Monday, April 18, 2011

Medicare For None

The voting public is up against it now. This is what happens when we use elections as a way to vent emotions and perform catharsis instead of making policy choices. The few voters who came out in 2010 went to the polls to punish the Democrats; God knows, the Democrats deserved the beating they got. Feckless Congressional leaders ran for the hills after being given a green light to do so by an even more feckless Barack Obama. But in beating up the Democrats the mad-as-hell, older, and more conservative voters of the midterm election got much more than they bargained for.

There is a bitter irony for the TEA Party enthusiasts who were screaming about death panels and keeping hands of their Medicare. There is an irony to how those anti-government faithful riding to the TEA Party rallies in their Medicare funded scooters got shafted by the Elephant Party.

Still there is a nasty consistency going on here. For the bitter, greedy geezers who form a formidable part of the Republican Party it was just a continuation of the “I got mine and screw you” philosophy that runs their lives. Please note that they will get to keep their benefits, they will not suffer any damages. It will be the late boomers ( the 55 and below set) and generations X, Y, plus Generation Next that will get screwed.

How bad will it be? How about the absurdity of paying half of all your disposable income for health care bad?  How about wiping out all of your social security benefits bad? This is the true face of the Republican Party, this is a winner-take-all ideology taken to its viciously logical ends. This is Social Darwinism on steroids.

Of course the Republicans would never admit such goings on. Not in a million years. They are going to “save” Medicare and Medicaid. This is the same saving that the U.S. did all the way back in Vietnam; the burning the village down to ground with Zippos “saving.”

To understand how utterly un-serious this process has become you only have to watch the Mau-Mauing of Paul Ryan. For a few glorious days he was the most serious man in Washington. That was until someone actually looked at the numbers. Then it became obvious that Paul Ryan was the exact opposite of serious. The proposal boiled down to forcing Seniors into cat food cuisine so the upper one percent of US economic ladder could get even more undeserved tax cuts.

It was all smoke and mirrors and the quiet killing of Medicare via “block grants” to States. Those block grants would not even begin to cover the expenses of treating senior and States have no way of upping the funding to correct levels. States have to balance their budgets, they can’t print money like the Federal Government can. Medicare would die on the vine and the Congressional Republicans could wash their hands of the matter. The Republicans could get their ideological groove on, and not be blamed for the inevitable disaster that killing Medicare would produce.

Medicare exists for a reason. It exists because there is no money to be made in insuring old people. Seniors are a big loss leader in any for-profit scheme. Their illnesses are chronic and expensive to treat. Treatment usually consists of powerful drugs that only end with the patients life. And because these illnesses and their treatments have knock-on effects, the battery of drugs required for the elderly patient can be quite daunting. There is also the unpleasant fact that if you live long enough, you may loose your mind. 

For those who have passed the 85 year mark, there is a even chance that dementia of one sort or another will become your constant companion. Treatment of this mental illness consists of round the clock professional care. Even then most health care professionals will admit that treatment is very difficult. Demented patients can and will become difficult to manage, with occasional bouts of violence. Caring and professional treatment of these people is an expensive proposition.

And there, dear reader, is the rub; that word caring. For a large section of the Republican Party, perhaps the entire edifice, caring and compassion are no longer a part of the lexicon. We really are back to a vicious Social Darwinism. We are back to an ideology that rejects any notion of the Public good. It is an ideology that rejects the very notion of a public sphere. It is all rugged individualism for the Republican faithful. It is all Libertarian notions informed by the Objectivist ideas of Ayn Rand. It is all genuflecting to Galt; at least until it is their skin in the game. Then the hypocrisy kicks in, and even Ms. Rand goes to the Government for assistance.

And since we are talking about hypocrisy, let us talk about how savaging Medicare is supposed to help curtail the deficit. Again, no one in DC, or the rest of the nation in fact, is the least bit serious about getting the deficit in line. The vote for the continuation of the Bush tax cuts are proof of this. Don’t get me wrong, everyone wants to cut government spending; in some one else’s district. Remember gentle reader, it is only Pork when it is another district; in your district it is bringing home the bacon.  Proof positive of this was the $50,000  hissy fit Senator Graham and Congressman Scott had over Charleston Harbor.

There is no seriousness in the fever swamps of the Potomac. There has not been any since Don Renaldo, the Gipper, came to town. It has been fantasy land. It has been the slow, steady dismantling of the 20th Century by reactionary malcontents. It has been a head-long rush back to the Gilded Age. It has been government by, of, and for the plutocrats.

A nation, a people are judged by how they treat the least among them. The old and infirm are part of the cohort. How we treat those in the waning years of their lives speaks volumes about us as a nation. Do we leave them to their own devices? Do we, by a back door, fire up real death panels?

This is serious business. The stealth death panels will occur. There will be no formal convening of said panels, just the awful working of cruel economics. People will skip their needed medications because they can’t afford them. The underlying conditions the medications treat will slowly but surly kill the person who has them. Quality of life will also be degraded. People will die sooner and die sicker because they lack the means to pay for the health care they need. But that is what they get for not being smart enough to become fabulously wealthy, right?

There is a very clear choice here. We, as nation, can continue to act like poorly socialized five year olds. We can can continue to whine “me,me,me, mine, mine,mine” and go on prolonged temper tantrums when we don’t get our way. Or we can finally act like adults. We can finally realize that we are a social species, that we truly need each other to survive. We can finally admit that the rugged individual is mostly a myth. We can come to the realization that in nature the name for a truly detached individual, the lone wolf, is prey. Without each other, we are coyote kibble. The raving, insatiable, wolves of the economic elites knows this well. It is past time we, the ordinary citizens got wise.
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