Demonizing health care reform

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By Rick Howell

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have taken up the issue of health care reform, specifically President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
    The constitutionality of the law, especially the “individual mandate” that requires everyone to buy health insurance, will be decided. The court has been hearing arguments since Monday.
To listen to the Republican presidential candidates, the passage of “Obamacare,” as they derisively call it, is pretty much one of the great American tragedies of all time. Our very freedom is at stake if we allow this awful “government takeover.”
    Well, like much of conservative rhetoric, that’s nonsense. But it’s not like we haven’t heard it before. Conservatives carried on the same way when the subject was Social Security, then later when it was Medicare and Medicaid.
    Not only did any of those measures not “take away our freedom,” they have enhanced the quality of life for many of our citizens. Yet conservatives are always in opposition to any government enterprise that might – whether it actually does or not – threaten the profit lusts that so drives business in America.
    Part of the reason for this is their own belief in a mythical and magical capitalism that supposedly offers riches for everyone. All we have to do is go out there and wrestle down that magnificent capitalist beast (think of Jacob wrestling with the angel), and then we get the six-figure salary, the big car and the big house, etc., etc.
    Then, of course, well, a little thing like health insurance? Come on, we can easily afford that. Just call up our loving citizens at the friendly insurance company and they will take care of us.
    That’s the Alice in Wonderland view that most right-wingers have of capitalism in America. They don’t see the unemployed, the under-employed, those unable to work, or those who work but are paid so poorly. They don’t see the many millions who lost that wrestling match to the capitalist beast. But there are so many of them (us!!) out here, why can they not see us?
    It’s very simple. They don’t wish to see us. We don’t fit nicely into their mythical view of the world. They don’t want to consider what our reality suggests: that capitalism just might not be perfect. And maybe, just maybe, we need the government – which, after all, is us – to step in and help people.
    Every other industrialized country decided a long time ago that a single payer system of national health care was best. Great Britain even did it after World War II. As I’ve mentioned so many times, not even Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher thought her country’s health care system was evil.
    “The National Health Service is safe in our hands,” she used to tell people. And it was, because it worked and it was fair, and she was smart enough to know that.
    Someday, historians will laugh at the hoops this country jumped through for so long rather than create a fair and just health care system. They’ll be amazed that the richest nation on earth chose to maintain, at such length, a system where insurance company profits were more important than the needs of all the people for health care, regardless of ability to pay.
    Most people expect that the court, controlled as it is by conservatives, especially the four hard-core ideologues, Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas, won’t uphold the law.
    On the other hand, if only one of them has a rare moment of clarity beyond the chains of their ideology, that’s all it would take to uphold the law, 5-4.
    Even if that doesn’t happen, we’ll still win the fight for justice in health care in the long run.
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    Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.