Monday, September 7, 2009

Elementary Arithmetic

Here's another example of the Teabaggers' tendency to inflate their numbers and significance. (I use Teabaggers generically here, for the hard-core Republican shock troops who've been getting so much media encouragement, whether by complaining that other, richer people's taxes have been raised incrementally or by ranting about Socialism and Nazism at town hall meetings.) Avedon at The Sideshow links to a blogger who's enjoyed the benefits of our great American health care system, and to her posting of the faux-sympathetic e-mail she got from a libertarian blogger known as "Con Pat."

The libertarian tells her that she should just do a fundraiser to get the money for her medical bills. He cites the case of a local child whose parents, having "lost the malpractice lawsuit and have no insurance", hold annual fundraisers to pay for their child's annual surgery and other costs. "They generate over $100k a year in donations." The story sounds suspiciously apocryphal, as several of the blogger's commenters note, but what caught my eye was the climax of Con Pat's advice:
Her bills get paid for WITHOUT using the government to threaten force against 300 million strangers.
Evidently Con Pat thinks that all taxation is government violence; well, a lot of libertarians do. I can't help wondering why they continue to live in a country that keeps its figurative boot on their necks all the time, and its figurative hand in their pockets stealing their money. Probably, to be cynical but not unrealistic, because they enjoy the many benefits of living in what they consider a Socialist/Communist society. And I doubt that if health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and tax breaks for charity hospitals were abolished, most people would be able to pay for their medical care by begging strangers for money. (One reason why those government programs so hated by the Right were instituted in the first place was that private charity didn't cover all the people who needed help.)

But notice Con Pat's number there, "300 million strangers." Forget for the moment that a goodly number of that 300 million are children. The important thing is that most Americans want Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other such programs, and they want the government to extend those benefits to more people, even going as far as a single-payer health insurance program for everyone who needs health insurance, or a government-run health service that would serve everybody. Not only that: they are willing to pay the taxes that would support such programs. They don't see those taxes as a gun held to their heads by Uncle Sam, but as an obligation they're ready to take on to make a society that is livable for everyone.

Now, it's also true that many other Americans disagree. Con Pat is one. They don't want government health insurance or a national health service, and it's not good enough in their eyes that they wouldn't need to use such services if they existed: they don't want to pay the taxes that would support them for others to use. They're a minority, but they're a considerable minority. The status of minority views and wishes is not a trivial one in a supposedly democratic society, though these people rarely worry about such things when they are not in a minority themselves.

The thing is, though, that Con Pat and his cohorts are ignoring the fact that they are a minority, and they're hoping everyone else will ignore it too. They are not 300 million strong; they aren't even all working Americans of voting age. Most Americans don't view the idea of a government-run health insurance program as the threat of force to themselves. Nor is this a recent blip in the Zeitgeist, the result of mass hypnosis by our Socialist Svengali of a President. (Who, again, was elected by a majority of the voters, along with the Democratic majority in the Congress and many other Democratic politicians around the country.) It's something that most Americans have wanted for a long time, despite a determined propaganda campaign against Socialized Medicine by many forces in this country. Those who oppose it most vociferously now, the Con Pats and the Ms. TeaParty who grilled Al Franken, are a dishonest minority who do not speak for the 300 million. They should be challenged every time they pretend that they do.

(Image credit.)