The debate leading up to Sunday’s vote was bad, but it’s been worse since. Don’t get me wrong, spirited debate is good. Opposing perspectives duking it out is how this is supposed to work. But all this? Really?
My index finger has been tap dancing between two radio presets in my car. One is on WBUR (the local NPR station) and the other is on WTKK (the local… uhm… opposite of NPR). What I’ve been hearing could only be compared to the airwaves in Boston and New York on October 21, 2004*. The single greatest day in history. The single worst day in history.
I’ve been in about 20 different conversations, mostly by email, between groups of friends, family members, and colleagues over the past two days. Those on the left have thought that my post of a few days ago was an attempt to criticize the plan and those closer to the right have considered my views to be apologetic and overtly pollyannish. And that’s only what my family is saying!
And here I was thinking I was walking a balanced path down the center.
What follows is a philosophical observation… not about health reform, but about the nature of the current debate. On one of the radio stations I listen to, there seems to be a fundamental belief that a benevolent, typically incorruptible Government gives us the best chance at improving our lot. We have this health care crisis, as it’s called, and it’s Government that can help us find our way out of it. On the other station, I hear a fundamental belief that free market forces, Big Business, ever guided by the Invisible Hand, will sort through this and eventually get things right for us. Team Government expects that profit motivated, nay obsessed, capitalists (in the form of Pharmaceuticals, Insurance Companies, Hospital Systems) are greedy and want only to increase costs. Team Big Business argues that incompetent bureaucrats and politicos drunk with power want only to preserve that power and will stop at nothing, including flushing their own values and ideals down the drain, if it means saving their own backsides.
NPRists trust government and fear big business. TKKers trust big business and fear government. You know and I know that that’s a fundamental basis for our differences of opinion.
For those who dislike being categorized in these sharp and exaggerated corners as I’ve described them above would ordinarily prefer some type of partnership or hybrid approach between the private and public sectors. To me, that’s what this health reform bill represents. It’s a middle ground. But the burgeoning middle ground population (witness the steep climb in number of “unenrolleds”) does not seem to like this plan. Why? Because it is perceived as being propagated by one side and jammed down the throat of the other.
Philosophers and theologians have long told us that the two most powerful forces (evils, corrupters) are POWER and MONEY. Government and Big Business. It’s who we trust. It’s what we fear.
* The day after the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees after being down 3-0 in the 2004 American League Championship Series.