An AFP news article yesterday talked about the row that has resulted from an ad in the Washington, D.C. subway system that says:
Barack Obama wants politicians and bureaucrats to control America's entire medical system. Go to hell, Barack.
The ad is promoting a film, Sick and Sicker: When Government Becomes Your Doctor, a documentary warning us about adopting a Canadian-style health care system. A little poking on my part failed to uncover who produced and funded the film but I find I'm suspicious of their motives.
Quite apart from the ad line's dubious--at best--claim, it's disgraceful that this has become the tenor of our public discussion.
Even more astounding to me than the tone of this subway ad is what the undeclared entity is incensed at: the Democratic-led, and Obama-sanctioned, push to get health care coverage for all Americans! For this he is told to "go to hell." I might expect this reaction if he were, say, taking folks' health care away (or maybe depriving people of their legal rights or spying on them without a warrant or kidnapping people in foreign countries and flying them to another country for "interrogation" or things of this sort), but for trying to get them health care? How does this goal raise such a murderous rage? How does the plan Obama proposed--which closely mirrors Republican proposals from the recent past--become so odious that people bubble over with hatred for the man?
Or is it a question of hatred first, rationale second?
I honestly don't know enough about our byzantine health care system to advocate very strongly for anything. But I'd argue that people are pissed and at rope's end because millions of dollars are being spent telling them they should be. They're being told this generally by the right wing media and on this topic I would not be surprised to find a money trail back to the health insurance lobby in Washington. Matt Taibbi has written that the real flaw of Obamacare is that it doesn't tackle the basic systemic problems in our health care system. It's basically a blank check to insurance companies--which are most of what's wrong with our system. Obamacare basically places no strictures on insurance companies to control costs--no allowing of foreign pharmaceuticals, no standardization of paperwork, no single-payer provisions. All these things guarantee continued huge profits for these insurance companies and higher costs for consumers. And I think more and more people are aware of this, which is why there is such a furious campaign being waged to convince us that government involvement in health care is deadly (despite the examples of Medicare and Medicaid) and to label Obama's efforts as satanic and un-American.
But Jesus, what a depressing outcome. The aforementioned article on Yahoo News has, as of this writing, garnered 9,000 comments, many of them really shocking in their extremity and hatred. Obama's Kenyan heritage and Muslim-sympathies (!) are constantly being trotted out, as is his Communist leaning and the unfortunate color of his skin. Is this the real America? When the ad itself tells the President of the United States to go to hell for working up an (admittedly flawed) plan for getting his citizens health care, maybe it's not surprising that the comments get worse from there.
But why? What does this vitriol and organized hatred get us? What problems are being solved by it? What we're seeing is the direct result of a couple decades of the kind of fear- and anger-based quasi-news coverage specialized in by Fox News. The comments for this news article contain plenty of left-wing snark and anger as well--which doesn't help anything. But I'd argue there is no organized leftist machinery manufacturing hate in the way that Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter are making a full-time job of it--not even close. (The ad might have said--and with more justice, I'd say--"Insurance companies want to control the entire American health care system... Go to hell, insurance companies.") And this news story tells us what to expect when fear and anger take the place of "the better angels of our nature."