Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Politics is Inevitable IV

Watching American politics from the outside, so to speak, has been a very interesting process for me. I don't devote much space to American politics on the blog, but I do keep up with things "back home". After being pleased with the turn of events in the Presidential election, I have spent much of the last year being mildly disappointed with the tepid attempts at promised change by the new Administration. And repulsed by the behavior of some of its foes on the Hill and in the media.

The Dems have allowed the opposition to own the airwaves--at least the airwaves that make it this far--and have not been effective in responding to their complaints, both legitimate ones, and the false ones like socialism, death panels, totalitarianism, and apologizing to the jihadists. Further, when they have responded, too often it has been poorly, worsening the debate by sinking to the gutter level of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. WH spokesman Robert Gibbs should be looking for a new job.

Last year, a solid majority of Americans approved of HCR, but that majority has slowly eroded as the right-wing conspiracy got its (largely fallacious) message out with virtual impunity, until on the eve of the vote only about 45% approved. And this is when the pro-HCR people run the WH and both houses of Congress!

While I admire Obama's ability to stay on message with the bipartisanship stuff, that message is wearing a little thin, when you consider the response: Charles Grassley once said that even if the health care bill had in it everything he wanted, he still wouldn't vote for it. They weakened the legislation to suit Republicans who were never going to approve it anyway.

Today I am able to breathe a little sigh of relief that the Democrats did what they think is right--health care reform has been part of the liberal agenda, after all, since the Truman era. And part of the conservative agenda as far back as Teddy Roosevelt.

And I am not so much happy about the bill itself, which I think is flawed, as about the fact that they managed to accomplish it. It has been a goal of conservatives and Republicans for decades to show that government doesn't work, that it is part of the problem, not part of the solution. To some extent, the incompetence of the GW Bush administration was intentional--make sure government doesn't work, so you can say, "See? Government doesn't work!" Refuse to fund regulatory bodies, then wait for bad stuff to happen--"Told ya! Regulation doesn't help, let's just deregulate!"

The GOP was counting on gridlock, its ability to filibuster, delay and derail the Dem agenda, as its primary platform to launch a return to power in the 2010 midterms. Now they return to the status of the Party of No, who stood up for the insurance industry during the week when WellPoint raised its rates by 39% and the Dems provided some measure of relief for many Americans.

A few days ago (before the House vote), I was chatting with an acquaintance, a fellow English teacher known for his distinctive headwear, when the topic of health care reform came up. It was his opinion that it is not the government's job to provide for the well-being of its citizens. I don't recall his exact words, but they were to that effect.

I asked if he remembered the DOI or the Preamble to the Constitution--you know, that bit about "provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty ..."? That Preamble states the purpose of our government, and the rest of the Constitution describes the ways and means of going about it. Article I defines the role of legislative branch. And the HCR bill seems reasonably part of its role in promoting the general welfare of the people.

Shortly after this, he pointed out that Al Gore (?) was a "nigger-lover", and during the ensuing discussion of the plight of the black man in America, he suggested that if I love them so much, why not marry a "nigger woman".

I allowed as how that was vaguely possible, but I was definitely up for finding another place to sit at the bar. He apologized and coaxed me back into my seat--I'm always willing to give a drunk guy a second chance after he's gone too far. Been there myself, and all that.

But it got me thinking. All these people flecking at the corner of their mouths with rage during "Town Halls" and "Tea Party protests"--they're mostly not drunk. What is motivating this anger?

A lot of them seem to be my age and older, and they've seen a lot of change in America during their lifetimes. Crazy people fly planes into buildings. One movie ticket costs more than the whole entire date used to--and the movie sucks, and gives you a headache. Most everyone has a flip-open Communicator in his hip, just like in "Star Trek", only they call it a cell phone. A black man is President--even if you're not a racist, surely there's a moment when you wonder if they're gonna dig up the Rose Garden and put in a watermelon patch ... or something.

People don't like change, as a rule, I guess. I'm often unnerved by change myself, yet I picked up and moved halfway around the planet. And believe me when I say change can be good. Just as assuredly, it can also be bad.

But the fact is that Obama ran on a platform of change, including health care reform, and was duly and properly elected our President. As the neocons liked to say a few years ago, "Elections have consequences."

Still I ask, why do these "tea baggers" refuse to acknowledge the election results, and why are they, like my pal in the bar, so willing to call people names? And why has the Republican leadership married itself to them?

All I am saying is, "Give change a chance!" I can honestly say I gave GW Bush a chance, as did I think most Americans (even though more of us voted for the other guy--the nigger-lover). In fact, after September 11, 2001, Bush's popularity ratings soared into the 90% range.

Yet Obama could singlehandedly capture Osama bin Laden today, rip out his heart and feed it to the WH rottweilers, and a significant proportion of Americans, including every Republican member of Congress, would ask what took him so long. And complain that heart-ripping-out should not be covered under the new health care program.


SuperDrew said...

Jesus hates health care!

John from Daejeon said...

Universal health care is a good thing, but by the gods, these old dinosaurs need to be thrown out, like yesterday. A trillion more dollars that the younger generations are stuck with because these idiots can't control their spending. And now basically half of everydollar being spent is going to the likes of China as interest.

These bought politicians are selling our futures down a "shit" creek. That's what upsets me the most. Us, average Joes, just don't compete with lobbyists and their keep spending ways.

Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

The only way things might change is if elected members of Congress, the Senate, and the Presidency, and even members of the Supreme Court, all had to be between the ages of 28-50.

Jyc said...

I'm glad that we have such fine citizens representing our nation "teaching" English in a foreign country. I wonder if he brings his 5 year Ph.D study on the "negroid" into his 6 year old kindergarten classroom?

조안나 said...

I've been listening to Tom Ashbrook's On Point (NPR radio program) again lately, and I keep hearing this term tea party movement or something... I don't get it... what have I missed since I left my country. Some of the call in comments on the show are really ridiculous. One I heard today was "What's so great about diversity, anyway? Look at South Africa, it hasn't done anything good for them."

Anyway, as far as health care goes, it's a long way from where we came from, but it still doesn't come close to competing with the Korean system. I don't understand the republican argument that the government shouldn't require health insurance. In that case, we shouldn't require car insurance or home insurance. People walking around sick with potentially dangerous illnesses are just as dangerous as driving around recklessly. But, if you can't afford to go to the doctor, you'll walk around, spreading your disease or letting your lump go unchecked until it's too late.

And, of course, the government shouldn't care for the well being of it's citizens. I mean.. what is a government for, anyway? Oh... wait..

Tuttle said...

Thanks for the comments, except for you, SD.
JFD: You are aware, I hope, that the CBO says the HCR will actually save money in the long run. You ask about personal responsibility. So, do you think illness is a result of lack of responsibility? Someone gets cancer, or Parkinsons, let's say. It's their responsibility? Their *fault* you think?

Even if you don't acceed to the idea they're not responsible for their disease, people pay into their health plan for years or decades only to be dropped when they get a disease. Are they personally responsible for that? What do you mean exactly?

Jyc: Alas, not every English teacher is a person of high morals, or even of high academic standing.

Jo_Anna: Car insurance was optional where I lived until the late 80s--intersting, yeah? Now, you cant't get your decal without it, and it's all computerized, so you can't say the check's in the mail.

But fundamentally, the difference is that car insurance is for the privilege of driving a car; the reason you have home insurance is that it's required by your mortgage holder. Health insurance is seen (rightly or wrongly) to affect only you.

Do all of these have a net positive effect on society? Yes, they do. No one argues that--at least that I have heard.

But, for instance, people with too many DUIs don't burden the car insurance system with their high-risk behavior, because they don't get to drive. (If they do get lisence and insurance, it is more costly--remember, driving is a privilege, living is a right.)

This is where health insurance is different. If you crash your car, all the costs relate to that one event. And it is covered, since you had coverage on that date.

If you get a disease, there is a whole long series of visits, treatments, in-patient care, etc, and the insurer can cancel you at any time and not pay for subsequent events.

Back to SuperDrew: actually, there is little Jesus loves more than health care. "Suffer the little children, etc" he said. In fact, there is very little behavior in our world today that is less Jesus-like that that of the Tea Party crowd who confuse good Christian kindness with "socialism".

SuperDrew said...

Oh don't turn around my snark and respond to it like I was being serious, you know better than that!

Tuttle said...

Super: Don't take offense. The only people I was hoping to offend were the tea baggers!

Tanner Brown said...

Hearty post, my son.

Was that Rottweiler bit still part of the racism shtick?