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Saturday, March 20, 2010

What happens if health care reform fails?

The question is whether people should have the opportunity to receive health care.   The answer from the right is no.  Except for those who can afford it.  The rest had better get over it and learn to be content with sickness, injury, and death as their lot.  In our current political scheme of things,  they don't count.

The current proposed legislation leaves out 17 million people who don't have health care insurance, so they have nothing to get over, except any illness they have, and the preferred resolution to their problem is death.

But for South Dakota, passage of the bill will mean:

* 513,000 SD residents will have improved coverage.

* 217,000 families and 23,100 small businesses will receive tax credits and other assistance.

* It closes the "donut hole" for prescription drug coverage and improves Medicare for 133,000 beneficiaries.

* Provides coverage to 45,000 uninsured SD residents.

* Allows 67,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parent's plan.

The Cretin Chorus--that aggregation of those who recite Republican cant on blogs--chants we can't afford health care and we have a better idea.  The better idea has never been expressed in specific terms.  In general terms, the idea is to let market forces bring down the cost of health care and, therefore, make it available to more people.  While decrying the ponderousness and inefficiencies of big government, they trust the very market forces that brought the country to its knees through the greed, dishonesty, and incompetence that has caused the Great Recession.   These forces, they claim,  will take care of the people who can't afford health care, are losing it because they have lost their jobs, who have pre-existing conditions or have exceeded their cost limits, or who must drop it because the premiums have gone beyond their ability to pay.  Cogency is not an element of the current political debate.

 The Republicans insist that the current bill constructed by the Democrats be discarded and the whole process started anew.  After spending more than a year of work on a very complex problem, the Democrats are expected to, in effect, proclaim that they are too mentally incompetent and morally corrupt to correctly assess the problems and formulate reasonable solutions.  The Republicans insist that the poor wretches cry "uncle" and sign over all functions of government to them.   Even the most depraved, demoralized  cretin would not wallow in such self-debasement, but the Republicans insist on it as the way to address health care.  As with cogency, reasonable respect is not a part of the current political debate.

What is notable about the debate is that in defining the opposing party and its adherents, the Republicans have defined themselves.  They have declared outright verbal war against people with health care concerns.  They have defined themselves as the enemy.

The opposition to health care reform steadfastly refuses to address the problem of those who, for the many reasons alluded to above, do not have health care.  And the media has been digging up instances of people who have died for the lack of it. To someone who actually thinks that human life has value--not merely says it has as a rhetorical flourish of the moment--the refusal to front the problem of those who suffer and die because they do not have financial access to health care is incomprehensible.  But incomprehensibility characterizes the debate on the issue.  Relevancy and cogency is not part of the current political debate.

To people who have been educated in rhetoric in its original meaning--the accurate and principled use of language to create, verify, and refine knowledge--as opposed to its popular meaning--the misuse of language to mislead, misinform, and inflame--what appears to be the official mode of Republican discourse is rooted in solecism, imperscuity, and  malice.  It is not rhetoric in the pure sense of the term.    In more familiar terms,  solecism and imperscuity boil down to falsehoods, intentional and gross negligence. 

There is a more dismaying aspect to the health care debate.  The hostility directed toward that 46 million who do not have health care provisions resonates with the attitude of Germany in the 1930s and those who Hitler called the useless eaters.  The dismissal of the human value of these millions is couched in terms about the evils of the welfare state. 

For people who have studied the propaganda and attitudes of Germans in the 1930s,  there are some alarming similarities to America's current political debate.  As one who served in Germany during the early years of the Cold War,  I was puzzled by how the German people accepted the rule and values of the Third Reich.  The troops serving at that time were given an indoctrination into the techniques of propaganda and the cultural attitudes that accepted it and led to the rule of the Nazis.  Part of our job was to be on the watch for any resurgence of those attitudes.  They were there, but at the same time a Marxist-inspired movement was considered more dangerous in the area where I served--the beginnings of the Red Army which developed into a terrorist threat by the 1970s.

A correspondent of the Beacon, however, has reminded me of how the propaganda techniques of the Nazi party appear to be the model for some current political movements in America.  Ann comes from a military family that was stationed in Germany.  She went to a military high school there, was in a program for the gifted, and speaks German like a native.  (She is also extremely competent in other European languages.)  While in high school, she, too, was puzzled about why the German people accepted Nazi rule, and she discussed and probed her puzzlement with her German contemporaries.  She found that Kristal Nacht (the military-led trashing of synagogues and mass-assaults against Jews on November 9, 1938) was the signal event in comprehending how Naziism gained such a hold on the populace.   The German teen-agers of Ann's time were resentful and concerned about being held responsible for the history of their country during World War II.  They were able to supply Ann with information and perspectives that explained some of Hitler's success in rising to power.

When Ann returned to the states, she received a scholarship at a prestigious liberal arts college which required a baccalaureate thesis from its graduates.  For her thesis,  Ann collaborated with some other students who went to Germany and made a more comprehensive analysis of how the country fell under Hitler's spell and the significance of Kristal Nacht.   She recently took a look at the thesis and told me of some its more salient points.

  • After World War I, the German people felt humiliated and angered by their defeat.  Hitler's appeal to national and ethnic pride filled a need to regain stature on the world stage, but he also appealed to a sense of Teutonic superiority.
  • Criticism of Nazi policies was denounced as unpatriotic and expressive of a hatred for Germany.  Criticism was quickly quelled through this tactic.
  • The Nazis said that anyone who was not able to actively work and support the development of the new Germany was part of a welfare state that impeded and obstructed Germany's return to national eminence.  Hence, the condemning term "useless eaters."
  • Hitler made the Jews and other minorities the scapegoats for all the ills that beset Germany.  They needed to be eliminated if Germany was to regain the pride and power it once had.  At his Nuremberg trial, the commander of Auschwitz, who proudly  cited the two-and-a-half million he killed in gas ovens and the half million he killed with starvation and disease,  said, "It was something already taken for granted that the Jews were to blame for everything."
  • The intellectual environment of Germany was subsumed by hate-rhetoric that defamed individuals and groups.
Ann also reminds that Germany was not the only hotbed of fascism during the 1930s.   Mussolini led a fascist takeover of Italy.  And the Spanish Civil War, which was a fight between republicans and fascists, saw the fascists win.  The energy that put those fascist regimes in power was plain, old grassroots hate and the desire to screw over the less advantaged.  While many castigate Congress for the obstruction and rhetoric that holds it in a state of siege, the motive and courage to espouse the fascist dismissal of the needy comes from the down-home folks who emulate their counterparts in 1930s Germany, Italy, and Spain. 
    The health care debate takes place in a context and a verbal environment very much like that which possessed 1930s Germany and other parts of Europe.  There exists a fascist element that pushes a nationalistic agenda that regards a state of war as essential to national pride.  This is all done with wild accusations from the right of the Obama administration being, all at once, fascist, communist, socialist, and on and on.  Obama is accused by the tea party movement, which now includes Justice Thomas's spouse, of dismantling the Constitution--this by the people who defend the war on Iraq, warrantless wiretaps, and the antics at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.  Karl Rove said he was proud of the water-boarding administered under the Bush administration.  Following Germany of 1930, the current arguments of the fascist streak are:
    •  The right wing pursues belligerent militarism as the only prideful posture that represents America.  It feels that any admission of mistakes or wrong decisions is an admission of inferiority that damages national pride.
    • Some people on the right feel that any criticism of the U.S. or any mention of its failings and mistakes is unpatriotic and anti-American.  
    • A frequent response to stimulus efforts, unemployment relief, and health care reform is that they are part of the "welfare state" through which  government takes money away from those who work to give to those who don't.   The "useless eaters" complaint is alive and well in the U.S.  
    • Liberalism is branded as the great culprit behind all of America's problems. ("It is already taken for granted that the liberals are to blame for everything.")  Spearheaded by Joseph Goebbels' most dedicated student, Rush Limbaugh, the right wing has assigned liberals the blame for every human transgression from homosexual pedophilia to flatulence.  Liberals just don't understand the extent of their power and influence.
    • The de rigueur mode of Republican rhetoric is never to do a fact-based point-by-point analysis of anything you oppose.  Rather always, Always, ALWAYs concoct an accusation of intellectual or moral defect or depravity against some person or group.   This tactic does not require any knowledge or honesty, but works up a good case of hatred for any ultimate solutions for the vanquishing of the left wing.  As the propaganda analysts of the Holocaust have pointed out, the foundations of gas ovens are always built with defamatory words.    This is the strategy in use to defeat health care.
    The Republican mode of discourse avoids studied critiques of the policies being advanced.  Instead, it focuses on defamation of persons and accusations that have no substantial basis.  A look at the blogs originating in South Dakota provides compelling evidence that the rule of right wing discourse is character assassination.

    While President Obama was giving a speech at George Mason University, some protesters outside

    said that the passage of health care reform would lead to civil war.  They did not consider what reaction would be produced by the millions of people who have been, in effect, termed useless eaters and negligible entities.

    As someone who taught at a denominational college for a time,  I have many colleagues who are pastors and professors of theology.  They say that the message of Christ is clear and unequivocal:  clothe and shelter the poor, feed the hungry, and heal the sick.  That message is a volatile irritant to the right wing these days.

    Millions and millions of Americans have been informed by the obstructionists in Congress and their rabid supporters outside that they do not have a country.

    The choice seems to be between reform or revolution. 


      Anonymous said...
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      charming day said...

      To many people's surprise it is beginning to look possible that, in the end, Obama and the Congressional Democrats will actually manage to enact the health care reform package that has taken shape over the course of a year of legislative sausage-making and political trench warfare. On the other hand,the whole effort could still end in failure.
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