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Brian Ross

Brian Ross

Posted: January 16, 2011 09:52 AM

Anyone who makes the claim that America is not a socialist country is a liar or delusional. The United States practices Preferential Socialism, a Taoist teeter-totter of raw capitalism and a moth-eaten social safety net that favors the haves and keeps the have-nots barely limping along. As Congress drags out the dogs and ponies for this week's Republican rally to keep health care on that two-tier track, a lot of those with a little will be myopically cheering on the defeat of their own self-interest.

We have a Medicare system that takes care of people with means, and a Medicaid system that covers the poor, usually only in the extremest of emergencies. Our public health system is pro-active for those with the means to afford expensive testing, and reactive for everyone else who just gets sick and has to deal with it.

It costs us billions of dollars and millions of lives which might have been saved with preventative and proactive care.

In a country where people demonstrate angrily to protect the right to life, they seem far less concerned with the preservation of that life created to a reasonable standard for all of our citizens.

Republicans, always the booming voice of those with the power and money to impose the imbalanced scale in society, fought Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Yet ask stalwart GOP types about their Medicare or Social Security, and they don't want anyone tinkering with it. Entitlements are, after all, what the other guy gets.

The buzz in this week when the Republicans will press for a symbolic defeat of Health Care Reform for political purposes has been that many portions of the measure, including the mandate that all Americans carry insurance, is "unpopular."

This is why we are not a direct democracy, though. Modern American democracy is government run by the popularly elected, often to do unpopular things that are necessary to the common good.

We have, as a matter of legislation, always mandated things that are unpopular. The fire hazards of the Southwest make it illegal to have a shake roof in Southern California. In some areas where repeated floods have cost the community billions, you have mandatory flood insurance. Unpopular policy, but necessary because the hazard affects the common good.

Health deteriorates over time. To keep younger, healthier people out of the system because they don't feel like paying for it makes as much sense as letting them choose when to begin unemployment insurance or allowing them to opt out of a basic social safety net that is designed to care for them even if they get greedy and tank a 401(k) or their IRA in bogus wall street investment "instruments."

We deduct money out of people's pay for their unemployment and medicare. The employer-based health care system, in an era of increasingly fractionating corporations and people working many places in their lifetime, is not tenable.

American society has clearly demonstrated that the social safety net and capitalism are not mutually exclusive. There has to be some mechanism beyond the wilds of the free market that provides a bottom-line protection for our citizens in their times of need, or when financial or natural disasters overwhelm millions of us.

What makes no sense is that the Republicans are doing this even when most of their general business, medical and big pharma constituencies do not want them bucking health care reform. The Miami Herald reports:

"Reform is not going to be repealed,'' said James Forbes, an executive with Bank of America Merrill Lynch said at the University of Miami's Global Business Forum. "It's not going to happen, folks. Quite honestly, most of your private equity firms view this as a tremendous opportunity.''

Richard Umbdenstock, the president of the American Hospital Association (AHA), also told that conference that the nation's hospitals support reform. ERs are hit with a $35 billion a year bill for all of the uncompensated care for around 50 million Americans who have to use emergency services as their only real means of care.

"For everyone who says we can't afford health care reform, I'd say, 'We can't afford not to have healthcare reform,' '' said University of Miami president Donna Shalala, the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration.

Even Republican supporters like health care entrepreneur Mike Fernandez, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates, is confident that health care reform is here to stay.

"There's no going back on health care. I think there are plenty of opportunities for the private sector,'' he told the Miami conference.

So why is the House of Representatives spending millions of the taxpayers' money to take up this legislation?

Political theater. Speaker Boehner hopes to stir the pot with the Fox News/Tea Party crowd of know-nothings, and scare the folks who worry about insurance premiums rising into submission to garner votes in 2012.

The objective here is not to benefit the common good, or really even to serve the business community outside of the well-oiled Insurance lobby, which is the only real opposition to Health Care Reform.

The preservation of health care haves and have-nots keeps these companies' profits fat, even though the public health is affected so badly.

That we have socialism in this country is a given. What we need to decide is whether the Founding Fathers really believed that all men are created equal, or that some are endowed with greater privilege because of the color of their skin, or because they were fortunate enough to be born into households of means.

That is the debate that the House should be having this week.

My shiny two.

 

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