Richard A. Posner's Ethical Lapses
Big Mommy Is Watching You!

Pete Stark's Town Hall Meeting in Fremont

Yet another report from chunkyreesewitherspoonlookalike@gmail.com:

We got there almost a half hour early, and there were already hundreds of people in line. The unions were there with a table and leaflets - and there were quite a few Tax Crusaders....

Those of us standing outside began to debate the issues. Jack and I were surrounded by about 10 people. They were all well to do suburbanites - and very opposed to the program being pushed by Obama and the Democrats. They were not part of any organized group - and they all admitted that the present system has problems. But they were a clear expression of what we are up against.

They were very well informed - knew a lot more about the specifics of the proposals in Congress than Jack and I did. They made all the points one would expect - too expensive, don't want the government controlling our lives, government is incompetent, etc. But when really pushed, their main concern seemed to be that under a universal health care system, the quality of health care will be reduced to the lowest common denominator.... I argued the obvious - that government does not replace private health care provision in the legislation being proposed - but they argued that the Public Option, because it would be cheaper - cheaper because it would be run on a non-profit basis - would attract the great bulk of people, and that a private, high quality health care system would not survive... and they might end up having the same care as the rest of us. No tears come to my eyes.

Sitting around and arguing with these folks was very instructive. Every time I would point to the success of other countries in solving this problem, they would come back with 'why are you so negative about our country?' All the nationalist 'love America - we're special' stuff was used to argue that we can't learn from any other nation's experience.

By the end of the debate, I found two arguments that seemed to throw them off track. I finally said, hey! all you can talk about is what's wrong with government and great about the private sector. What just happened in America? Big Business just brought this country to its knees - greed, corruption and lack of regulation. AIG and the insurance companies were in the thick of all that. I don't want Big Insurance companies controlling my medical care and siphoning out billions of dollars in 'bonuses.' If they can't compete with a Public Option, so be it. Maybe health care is like roads, fire, police and other public services - it doesn't work under private sector control.

The other argument they had trouble with was this - These reforms aren't just about you and other well off people. 47 million Americans don't have coverage - and a hundred million others are being crushed by the costs. Doesn't anybody give a damn about what's happening to working people in this country? Something has to be done - what do you propose?

My conclusion. We can only win a fight to reform the health care system if it's carried on in the context of a critique of Big Business and if it focuses on the concerns of working Americans. I am not against addressing some of the concerns of the wealthier - if it doesn't lead to compromises that make the reforms less attractive to working people. The well off in America are satisfied with the current system. After yesterday, I believe this is more of a class issue than I had thought. And it's only going to be won if working people can be organized to support it.

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