As we move into the next phase — the “trigger” phase — of rhetoric regarding health care in this country, it seems an appropriate time to stop calling this charade “health care reform.” More accurately, we should refer to it as “constituent management.” That is what our elected representatives appear to have at the center of their efforts now and maybe all along.
Those in power in our country — in this case the health care, pharmaceutical and insurance industries — have made it clear what they will or will not accept — and now it is the job of our representatives and senators to make us all feel as though they are acting in our best interests when they acquiesce to this trinity. It appears clear to most of us whom this representative form of government represents. Certainly, this is nothing new. It just seems that this time it is more demeaning and more horrific to us because it is so blatant.
There is no question that our present health care system has failed. Conservatives and liberals, alike, have said as much. There is no question that the majority of people in this country, insured or not, want a health care system in which everyone, not 95 percent, participates equally. This majority wants a system in which everyone can enjoy the peace of mind that our senators, congressmen and congresswomen enjoy. There is no question that such a system is beyond what can be provided using a free market model. Finally, there is no question that among the wealthy nations of this planet, we stand alone in our unwillingness to provide free health care to every citizen. All of this, and this is the “short list,” is not being contested, yet our government does nothing but find new ways to tell us that health care as we know it is just fine.
Last November, this nation did something historic by electing Barack Obama. Those who did vote for him did so because we wanted the “change” he promised. Our representatives seemed to have heard this call to change “business as usual” as a call to change how they quiet the electorate so they can continue to do business as usual. Our senators and representatives seem comfortable where they are and obviously want to remain so. Apparently, to do that they must both keep a lid on the constituents who keep them in office and maintain a friendly relationship with the good businesses who keep their campaign coffers full.
The rest of the people in this country have to listen to our representatives when we think we need something like universal health care. When we said we wanted a single-payer system, we were told that this just wasn’t possible. Period. When we asked for a guaranteed public option, we were told that this would upset things too much. Now, although we seem to be willing to say that the trigger option is better than nothing at all, the rhetoric is mounting to let us know that really it, too, is unacceptable. This is very effective constituent management.
Honestly, nothing short of single-payer health care in this country represents change and nothing else should be acceptable. Nothing. But we seem to have no way to really call our elected officials to do what they promised to do when we elected them, which is to represent us. I wonder what the rest of the world thinks when they see how our “representative” form of government works. And I wonder what they think of a citizenry that tolerates it.
Dana Williams of Belfast works with severe needs young children and is a member of Veterans for Peace.