Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Conversation with an Informed Citizen - Part Two

The dialogue continues with a response from Bob:

just a few short points to respond for now. im at work.

1. the people at the town halls are concerned citizens, not paid by pharms or insurance co's. some may be ignorant, but how can they be confident in a congress who hasnt read the bill/ explained it to its constituency? on the other hand, unions bus their members to town halls more or less to stifle the every day joes who show up on their own time. i think astroturfing is the term. watch some of these town halls on C-span if you dont believe me. shits boring, but they go to these meetings on their own time becuase they want answers.

2. there was (maybe is still) a death panal. at first it was denied, then obama stated it would be removed. how could it be removed if it didnt exist. oregon already has a death with dignity provision where it will pay for suicide meds instead of aiding those with serious illnesses without insurance to get the meds they need to live....a death panal.

3. about 30 million (and this number could be higher) uninsured could purchase their own insurace, but choose to spend their money on other things. americans need to become responsible again. those on the poverty line already qualify for govt programs and dont pay a dime. this leaves 5-10 million who really need reform, just in my opinion not a govt run option.

5. whats to stop the govt from setting the costs so low that private insurers cannot compete? nothing, obviously. and in pre president interviews obama said this is specifically what he wanted to do. if it takes even 10-15 years, weed out the private insurers until the govt option is the only one left. im not making this stuff up btw, i swear.

6. you say nothing of tort reform. why do lawyers get off with no govt intervention? they drive docs to perfom defensive tests so they wont be sued on liability which forces rates to sky rocket, putting the cost on insurance companies, but mostly on the patient.

7. lastly, your last thought is great, but govt programs in this day and age fail miserably. regulations need to be made to drive costs down period. medicare is bankrupt, so is social security, and medicade. why make another system for the govt to screw up? there are other answersthis wasnt so short... btw i think obama is a socialist/communist.

From Me:
Here is my rebuttal. I won't pretend that it'll be short (after all, I am Matthew Rozsa), but I can promise you that I will count correctly, a courtesy I hope you pay me in your next letter.

1) I didn't say that all of the people at the town halls were paid lackeys for pharmaceutical and insurance companies, only that some of them were, and the evidence that many of those individuals are in fact "astroturfers" is irrefutable. Known right-wing organizations (such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity) that exist for the sole purpose of storming government gatherings in order to make a disruption and intimidate public figures for the benefit of the clients who pay them (such as those who harassed government officials conducting the Florida recount effort in 2000) have been shipping their employees to various town hall meetings throughout the country. Of course, they need money to subsidize these efforts, and who has been providing it? In the case of Florida recount of 2000, it was the Republican Party of America that was paying them; in the case of the health care reform debate of 2009, it is the insurance and pharmaceutical companies that are using their assistance. This is not my opinion, by the way. This is a proven fact. And once again, it does not apply to everyone who is there, only some - I do not deny that there are quite genuine racists, conservative extremists, and misinformed average joes rubbing shoulders with the fake ones who have been astroturfed in.

2) When you say that union members have been astroturfing, you apparently don't understand what the term actually means. Grassroots protests refer to any group of citizens, previously organized or otherwise, that has a genuine commitment to a certain cause and is willing to openly admit who they are, how they got to the protest (either as individuals or as an organized group), and why they have taken the position for which they argue. Astroturfing (a term coined by Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas) refers very specifically to protesters who pretend they are protesting for one reason when in fact they are protesting for another. For example, there is nothing wrong with people who are being paid by right-wing disruption groups (that are in turn being paid by insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies) to show up and oppose health care reform IF THEY OPENLY ADMIT WHO THEY ARE AND WHY THEY'RE THERE; it becomes astroturfing, instead of legitimate grassroots protesting, when they conceal their identities from the public and try to pass themselves off as common citizens with an impartial interest in this issue, thereby creating the illusion that they represent a genuine public uprising. That is what these right-wing lackeys have been doing, and it is dishonest. On the other hand, I find it ridiculous that you claim that union members are astroturfers, since they organize on their own time and openly acknowledge who they are (union members) and why they are there (because they, as members of a labor union, believe that health care reform is in best for them personally and the country as a whole). They aren't deceiving anyone, unlike the lackeys of medicine's big business community.

3) I also think it's amazing that you refer to labor unions as being the enemy and their opponents as "everyday joes". Just what exactly do you think labor unions are? Let us turn to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary for the answer:
labor union, noun: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members' interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions
Considering that, apart from the infintesimal fraction of Americans who are either obscenely wealthy business owners or work independently, the overwhelming majority of us are workers (i.e, we receive our money from someone else who pays us), it stands to reason that labor unions represent the very "average joes" whose interests you presumably have at heart. It is true that not all Americans are in labor unions today, since President Reagan did wonders at decimating their power in order to help the oligarchy of big businessmen who underwrote his campaigns increase their profit margins. Even so, labor unions exist for the sole purpose of helping workers, so that even those of us who aren't in a labor union still benefit by the positions they articulate (unless, of course, you are a rich person who cares nothing about anyone other than yourself and other people in your own class).

4) People keep saying that their congressmen/women haven't read the bill and can't explain it to their constituencies. Based on the C-Span sessions I've been watching, these legislators HAVE read the bills, and try their damndest to explain them to their constituencies when asked, even quoting section and verse from the bill while the people who challenge them are unable (or unwilling) to do likewise. The only reason they have not been clearer is because right-wingers keep trying to shout them down before they can say anything; to argue that this is their fault would be a bit like saying "Matt, you're not even trying to go grocery shopping, because the last two times you went, you got mugged and had to be taken to the hospital before you could arrive there."

5) There never was a death panel. What did exist was a clause that stated that people with terminal conditions who didn't want treatment could ask their doctors questions about the other options available to them and have the government pay for it; when Obama saw the mounting, thoughtless, and hysterical pressure opposed to this clause, he took it out himself because he figured including it would involve more trouble than it was worth. Incidentally, people with terminal conditions who don't want treatment ALREADY CAN ask their doctors question about the other options available to them; the only difference is that as of right now, they'll have to pay for it themselves (which means poor people who don't want, say, a fifth degrading and painful surgery for an inoperable brain tumor, won't have any idea what other options are available to them, since they don't have the money to ask for their doctor about alternative to medical treatment). Right-wingers who - either because of stupidity, ideological dogmatism, or the fact that they were in the pocket of big business - intentionally lied about this clause and said that it would give the government the right to decide who would live and who would die in certain medical situations, or that they might encourage the elderly, sick, and disabled to refuse medical treatment. This is a blatant distortion, and shows that people who argue this haven't actually taken the time to read the bill.

6) Your third point shows just how truly out-of-touch you are with the real world (it could also be that you're rich and don't give a damn about anyone besides yourself and your immediate social circle, but I will pay you the courtesy of assuming the best of your character). First, as for the unemployed: They often don't receive health coverage as part of their unemployment package, and when they do, it is intentionally incomplete and inadequate, in large part because there is no government-run public option they can turn to. So why don't they just use their unemployment money to buy insurance on their own? Well, unemployment pays you $405 dollars a week in most states, which puts private insurance well out of their hands. And what about the employed? Well, the truth is that private health insurance is extraordinarily expensive even when it's at its lowest possible quality (forget about those that offer premium coverage), and an American who works a minimum wage job often cannot afford such coverage, regardless of how much he or she skrimps and saves. Don't believe me? Still think that people who work hard and don't spend their money on "other things" (and I assume you mean things they don't need, since I can't imagine you're criticizing them for spending money on necessities) can afford insurace if they really try? Well let's do some basic math. The minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Figure out how much money you will earn working at that level for forty hours a week (or heck, why not make it sixty hours a week), and then subtract from that amount that which is required for food, clothing, shelter, utilities such as electricity and running water, transportation to your place of employment, and the needs of your spouse and children, should you have them (and I hope you will give your hypothetical doppelganger a wife and child, since I doubt you would want to be completely alone in this dreary existence; remember what they say misery loves...). If you want you can toss in a telephone, computer, internet access, and television, since it's pretty hard to get by in the modern world without them, but as they aren't "life necessities" so much as "ability to function in the 21st Century necessities", I'll let you have a pass on including them. Anyway, after all of those expenses have been taken out, see if you still have enough money to afford health insurance for yourself and your loved ones. Now let's bear in mind that, thanks to the deregulatory policies of Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes, the avarice of big banks and brokerage firms caused an economic collapse last year, so that 9% of all Americans are incapable of finding work and an additional 10% are only able to find part-time hours, which means more than one-out-of-six Americans are doing even worse than you would be in the hypothetical situation I just described. Well why don't they just get a new job? Because big business, which runs the economy, isn't creating new jobs right now. Why not cast out on their own and form their own small business or whatnot? With what money and resources - banks aren't offering loans, and these people have nothing of their own to use. Well why don't they just demand higher pay and longer hours? Well that would require them to form unions, and if they do that then, according to you, they won't be "average joes" anymore, and nobody wants that.

7) Your fourth point intrigues me. Essentially you are saying that you want people to have a choice, but are worried that they might decide that having affordable, high-quality health care for themselves and their families is more important than the warm fuzzy feeling they'll get by remaining loyal to a faceless corporate entity. Up until then you act like you are primarily concerned with the public welfare, but that argument - even if I were to agree with it - clearly puts the public interest behind that of insurance companies. Why exactly would it be a problem if the government allowed everyone to have great health care by insurance companies were run out of business? That notion doesn't really cause me to lose any sleep, because I don't give a damn about the profit margins of insurance companies; I only care about whether every American has the right "endowed to him by his creator" to "life", as promised in the American dream. On the other hand, that notion is indeed terrifying if you don't give a damn about seeing every that the American dream is available to all of it citizen, but are very much concerned about the profit margins of insurance companies. That said, you needn't worry your little mind about insurance companies being run out of business even if the public option is put in place, since capitalism will no doubt come and save the day. Don't you remember the most basic capitalist principle? You know, about the free market? Let me refresh you on how it applies to this situation: If insurance companies worry that people will use government-run insurance because it is just as good as theirs (but cheaper), then in order to compete they will:
a) Lower their prices and improve their service, thus benefiting the American people while enabling them to stay in business (although possibly making the corporate executives slightly less obscenely wealthy).
b) Lower their prices and improve their service, thus benefiting the American people while enabling them to stay in business (although possibly making the corporate executives slightly less obscenely wealthy).
c) Lower their prices and improve their service, thus benefiting the American people while enabling them to stay in business (although possibly making the corporate executives slightly less obscenely wealthy).
d) Commit mass suicide, with their maggot-filled carcasses littering every street in America and causing millions of people to turn to cannibalism (since they can't afford food anymore thanks to the long-term consequences of Reaganomics), which will in turn kill them (because the meat of these executives was tainted with poisons, and no one picked up on it thanks to the government's weakening of the FDA) and turn them into flesh-eating zombies, who will in turn eat the rest of the country (which will be defenseless because Bush sent most of our military to Afghanistan and Iraq) and then use a nuclear weapon (which they will get a hold of because Reagan's "zero sum" Cold War strategy prompted the USSR to make a surplus of them, which they lost track of after the empire collapsed and which could now be anywhere) to blow up Japan (no reason why they'd choose Japan, just guessing here), which means no more good anime for anyone, pissing off nerds the world over.
Remember, there is no stupid answer. Only stupid people.

8) Why no tort reform? How about because lawyers aren't the cause of this problem? The reason people have to spend too much on medical care (and it's interesting that you suddenly acknowledge this problem in your sixth point, since you all-but-deny it in your third) is because insurance companies have a monopoly on how people receive medical treatment; they know that no matter how much they charge you, you'll have to pay it, because you have no where else to turn if you don't. It's called price gouging, another basic principle of morally bankrupt economics. So why do people complain about lawyers in the first place? Well, when a lawyer sues a doctor for malpractice, the doctor isn't usually the one who pays out - it's either the big business that owns the hospital or the insurance company. Now why would they oppose this? Oh, wait, I forgot... it's because they have a deep maternal love for average joes everywhere, and not because they're greedy.

9) Government programs fail miserably? Then I'm assuming you won't have any problem if I deny you use of the police, firefighters, building inspectors, an army, libraries, museums, and the clearly-worthless high school diploma you got from Easton Area High School. Oh, and people actually DO like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which is why so many people use them and why any politician who tries to get rid of them loses a shitload of votes; they are underfunded, and going bankrupt, because presidents like Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes kept slashing funds for and/or trying to privatize them, while diverting more money into tax cuts for the rich and imperialist wars abroad. Oh, and military health care has been widely acknowledged to be among the best in the world - and that is provided by whom?

10) Sigh. So you think Obama is a socialist/communist. First, you need to pick one. They're not the same thing, and I really don't feel like explaining BOTH of them to you and then proving that Obama is neither. As such, I have a proposal - you look up what each of those terms means, get back to me with what you find, and then show me exactly how Obama's policies fit either of those descriptions. I'm sure I'll have a blast reading it.


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