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The problem with universal health care? It will work.

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, November 25, 2008 0:31 EDT
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Via Sadly, No, I’m pleased to see that James Pethokoukis in US News & World Report is doing what conservatives generally won’t do with regards to opposing a universal health care plan—tell the truth. Well, sort of. I mean, the entire thing is laden in wingnut myths about how rich, white people are morally superior to the rest of us (he calls them the Investor Class, as opposed to the Fucked Our Economy With Real Estate Scams Class), but the general gist of it is true enough:

Recently, I stumbled across this analysis of how nationalized healthcare in Great Britain affected the political environment there. As Norman Markowitz in Political Affairs, a journal of “Marxist thought,” puts it: “After the Labor Party established the National Health Service after World War II, supposedly conservative workers and low-income people under religious and other influences who tended to support the Conservatives were much more likely to vote for the Labor Party when health care, social welfare, education and pro-working class policies were enacted by labor-supported governments.”

Passing Obamacare would be like performing exactly the opposite function of turning people into investors. Whereas the Investor Class is more conservative than the rest of America, creating the Obamacare Class would pull America to the left. Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute, who first found that wonderful Markowitz quote, puts it succinctly in a recent blog post: “Blocking Obama’s health plan is key to the GOP’s survival.”

In other words, the reason for the GOP to oppose universal health care* is not that it won’t work. It’s that it will work too well. I’ve been saying this all along. Most conservative objections are deceptive—they realize that people would like to have health care so they don’t get sick and die, and that’s pretty hard to get around. So they tell them that getting health care will somehow mean you don’t really get health care. That’s what the hand-wringing over long waits for surgery (which happen just as much under private insurance) or lack of doctor choice (actually, a standardized system will make it harder for your HMO to deny you your doctor, as they often do now) is all about. That and the idea that it’s somehow degrading to see a doctor when poor people get to, as well, which is like saying your marriage means less because gays get to partake. Or they scream “socialism!” and hope that shuts down the conversation.

But this is great, and I’m glad it’s out on the table. The problem with universal health care is once people get used to the idea that if they get sick, they get to have access to treatment, they’re going to start thinking that’s important and will fight tooth and nail not to lose it. Let’s face it. The wretched rabble has always been like this. They get to eat today, and they expect that they’ll get to eat tomorrow. They get homes with roofs and electricity and they start thinking that they should keep these privileges that should only be reserved for the rich. If someone gets up from the gutter, it’s hard to convince them to lay back down in it so you can kick them some more. It’s already difficult to convince people who don’t own summer homes that they should have the grace to just lay down and die and not clog up the hospitals when they get sick. What happens if they can afford to live? They won’t give that up.

Of course, that’s both an unbelievably callous attitude, but more to the point, it means that most of us are on the short list of “better off dead than clogging the hospitals”. When it comes to pure self interest, universal health care is going to be resoundingly popular if we get it. That’s why conservatives have to lie about it, to convince people that it’s not in their self interest to have affordable health care guaranteed, when it is of course in their interest. But this dude isn’t lying. (As much.) I suggest this article’s a great one to clip and show to conservatives spewing the same old lies about long waits and doctor choice. If you can get the eyelash batting down, it would help, but either way: “But conservative writer James Pethokoukis says that the problem with universal health care is that it would work, and that people wouldn’t give up their doctors and medicine once they’ve got it.”

He’s right, of course. Your average wingnut spouting bullcrap about universal health care would probably balk if Republicans just shut down all public education and make educating your children the sole privilege of people who could pay tuition. That’s why attempts to dismantle public education fly are disguised as giveaway programs like vouchers. Same thing with universal health care. Of course, trying to explain how these two examples are pretty much identical will overload someone’s system who has been hoodwinked by obvious fallacies about long lines and doctor choice, so don’t expect to get too far with the analogy.

*Which is actually different in significant ways from national health care of the sort Great Britain has. Every Democratic plan I’ve seen incorporates the pre-existing system, including the private insurance industry, into it. Your HMO won’t be dissolved, and if you like it, or it’s what your employer offers, you keep it. But what will happens is people like me who have to pay out of pocket for insurance will get a lot more protection. It won’t be free, of course. Just that insurance companies will be less able to take your money and run, refusing to cover you if you do something unseemly like require health care.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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