Scare, scare, scare, scare…crazy, looney, loopy, nutty.
Any of you who listened to the speech against Medicare by Ronald Reagan inserted in this blog yesterday will understand that the man who became our Great White Father in the 80s, from a B-movie star and a B-ranked intellectual at best didn’t pull his punches before he aged to the point where there should have been a little gray, at least, at the temples. At the time he made that speech he was considered radical, right-wing fringe. JFK was in the White House and a few years later, Lyndon Johnson would take the country to the next level of civility, still behind Europe in social ideals, but with more vitality. Then, in the last half of the next decade we witnessed serious upheavals and shocks to the body politic. The early 70s, post-Nixon, were unfair to Jerry Ford and the last were unfair to a well-meaning but politically weak Jimmy Carter who tried to put us on the right track.
Reagan was another matter. His points were clear. Anti-Communism, lower taxes, smaller government, anti-union, distribution of responsibility to the states. That was it. Shut it down, move to the country. Today we are finally achieving that. There are now tent cities being built for the homeless in many parts of the country, California among them. Ronald Reagan did not believe in the power or the value of the federal government to influence American lives. He thought that government was a small Eastern Elite, with only the intention or the power to damage society. By the time he and his ideological successors were through, it had.
Ronald Reagan was in a small minority within a Republican Party, which, following the Nixon debacle, were trying to rebuild a seriously damaged image with the People. In the transition, the moderates were being forced out and conservatives took their place. The wing of the Party that replaced McCarthy with John Birch understood the importance of content, of simple goal-oriented politics and of organization. Well educated, self-serving politicians began to migrate from business to politics. They understood media and public relations and they grasped the reins of the Republican Party. When Carter was weakened by the serious problems in Iran, higher oil prices, and a call to the country to make some short-term sacrifices, we the People failed the test. We saw the first of the victories of those who appeal to our baser natures…greed, narcissism, and incivility.
Carter was strong. He went down with his principles intact. But his inability to maintain economic stability with a Democratic Congress proved fatal. Years later, a bright young Governor from Arkansas would get it. “It’s the economy, stupid,” he said in a slogan on a chart in a campaign headquarters. And he was right.
Reagan made three essential mistakes that were detrimental to the long term temper of the country. First, he cut taxes before understanding whether the resulting income would be enough to pay the bills. Or…he knew that revenues would not meet budget needs and did it anyway…unethical bordering on criminal. Or, he thought that he could cut government departments to the point that things could balance. Or he thought that the combination of the promised much greater tax revenues from freed-up equity used to build new business would replace the lost income. Answer to what happened: None of the above. We went into the tank big-time for the first time…a national debt of $2.14 trillion and annual deficits for as far as the eye could see. And so erroneous was the policy, that by the end of George Bush Sr.’s term there were more trillions added, and by now we were sucking all the money out of supposedly safe programs like Social Security. Second, he offered an unsustainable system as a potent workable system, which it was not, has not become and will never be.
Finally, he created a false premise that could not be easily proved. We cannot, for example, prove that there is no God, whereas many people can offer false proofs that there is a God. The promises that Reagan made allowed a whole generation of politicians to offer programs to the People as if true, but which could not be verified. Security problems that were not addressed except with false solutions. Tax benefits to the economy that never materialized into greater emloyment or affluence. False promises difficult to assess. Until it is too late and more billions fall into the pockets of the Republicans in power.
So what is the point?
Yesterday, August 11, 2009, we saw numerous town halls held around the country by elected representatives to enlighten the public about a bold, new program to bring affordable health care to all Americans, improved health care delivery systems, freedom from employer-based health care systems, freedom from outcast status where no healfh care insurance can be purchased because of pre-existing conditions. It was legislation on a scale that is not uncommon in other countries but in this country it will be…and it will…be a major accomplishment. And what did a large segment of the population do?
They protested and shouted down explanations of what the government wanted to do for them. PLEASE do not help us. Please let us continue to pay exorbitant insurance rates, have our insurance canceled for no good reason, have our children die from unapproved procedures. Please do not bother us with programs for which you have risked your political careers against hugely wealthy entrenched corporations, some of whose executives make hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Don’t help the working poor find affordable health insurance because most of us, more than two-thirds still hang on to outrageously expensive insurance like the last space on a life raft. Don’t keep us from losing everything because of health insurance that walks away in our time of need.
Not only did these foolish people protest a bill that is designed to help them with medical bills, keep their favorite doctor, give them the ability, at any age, to move to another part of the country for more opportunity, and shut down the possibility…which does not exist in any other developed nation…that they will go bankrupt from medical bills that an insurance company simply refuses to pay. But they sent hate letters and death threats and called fascists the very people who are trying to help them.
What do other countries say about our health system? That it is not a system at all, just a hodgepodge of scattered insurance companies selling insurance, the claims for which they sometimes simply arbitrarily do not pay, run by uneducated clerks rather than medical professionals. Taiwan, when it sought to examine systems for its national health care program, on a cursory examination of how our health care delivery works, did not even visit the United States. You see, as a more intelligent society than ours, they decided as a people that no developed country should be without health care for its people. And as we did not have a tangible program, they passed us bye.
It all started with Reagan. Hollywood dreams of a life we could never afford. Hollywood ideas of economics that bear no resemblance to reality. And those same schemes exist today. Things will turn out all right if we do nothing. Don’t take us back to the days of Carter, even though he was right. Don’t make us think, or change anything or pay the least little amount or even support…at no cost…our fellow citizens.
The same people who believe that Jesus is coming back on a cloud to remove some of us from earth, take us right out of our clothes, believe that a bright young man, who worked his head off, overcame enormous odds, the grandson of a Marine war hero, who attended Ivy league schools is a Nazi or a Communist. Even though they can look on the Internet and in six seconds differentiate between real neo-Nazis and Ivy leaguers. The man who turned down good jobs to sacrifice his income by helping the destitute by working in community service for less than $20,000 a year, in ghettos, is a Communist, not just communist but is Stalin.
Aged fools, people who have been told repeatedly the truth…that Medicare will stay the same and improve…if they had just the simple attention span to read even the summaries of the bills on this or other web sites…these fools, ignoramuses, go out and protest. It is not too harsh. They are fools and we should suffer fools badly or we will all end up fools.