Healthcare Reform Hysteria
Last night, when President Obama was delivering his speech on health care reform to Congress, I thought that there was something wrong with my ears. (Something that, as my friend A. pointed out, my health care provider would not be pleased about; they’re liable to re-classify it as a pre-existing condition.) I thought perhaps I had imagined the guy who heckled the President from the floor. But no, I hadn’t. There really is a Congressman Joe Wilson, he’s a Republican from South Carolina, and he really did scream “You lie!” while the President was describing his plan. Why is it so impossible to have an adult, reasonable conversation about health care reform in this country?
Gary Younge lays out a few possible reasons in a short piece that appeared in The Nation this morning. Here is how it begins:
Spare a thought, and maybe even a dime, for Kenneth Gladney. In August he and other members of the right-wing St. Louis Tea Party arrived at a town-hall meeting organized by Missouri Democrat Russ Carnahan to lobby against universal healthcare. In the spirit of this fraught summer, a fight broke out, ending in six arrests.
Who threw the first punch depends on whom you ask. But who got the worst of it was fairly clear. Gladney was taken to the emergency room with injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face and ended up in a wheelchair. His troubles were just beginning. Recently laid off, this particular anti-health reform protester, it turned out, had no health insurance. Last heard, he was still accepting donations for his medical expenses.
It’s not difficult to ridicule the American right. Its peculiar blend of paranoia, mania, fantasy and misanthropy has been given full rein these past few months. Those who demanded in July to see Obama’s birth certificate (which does exist) ended August invoking the British healthcare system’s “death panels” (which do not). That most of their claims were verifiably false was of little consequence–to them at least. At one point they insisted that if scientist Stephen Hawking were British and subject to the National Health Service, he would be dead, even though Hawking is British, alive and grateful to the NHS for his care.