Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Questions of a Thousand Years

Everyone is discussing the merits and shortcomings of the latest economic stimulus package and me, well, color me ambivalent. The predictable voices from the right (Socialism! Socialism! Socialism!) and left (not one dime for thieving corporate fat cats!) obscure the bill's true impact. What many are calling pork-barrel pet projects are in fact reform measures which fund previously unfunded mandates or patch holes in established programs. Waste also exists, this is true, but it appears to me that at least on Capitol Hill you can't have good without some degree of graft. Regrettably, some will use their billions in relief funds to put a down payment on a new Lear jet, but I'm not sure how any of us can stop that.

Nevertheless, the stimulus bill passed last September made a major impact in my life. It established parity between Medicaid and Medicare. As a Medicaid recipient (read: too poor for decent health insurance), I had to jump through countless hoops just to get my prescriptions filled. I also had to deal with the indignity of being denied dental care, thus having to pay out of pocket even to get my teeth cleaned. I was furthermore denied coverage to visit a psychologist. Medicaid is a federally mandated, but state run program, meaning that poorer states routinely have to cut corners to avoid draining the budget. It also means that while the government insists there be Medicaid in each of the fifty states, each state also makes up its own convoluted rules.

This disparity creates such absurdities which state that dental care and therapy are only available for those under the age of twenty-one. The lesson in this, I suppose, is that children and teens can have adequate dental care and stable emotional health, but that adults cannot. This is one more argument for why we need single-payer universal (and yes, socialized) health care. I know how much conservatives keep the Tenth Amendment close to their hearts, but I have to tell you that state's rights are only as effective as the states themselves. All powers not delegated to the Federal Government are the domain of the states, but what if the states themselves can't run their own affairs effectively? Then what? The reality is that the states with stronger economies and endless resources have much more to offer their poorer residents. The states without the benefit of wealth suffer mightily. I favor a more centralized government to protect citizens from the kind of yahoo provincialism which so often keeps the less fortunate abused by base incompetence the likes of which is rooted in ignorance.

As for me, thanks to the September stimulus package, I can return to therapy and not have to pay for basic dentistry out of pocket. If this be socialism, I'm not sure there's any way we can escape it. Marx famously predicted that Communism's arrival was a fait accompli, but that no one could truly foresee the precise moment of its arrival. To me that's always seemed reflective of the biblical passage which states that the arrival of the Messiah will occur eventually, but that no living person knows the date or time. None of us truly knows where we're headed but I'm glad that something is being done, rather than nothing at all.


alarob said...

"State's rights are only as effective as the states themselves." I love that: it applies to more than just the provision of services, but to the protection of freedom as well. It's worth remembering that the South has about as much experience with democracy as, say, Indonesia.

The cartoon you found is a laff riot for its crudity: socialism is equated with robbery. The rebuttal, no less crude, would be to portray capitalism as showing one man holding both the money and the gun.

Your linking of Marx with apocalyptic prophecy seems fitting. The weak point in his thought is his prophetic fantasy, which really does look like a desacralized version of the Book of Revelation.

Karlo said...

In the end, we can't be too mystified by economic mumbo-jumbo of any sort. The fact is that the U.S. (and the world) generates a tremendous amount of wealth and it should be possible to get one's teeth clean and be be seen by a doctor without having to mortgage one's children's futures for the next 50 years. I applaud Obama's moves up to this point, for the most part. Let's spend on things that matter. I now wish he'd raise taxes since the tax system is actually progressive. What we really need is a tax system that falls squarely on the shoulders of the extremely wealthy.

Batocchio said...

Good personal examples. Plus, health care for all helps the public good in many ways. On some college campuses, medical personnel pitched that the the young and healthy should still get flu shots: "Do it for the herd." I generally wouldn't like that metaphor, but in that context, I thought it was great.

Utah Savage said...

This is a great post. I'm definitely the choir here.

Mauigirl said...

This was very well said and I couldn't agree more. I have never understood why "socialism" is such anathema to Republicans. Why is it they have such a mean-spirited approach to anything that helps the less fortunate?