Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts has made health care
reform a lifetime crusade (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, FILE)
Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, with the assistance of political strategist Bob Shrum, published a moving account yesterday on the subject of health care reform, which I recommend to everyone. I recognize that Kennedy, an eastern establishment liberal, is not exactly Idaho's favorite son, but nevertheless his piece conveys such passion and determination on this singularly critical issue that it might inspire a few to change their minds.
All too often I read comments that the movement is nothing more than welfare for a small minority who are too lazy to work and too dependent upon government largesse for their well being. In short, the simplistic right wing explanation for those who make less money than themselves. It's always because of a lack of character and sense of individual responsibility. The welfare queen myth. Always blame those "beneath" you for their misfortune and the ills of the world.
But that's not what this effort is.
The primary objective of health care reform should be to provide affordable coverage to every American, to bring us up to the level that every other advanced nation around the world enjoys. Such a right would empower the people to reach their full potential, no longer having to worry about losing health insurance through job loss or illness. No longer would millions be imprisoned in jobs they don't want merely because they need the coverage. People could change jobs, move from one state to another, go into business for themselves, launch new careers more suitable to their talents and education, and never have to worry about a sudden accident or sickness bankrupting them and their families. The nation would be much stronger for it. Empowering the people is the best way to build and strengthen a democracy.
For far too long, Americans have been denied this fundamental right. It's been treated as a privilege, available only to those with the means to afford it and the good health to keep it. Over the decades this system has deteriorated as more and more Americans have been shut out, and as costs have skyrocketed. Time for a change, the electorate seemed to signal last November. Finally.
And yet the greedy beneficiaries of this broken system, and the right wing voices that have defended it and triumphed in the past to defeat generational proposals for reform, have risen again, are gathering strength, marshalling their forces, preparing to slay the beast of progress perhaps one last time, as we grow weary and exhausted from this latest struggle. Surely it will be at least a generation before we can muster the will and enthusiasm to try again. No, we must not fail this time.
What I find so disturbing is the tone of so many critics of health care reform, including Republicans, the media, and many Democrats. It is always so hawkishly negative, always citing the obstacles and impediments, especially the costs of reform. No one, except progressives (and even they complain when they learn they will have to purchase health insurance for themselves) ever talks about the moral imperative, the disgrace of leaving tens of millions uninsured and threatening virtually everyone else with at least the possibility of losing their coverage during critical times in their lives, like after getting sick or losing their jobs.
Whenever the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issues another dreary, depressing cost projection, the media and Republicans seize on it, trumpet it with obvious relish, as if to say, "See? We were right all along. We can't reform the system. It's too expensive." Which of course is code for the fact that the haves will have to pony up for the have-nots. The money is there, one way or another. How can we afford useless, wasteful wars, but not health care for our people?
It's appalling. Our national attitude should be such as it was with the Apollo moon landing program, that we can do it, that we will do it, and that we will sacrifice to do it. But instead, it's more like a challenge to Obama, as if we were saying to him, "Okay, Barack, it's your pet project, not ours, now convince us."
This effort is running into a tidal wave of opposition and skepticism by those who should be celebrating it. There is no spirit or drive among our leaders and people, with the exception of Obama, to finally get it done and get this horrible national shame off our backs. On the contrary. Except for a few, the attitude is one of looking for an excuse, any excuse, to perpetuate this disastrous system, and to push our obscene failure to treat all citizens fairly and compassionately away from our collective consciousness.
I just don't get it. What has happened to us as a nation over the last thirty years?