Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama and health care

I'm feeling perplexed by my country. We desperately need to reform our health care system, but I fear all that will happen before Congress goes into recess is some small thing. Some issues seem not clear to folks...maybe because they aren't. We should not charge by the procedure, for example. That is a money generator, leads to excessive treatment (and probably deaths). But it is also prompted by our equally dangerous rules on medical malpractice. Doctors do more than they should (a violation of their oath in my view) partly to avoid lawsuits.

Perhaps 7-14,000 people are losing health insurance every day due to the Great Recession. As a result, ur capacity for economic innovation, for small businesses, and for job creation is hurt. People lose their homes and what little fortunes they have to make family choices (ex: a home v health; food v insurance) inconceivable in Malta or in most other "advanced" (post)industrial states. Our capacity and often genuine desire to assist each other seems thwarted somehow.

We worry about the cost of the change, but not enough about the costs right now. Congress decides it is too extreme to add a bit of tax to those earning $300,000 and up and move the tax point 1 Million (and are they talking salary or wealth or both?). It's absurd. Our income inequality is starting to look positively third world, vastly different from how it looked in the 1950s and '60s. Even so, I'd be for everyone getting a tiny tax--rich and poor--a citizenship duty to protect each other tax.

I'm teaching about health care a bit in my summer US govt class, but in a distant, poli sci sort of way--how things get on the agenda, alternatives, get decided. I talk about how, probably, only some small change will be passed before Congress heads out and then, as everyone knows, the 2010 elections will mean inaction. I can show them this pattern going back decades and so on and so forth. But, I've gotta tell you, my heart is just breaking on this one. We surprised ourselves by voting for Obama another step on the road to heal an ancient wound. But now, in the world of public policy, we are too scared to keep trying to rebuild and rejuvenate our country. We are going to walk away from the single most important thing we need to do for ourselves and our future.