The Year of Magical Thinking
What the health care debate and the credit crisis have in common
Did you hear? Barrack Hussein Obama wants to pull the plug on your granny, so he can plug in his hybrid! In the meantime, he'll make you sit before a Death Panel-to distract you, as he tries to raise Lenin's ghost at a Kenyan séance led by Witch Doctor in Chief, Jeremiah Wright.
Those hideous distortions pale against what's actually being floated about Obama and his health care plans. But the recriminations and misinformation aren't new. For over 100 years, mass hysteria has derailed every president who has tried to reform the insane mess that is our health care system. Both Truman and Roosevelt saw their attempts at universal health care squashed by Red baiting. So it's not surprising that there's a nut fringe out there more likely to believe an email forward about covert government conspiracies rather than the numerous fact-checking outlets that have rebutted those myths again and again. That's our country, and that's freedom of speech.
And it's not what's most troubling about the garish farce that the health care "debate" has become: Rather, it's that the crazies actually reflect the attitudes of a broad swathe of America. Since June, opposition to health care reform by Congress has risen from 45 percent to 53 percent. There are reasonable, middle class people who hear Obama calmly debunking smears about the Democratic plan and then watch right-wing groups shouting that Obama's a Nazi-and they say to themselves, You know, I'm with the guys carrying handguns.
How does such mistrust take root? You can blame Republicans for cynically twisting words or you can blame Obama, for not communicating more forcefully or clearly-and for leaving the policy details to an inept and crooked Congress.
But it still doesn't explain why we're so unable to deal with the plain fact that the United States spends an inordinate amount of money getting tragically poor results. Or the fact that if health-care costs continue to rise at their current rates, we'll be spending a third of our GDP on health care in 25 years.
That kind of financial insanity can have crippling effects. You don't have to mine American history for proof. You just have to look at the consumer-credit crisis we're living through. There, the ultimate blame couldn't be laid on greedy corporations alone. We were also at fault, because we all thought that magically, we'd never have to reckon with any long-term costs.
We were the ones who were too happy to take out loans we couldn't afford; the ones unable to deal with the idea that money should dissuade us from owning what we've always wanted-who believed that jeans might be $200, but the happiness they imparted was "priceless." And we're now the ones who cloak ourselves in rage when the very prospect of "money" or "cost" gets raised in relation to health care-no matter how broken our finances become, or how clear it is that we have to change.
We lost our minds about debt, buying up houses, cars, and jeans. That mentality lives when it comes to health care. We don't care if tests and surgeries are unwarranted or ineffective; we just want more. But health care resources, like credit, have to be used wisely.
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