There was an interesting opinion piece in today's New York Times
that pulled quotes from various recent news blogs discussing the debate over President Obama's health care plan. Recently many senators and representatives have held "town hall" style meetings with constituents, presumably to at least give the impression that constituent interests and desires were going to shape the upcoming health care bill. Of course these meetings could also serve to just give the impression that the congressperson was "in touch" with their constituents, as many people probably won't actually pay attention to how their representative votes anyway.
I haven't followed the nuts & bolts of the debate, but I think overall I am in favor of government-managed heathcare: get control of costs on both ends of the economic spectrum, the supply-side and demand-side (I started making a list of which types of procedures/etc fit into which side, but gave up in confusion!) Regardless, I think that our country can do a lot better than the system as it is now. I have an example that I hope will help elucidate where I'm coming from. One of the great successes of government control over an industry - that sets the USA apart from many other countries in the world - is the government's running of primary & secondary education. Everyone is given the same basic service, and if the elites want to pay for a (supposedly!?) better-quality service, they can. But by-and-large, public schools in the USA are an excellent use of taxpayer money, and particularly serve the poor very well. I compare this to my experience in Chile, where nearly all elementary and high-school students go to private schools. There is tremendous stratification of quality, and the poor are basically out of luck. Stratification occurs in teacher quality (more expensive schools pay better, so they tend to attract better-quality teachers), school infrastructure quality (more expensive schools have better facilities), and of course class/race (the indigenous peoples are typically the poorest and thus attend the worst-quality schools). This system basically mirrors the current US health care system: poor people get shafted all around, with inability to access (pay for) quality health care. Unfortunately the analogy breaks down because there is no "second tier" hospitals or cheaper (lower-quality) doctors... it's either pay up or don't get care at all.
As a Christian, I think it's a royal cop-out to say "well I'm all for poor people getting health insurance (i.e., access to health care), but the government shouldn't be the one to do it." Look at what "capitalism" has produced: tens of millions of uninsured, who when sick or injured basically have to go to the emergency room (crowding it for those who are truly in emergency) and hope for "free" (medicaid-paid) services. And of course they are charged outrageous prices - set by the supposedly-best free market.
Getting back to the opinion piece in the Times, the article pulled quotes from various blogs comparing the hysteria (I'm not sure that's the right word ... does what is going on now amount to hysteria? Almost certainly not...) to the public reaction to changes brought on during the civil rights movement. Basically saying that white people are leading the charge against the change, afraid of somehow losing their status quo. I'm not sure how accurate this charge is, but it is curious that nearly every one of the people who are strongly opposed to health care reform is white. Coincidence?
Finally, tonight I had a thoroughly enjoyable time with my friends Oscar and Isabel, and their 3-mo old daughter Iris. They came over about 7 pm and we enjoyed chicken and mushroom dish with mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, corn on the cob, and brownies for dessert. Mmmm! They were patient with me in my limited spanish and humored me by answering all my myriad of questions about their lives - both now and back in Guatemala (where Oscar is from) and Mexico (where Isabel is from). It was an excellent evening indeed!