August 13, 2009

A Scold

To be 'appalled' implies a degree of moral outrage combined with being surprised. I cannot say, therefore, that I am appalled at what is happening with people discussing health care reform -- because quite frankly, I expected the debate to dissolve into people shouting past each other, calling one another names, and focusing their energies on things that aren't really the issues. Which none of you will be dim enough to think that having anticipated that this would happen is not to say that I approve of it.

Shame on -- well, shame on everyone. Shame on the SEIU for bullying people who disagree with them, and shame on conservatives for chanting slogans to drown out anyone who wants to disagree with them. Shame on whoever put the Hitler mustache on Obama -- whether it was a conservative opponent of health care reform or a liberal proponent looking to smear the conservatives. Scummy thing to do, either way. Unwarranted by the situation, unwarranted by the President's actions, however unwise they might be.

That's not to say there aren't serious discussions going on. But they sure aren't going on in town hall meetings and they sure aren't going on out in the streets and I don't get the impression that they're going on in most Congressional offices with responses to constituent contact, either.

Here's what I'm saying. Calm the f--- down, people. Apply the principle of charity. Assume that people who disagree with you do so in good faith and based upon a motive to do good.

Here's the deal I propose:

Liberals, you must recognize that your conservative opponents are deeply concerned that America's high-quality health care system will be seriously degraded by the larger role of the historically inept government that has been proposed. They are also deeply concerned that a reform package, that could cost as much as a trillion and a half dollars a year, is quite simply too staggeringly expensive -- no matter what its benefits would otherwise be. These are legitimate concerns. This does not mean that you must agree with the conservatives that health care reform is a bad idea. It means the burden is on you to explain how your plan will deal with these issues. Because it is a very big deal to add a trillion and a half dollars to the federal budget.

Conservatives, you in turn must recognize that the proponents of health care reform look out at the world and see a lot of people who don't have access to health care in the middle of the richest and most technologically advanced country in the world, and they believe that we can do better. They see that health insurance and doctors are very expensive, and that employers are cutting benefits rather than providing them as a result. The result of health care becoming too expensive for middle-class Americans is Americans doing without health care and the nation growing weaker as a result. This is not fascism, it is not evil, it is not even necessarily wrongheaded. Nor does it mean you have to endorse a single-payer system. It means you need to articulate an objection to the policy that has been proposed, not to some imaginary dystopia cooked up in someone's fantasies. If health care reform passes, Barack Obama is not going to personally suffocate your grandmother with a pillow because she has a case of the sniffles.

Both of you need to have the common f--ing decency to let people on the other side speak their piece without interrupting them, raising fists, or invoking Hitler. Really, is that so difficult? Because some of you seem to have a great deal of trouble with that based on recent events. It also means you both need to face up to the very hard truth that despite the fact that we are the richest and most technologically advanced nation on earth, there are nevertheless not enough health care providers and facilities to go around.

That means that somebody, somewhere, somehow, is going to have to make a decision about who gets a scarce resource and who does not. We can let the market make that decision or we can make that decision in some other manner. But the decision has to be made and someone has to get the short end of the stick. That is what the debate is really all about.Stumble Upon Toolbar