screw you! I got mine.

March 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Eric Cartman

The blog “Zombie”  has a go at what really drives Americans to oppose universal health care.  With a wack doctor and a few NSFW (or your appetite) photos, the author sets aside economic data or empirical evidence, brushes by the arguments of Moral Hazard or problems of free riders, and lands right in the middle of American core values as the reason for the opposition to health care reform.  What are those values? Anger and resentment.  He states:

Since it’s nearly impossible to sort out who is personally responsible for which ailments, the only logical solution is to let each person pay for their own care, because that way there’s nothing left to argue about. But if we share costs, we share blame, and that’s the origin of resentment and anger that the average American feels about socialized medicine.

My gut reaction was, this cannot be correct. Evidence supporting my gut’s reaction are the polls showing a change in American’s attitudes regarding HCR. Given the premise, I would assume that the polls would be stable across time. But stable they were not.

Soon thereafter my gut murmured a bit until I thought, “Sigh. What if he is right?”

If the author is indeed correct, we have what I affectionately refer to as the Argument from Cartman. Summed up in the title of this post, the argument is essentially that irresponsible people with bad habits, people with misfortune in their lives, people who take unhealthy risks in life, or children who assume and actualize the identity and expectations of their culture or neighborhood, should be left to suffer as they will. For us to ask for anything to be done to help these people out causes anger and resentment (or is it Ressentment? One wonders).  This is a very Cartman cum Darwinian approach to public policy.

I don’t think anger and resentment are a good foundation for a just and sustainable public policy.  I’m pretty sure I was pissed at, and resented too, Rumsfeld and Cheney and the gang over the Iraq war, but it would be silliness to then jump to the conclusion that the Defense Department should be defunded and tossed to the dustbins of history.

Leading up to his conclusion, the author makes a few points that probably deserve consideration.

I’m perfectly willing to provide subsidized health care to people who are suffering due to no fault of their own. But in those cases — which, unfortunately, constitute perhaps a majority of all cases — where the unwellness is a consequence of the patient’s own misdeeds, bad habits, or stupid choices, I feel a deep-seated resentment that the rest of us should pick up the tab to fix medical problems that never should have happened in the first place.

I’m speaking specifically of medical problems caused by:

• Obesity
• Cigarette smoking
• Alcohol abuse
• Reckless behavior
• Criminal activity
• Unprotected promiscuous sex
• Use of illicit drugs
• Cultural traditions
• Bad diets

The author deserves props for embracing subsidized healthcare in those instances where injury, disease or death happen as a result of something other than poor choices and bad behavior.  (He later admits separating the wheat from the chaff would prove too difficult, so screw’em.)

Elsewhere, the author seems to strongly identify with the good doctor Sunderhaus and thinks that blame and shame are good motivators for promoting positive behavior change.  Research doesn’t bear this out.   And does the author believe we actually live in a society without sufficient blame and shame?

What we have in America, near as I can tell, is a land of very independent folks. Some of us like to see America as exceptional. Well, we are a land populated by people with some of the highest rates of violence, incarceration, poverty, divorce, of alcohol and/or drug use, of high infant mortality; we are a land of fatties, of uneducated and under-educated youth and of carbon-emitting, natural resource sucking, porn consuming, debt-havin, depressed folks. We incarcerate more of our own than any other country in the world, and boy do we love us some shootin and killin overseas. (references to each of the above facts can be found either here or here.)

Exceptional indeed.

Health care problems are merely one symptom of a problem with the U.S. A. But it isn’t a symptom or a problem because there is not enough asshole, culturally encapsulated, kook doctors in this world.  In fact, that explanation isn’t even close.   And I do think that each of us do bear some responsibility for the mess that is America.

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