As for the actual content of the House healthcare bill, horrors! Where to begin? That there are serious deficiencies and injustices in the U.S. healthcare system has been obvious for decades. To bring the poor and vulnerable into the fold has been a high ideal and an urgent goal for most Democrats. But this rigid, intrusive and grotesquely expensive bill is a nightmare. Holy Hygeia, why can't my fellow Democrats see that the creation of another huge, inefficient federal bureaucracy would slow and disrupt the delivery of basic healthcare and subject us all to a labyrinthine mass of incompetent, unaccountable petty dictators? Massively expanding the number of healthcare consumers without making due provision for the production of more healthcare providers means that we're hurtling toward a staggering logjam of de facto rationing. Steel yourself for the deafening screams from the careerist professional class of limousine liberals when they get stranded for hours in the jammed, jostling anterooms of doctors' offices. They'll probably try to hire Caribbean nannies as ringers to do the waiting for them.
A second issue souring me on this bill is its failure to include the most common-sense clause to increase competition and drive down prices: portability of health insurance across state lines. What covert business interests is the Democratic leadership protecting by stopping consumers from shopping for policies nationwide? Finally, no healthcare bill is worth the paper it's printed on when the authors ostentatiously exempt themselves from its rules. The solipsistic members of Congress want us peons to be ground up in the communal machine, while they themselves gambol on in the flowering meadow of their own lavish federal health plan. Hypocrites!
And why are we even considering so gargantuan a social experiment when the nation is struggling to emerge from a severe recession? It's as if liberals are starry-eyed dreamers lacking the elementary ability to project or predict the chaotic and destabilizing practical consequences of their utopian fantasies. Republicans, on the other hand, have basically sat on their asses about healthcare reform for the past 20 years and have shown little interest in crafting legislative solutions to social inequities. The usual GOP floater about private medical savings accounts is a crock -- something that, given the astronomical costs of major medical crises, would be utterly unworkable for families of even average household income.
International models of socialized medicine have been developed for nations and populations that are usually vastly smaller than our own. There are positives and negatives in their system as in ours. So what's the point of this trade? The plight of the uninsured (whose number is far less than claimed) should be directly addressed without co-opting and destroying the entire U.S. medical infrastructure. Limited, targeted reforms can ban gouging and unfair practices and can streamline communications now wastefully encumbered by red tape. But insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry are not the sole cause of mounting healthcare costs, and constantly demonizing them is a demagogic evasion.
How dare anyone claim humane aims for this bill anyhow when its funding is based on a slashing of Medicare by over $400 billion? The brutal abandonment of the elderly here is unconscionable. One would have expected a Democratic proposal to include an expansion of Medicare, certainly not its gutting. The passive acquiescence of liberal commentators to this vandalism simply demonstrates how partisan ideology ultimately desensitizes the mind.
Last week's startling gubernatorial victories by Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey were routinely dismissed as local aberrations by the liberal media or inflated as referendums on President Obama by the conservative media. But voters were clearly revolting against the deranged excess spending of government at both state and federal levels. So it was as much a protest against Congress as against the White House.
On other matters, I was recently flicking my car radio dial and heard an affected British voice tinkling out on NPR. I assumed it was some fussy, gossipy opera expert fresh from London. To my astonishment, it was Richard Dawkins, the thrice-married emperor of contemporary atheists. I had never heard him speak, so it was a revelation. On science, Dawkins was spot on -- lively and nimble. But on religion, his voice went "Psycho" weird (yes, Alfred Hitchcock) -- as if he was channeling some old woman with whom he was in love-hate combat. I have no idea what ancient private dramas bubble beneath the surface there. As an atheist who respects and studies religion, I believe it is fair to ask what drives obsessive denigrators of religion. Neither extreme rationalism nor elite cynicism are adequate substitutes for faith, which fulfills a basic human need -- which is why religion will continue to thrive in our war-torn world.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
She often suffers from a strange cognitive dissonance (sometimes even within a single column), but when she's on, she's on: