Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Health Care Protests Go On

Few presidential speeches have been as anticipated as the recent one by President Obama on healthcare reform. For many observers, the speech did a wonderful job of outlining the major problems in the US healthcare system. More importantly, he conveyed that there was an urgent moral imperative for the government to help those people who were needlessly suffering and even dying for lack of health insurance.

But in listening to conservative commentators after the address, the questions usually centered not on whether we really need healthcare reform but on how much the president’s proposed healthcare reform would cost along with how it would be paid for.

These questions seem reasonable enough but can conceal an agenda to effectively kill healthcare reform if none of the answers are deemed to be acceptable. In this case, President Obama estimated that this program would cost about 900 billion dollars over the span of about 10 years.

But what is an acceptable way to pay for this that would satisfy the conservatives?

We certainly can’t raise taxes — even for the wealthy who have done so well thanks to the Bush tax cuts.

We certainly can’t just add it to the deficit — even though this is how we financed those same tax cuts (along with the Iraq War).

Instead, President Obama offered to pay for at least most of this by eliminating waste and fraud in Medicare. But the conservatives don’t believe he can do it.

Undoubtedly, many billions of dollars in savings can be realized by offering a so-called public option similar to Medicare to compete with the private health insurance industry which now siphons off as much as 20 percent of what it takes in for overhead and profit. But conservatives are against this because of their objections to "government controlled healthcare".

So the result of all of this is today’s story Thousands Protest Health Care Plan

Thousands of people marched to the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, carrying signs with slogans such as "Obamacare makes me sick" as they protested the president's health care plan and what they say is out-of-control spending.

The standard conservative argument is that we should solve these kinds of problems through charity instead of getting the government involved. But the massive size of this problem with tens of millions without insurance can only be addressed through government. And as President Obama said in his recent address to Congress:

That large-heartedness -- that concern and regard for the plight of others -- is not a partisan feeling. It's not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character -- our ability to stand in other people's shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together, and when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand; a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

So what we have in these protesters is a group of people who despite the moral imperative to relieve the needless suffering of those without access to health insurance have decided that they are going to turn a blind eye to the suffering if it involves even a possible increase in their taxes.

What is especially ironic is that most of these conservative protesters would identify themselves as having strong Christian values. But what part of any of this is Christian?

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