In a kinder, gentler era, some of the self-styled sons of Edmund Burk and Ronald Reagan feared that UN troops in black helicopters were waiting right over the horizon. Their mission consisted of imposing a world order based on peace, love and understanding - administered by a world (non-American, non-Christian) government. To me, that doesn't sound all that different apocalypse/utopian fantasy, aka the Rapture, about which some fundamentalists seem so enthusiastic, but that's probably because I don't personally either to be very likely.
In fairness, I doubt that anyone beyond the lunatic fringe took these mythical airships too seriously, but that doesn't mean that the message wasn't effective. You don't have to believe fully in something for it to create doubt, or perhaps even dread. So long as the specter of blue helmeted commandos became affixed as an image, it had real power.
Since those quaint days, we've had a lot to worry about, and the helicopter images have faded away: the underlying strategy has not. This time, the reactionaries are spearheading a new message through a gentleman named Richard Scott. He helms an organization called Conservatives for Patient's Rightshttp://www.conservativesforpatientsrights.com/, and until I saw a segment on The Daily Show, I didn't realize that we had him to thank for the phrase, "health care takeover."
In a recently launched ad campaign, Mr. Scott can be heard intoning the following, "Imagine waking up one day and all your medical decisions are made by a central national board. Bureaucrats decide the treatments you receive, the drugs you take, even the doctors you see." This message has not fallen on deaf ears: everyone from leaders of the Republican old guard (Newt) to its hysterical pundits on Fox (Beck) has sought to amplify the "take over" message at every given opportunity. As they do, I can imagine the Dickensian bureaucrats denying insurance coverage to innocent. That, of course, is the idea.
But before drawing your concealed handgun to defend the status quo, I would ask that you recall a few facts. Forty-five million Americans currently have no health insurance. Medical expenses are the largest cause of personal bankruptcy. Insurance bureaucrats have already taken decision-making power from doctors. And the Republican Party has never put forward a detailed health care reform plan.
But here's the kicker. According to the journal Health Affairshttp://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.28.2.w346, "Public payers [state and federal government] are expected to become the largest source of funding for health care in 2016 and are projected to pay for more than half of all national health spending in 2018." In other words, continuing the status quo leads effectively to state control in a decade. Knowing that, you've got to wonder why the libertarian wing of the Republicans are really so intent on keeping everything the same.
There never were any black helicopters, and there is no Republican plan to deal with the economic and epidemiological crisis that is the current state of American health care. In its place, there is a simply an advertising campaign and a party line calculated to distract us from the miserable state of the status quo. Perhaps that's good electioneering, but it's hardly in the best interest of the country that these 'patriots' so frequently remind us that they love.
Follow Michael B. Laskoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AbilTo