I admit it- I have no idea exactly what’s in the bill that President Obama signed this week; probably 99% of Americans don’t. And no one knows what the law will actually look like once it goes to the Senate, except that if Republicans have anything to say about it, it’ll get bogged down somewhere and by the time it actually becomes law it’ll probably just mandate that everyone just gets one aspirin each and drink more fluids. But it’s also just possible that something really big happened this past Sunday, another step in this seventy plus year fight to help working class Americans.
FDR began it when he pushed Social Security down Conservative throats and it continued when Harry Truman introduced the concept of Medicare back in the early Fifties; it took till the mid-Sixties to finally get that passed because Conservatives fought it every step of the way. Most Americans like both Social Security and Medicare…they wish they could do more for them, but very few of us want them to do less or disappear altogether. Both of these programs were attacked by Republicans with the same dire predictions of doom and the death of the American way of life as the current health care bill has.
A lot of old folks absolutely depend on the arrival of their Social Security check each month and though it certainly isn’t enough to live on the way it used to be, it still means the difference between Spam and cat food for millions of Americans. It’s the thing that allows a lot of people to choose between paying for prescriptions and having heat because without it, they wouldn’t need to- they’d have no money at all to choose with.
I was born into a family that was, in no particular order, Italian, Democratic and political. My parents grew up in the Great Depression. My grandparents, immigrants who came to the US mostly through Ellis Island lived with us. Dad was a local politician and businessman. The whole family, except for me, was deeply Catholic (back when that meant something other than sex scandals and abortion), so from every angle we believed that you helped both family and when the need arose, strangers as well.
When my dad, a local councilman, wanted sewers for our street, he didn’t just say, “Let’s put sewers in front of my house.” He realized that if he needed sewers, then everyone on every street in town needed them too. So he said, “Let’s put sewers in every street and you can do my street last.” He knew that with a little patience he’d get what he wanted and no one would think that he used his office for personal gain. In fact, everyone would like him even more because he put them first.
Now, by the time my father wanted sewers, he was rich enough to install them in front of our house himself to forget about everyone else. But he recognized that sewers only in front of his and the other rich people’s houses that could pay for them would be pointless. Everybody had to have them or they just wouldn’t work.
Today, all members of Congress have health insurance, it’s something we pay for with our tax dollars. Big business people and upper level employees have it too. They get it as a tax-free part of their employment contracts and the corporations that hire them write off the cost of it on their taxes. Rush Limbaugh, Michael Weiner of the Savage Nation and the rest of the pudnits (intentional misspelling) on Fox, CNN and AM radio have it too. But none of them seem to recognize the only reason they’re insured is because of the millions of people who either voted for them or tune them in, a lot of whom can’t afford coverage themselves. They think they’ve made it on their own and if they can do it, so can everyone else. They’re also worried that if everyone gets some kind of coverage, it might even cost them a few dollars out of the millions they’ve made because of all those people who either voted for them or tune them in. The taxes on those millions may go up a percent or two. It’s just terrible being rich.
And of course, they’re against it just because they absolutely hate Barack Obama and want him to fail, personally. That’s weird, wanting your president, and by extension your country, to fail. When I was regularly spewing against George Bush, it wasn’t because I wanted him to fail, it was because he already was failing and so by extension was my country and I wanted it to stop.
By definition, all politicians and pudnits are glib (well, not me, but the good ones are); people wouldn’t listen to or vote for them if they weren’t. They’re so glib in fact that they can convince their listeners and constituents who need health care coverage that getting it would be bad for them, simply because some other group they don’t like…Liberals, Blacks, Immigrants, Muslims, take your pick…would get it too.
But, by fighting affordable health insurance for everyone, in the end the rich guys are only hurting themselves. Sooner or later, in some way, they’re going to end up paying for it- through lost revenue or higher insurance premiums, a weakened tax base or even listeners who died of curable illnesses. That’s because the uninsured wait until they’re so sick that they have to go to an emergency room (the cost of which is built into the pudnits insurance plans) or can’t work at all and go on Welfare or some other financial assistance program like food stamps or whatever. They lose their jobs and stop paying taxes. Some lose their homes or go bankrupt and never pay their bills at all. Everyone loses and it costs everyone too.
Satirists are by nature cynical, so I really don’t think this new healthcare bill will do anything to help me in particular, even though it’ll end up costing me something. But I’m pretty sure it’s going help someone, even if it’s someone from a group I don’t like and believe me, there’s a lot of them. It might even help some of the people who develop hypertension or diabetes from drinking too much of the sugar and caffeine in the Weiner family’s Rockstar Energy drinks. Nothing about Weiner fans suggests moderation.
Still, knowing what illness and pain feels like (and I’ve had my share, believe me), I don’t want anyone to go through it if they don’t have to, even if they’re Rockstar swilling Michael Savage listeners who would hate me just because I’m a Liberal and even if I have to help pay for it somehow. After all, I helped pay for wars I don’t agree with and I’ve helped pay to bail out big corporate CEO’s with really good health plans that fuck up, so I don’t mind helping pay for poor people to see a doctor. After all, it’s just the way I was brought up.