn’t have to beg for crumbs in the first place.

My friend Nicole responded with this:

“Agreed but there is a difference between being overly grateful and being downright hateful (not you personally but so many people on “Obamacare”)”

Continuing my criticism, I make a plea for balance:

I understand what you are saying. I just get tired of both sides that either want to attack or idolize Obama. There is no need to apologize to Obama just because there is some good in health care reform. One would hope there is some good in any health care reform. Anyway, apology wouldn’t be necessary if one didn’t react with emotional criticalness in the first place.
Let’s stand back and look at politics without becoming identified with one side or the other, without getting emotionally drawn in. Let’s have a discussion based on the known data.

After losing a posted comment, I added some further thoughts on a related issue that came to my mind:

That is odd. I posted a comment after your last comment, but it is no longer shown here. Where did it go. I don’t even remember all that I wrote. Part of what I said was that I understand that you are willing. I wasn’t criticizing you or people like you. I wasn’t criticizing your having posted this. I wasn’t even criticizing the act of pointing out the positve aspects of a particular policy promoted by Obama.

But that isn’t the reason I came back to this post. I was thinking about Obama last night. I was thinking about what is good or bad about him or else what is just neutral, the neutral part standing out to me.

In particular, I was comparing in my mind Obama and Bush. The reason I was doing this is because Obama has continued many of Bush’s policies, not all but many. Even Bush proposed some health care refom such as with his Medicare prescription drug program. Bush was a ‘compassionate conservative” which meant that he was as interested in social programs (health care, education, etc) as a Democrat like Obama. In the opposite direction, Obama is just as interested in promoting the power of the presidency as any neocon Republican, is just as interested in promoting the security state (with its undermining of civil liberties) as any war hawk Republican.

So, what makes Obama and Bush different? This is where it gets interesting.

In terms of personality and career, Obama and Bush couldn’t be more different. Obama was more of an outsider who worked his way up and Bush was born into wealth and power. Obama learned to play the game well becoming a professional politician and Bush was used to things being handed to him without having to work for it. Obama was intelligent and well-educated and Bush was just average.

It’s the professional politican aspect of Obama that stands out. Bush isn’t a professional politician. Bush is where he is because he has done what people have told him to do. He inherited political connections from his dad. Bush is a puppet. As a puppet, he is as good or bad as those pulling the strings. Obama isn’t a puppet. Instead, Obama acts according to pressure. Obama listens carefully to the public and to lobbyist groups and he guides his political career carefully.

What this means is this: Obama will only do good if pressure forces him to do good. So, the good that came about in health care reform came about to the exteent there was enough pressure to do so. He chose to push for health care reform because he was paying attention to polls and saw that it was in the air. Bush, however, isn’t pressured in the same way. Rather, Bush just does what his handlers/advisers tell him to do, and so its his handlers who respond to the pressures and filter them accordingly. A big difference is that Bush’s handlers/advisers happened to be evil geniuses who were heavily mired in the power structure of lobbyists and good ol’ boy politics. No amount of public pressure would likely have influenced Bush, but enough public pressure will influence Obama.

By the way, after posting that I went back to the article and noticed an added response by the author. Unsurprisingly, there were many haters of the view she expressed in her original article, mostly partisan attacks I presume. Here is her response to the “haters”:

“I wrote this piece to give the health insurance crisis in this country a common face.  My objectives in writing it were to hopefully get people to see themselves in me and my family, and I wanted people to know what Obama has done for people who have pre-existing conditions so they can get health insurance through PCIP.  My husband and I both knew that by doing this, we would invite hatred into our lives, and that indeed has happened.  To those of you who don’t want to see the commonalities between me and my family, let me pose it to you this way:  If your sister or mother lost her job and health insurance, and then turned up with breast cancer, what would you do?  Would you let her die?  Would you pick up the cancer tab yourself?, or would you tell her about PCIP?”

That is fair. She is making a good point. Such discussions aren’t just ideological battles or philosophical debates about abstract ideas. No, that isn’t the real issue, despite that being what politicians and pundits too often make it into. This is ultimately about real people. I might be dissatisfied with the results. Any rational person would have to admit that health care reform could have been better. It would be a cold-hearted person who would dismiss the people who have actually been helped.

Health Reform & Public Option (polls & other info)

I was doing websearches on health reform. My main focus was on public option and polls, but I was checking out all the various issues. I keep coming across rightwingers who claim that Americans don’t want health reform and don’t want public option. I realize critics have their arguments and the data can be confusing. Still, after all my websearching, it still seems clear that support for public option has remained steady. 

Rightwingers have only two responses when confronted with the fact that most people want health care reform, that most people support systems such as public option or single payer.

First, they attack the polls. They’ll claim that some polls show the opposite, but this excuse falls apart when it’s shown that the polls against are exceptions. Then they’ll say the polling is biased which simply dismisses that polling experts are well versed in potential bias and are careful to prevent it.

Second, they attack the American public. They’ll claim people are stupid, uninformed or easily manipulated. However, this misses the point that a majority of doctors also support health care reform and public option. So, they’ll claim that personally doctors benefit and so are biased which translates into we can’t trust doctors to actually care about their own patients.

This type of rightwinger will go around and around.

Below are some relevant data, videos and links (mostly about public option). What I found interesting is the fact that, along with most doctors, most church-going Catholics support public option and so are in agreement with most Americans in general. Even more interesting is the fact that the church-going Catholics even support a national plan that includes funding for abortion.

 
 
 
 

A batch of state polls by the non-partisan Research 2000 shows that in multiple states represented by key Dem Senators who will have to decide whether to support reconciliation, the public option polls far better than the Senate bill does, often by lopsided margins.

Here’s a rundown, sent over by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which commissioned the polls:

* In Nevada, only 34% support the Senate bill, while 56% support the public option.

* In Illinois, only 37% support the Senate bill, while 68% support the public option.

* In Washington State, only 38% support the Senate bill, while 65% support the public option.

* In Missouri, only 33% support the Senate bill, while 57% support the public option.

* In Virginia, only 36% support the Senate bill, while 61% support the public option.

* In Iowa, only 35% support the Senate bill, while 62% support the public option.

*In Minnesota, only 35% support the Senate bill, while 62% support the public option.

* In Colorado, only 32% support the Senate bill, while 58% support the public option.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Maddow on Women’s Healthcare

This analysis makes a lot of sense when compared to other data. In the poorest states (which of course includes the Southern states such as South Carolina), the rich vote Republican and the poor vote Democrat. Rich people in poor states don’t care about the poor. The politicians in these states do whatever they can to disenfranchise the poor and to fear-monger towards the electorate because otherwise they’d never get elected.

IRONY ALERT: Rush Limbaugh Touts Socialist Health Care

IRONY ALERT: Rush Limbaugh Touts Socialist Health Care (UPDATED)

Rush Limbaugh on the care he received in Hawaii after his heart attack scare (via the Denver Post):

Limbaugh couldn’t resist a few political comments in the short press conference at the hospital. He said he got the best health treatment in the world “right here in the United States of America.”

“I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with the United States health system,” Limbaugh said.

He thinks he’s being a smart ass; that he’ll show Obama by holding a news conference to tout the care our current health care system provided him.

Unfortunately for him, or fortunately for his health, Hawaii has pretty much had what amounts to universal health care since 1974.

His treatment, under the Hawaiian system, and one he’d call socialist on any given day, was the best possible care he could have gotten despite being very similar to that dreaded “universal health care” he rails on and on about.

From Paul Abrams:

Yes, Rush. That’s the point! American medicine is superb–for those who can get it. And, in Hawaii, no one gets special treatment, because everyone can get it.

[snip]

Hawaii has had nearly-universal employer-mandated health insurance since 1974. Although its Pacific Island location makes the costs of everything–from gasoline to milk to ice cream to housing–the highest in the nation, health care premiums in Hawaii, for comprehensive care with small co-pays and deductibles, are nearly the lowest and their costs per medicare beneficiary are the lowest in the nation.Why? There are a variety of reasons, most traceable to universality. With everyone covered by primary care, emergency room visits tend to be for real emergencies, not the non-emergent care mainland ERs dispense for people without coverage. That reduces the costs of ERs and the costs of non-emergent medicine since patients can be handled less expensively and more effectively by their primary docs. Hospitals have not overbuilt, acquiring expensive machines to compete with their neighbors for patients. Insurance companies have instituted screening and other measures to improve wellness among their covered populations.

We can all be pleased that Rush appears to have survived his encounter with socialist medical care. He seems to be very happy himself, commenting on the results of a socialist angiogram that showed no disease in the arteries that feed his heart muscle.

Now, of course, Rush does not live in Hawaii and so his costs are not covered by the Hawaiian insurance system, but having that “socialist” system for more than 3 decades has not reduced the quality of the care he received. Who would have thunk it!

read more…

But, Rush doesn’t really have to worry about costs — like 95% of the rest of us (h/t BarbinMD):

Conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh Wednesday inked an eight-year contract for around $400 million …

In his efforts to show up the President, all the fat, sweaty bouncy one did was show what an ignoramus he truly is.

 
 

Lie of the Year: ‘Death panels’

PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: ‘Death panels’

Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest.

“Death panels.”

The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn’t made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page.

Her assertion — that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care — spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, “Death panels? Really?”

The editors of PolitiFact.com, the fact-checking Web site of the St. Petersburg Times, have chosen it as our inaugural “Lie of the Year.”

PolitiFact readers overwhelmingly supported the decision. Nearly 5,000 voted in a national poll to name the biggest lie, and 61 percent chose “death panels” from a field of eight finalists. (See the complete results.)

My Response to the News

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists
By MARK MAZZETTI

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”

I wrote about this story previously, but this is new info.  It seems that the argument for it being withheld from Congress was false.

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

Paramilitary hit teams… oh how it brings back the memories of America’s dark past.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

It sounds like the CIA and the former Blackwater are so entangled as to be inseparable.  Big government and big business melded together… fascism anyone?

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

If we were to go by American history, then there probably were and are all kinds of covert programs being hidden from Congressional oversight.  In my previous post about this story, I pointed out that it’s hard for Congress to serve it’s purpose of oversight when it’s left in the dark.  How does the Congress oversee an agency whose practice is to control info and keep it secret?  The only reason we see this info now is because there was a change in CIA leadership and the new guy didn’t want to get in trouble for the wrongdoings of the previous leadership.  However, even he didn’t know about this CIA program even after being head of the CIA for several months.   It was a secret even from him.  The CIA even lacks clear internal oversight.

A Nuremberg for Guantánamo
By GUÉNAËL METTRAUX

AT the end of World War II, the Allied powers found themselves in charge of thousands of captured enemies, many of whom had committed unspeakable crimes. Some among the victors thought that the prisoners should simply be shot. Others, including many in the American government, steadfastly insisted that these men should be subjected to criminal proceedings. Thus the Nuremberg trials were born, tribunals that meted out justice for some of the 20th century’s worst atrocities while demonstrating the return of the rule of law on the European continent and the superiority of democratic values over Fascist lunacies.

[…]

An international criminal tribunal would not answer all the legal questions surrounding the war on terrorism. But by putting its faith in the law, the Obama administration would send a potent message to both its supporters and its enemies. By giving a fair trial to the Guantánamo detainees, the United States would reassert its core values and demonstrate the supremacy of those values over the evil that has been challenging them.

Oh, what a lovely dream!  An America dedicating itself to justice, civil rights, and faith in the law… could such a thing be possible!?!

Sadly, there is a reason the US government doesn’t want to support international military tribunals.  There are many people of many countries (including politicians and leaders) who would like to see a number of Americans sent to trial for war crimes.  If we decided to subject citizens of other countries to fair trials, that might just lead to other countries demanding the same in return.  That is a can of worms that even Obama wouldn’t want to open.

Priority Test: Health Care or Prisons?
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

The United States is anomalous among industrialized countries in the high proportion of people we incarcerate; likewise, we stand out in the high proportion of people who have no medical care — and partly as a result, our health care outcomes such as life expectancy and infant mortality are unusually poor.

Choices always have to  be made about how limited money is spent.  For that very reason, the way America spends it’s money seems bassackwards.  Even if you assume that even the majority of criminals (who, by the way, are non-violent) can’t be rehabilitated, wouldn’t it make more sense to spend the money on people you can help?

¶The United States incarcerates people at nearly five times the world average. Of those sentenced to state prisons, 82 percent were convicted of nonviolent crimes, according to one study.

¶California spends $216,000 annually on each inmate in the juvenile justice system. In contrast, it spends only $8,000 on each child attending the troubled Oakland public school system, according to the Urban Strategies Council.

¶For most of American history, we had incarceration rates similar to those in other countries. Then with the “war on drugs” and the focus on law and order in the 1970s, incarceration rates soared.

¶One in 10 black men ages 25 to 29 were imprisoned last year, partly because possession of crack cocaine (disproportionately used in black communities) draws sentences equivalent to having 100 times as much powder cocaine. Black men in the United States have a 32 percent chance of serving time in prison at some point in their lives, according to the Sentencing Project.

I like statistics.  Nothing like facts to put ideology in its place.

Indeed, education spending may reduce the need for incarceration. The evidence on this isn’t conclusive, but it’s noteworthy that graduates of the Perry Preschool program in Michigan, an intensive effort for disadvantaged children in the 1960s, were some 40 percent less likely to be arrested than those in a control group.

Above all, it’s time for a rethink of our drug policy. The point is not to surrender to narcotics, but to learn from our approach to both tobacco and alcohol. Over time, we have developed public health strategies that have been quite successful in reducing the harm from smoking and drinking.

If we want to try a public health approach to drugs, we could learn from Portugal. In 2001, it decriminalized the possession of all drugs for personal use. Ordinary drug users can still be required to participate in a treatment program, but they are no longer dispatched to jail.

“Decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal,” notes a report this year from the Cato Institute. It notes that drug use appears to be lower in Portugal than in most other European countries, and that Portuguese public opinion is strongly behind this approach.

For many many reasons, punishment just isn’t a very effective method.  To put it in laymen’s terms, it doesn’t give you much bang for your buck.  Besides, for a supposed Christian nation, we seem a little too much in love with punishment.  If Jesus was here, he wouldn’t approve.

“There are only two possibilities here,” Mr. Webb said in introducing his bill, noting that America imprisons so many more people than other countries. “Either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States, or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice.”

It makes me happy when someone states the obvious.

Obama Calls Health Plan a ‘Moral Obligation’
By JEFF ZELENY and CARL HULSE

“These struggles always boil down to a contest between hope and fear,” he said. “That was true in the debate over Social Security, when F.D.R. was accused of being a socialist. That was true when J.F.K. and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare. And it’s true in this debate today.”

Hope and fear may not be the best way to put it, but it’s not entirely inaccurate.  Research shows that liberals and conservatives tend to be of two distinct personality types (Ernest Hartmann’s thin vs thick boundaries, Myers-Briggs’ Sensation vs iNtuition functions, etc.).

Conservatives ‘fear’ change because they tend to want the world to stay the same or else to return to some idyllic past.  Conservatives are interested in the concrete reality of the present which is built on a sense of continuity with the past.  They’re more comfortable with what is familiar.

Conservatives seem to be more pessimistic.  Research shows that pessimists have a more realistic grasp of the way things actually are, but because of this they tend to get stuck in whatever situation they find themselves in.  Another positive of pessimism is that it allows the acceptance of (even maybe necessitates the expectation of) human failure.  At its best, this can be a very compassionate attitude.  But the dark side is that if people can’t change you might as well just punish them and lock them away instead of trying to rehabilitate them.

Liberals ‘hope’ for change because they tend to want improvement and progress.  Liberals are interested in imagined possibilities that even though not entirely real in the present have the potential to be real in the future.  They’re more open to new experiences.

Liberals seem to be more optimistic.  Research shows that optimists have less realistic grasp of the way things actually are, but because of this they tend not to get stuck in whatever situation they find themselves in.  Another positive of optimism is that it allows for hope and even determination… no matter how often people fail, there is always potential (many successes only come after hundreds of failed attempts).  At its best, this can be a very compassionate attitude.  But the dark side is that if people are unable or feel unable to change unrealistic expectations are unhelpful and possibly dangerous such as if unrehabilitated criminals are released.

Even though the two attitudes balance eachother, America has always been a country of hope.  If there is any single defining ideal of America, it is definitely the ideal of hope.  At the same time, America’s being a young and less stable (or more dynamic if you prefer) country contributes to a constant fear of what we’re collectively becoming.

Healthcare: Right vs Responsibility

Insurance and Social Security…Pet Peeves (blog post by gina from Gaia.com)

Steve said in the comments section:

However, as a Libertarian, I do not see my healthcare as a responsibility of the Federal Government, nor do I consider it a “right”.

I don’t necessarily disagree with this on a philosophical level because it’s a rational perspective.  However, I disagree with it for reasons of compassion which aren’t precisely rational… although I would add that I believe compassion supports rationality when discussing issues specifically pertinent to the human condition.

When I hear statements like this, I immediately wonder about the background of the person making the statement.  I doubt someone who has spent their life in poverty would hold such a belief.  It seems to me a belief of convenience that justifies the person’s position in society.

I’m not picking on Steve for maybe he is just being honest about what he believes.  We all justify our lives with our beliefs.  Even poor people hold beliefs of convenience.  My main complaint is the word “responsibility” in his statement which is a moral judgment which implies poor people are to blame for their own lack of healthcare.  What I’m judging is the tendency in we humans to judge eachother from an assumed position of moral superiority.

I’ve noticed this kind of moral superiority in many people.  It always bugs me.  I know people who have lived righteous lives and who feel justified in their moral superiority, but this is in the context of their being middle to upper class people born into a stable and wealthy society.   What I think many of these people don’t realize is how many advantages they’ve had in life compared to the average person in the world and particularly compared to those on the bottom of society.

And Steve further commented:

But as for me, I do not look toward any other individual or institution to pay my way.  If I get sick and cannot afford my treatments, then all that hope is that I will reach around deep inside myself, find some dignity, and die with it.

This sounds rather convenient.  If he was a poor person born with a disability or who got an illness at a young age, he wouldn’t say something like this.  This is an example of ideology losing contact with human reality.  What is even worse about this statement is that it is one step away from eugenics.  Actually, it is eugenics using a passive methodology.  Just let the poor and needy die of illness and malnutrition.  That way, there is no blood on anyone’s hands.

Could you just imagine all of the sick and dying people crowded around the hospital doors.  No one would let them in because they couldn’t pay and yet they’d have no where else to go.  It would lead to riots and hospitals would become police fortresses and there’d be a black market of stolen hospital drugs.  If the the the chasm between the haves and have nots got too large, walled cities would have to be created and the lower classes would be isolated into ghettoes.

It could end up in some weird kind of Plutocratic Fascism.  Any ideology pushed to an extreme (meaning when the ideologues gain control of political power) ends up with some kind of oppressive political system.  You can start off with Libertarianism, but where you end up may not look so Libertarian.

This is a rather dark vision that I portrayed based on the extreme views of Steve, but it’s far from preposterous.  Many conservatives believe as Steve does.  Conservatives at least used to at least pretend to be compassionate, but that has fallen out of favor.  Since the Republican party has lost much of it’s power, it’s showing more of it’s ruthless nature.  The problem with taking away power from big government is it usually just means instead giving it to big business.  Libertarianism sounds like a good ideal, but sadly small governments seem to be no longer a possibility in the present globalized world.  There will always be some big dog in power, but the best we can do is try to keep it on a short leash.  If you ask me, a big business fascism wouldn’t be a pleasant world to live in unless you were one of the small percentage of wealthy elite.  Then again, Socialism taken to its extremes can also lead to some equally dark ends.  Maybe it’s better to keep all of the big dogs around so that they’ll fight with eachother.  Just tie them to the same leash that way when they try to go in opposite directions they won’t actually get anywhere. 

But that is just me being cynical.  I just get tired of ideologies no matter what they are.  Why is it so difficult to create a socio-political system that actually encourages people to care about and help eachother?  Is our only choice simply to try to curtail people’s selfishness by making laws and hoping that social darwinism will somehow lead to a greater good?