Michael: Stupid Socialists!You know what really cheeses me off? Socialists. I hate those socialists. They undermine everything this country stands for with their non-market, collectivized solutions for everything.
Take roads for instance. The socialization of road building and maintenance is one of the great evils to have befallen this nation. All roads should be privately built and maintained. They should financed properly with tolls, distributing their cost to those who actually benefit of them, in the proportion that they are benefited, and returning profit to those who site their roads most usefully. Private companies will receive the right market signals about where we actually want roads to go: only where we will pay the most to get to.
People will be enabled by the market to purchase the level of road service they want and can afford. Some people will opt for express lanes with latté shops, built in car washes, and RFID toll passes that lead to exclusive destinations like the best restaurants, health spas, and exclusive specialist clinics. Others will opt for lesser quality roads to the local HMO office or emergency room. Still others will opt for more basic services, such as a footpath to the nearest strawberry patch with a hedge witch or their neighbor’s backyard herb garden. To each according to his means, without regard to his need. That is how a proper road system should be run. And if you can’t afford the tolls, well then, just stay home.
Of course, I’m not really lampooning roads, but our healthcare system. The proposal that we need more private roads to solve our transportation problems wouldn’t be taken seriously. And with good reason; it’s not a serious solution. Putting more private market financing into a system that suffering horrible inefficiencies, largely because of private financing, is simply stupid. Yet policymakers on the Right continue to offer up such panaceas, such as medical savings accounts, with a straight face, even as they dish out old school socialized medicine plans like the Medicare drug prescription ‘benefit’ -- so long as they can prevent collective bargaining, which would control costs, in doing so.
Like roads, excellent and affordable healthcare for all is a basic social need. Public roads, even though they eat tax revenues, confer great efficiency gains on the public, even though there are few ‘market mechanisms’ to prevent their abuse or overuse. People can drive 24 hours a day without paying additional taxes or fees, or drive with off-road tires which cause additional wear on road surfaces, or live in places where expensive public roads serve only a few people. Why do we tolerate such inefficiencies? Because a comprehensive network of roads that allows travel to almost everywhere has become an integral part of our economy and quality of life, even of our sense of freedom as citizens. Without such a network, transacting business, going to work, delivering goods to market, patrolling neighborhoods for safety, getting to the location of emergencies, and just going to see Grandma, would become intolerably more complex and expensive affairs.
Under our current healthcare system, the simple maintenance of one’s health, especially if one is blessed with one of modern America’s plagues of chronic health conditions, becomes a Kafkaesque nightmare that consumes an indecent amount of time, effort, frustration, and expense. The amount of planning and worry that goes into ensuring the continuity of one’s medical care when moving between jobs, careers, or even locations, is a severe brake on the flexibility and efficiency of our economy, and detracts terribly from American’s quality of life. Imagine if you had to have a referral from your primary mechanic to get your car’s brakes fixed? But you couldn’t go to the nearest Brake Masters; you have to go to the single Meinike franchise across town, which doesn’t have an opening for two months. You will have to pay additional tolls to get there, and you have to pay an outrageous use fee because one of the roads is owned by a toll company outside of your network. Well, in the interim, your brakes fail and you slam into an open air market killing a dozen people, including yourself. We wouldn’t allow such slapstick in our transportation network, but we routinely tolerate it, and our laws actively encourage it, in our provision of healthcare.
Some goods should be universal because it is best for everyone individually, and best for society. Take universal public education for an example. It built America into a literate and skilled middle- and working-class nation. Sure there are ways to opt out through private schools and home-schooling, and there still inequities in the system, but universal, tax-financed primary and secondary education has been a resounding success for Americans.
Some services are just too crucial to public health and welfare to leave to private ownership. Municipal ownership, which is a form of socialization, of water, sewer, electricity, and now even wireless internet, provide key services at reasonable and stable regulated rates, because these services are too critical to public welfare and convenience to be left to the tumult of speculative markets. Enron and the manufactured California energy crisis were just a reminder of the wisdom of allowing the free play of ‘market forces’ in some sectors.
Banking insurance, much mortgage insurance, flood insurance, Social Security old age income insurance and many others, are examples of how America has come to realize through long experience and trial and (lots) of error, that some insurance systems are just too important to be left entirely to private markets. It is time to recognize that health insurance falls into this category.
If America, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is to claim its rightful place as one of the world’s healthiest nations (which we sadly are not) then we are going to have to ensure that all our citizens have access to our excellent healthcare services. There is no sensible way to accomplish that goal without a national, portable, single-payer, health insurance system in which every American can participate.
It is a deeply American and democratic idea -- as education, roads, and host of other public goods and services attest.
It is a workable idea -- as the national health insurance systems of nearly every industrialized country, besides ourselves, prove.
The crazy-quilt system we have is not working for the best interests of our nation and is as backwards as a interstate highway system of private toll roads for a modern industrial power. The only ones profiting from our utterly archaic current system are the toll collectors.
Oh, and I don’t hate socialists. That was just a hook to get conservative readers interested in reading a contrary point of view.