By Lynn Paris
What’s Really Horrifying Me
The other day a friend emailed me an article. Its premise was that health care reform has never really been about health care; it’s been about redistributing the wealth. His intent, I know, was to horrify me. After all, that proves what he and the tea baggers have been screaming about all along, right?
And this is supposed to horrify me? I’m sorry, but to the Glenn Beck, John Boehner (pick your own Republican) and Rush Limbaugh fans of the world, it doesn’t. The sky isn’t falling, Armageddon is not on the horizon, and asking (okay, mandating) that multi-millionaires contribute just a teeny bit more so that millions of uninsured can get health insurance just doesn’t upset me. Mandating that everyone carry health insurance so that those who choose to go without don’t cost me money doesn’t upset me, certainly not anymore than mandating that we all get automobile insurance does. It doesn’t upset me even a particle as much as the acts and threats of violence that have been made against democrats who voted for the health care bill. Or a fraction as much as Sarah Palin’s repugnant map with crosshairs identifying congressmen and women who supported its passage. And it certainly doesn’t upset me nearly as much as the fact that Rush hasn’t left the country yet, which he promised to do if health care passed!
Here’s why. I’m floored by the actual numbers. As just one example, over the last thirty years, tax rates for the wealthy have been falling even as their pretax pay has been rapidly increasing. Real incomes at the 99.99th percent have increased more than 300 percent since 1980. At the same time, median real household income has risen less than fifteen percent. And, according to the NY Times, the only period of strong middle-class income growth occurred in the mid- and late 1990s, which was also the only time when taxes on the very wealthy went up.
In other words, the rich have gotten filthy rich and the middle class has been lucky if they’ve managed to hang on to their middle class status. I KNOW that capitalism is a good thing; I know the profit motive has fueled our economy, encouraged entrepreneurs, spurred innovation and made us the great nation we are. I really know that. But I never realized what a devastating effect it would have if it ran amok, as it obviously did on Wall Street and in the financial institutions we bailed out (under George W. by the way) and in the health insurance companies that put profit way above caring in the slightest about the well being of their customers.
Here’s another reason why I’m not upset about the passage of the health care bill, even if it has, as a byproduct, some minor redistribution of wealth. I’m not upset because the lies that have been told, over and over again about this bill are simply that . . . lies, and I honestly believe that it’s finally time for those lies to be exposed.
Like the lie that keeps on keeping on about how the majority of Americans, as shown by the polls, are not in favor of health care reform. The fact is, that if you ask most Americans if they’re in favor of this health care bill a majority may still be saying no. Of course, the republicans never tell you that some of those polled aren’t in favor of the bill because they don’t believe it goes far enough. It’s NOT universal health care, which many still want.
But the main reason is because most people, including many in congress, still don’t know what’s in the bill. Many believe that it’s a deeply flawed bill. Heck, even I believe that it’s flawed. But I also believe it’s a step in the right direction and a heckuva lot better than the status quo. Funnily enough, if you ask most Americans if they’d like to be able to keep the health insurance they have, they say yes. If you ask them if they’d like to be assured that when they get sick they can’t be dropped by their insurance company; they say yes. How about eliminating lifetime caps? They want that. The ability to keep their kids on their family plan until age twenty-seven? Great idea. Would they be happy if they could obtain insurance without worrying about pre-existing conditions? Yes. If you ask most American about the components of the health care bill, they are in favor of them.
Nobody would want the health care bill that’s been described to them by the fear-mongers of the conservative right, who, unfortunately, did a much better job of getting their version of it to the American public than the democrats did. Who in their right mind would want to subject their grandmother to a death panel? Who would want to support the biggest threat to the “American way of life since the 1850s” as Newt Gingrich described it, or a “ponzi scheme” or the destruction of the American way of life, or the biggest loss of our freedoms ever? THAT’S the health reform Americans say they don’t want when they’re polled. The one based on lies, demonizing and distortion.
But there’s a certain irony about all that has transpired, and continues to transpire in the republican party. They’ve been taken over by radical extremists. Which in an odd way might be good for those who want progress and change in this country. If the republicans continue on their obstructionist path, it will continue to energize, even galvanize the democrats and progressives, much as it finally did in the week before the health bill’s passage. It will energize and strengthen Obama’s resolve to fulfill the promises he campaigned on, as it also finally did. It might even flush out some moderate republicans who can no longer stand to see their once great party co-opted by extremists. Of course, they better speak out quickly, because republicans won’t win nearly as many elections as they predict when tea party candidates run against them and split the republican vote.
If the republicans were truly smart, they’d move on. As soon as they realized their scare tactics didn’t work they should have tried to get something constructive done, something positive for the American people, something beyond inciting violence and saying no. The fact that they’re continuing to do that is what horrifies me. Not my fear of a little wealth redistribution.