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Bieber vs. Townhall: Point, Bieber

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 14:03 EDT
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Thank you, Whiskey Fire, for digging up this piece of outstanding wingnuttery from Austin Hill at Townhall, who was apparently so shaken by Justin Bieber cutting through the crap* and describing Canada’s health services how Canadians usually do—as if they were just common sense, which they are—that he lost his mind and decided to argue against the existence of public services through the heavy use of scare quotes.

Here’s what Bieber said:

You guys are evil,” Bieber joked to the American magazine writers, “Canada’s the best country in the world….We go to the doctor and we don’t need to worry about paying him, but here (in the United States), your whole life, you’re broke because of medical bills.” He continued, “My bodyguard’s baby was premature, and now he has to pay for it. In Canada, if your baby’s premature, he stays in the hospital as long as he needs to, and then you go home.”

That’s quoted from Hill’s article, and he’s going to show his contempt for Rolling Stone and the kids these days with their filthy Rock and Roll music by refusing to name it. This is Hill’s response, and it’s beautiful in its inanity:

What a wonderful little fantasy, wouldn’t you say? America is so “evil” that when one goes to “see the Doctor,” one has to fuss with something so trivial as “paying him.” How terrible it is that a highly trained professional like a Medical Doctor must be compensated for his or her work.

Yes, he just suggested that Canadian doctors don’t get paid, because anyone in a government-funded system must work for free. He must be crapping his pants for real about Wisconsin. “What is this ‘pay the teachers’ crap? I thought everyone who in the public sector did it for free!” Actually, that would explain a lot of the wingnut reaction.

But this is where his piece gets really amazing:

Yet how beautiful it is that in Canada, “the Doctor” just provides services, the patient just receives those services – as much as he or she needs – and the Doctor apparently doesn’t need to be paid. Or at least the patient doesn’t have to worry about it, right? Isn’t that the way it goes in Canada? Somehow, because of the magic of government, Doctors and nurses and everyone “at the hospital” in Canada just simply perform their jobs, patients just simply “get” what they need, and everybody’s happy. And Canadians don’t have to face that devastating threat of long-term medical bills.

I expect such childlike silliness from, well, children.

Between the words “childlike” and “fantasy”, I get the strong impression that Hill thinks Canada, with its national health care system, isn’t a real place, but a fictional land in a sci-fi novel written by socialists as propaganda. I hate to break it to him, but Bieber wasn’t talking about some mythical land he read about in a fantasy book, but an actual nation state called “Canada”, and they are really close to the U.S., so if you’re still skeptical, you can go visit and satisfy yourself that they really exist. They’re as real as Obama’s birth certificate.

But I think my favorite part of it is that he describes a system where everyone gets what they need and no one is ruined forever just because they get sick, and just assumes you’ll be horrified at the idea. Which is kind of amusing, like writing, “Boston is a land where people just walk by old ladies laying in the street in need of help, and instead of kicking them, they pick them up and get them help,” and expecting your audience to clutch their pearls and vow never to set foot in that dystopia Boston. But I thought it would be fun to play his game with social services that Americans are more familiar and fond of, just to drive home how weird he’s being.

Yet how beautiful it is that in America, “the Teacher” just provides services, the student just receives those services – as much as he or she needs – and the Teacher apparently doesn’t need to be paid. Or at least the student doesn’t have to worry about it, right? Isn’t that the way it goes in America? Somehow, because of the magic of government, Teachers and principals and everyone “at the school” in America just simply perform their jobs, students just simply “get” what they need, and everybody’s happy. And Americans don’t have to face that devastating threat of widespread illiteracy.

Or:

Yet how beautiful it is that in America, “the Policeman” just provides services, the crime victim just receives those services – as much as he or she needs – and the Policeman apparently doesn’t need to be paid. Or at least the crime victim doesn’t have to worry about it, right? Isn’t that the way it goes in America? Somehow, because of the magic of government, Policemen and firefighters and everyone “in the city” in America just simply perform their jobs, citizens just simply “get” what they need, and everybody’s happy. And Americans don’t have to face that devastating threat of out of control crime.

Or:

Yet how beautiful it is that in America, “the Construction Worker” just provides services, the car driver just drives on the road – as much as he or she needs – and the Construction Worker apparently doesn’t need to be paid. Or at least the driver doesn’t have to worry about it, right? Isn’t that the way it goes in America? Somehow, because of the magic of government, Road Pavers and bridge builders and everyone “on the roads” in America just simply perform their jobs, drivers just simply “get” what they need, and everybody’s happy. And Americans don’t have to face that devastating threat of not being able to get around when they need to.

Or, and my favorite because it touches on a social spending program Republicans just discovered they need to pretend to love:

Yet how beautiful it is that in America, “the Doctor” just provides services, the Medicare patient just receives those services – as much as he or she needs – and the Doctor apparently doesn’t need to be paid. Or at least the patient doesn’t have to worry about it, right? Isn’t that the way it goes in America? Somehow, because of the magic of government, Doctors and nurses and everyone “at the hospital” in America just simply perform their jobs, Medicare patients just simply “get” what they need, and everybody’s happy. And Medicare patients don’t have to face that devastating threat of long-term medical bills.

Of course, in all these cases, the people actually doing the work do get paid, and it all goes back to taxes, even if there’s intermediaries involved, as I do believe there are in Canadian health care, as there are with paying construction workers to build our roads. In fact, as the protests in Wisconsin demonstrate, when it comes to putting boots on the ground, it’s liberals who argue that work should be compensated fairly, and conservatives who are demanding that anyone outside of the millionaire class toils in poverty. The problem that Hill and all conservatives are facing is that people mind taxes a lot less when they see that they’re getting their money’s worth in services, which is absolutely the case with single payer health care systems, which are untouchable politically in the countries that have them in the same way Social Security and our single payer system Medicare are here. And so they’re left flailing around, implying that doctors in Canada don’t get paid in order to convince ignorant Americans that hospitals in Canada are crap zones where they shoot you full of morphine (if you’re lucky) and leave you to die. Hill panicked, because Bieber, dumb as he is, produced the kind of anecdote that can often wake people up to the realities, especially if they’ve known someone who had to cease medical treatment too early because of bills, which a lot of Americans do.

For the record, I decided to compare the average doctor’s salary in Canada to the United States. According to this website, the average American family doctor makes about $136,000 a year. And the average Canadian family doctor, if you adjust for currency conversion, makes around $105,000 a year. It’s less, but it’s not peanuts. And it’s worth remembering that their jobs are a lot easier, because they can devote more of their time to actually seeing patients, instead of dealing with one of the major small business headaches that make doctors miserable in the U.S.: keeping track of insurance claims and following up repeatedly to make sure they’re getting paid. Plus, American doctors, like all small business owners, struggle to obtain and keep good staff because paying benefits as a small business owner can be really hard. In Canada, that’s not as much an issue because the most important benefit—health care—isn’t their responsibility to cover. Consider that half of American physicians report that they’d like to change careers simply because of the hassle of dealing with the intricate bureaucracy of health care, and how much that would change if you billed a single payer for all patients. Job satisfaction is an underrated aspect of what makes a career worth undertaking in these discussions, especially once someone makes a comfortable living, which Canadian doctors most definitely do. Especially compared to teachers, who conservatives are currently screaming don’t deserve the money they do get.

*Yes, I also realized he made exceedingly ignorant remarks about abortion. But that just goes to show that Bieber is a dumb kid, and that even dumb kids can see through wingnut crap on the health care issue.

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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