It seems my next-door neighbor got an email from President Obama. That would make me only one degree of separation from greatness. I found out about it because I was babysitting his kids while he was busy organizing "a project." When he picked up the boys afterward, I learned that I had been an accessory to a candlelight vigil to take place the next day on the town square in front of Penny's Flowers. This gathering, Dan informed me, would not be like those ignorant, rude, obnoxious town hall meetings that the lying, hayseed, anti-universal health insurance types were having.
As long as I was in it this deep, I decided to walk down to the town meeting the following evening. There was my neighbor, up on a soapbox among the chrysanthemums and about 150 people, who, as predicted, were upstaging the raw and visceral anti-Obama types with their moral high ground tea candles. I arrived too late for a candle.
Pre-selected locals took turns telling stories about people they knew who had come to the ER and, because they had no insurance, had been denied a routine blood test that would have detected high white blood cell counts indicating the presence of infection, which would have precluded their untimely death from a burst appendix hours later. I agreed that there is really a problem here that needs fixing, and that this is no morally simplistic matter.
Suddenly someone in the crowd shouted, "Do we trust our government?" I couldn't tell if it was a pro or anti-Obama person. But the people, with one voice, shouted, "Yes!" That was the oddest note of the night, I think. Wasn't it only yesterday when the signature chant against overturning Roe v. Wade was "Keep government out of our bedrooms!" Now, it seems, the more government in our lives the better---in the bedroom, in the bathroom medicine cabinet, in your end-of-life decisions, in your tax returns if you don't play ball.
A few brave souls on the periphery of the crowd were holding pro-life signs. I noticed that the local news station filming interviews of a rally participant was studiously avoiding these countervailing winds. At that point I spotted good old' Patrick S., a local stalwart pro-life foot soldier whom I have seen over the years at many a March for Life. I made my way close to him and we got chatting. The last time our paths had crossed was when Barack Obama was just a twinkle in Harold Washington's eye, so I was curious to know his views on Obama-style healthcare reform.
Patrick mentioned wistfully the days when healthcare was a simple transaction, and he could go in for a checkup and pay $25 and leave. He said the HMOs had come between doctors and patients, to the detriment of both. I asked him why the doctors went for it then. He said, "They got a couple bucks per patient. They thought that out of, say, 5,000, 4,000 wouldn't show up." But the use of insurance skyrocketed, because when third parties pay, people will go to the doctors for trivial things. The rally was breaking up, so Patrick gave me homework and left: Read Thomas Sowell, senior fellow of the Brookings Institution at Stanford University:
Like so many things that the government does, third-party health insurance grew out of problems created by previous government policies. During World War II, the government imposed wage and price controls. This meant that employers who wanted to hire more workers were forbidden to offer higher wages to attract them. So employers started offering various benefits instead. One of these benefits was employer-paid health insurance.
Since these benefits were not taxed as income, and could be treated as a business expense by the employer, everybody seemed to be better off. But long after the war was over and wage and price controls were gone, the idea that third parties ought to pay for health insurance continued on. Eventually the government itself got into the business of providing health insurance and now some politicians depict it as a scandal that not everyone has health insurance paid for by third-parties. . . .
And the faceless protester's question, "Do we trust our government?" still rings in my ears.
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