Recently, some acquaintances and friends of mine were holding a salon-style debate across the comment space of FaceBook regarding the merits of the recent universal healthcare proposals initiated by the current president. One friend resides in Canada and currently enjoys the fruits of his taxpayor healthcare services. Another debater resides in a western state renowned for conservative politics, but no so wacky as the one in which I reside. The other friend who posted the initial article which sparked the debate has some knee-jerking liberal leanings and is usually a pretty savvy fellow, but was surprisingly silent for most of the back-and-forth. Excerpted below is mostly my portion of the drama as it unfolded; although I’ve wisely edited here for additional reference information and content readability.
The benefits of budgeting every year is to prioritize what we (the collective) believe in. If Medicare continues to be funded at it’s current rate, it will go broke. The debate on healthcare is an effort to determine what most Americans are willing to pay for (what we believe in). Do I want a military-style form of healthcare coverage like some people I know have experienced? Hell no! But I do want everyone to be able to see a doctor in this country. You are damn right that I do! In the world today, if we want to claim some worldwide leadership status then we have to address the needs of the disenfranchised US citizens. We have to address the fact that the gap between rich and poor is widening everyday). I can afford adequate healthcare, but even my costs are soaring to ridiculous heights because the market-driven economy dictates that I can afford it. However, if healthcare costs are a struggle for me – I KNOW it is impossible for many people I know who do not have the resources I have.
A reference was made to an Econ 101 theory regarding the marriage of profit with healthcare. I had to agree that I personally view the interrelation between profit-motive and healthcare as a morally bankrupt ideology. Over the last 30 years – during the majority of lives for those in the debate – the idea that governments are responsible for services to its people has gone by the wayside. That being said, there was an obvious shift in the election this last year and how far the pendulum swings is what I think frightens most people who have little or no exposure to that “lemon problem” (the aforementioned economics theory as it is oft-called). For reference:
the “The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism” discusses information asymmetry, which occurs when the seller knows more about a product than the buyer. The idea is put forth by dissecting the market for used cars as an example of the problem of quality uncertainty. There are good used cars and defective used cars (“lemons”), but because of asymmetric information about the car (the seller knows much more about the problems of the car than the buyer), the buyer of a car does not know beforehand whether it is a good car or a lemon. So the buyer’s best guess for a given car is that the car is of average quality; accordingly, he/she will be willing to pay for it only the price of a car of known average quality. This means that the owner of a good used car will be unable to get a high enough price to make selling that car worthwhile. Therefore, owners of good cars will not place their cars on the used car market. This is sometimes summarized as “the bad driving out the good” in the market. “Lemon market” effects have also been noted in other markets, such as used computers and the online dating “market”. Important here are the parallels in the insurance market, where, unless a mandate for insurance is in place, it is those most likely to need insurance compensation (i.e., those most likely to get in accidents) who tend most to buy insurance, eliminating the advantage of diffusing risk that insurance is supposed to provide (adverse selection).
I have a long view of history and political struggles so I see this in bigger socio-economic terms. However, moms on the playground don’t have my perspective and worry about immediate concerns like substandard education – in the main because the schools our children attend are in a state often ranked 50/50. These moms also mainline anxiety thinking about how their children might have a decent life. The same state is listed as the 5th highest in home foreclosures and the highest in the nation commercial foreclossures. Most families are being supported by the underemployed workers who also hold the distinction in the state of being in one of the largest block of employees to do so. And then when these parents contemplate that the deficit is growing at a rate similiar to that of rich/poor gap in the U.S. – most people are damn scared.
So I wondered, how do we explain why universal healthcare is a possible help?
The problem I find is convincing those constituents in my area who are not educated and do not understand the benefits you are talking about. I am a case in point: I am a lonely, schlumpy housewife who is still yet considered a fearsome persona in my community. The anxiety exerted on my behalf is noexaggeration or even a joke. It has even had some bitter consequences – because the people around here are genuinely afraid of an educated strong-minded female person. The source of fear is in our owning a personal library that I can quote from when asked. Our family hardly worries about a robbery in our home because the view from the street is not a television or computer. It is rows and rows of books. Books that we read – as our walking neighbors have liked to take note of when they pass. So for me to suggest that education and shared resources (such as healthcare) would be a benefit to all is not acceptable. I’m generallizing here, but many people in my community don’t understand why the Mexicans located a mere150 miles from my door don’t adhere to U.S. border laws. It’s beyond comprehension that just because the U.S. government put a “line” on a map – that a person could not continue to visit their families across that line and into our neighborhoods. Adding to the economic incentives that have fostered illegal line crossings over the years since the U.S.-Mexico border was established, and therein lies the cultural confusion. And this is just one example of the misunderstanding most people have about the strength of government. The kinda folks that want enough police-government to enforce bordline ideology, are often the same who do not want government to intercede when children are uneducated or adults are underemployed. This establishes a big fuzzy knowledge problem for most people. The lines of logic begin to fail when one’s perception about where the approximate source of support lies. Worse, the fuzziness abounds when lacking education and intellectualism is relegated to the socially distinct few like myself who are an anathema to the everyday villagers who were all too happy making quick bucks before the bust of 2009.
For some of these same people, democratic government programs blur into socialism that is a shady grey which merges into communism all too easily. You know as well as I do that fearmongering about those other kinds of governments has been going on for most of the 20th century. Even the present state of U.S. politicking continues to be warped around anti-communist rhetoric. While I do not think that the U.S. could – or should – model government on those principles, many of our elders have fought and died to prevent its spread. Imagine an ideology that is an abomination to you infecting your children and grandchildren. That seems to be the thread of old people yelling down senators out there at the ‘town hall meetings’ on healthcare. And that fear is very real because we are making changes – big changes that looks a lot like regression to a person who is missing big chunks of world history from their repertoires. The issue for us is how to help make sense of what we believe is important enough to pay for with people who can’t understand why we care, why they should care and why it won’t hurt them but in fact may help all of us.