Witnessing the recent blaze of right-wing propaganda on a public health care option has felt like watching a scene in a scary movie where the killer is creeping up on his victim with a knife. All I want to do is warn the victim he's about to get sliced.
Behind you. Behind you!
We've seen this movie before. The killer is the anti-reform movement and the victim the American people. The audience is everybody who knows the history of health care in the United States and understands the need for a new approach on this pressing matter.
Insurance companies and the American Medical Association oppose Obama's public alternative because it will hurt their bottom line. To them, it matters less that the program will greatly benefit the country. Their lobbyists have worked tirelessly over many decades to slay attempts at making health care more affordable. They have to -- it isn't profitable to take care of the poor or the sick.
It began in the progressive era, when they disrupted Theodore Roosevelt's public health plan and intimidated FDR into dropping it from the New Deal. They soon grew in power, squashing the efforts of Truman and the 1940s Democrats to guarantee coverage to all Americans. They tried unsuccessfully to kill Medicare and Medicaid in the '60s, and butchered Clinton-care in the '90s. And now they're at it again, in the midst of yet another smear campaign.
The Republican Party, under the guise of limited government, has long allied with these special interests. It's a marriage of convenience borne of a common enemy, held together by the thirst for money and power.
Their strategy has remained the same for almost a century. They've sought to incite America's anti-government consciousness by equating universal coverage with big government, socialism, high taxes, rationing and so on. Don't expect them to stray now -- twisting populism into government tyranny has worked too magnificently in the past.
The fundamental problem with the conventional approach is that it views health care as any ordinary commodity, which should therefore be subject to the whims of unregulated markets. Capitalism may be fantastic for creating wealth, but the private sector on its own has drastically failed to meet America's health care needs.
Health care is not an issue like any other. It isn't about right vs. left; it's about right vs. wrong. It's about the public interest vs. greedy special interests. It's about common sense, fairness, equality and valuing human life. It's about securing the needs of the middle class, ensuring that circumstances beyond their control don't stifle their opportunities and bankrupt them.
Of all options, maintaining the status quo is the most unacceptable. It will grant more power to those who have a vested interest in disregarding the medical and financial needs of less-than-wealthy Americans -- and are experts at doing so. It will once again legitimize a structure and an ideology that has been extraordinarily destructive to the fabric of American health, and to the economy.
We've seen sequel after sequel of this movie, and the ending has not yet changed. The killer keeps gutting the victim but the victim never learns. The audience watches in horror, wishing they could do more to stop it, but their warnings are never loud enough. In order to fix this conundrum, we must remain one step ahead and be on the lookout for misleading propaganda from the usual suspects.
Economically struggling Americans who oppose Obama's much-needed public alternative must realize that they're biting the hand that feeds them. Without that, the reforms amount to very little and the industry will continue its downward spiral: costs will continue to soar, quality of care will not improve, and the number of uninsured and besieged families will not stop rising.
The country cannot afford to embrace the same approach that has brought about this predicament. The only way out is to adopt a fresh new strategy that addresses the root cause of the problem, and President Obama's public option is a big step in the right direction.