Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Lot of Good-Sounding Statistics and Talking

Well, we can't choose our senators, so we just have to put up with them. If only we had some say in the matter. They're like parents. We can't pick them, and we wish they were smarter. So one Bernie Sanders, apparently an "Independent" senator from Vermont, which is technically one of the 59 states that justify the stars of the North American flag. Col Sanders writes an essay for The Huffington Post headlined, "Health Care Is a Right, Not a Privilege". As I say, I wish they were smarter.

Sanders opens, "Let's be clear. Our health care system is disintegrating." Wrong. Our education system is disintegrating. Our infrastructure is disintegrating. Our industrial base is disintegrating. Social Security and MediCare are disintegrating. But it's not our healthcare system that's disintegrating, it's our health. Here's the fallacy of Sanders' thinking -- I cannot call it reasoning. He's thinking of healthcare as one would think of car maintenance, as something that you do to something else. A thing goes wrong, and you fix it. That's not what health is. Health is not maintenance, because cars do not repair themselves, whereas living organisms do, or ought to.

When a sewage system is functioning well, but is suddenly overwhelmed with a massive influx of sludge, it isn't the system that's disintegrating, for all that something is going wrong. The healthcare system functions well. It's just overwhelmed with too many sick people. There's almost a logical fallacy in what I just said. Here's why it's not a fallacy: sickness is a choice. It has to do with the neglected fact that living organisms do, or ought to, repair themselves.

If we deliberately make ourselves sick, through poisonous lifestyle choices, do we have a "right" to the medicines or procedures that may undo the symptoms of our choices? It's a philosophical question, balanced between compassion and limited resources. If we make ourselves sick through ignorant poisonous lifestyle choices, what rights, then? More than if it were deliberate? Perhaps. But what is not debatable is that we have a right to what we earn, and I submit that sickness, in many cases, is earned.

Sanders goes on to list some statistics, which an informed conservative would quibble with. I'm not informed on the issue. "Today, 46 million people have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with high deductibles and co-payments. At a time when 60 million people, including many with insurance, do not have access to a medical home, more than 18,000 Americans die every year from preventable illnesses because they do not get to the doctor when they should. This is six times the number who died at the tragedy of 9/11 -- but this occurs every year." That last, 9-11 factoid is just a cheap rhetorical ploy -- very highschool. As for insurance, it has taken on a meaning it didn't start out with. It used to be a bet against fate. Now it's something people are counting on. Sort of a paradigm shift that slipped in somehow, with nobody but me noticing. Insurance is not a necessity. Health is. Invest in health, and with any spare change that's left over, get insurance.

"In the midst of this horrendous lack of coverage, the U.S. spends far more per capita on health care than any other nation - and health care costs continue to soar. At $2.4 trillion dollars, and 18 percent of our GDP..." well, whatever. Blah blah. So we spend more than anyone else, but we're not spending enough? Or the government should spend more? -- or take over the spending? Because government monopolies are so efficient? -- as we know because Social Security and MediCare are so solvent and such exemplars of fiscal responsibility? And costs would go down if there was a government cap? Because price-controls work so well? -- as we've seen, as during and after WW II, or in any of the socialist countries with their thriving economies?

Well, Sanders drones on and on, and much though it would be amusing for me to rebut his liturgical rehearsal, I'm on a conservation kick and don't want to waste the pixels. He says that "Most Americans do believe that all of us should have health care coverage, and that nobody should be left out of the system." That would depend on how the question is framed. I can see how most Americans would agree that some people should not have healthcare coverage -- abortuses, say, or serial killers, or those who opt not to have any. He says our "current private health insurance system is the most costly, wasteful, complicated and bureaucratic in the world." I wouldn't know. Except that he must be wrong, because he's saying that a for-profit system, private, is more bureaucratic than a bureaucratic one would be. Well, I could just randomly pick sentences and rebut them. Point is, he's wrong on every point.

"But, at the end of the day, as difficult as it may be, the fight for a national health care program will prevail. Like the civil rights movement, the struggle for women's rights and other grass-roots efforts, justice in this country is often delayed -- but it will not be denied. We shall overcome!" As I say, an idiot. Not everything that people want is a right. I want happiness at no cost. I shall overcome. I shall overcome as soon as fantasy becomes a law of physics, as it is a law of politics. Politics, the science of word-magic, where saying it is so makes it so, regardless of experience, logic or evidence.

I could rattle off a bunch of facts about health, but the book is just out of arm-reach, so I won't bother. Let's just fall back on what everyone already knows -- I mean really knows, not just knows like all that crap Sanders was talking out of his ass about. We all know that we get fat by eating too many calories, and being fat is somehow responsible for a lot of really serious health problems. We all know that smoking and boozing and glutting on sugar instead of vegetables all go to powerfully undermine our health. We know that worrying and staying up all night and cutting ourselves with razorblades all can result in poor health. For which of any of these should other people be required to pay, to make such a person healthcared?

As I say, idiot. In itself, Sanders has a right to be an idiot. Even as a senator, because I was just kidding about our not having a choice. He was elected. He even has a right to change laws and custom, and make us pay for his socialist or communist agenda. You know that's what it is. He has that right, the way self-destructive people have a right to healthcare. He has that theoretical right, that political right, and perhaps he has the ability and the power. He does not however have the natural right, or the Constitutional right. Because the Constitution is not a living breathing document, but rather an instrument designed to preserve the character and institutions of this nation, not to revolutionize them. And natural right is about reality, not theory, and reality tells us, always, that anything that works toward preserving and supporting what is dysfunctional is perverse, unnatural, and doomed.

That's it then. We just disagree about reality, and responsibility. Sanders and his ilk believe in magic, in Evolution, in things happening for no reason at all. I believe in cause and effect. You believe in whatever it pleases you to believe in, and deal with the consequences, or expect someone else to.


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