A Nation of Idiots

"Nobody went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."
                                                               ---H.L. Mencken

The above quote has weighed on my mind as of late. It seems more relevant now than ever. Especially when applied to this dispute they are having in the Supreme Court over the Individual Mandate, so-called, of President Obama's health care act. What amazes me about this controversy is how we Americans are willing to vote against our own self-interest in the name of rigid ideology. Why would anyone be against something that in the long run is beneficial to them? And the only conclusion I come to is that we, essentially, are a nation of idiots.

How else to explain this uproar? Let's view this mandate thing logically. First of all, this was originally a conservative, Republican idea! It came about during the Clinton Administration when it first proposed national health care. The Republicans, as a counter-measure to the Clinton plan, created this idea of an individual mandate that required individuals to purchase health insurance rather than have a national single payer plan or public option (government run health program). That way the insurance companies would get loads of more individuals to sign up, and they could continue their insurance racket. A great plus for them. The ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation led the fight to approve the plan. Newt Gingrich was for it. Mitt Romney was for it (and implemented it in Massachusetts). Now, almost every Republican is against. A prime example of this hypocrisy would be Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who in 1994 sponsored the individual mandate. Now he is vociferously against this "intrusion into freedom." And the reason is "why?" Simple: a Democratic president, and a black man, no less, now backs it.

Let's view this mandate thing on its merits. It would require Americans to purchase health insurance; and, if not, they would incur a penalty. The reasoning for this is thus: for any national health plan to work  it would need to cover as many people as possible otherwise it wouldn't be profitable or practicable for the insurance companies. Without a penalty most young healthy people, who figure they don't need insurance, would not participate. And since we're stuck with the racket of the insurers they would be left with the sick, elderly and infirmed to cover---which would kill the insurance companies. So, how to cover the 50 million uninsured persons in the U.S.? Those who could not buy or afford insurance would be eligible for some sort of government subsidy.

There is also the responsibility question. Right now, anyone who goes to the emergency room gets treated, whether they have health insurance or not. If you don't have any insurance, then we the taxpayers end up paying for it through our premiums. The question is: is it right for us to pay for someone who doesn't have or doesn't want health insurance? I'm sure if the emergency rooms started turning away those individuals without health insurance we would think differently about the plan. It's estimated than without the individual mandate our premiums might get jacked up to $1,000.

But what gets me about this whole thing is that there are people who want the entire Obama plan repealed. That means doing away with the pre-existing option. Because of Obama's health care plan, companies can no longer turn down a person  for insurance due to a pre-existing condition. This was one of the most flagrant insults imposed by the insurers. If you suffered from a critical illness like cancer or emphysema, the insurers could turn you down because it would be too expensive for them and not profitable enough. Does anyone in  his right mind want to do away with this provision? I'd like to see what  a die-hard tea partyer would say if he/she or a family member had such a pre-existing condition? Or the other part of the plan whereby a family can insure a child under the plan for up to age 26. This enables the younger folks, most of whom can't afford health care, to have some form of insurance. Again, who in their right mind would want to do away with this?

The main argument against the Individual Mandate is that it will incur state debt, which a lot of states cannot afford at the moment. But more, it will force people to buy something they don't want as mandated by the federal government. To them this is unconstitutional, a violation of their "rights." Yeah, their right to deny 50 million of our fellow citizens a measure of health care---something which is a right in every other developed nation except the good ole U.S. of A. For the record, I don't like this Individual Mandate. As noted, the only ones who profit from it is the insurance companies. Yet, it's the only compromise that would allow any kind of health care at all to pass muster at this time. I would much prefer a single payer plan of a public option. Barring that, this is the only thing that President Obama could get through a recalcitrant congress. When he campaigned as Senator Obama his plan did not include the mandate. He included it in his health program because, honestly, that's the only way the plan would be palatable to most conservatives in Congress.

The latest opinion poles state that up to two-thirds of Americans are against the plan---even though it will afford everyone some measure of health care. Again, I go back to my basic premise: a nation of idiots.

(Note: cartoon courtesy of Coghillustration)
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