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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/7/09

The Audacity of Leadership: the Right Cries Wolf, and the Left Screams Out for Health Care

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Message Raymond Budelman

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Living in America can be great.  It can be.  Alas, for so many Americans, what this country can be is sorely different from what this country is.  Over the past nine years the median household income in America, once adjusted to reflect inflation, has dropped by over $1,000.  Close to 40 million Americans currently live in poverty.  An even greater number of Americans, approximately 46 million, go about their daily business without health insurance.  Although some may try to take solace in the fact that this represents a decrease in the real number of uninsured Americans from years past, such comfort is short-lived once one realizes that the number of underinsured people in this country is equally staggering.  A broken, costly health care system endangers the lives of all Americans.  The current health care system imperils our national economy.  Cathy Schoen of the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation aiming at improving health care systems in industrialized countries, explains “[t]oday, you can have health insurance and still go bankrupt if you get sick.”

Americans visit their physicians with less frequency than much of the developed world.  I wish that I could say that this was because Americans were a healthier population than most.  What an America that would be.  But maybe I shouldn’t be so down, because America’s health care system is a world leader, a leader in coronary bypass procedures that is.  Yup, America’s cardiac surgeons need not worry about government bailouts; they are doing just fine.  Why, if we Americans weren’t leading the world in both democracy and obesity, we couldn’t answer McDonald’s call to support capitalism by eating our way to obliteration.  I certainly would hate to be labeled unpatriotic for failing to support the truly American endeavor that is eating the Big Mac.  Even so, the Big Wigs (who are so BIG that they demand that the “B” and the “W” be capitalized to reflect their importance) at Mickey D’s are getting the picture; they are now more health conscious than ever, offering salads to their consumers and a new healthy alternative to fries for children.  Oh, and I forgot about the milk and apple juice that they now offer children, too.

As the fast food juggernaut explains on its website, “We all have a duty to act responsibly.  To do good.  Participate in the lives of others (by clogging the arteries of the plebeians, peasants, proletariat, and pretty much any other working stiff we can get a hold of).  It’s about taking pride in the (very fat, unhealthy) world we live in, and dealing with important issues (like whether the double cheeseburger should stay on the dollar menu or become a value meal).  It’s being there for us (when we need you to buy a few greasy burgers and we’re not talkin’ about any Supreme Court justice or theory of constitutional interpretation—we only “strictly construct” beef patties here).  We, like Wal-Mart, do not know the meaning of the term ‘recession,’ let alone ‘depression’ and neither will your kids after you by them a Happy Meal which, by definition, will make them happy (and in the lucky, albeit rare, cases—forty percent of the young fellas will be thrust into a splendid life of obesity and, unless things go horribly awry, ridicule).”  

McDonald’s is unquestionably a paragon of public service.  The fast food lobby in this country is doing its part to help drive Americans to a national health care system by fattening us all up, forcing fat down citizen’s throats and a progressive agenda down America’s congressional gorge while we all gorge on tasty mad cow burgers!  Have you had the mad cow burger?  I heartily recommend you try one if you haven’t already—the mad cow is the American dream.  It’s like sex and tax cuts thrown into three pounds of beef—a Republican’s delight.

But all of you concerned Americans need not fret.  The U.S. medical system has your back . . . or rather it has your back, your front, and both your sides.  (And if you eat too much McDonald’s those sides will be quite large!)  Of course you’ll be entitled to the best health care that America chooses not to offer you.  What, you thought that a nation that spends the highest percentage of national GDP on health care would pony up the money to look after the heath of its citizens.  That’s cute (and so idealistic), but guess again.

Next time you have such thoughts of quality health care for all, sit back and think: ‘why would the world’s wealthiest nation provide its citizens with health care when it could, instead, use its money to flex its military might by further increasing the size of its military spending, spending that already outspends the military spending of the rest of the planet by a factor of two?’  The answer is simple, it wouldn’t.  Thus, while the right cries wolf—exaggerating the real military threats to America and dreaming up new irrational ones—the left screams out for health care.  Only this isn’t truly a progressive issue at all.  A majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the quality of health care in the United States and in a recent ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll Americans supported universal health care over the current system (or non-system as most see it) by a margin of 2:1.

Thus, we arrive at an impasse.  Americans want to be secure in their health and the right still believes that it can foster feelings of insecurity to win elections, when in reality it makes Americans less secure.  The right exhibits stubborn consistency: believing that such scaremongering will work as well now as it has as it has in the past.  But such tried-and-true scare tactics are no longer working; the American people are finally fed up.  And it is time that President Obama and the Democrats live up to their campaign promises by “fixing” health care now.  Because if they don’t health care will die and, regrettably, millions of Americans will die along with it.

The audacity of hope sells books.  But America needs more than hope right now.  It needs leadership.  The audacity of leadership . . .

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