Friday, November 6, 2009

Corporate King George And Government Paul Revere

The Bangor Daily News obviously isn't going to publish my latest Oped submission, so I might as well post it here.


Healthcare: Government or Corporation

A vocal faction in the healthcare debate has targeted the dangers of a muscular government, brandishing placards that stoke fear of tyranny and extol freedom. Tinged with a warning of King George’s vise grip on the Colonies, these pleas insinuate a revolutionary heritage. The current craze of political tea parties revels in this assumed link.

But it is no longer 1776. There are new bullies on the block besides imperious kings, ones that didn’t exist in the heyday of monarchy. They are called corporations. And our choice in healthcare management is not between government or freedom. It is, importantly, a choice between accountable public offices, or secretive financial giants pursing their own megalomaniac interests.

Freedom for big corporations, of course, is very different from freedom for the people to seek fair and inexpensive treatment. No longer is medical care a simple deal between a family and their desired practitioner. Insurance companies, once small players, have become juggernauts locked in combat with doctors and hospitals, which have massed together into their own conglomerates. The individual citizen stands next to this battle of behemoths like a powerless ant, shoved by economic necessity and bewildered by mazes of duplicitous paperwork and bureaucratese.

This is just one of many reasons why America should go with a forceful G for government over a bloated C for corporation. When standards such as lifespan and child mortality relegate our wheezy nation to a dismally low rank in comparison to other developed countries; when the corporate sector is selfishly bogged in struggles to reap profit at the expense of dignity, health, and kindness, it is time for the true revolutionary spirit, embedded in the canons of liberty, to take charge.

Not only must we side with policing over profiteering, it must be done decisively to invoke an ethical metamorphosis. As we flounder in this Great Recession, it is more obvious than usual that unfettered corporations are akin to callous money machines. They co-opt or kill competitors, prioritize numbers and spur the market into gluttonous binges.

As many a child’s parable relates, such voracity entails disaster and the immiseration of the populace. Given the ridiculous avarice of today’s business impulse, not only its indictable excesses but also its daily meanness and hunger, the choice for a strong government becomes a straight-up denunciation of fiscal incontinence, and an embrace of human dignity.

Cash obsession leads insurance companies to deplorable acts, obstructing or denying treatment that could save lives of adults and children. It is why they refuse or drop policies of hard-working folks, who are coldly labeled as bad gambles. With a frightening tendency worthy of Gattacca, the list of physical traits earning someone the status of inferior keeps growing. In several states, being beaten by your spouse is considered a pre-existing condition, a blatant money grab that constitutes a sexist and absurd leap.

To emphasize, we have the following choice before us: either C-powers that exist for money and by money, or G-powers that exist for the people and by the people. It is often argued that the government is more corrupt; but elected officials are subject to centuries of legal precedent in Constitutional law, with all the transparency that entails. G-officials have relatively modest salaries, unlike executives who can ride a golden parachute into filthy rich retirement. Ask yourself this question: If you had a chance to jump ship and lounge in a wonderful mansion in the Bahamas, would you focus on the well-being of your fellow citizens, or even the company you worked for?

When defending G over C, legislators often overlook a crucial argument, perhaps because it calls for stricter examination of their own conduct: Corporations and their political pals are always trying to undermine Washington oversight. As a result, private sector corruption tends to infect public realms. But this isn’t a problem endemic to government; it is, rather, another reason to curb and contain the inevitable manifestations of greed.

Indeed, the basic problem is, prosaically, that vines of greed are strangling our wish to be decent to each other, to be humble and fair. These vines have insidiously wormed and coiled for far too long. The most effective way to prune them is to make our ideals happen—make them law. This has been done before with crucial rights concerning emancipation, suffrage and equality, and it is time to do so with the right to good healthcare. Cut through the parasitic vines with the sword of justice, one that can only be wielded by the elected leadership of a democracy.

As we flounder in stress, terrorized by health bills—how entire life savings are swallowed in a single emergency, how critical drugs cost disgusting sums, how premiums twist tighter around our purses like thumbscrews—it becomes imperative that we chose a strong G over an obese C.

1 comment:

  1. glad to see this op-ed for all to read - good timing.