The USA is the only large country that does not have universal health care. This is not a distinction of honor; it's a national embarrassment. To the rest of the world, it is one of the most obvious signs of extreme capitalism at work.
During his first campaign, President Obama talked a tough game. He said we needed to stand up to Republicans and insurance companies. But as soon as he got into office, he immediately pandered to insurance companies, and compromised with Republicans.
The result: Obamacare, where everyone is required to buy health insurance. What about people who can't afford it? What about those with preexisting conditions? This is not universal health care. It is an abomination--a three-humped camel created by unwise compromise and pandering.
Where did Obama's courage go? Why did he compromise with extreme Republicans who are fundamentally opposed to universal health care? Democrats had majorities in both houses! Did compromise produce Republican support for universal health care? Obviously not!
The simple truth is this: universal health care dramatically reduces, if not totally eliminates, the need for health insurance. President Obama repeatedly reminded us of this during his campaign. Then, strangely, he seemed to forget.
Conservatives tells us that the US government would do a terrible job of managing health care costs. Well, here's another simple truth: our current privatized system has the world's worst track-record for managing health care costs. Governments of all major nations do a much better job than US insurance companies.
The much safer bet is that the US government would do a much better job than US insurance companies at managing our spiraling health care costs.
The bottom line is this: we need to fire the US health insurance industry. They prevent us from providing health care to everyone, and they have failed to manage our health care costs. We need a true universal health care system. Health care is an entitlement, not a privilege for those who can afford it.
As a nation, we need to see what the rest of the world is doing. Their health care programs are much better than ours. We have fallen behind on nearly every measure of national health, and our lack of universal health care is a major reason why.
The current debate over Obamacare in the Supreme Court is a waste of time. Republicans say Obamacare is un-American, as if caring for fellow Americans is disloyal. Democrats say it is better than what we have, and ignore that it is severely flawed. And Court justices pretend to care about American citizens, when their track record tells us they are more concerned about corporations than common citizens.
So, if the current debate over Obamacare leaves you feeling unsatisfied, it should. It totally misses the point: insurance and universal health care just don't mix.
Last Sunday 9 people came to my house. It was a "coming out" party. I had just published Deep Economics and now wanted to hear what impact it had on others. The major issue that surfaced for almost everyone boiled down to trust: Can we trust fellow citizens to do good if we give them more democratic power.
It was easy to imagine an American citizenry gone amok. The violence we hurl at one another every day is horrifying. If it was easier to amend
the Constitution, could Christian fundamentalists ban together and marginalize non-Christians? Would gay marriage and abortion be constitutionally banned? Would Christian prayer be mandated in public schools? Would an oath of Christian allegiance be required before taking public office?
Then we were reminded of extreme examples of state-sponsored violence, like the Holocaust, or genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, and even in the US of Native Americans.
The evidence against trusting fellow citizens is staggering.
But then one guest told of her recent jury duty experience. She was amazed by how everyone was called to the higher purpose of administering true justice. They came from all walks of life: conservative and liberal, rich and poor, etc. But they all worked together to do the right thing.
Isn't the evidence in favor of trust more compelling than the case for not trusting? Aren't most examples of state-sponsored evil enabled by an erosion of public accountability? Has the notion of benevolent dictatorship ever withstood the test of time?
Trust is extremely low in the US. In other words, fear is extremely high. There is only one known cure for fear: courage.
How can courage help us overcome fear and lack of trust? Maybe it starts by courageously accepting the evil and good in everyone, including ourselves. It takes tremendous courage to do this well. If we are wimpy about it, the realization that anyone can hurt us drives us back into fear. It takes courage to remain vulnerable while knowing we can be hurt by anyone at any time.
Our popular culture often portrays vulnerability as a weakness. We need more heroes who retain their vulnerability while under emotional attack. Our genetic coding tells us emotional violence leads to physical violence. But most of the time, it's not true. Courage helps us calm our physical response to emotional violence. It helps us stay grounded in our core values and not revert to counter-attacks of reciprocal or escalating emotional violence. It's a tall order. It means we need to trust that compassion will eventually win the day.
People have tremendous capacity for compassion. We are hard-wired with it. Compassion is impossible to kill, despite how our popular culture or life experiences undermine it.
It takes tremendous courage to trust that, over time, the majority will respond with compassion to our vulnerability and do good. The alternative–limited democracy–isn't working. It clearly fosters the spread of greed. More democracy, not less, is the solution. We need to summon our courage, practice vulnerability, and trust the people. Participative democracy is our next step. Let's take it.