Healthcare: Over-simplification, Misrepresentation, Elasticity, and Pathos

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There is a particular comic out there on the interwebz about the proposed healthcare plan. I have not been able to find it again, but the basic premise of the cartoon is that there is a discrepancy in logic between Republicans, who want to spend money on a war in Iraq when compared to Democrats, who wish to spend federal money on healthcare. I believe the tagline has something to do with “Republicans spend X trillion killing people in other countries, but complain when Democrats wish to spend X trillion trying to save lives at home.”

Were I to meet this cartoonist, I would have a few things to say to him/her. I understand that the point of a political cartoon is to make an exaggerated point, but I see statements like that far too often touted as fact to be comfortable with it showing up in a cartoon. Kids see those things!

From an economic conservative’s point of view, there are a few things that need to be said. Firstly, spending money in epic amounts on war is not a strictly conservative phenomenon. Does Obama still approve the spending of and spend money in Iraq and Afghanistan to kill people? Bet your ass he does. Clinton also spent bokous of money on his efforts abroad. How many Cold War presidents were liberal? I can think of at least one, John F. Kennedy, and I am sure that if someone did the math (to account for inflation), his spending in the Cold War would rival Bush’s spending on the Iraq war. So as far as I’m concerned, Liberals can get their righteous heads out of their asses as far as the healthcare issue goes. Also, if you think about it, you could also phrase it as “the difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans want to spend X trillion dollars on defense, while Democrats want to spend X trillion dollars on defense and X trillion dollars on healthcare.”

Keep in mind that I in no way support the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, but doesn’t it seem that if this is the best argument that liberals have, then they’re in a bit of trouble? Perhaps this is why they have to resort to such low, pathos-based attacks: because they don’t have a really good argument to support what they want.

I am not saying that there is no coherent, logical set of reasonings behind the motivation to get national healthcare. I am simply saying that I have not yet seen it. I have seen appeal to emotion, numerous logical fallacies, and much politicking, but no real logic, reason, or facts. However, the conservatives in America do have a lot to back up what they are trying to do, and very little of it has to do with hating on poor people, war-mongering, or being fat, wealthy capitalists.

1. There is no constitutional provision that says the United States government can give healthcare to its citizens. Yes, the constitution still matters. Or, at least it’s supposed to. If you think back to the days when you studied the constitution, and your teacher hopefully told you about the powers enumerated in the constitution, those are the powers that the government legally can have and no other. The tenth amendment in the Bill of Rights says that powers not enumerated in the Constitution to the national government go directly to the states. So, under that understanding, the states could provide health insurance for their citizens, and some states do provide that. However, I think Congress would seek to justify their health care bill under the infamous The Elastic Clause , otherwise known as the Necessary and Proper Clause, which basically says that the national government can do whatever it wants to, so long as it is necessary and proper. I think many conservatives, myself included, would consider national healthcare to be an abuse of that clause.

2. It is a misconception that conservatives think that our healthcare system is fine the way it is. Many liberals will state this, then throw out the stat that 68 million people are uninsured in America and chide the callous conservative once again for being ignorant of the facts. The Truth? Hardly all fiscal conservatives think that our current system is flawless, or even a good one. The difference between conservatives and liberals is what we think causes the problem. Ron Paul, a Senator from Texas, presidential candidate, and my personal hero, has an excellent point about the phenomenon that he thinks is making health care as bad as it is today: corporatism. You can watch a video of his views on the matter here. And for those of you playing the home game, remember: Dr. Paul was a medical doctor, practicing for a number of years. I think he would know a little something about healthcare.

3. Republicans are often misrepresented as thinking that all healthcare systems result in long lines, people turned away, etc. There are definitely some poor souls who think this, but any reasonably intelligent person can look at Canada and Europe and see that this isn’t necessarily true. This is exactly the point that the liberal makes. However, this understanding of the conservative’s point is somewhat misrepresented. The argument I have most often heard, and have made myself is that the American bureaucracy cannot withstand a healthcare change. Think about the last time you went to the DMV, and that is probably the rough equivalent of what a publicly-run healthcare system would be, at least eventually. Though this is probably not the best argument that a conservative has, I think it’s a good concern, and one that liberals should not just cast aside. Surely, if there’s a danger of our healthcare system slipping into major disrepair because of lack of worker motivation, being underpaid and under qualified, they would want to address such a concern instead of blowing it off, right?

The point of all of this is this: no issue, especially one as entrenched in economics, social welfare, socio-economic class, etc., is going to be as simple as either side is making it out to be. Most likely, if you see an article in a newspaper or watch a news story on any issue, especially healthcare, one side is misrepresented. This causes a problem, because the more we ignore each other, the longer it takes to find a solution that fits everyone — if it’s even possible. When people who have important things to say ignore each other, then everyone ends up worse off.

But then, I think we already knew that.