Nov 2, 2007

The Health of a Nation

Impressions often matter more than the facts, and the mistake many progressives make is not to take seriously the conservatives' ridiculous arguments. My advice has been to respond immediately and forcefully. "I won't dignify this remark with a response" is not a good strategy. Even if someone says the earth is flat, we should take the opportunity to inform the public on the facts, but also--and most importantly--to illustrate the connection of the flat-earth believers to ignorance.

Many people don't have the time, energy, or the skills to connect the dots. The so-called "independent voters"--defined as those without strong party ID--are less informed, and can have wild voting patterns. They often decide close elections. Don't they? Haven't we seen Democrats going down in defeat because they underestimated the Willie Horton ads, the swift-boaters, etc.? The impressions created by the campaigns and the failure to provide a prompt response is what carries the day, and, unfortunately, the election.

There is this saying, where there's smoke, there's a fire! Don't respond (
or, respond smartly) and you let your opponent frame the issue, including the choice of language. Your opponent defines you. Then it's an uphill battle to change the public's perceptions. There's also a perverse element here: most people don't want to be changing their minds too often; they don't have the constitution to re-evaluating issues and revising their views; they want also to appear consistent!

There's an issue very important to me, that of health care coverage for all Americans. I can't accept that the wealthiest country in the world cannot insure all of its people whereas so many other countries do. This is an issue that a Democratic president will deal with. And, yes, we liberals have to be partisan today in order to see progressive politics in our country. For goodness' sake, we're still debating what science is in this 21st America, because the lunatic fringe is not marginal here!

So, when Mitt Romney describes universal health care as "socialized medicine" and when Giulliani says he had much better chance of surviving prostate cancer in the US than in Britain, we have to respond with the facts and connect those persons to either ignorance or deception!

It's not hard to make comparisons. Indeed it's our obligation to destroy the misconceptions and the misleading advertising that will certainly follow any attempt to reform the health care system. We're talking about human lives here. We have to show that people who have access to health care are (duh) healthier! Prevention and early detection save lives. It should be easy to draw a comparison between the foreign enemies that want to kill Americans [and have already] and the causes that claim far more lives here at home. Many of those lost lives can be saved.

I believe that most Americans do care about their fellow human beings and would be willing to re-allocate our resources to create a better society. Of course we have to start being smarter about our politics too! Elections do have consequences! Similarly, when any leader makes unqualified arguments, he shouldn't be left unchallenged. When, for example, Bush vetoes the S-CHIP [health care coverage for middle class children--those in families earning more than the poverty level but not enough to purchase health insurance] because as he said "it's too expensive", we have to remind him that we spend as much as 6 weeks in Iraq!

Same for the GOP's front-runner and his argument about having better chances
of survival here that in GB. Not so! Paul Krugman (NY Times 11/2/07) calls his bluff. You know what? We should ask our pompous leaders and those aspiring presidents: How can you enjoy the best health care coverage and treatment when 46 million of Americans don't and may die prematurely because of this?!!
You, Mr. President, got your colon examined and a pre-cancerous condition detected. You, Mr. Giulliani, were cured because you had the access key. But, how about the rest of us? Which terror is more threating? Really...

The American Cancer Society recently
launched a campaign to push for early detection [and for universal access to such health services] because many cancer deaths can be reduced by 50%. That's reducing the death rate by half! Now, this is a sensible approach.

I understand that it's hard to show people something unpleasant. It feels good to be special & superior. But, some illusions are dangerous if they perpetuate a bad reality. Assuming we have the best medicine in the world, does this translate in better health care for most Americans? Lower infant mortality rate? Better cure & survival rates for the sick? Less pain & suffering?... And, all this while we're spending more than any other country!

How about education? Consumer protection? Or, is the role of the government to bail out big business and to re-allocate our national wealth to the top tier? What do we really want our government to do?

These are some questions that we need to provide answers to, but before we do this, we must raise these questions. We have better arguments, I believe, and most Americans do hold "liberal values" regarding the role of government. We cannot allow our national dialog to sink to the lowest possible common denominator. We'd be doing a disservice to our country. But, this doesn't mean we should shy away from exposing hypocrisy, ignorance, and deception. Don't fall for the trap, "avoid negative politics!" The Republicans have played this game brilliantly.

So what if the truth has a ..liberal bias?!!