Sunday, October 07, 2007

Krugman: "Conservatives are Such Jokers"

Recently, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have provided 3.8 million currently uninsured children with health care. Paul Krugman wrote an excellent op-ed in the NYTimes that not only addresses that issue, in particular, but also the more general unwillingness of conservatives to take even minor action to help the disadvantaged, poor or oppressed. In fact, he points out that more often than not, conservatives not only oppose and block such legislation, but also employ a rhetoric that mocks the plight of those who struggle. Not exactly "compassionate conservatism"...

Here is an excerpt:
Of course, minimizing and mocking the suffering of others is a natural strategy for political figures who advocate lower taxes on the rich and less help for the poor and unlucky. But I believe that the lack of empathy shown by Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Kristol, and, yes, Mr. Bush is genuine, not feigned...

What’s happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples’ woes, you fit right in.

And Republican disillusionment with Mr. Bush does not appear to signal any change in that regard. On the contrary, the leading candidates for the Republican nomination have gone out of their way to condemn “socialism,” which is G.O.P.-speak for any attempt to help the less fortunate.

Another example: every time someone mentions universal healthcare, Republicans laugh and dismiss it as "socialistic," or raise the evil specter of a "government program," as if that simply ends the conversation. Of course, our for profit health care system has left roughly 50 million citizens completely uninsured and tens of millions more with inadequate coverage. The market has not exactly solved this problem... and there certainly is demand. The reality is that conservatives are WILLING TO TOLERATE 50+ million uninsured Americans and millions more underinsured.

The kids fight back in this ad:

On a similar note, today's NYTimes had an article on an audit of the private insurers running the new Medicare prescription drug program. Here is how that piece begins:

Tens of thousands of Medicare recipients have been victims of deceptive sales tactics and had claims improperly denied by private insurers that run the system’s huge new drug benefit program and offer other private insurance options encouraged by the Bush administration, a review of scores of federal audits has found.

Again, understand that while Medicare is a government program, the drug benefit is essentially subcontracted to private insurers, who were supposed to bring the magic of the market to it. Instead, these private interests have cashed in on old people's misery while not delivering the services and benefits they are bound to by law.

This raises a bigger question: Aren't there certain issues/systems, like health care and education, that should not be run by the profit motive? Does it really make sense - health sense, moral and ethical sense - to have doctors making decisions based on the bottom line, rather than the best treatment for your symptoms?

As I often say, there is nothing inherently good or bad about government. The key issue is WHO CONTROLS IT and TO WHAT END IT IS PUT. Currently, our government is dominated by large corporations and wealthy individuals. As such, the policies of the government overwhelmingly represent, protect and extend the interests of wealthy individuals and large corporations over all else. Make the government more democratic by removing the dominance of private wealth over public elections and you'd see different policies that reflected different interests.

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