Who are we? What have we become?
In Michael Moore’s SiCKO, he asks those two questions of Americans.
I thought about this a long time. Most Americans aren’t bad people. Granted, the crowd I hang with is an educated, intellectually curious group of artists (hell, I work in theater and for NPR) and obviously don’t represent the mainstream American, but my father is an independent real estate broker in the heart of central Kansas, my mother works with him, my sister is a teacher in Kansas, and my in-laws are both a real estate broker and retired teacher in North Carolina. I know people on all sides of the political ideological divides, church goers and atheists, blue collar workers and professors, and I can state pretty assuredly that I don’t know any bad Americans.
On the other hand, according to recent polls, a full 40% of Americans still believe that Iraq was in league with al Queda in the 9/11 attacks, a myth that has been disproven over and over (even though Bill Kristol and Ann Coulter continue to openly lie about it when both know better). Americans complacently watch as our government stomps around on the sovereign rights of other countries, slowly leaking our corporatized lifestyle into the mix and all the while allowing millions of their fellow countrymen and women to starve, freeze, and waste away in the streets.
Our feigned ignorance is mystifying. The New Yorker reported in 2005 that the death rate in any given year for someone without health insurance is 25 percent higher than for someone with insurance. When you factor in the denied claims and unscrupulous practices exposed in SiCKO it’s amazing that our politicians seem to do nothing but gut funding to health care programs for the poor and the elderly on a fairly regular basis while likewise cutting taxes for the super wealthy and that we, the people most adversely affected by these policy changes, don’t start beheading the rat bastards selling us out.
A huge part of the problem we face is that our news organizations have become less and less upfront about telling us how things are and more and more about parroting the corporate line. The media selectively ignores the slow bleeding of our existing health care programs and spins the lies of the HMOs and insurance magnates and we (at least a solid percentage of us) believe the bullshit. As an example, we saw nearly 24-hour coverage of self-righteous assholes claiming to try and save the (non)life of Florida vegetable Terry Schiavo but heard virtually nothing about these same politicians attempting to shred funding to Medicare at the same time.
We are being conditioned to believe the party-line, as written and distributed by the wealthiest corporations on the planet Earth, that there is no health care crisis in America, that those who are uninsured “choose” to be that way, that private insurance is a superior method than universal healthcare, that healthcare costs so much because of frivolous lawsuits and malpractice claims, and that universal healthcare is a bad, expensive, socialist idea that would doom us to higher taxes, more bureaucracy and screw up the “finest health care system in the world.”
FACT: Approximately 85 million Americans were forced to go without any health care coverage sometime between 2003 and 2004.
FACT: Health Insurance Companies are making unbelievable amounts of dough. In 2004 alone the Big Four HMO’s reported $100 Billion in revenues. That’s $273 million a day, every day. According to the Fortune 500 listings, these companies increased their profits 33% in 2005 and an additional 46% by 2006.
The simplicity of it has been oft repeated – the United States is the wealthiest country on the planet and yet finds a host of nonsense reasons to deny millions of its citizens adequate healthcare options. The richest country in the world is ranked 37th out of 191 countries in terms of the quality of its healthcare system.
We can somehow justify billions of dollars of tax cuts in tandem with finding billions of dollars to fight wars but cannot find adequate funding for the free and universal health care of every single one of our citizens?
Americans are not stupid. Polls indicate that most Americans understand that healthcare in this country is in a major crisis and needs massive overhauling. Politicians (bought and paid for by the $300 million in campaign contributions, to members of both parties, by the health care corporations) only give lip service to the problems and spin corporate written horseshit the rest of the time.
NEXT UP: Part Two – No One Chooses to Be Without Healthcare