Opinion: ‘We the Corporation’ or ‘We the People’ … ???
Nothing like the dog days of summer (and a couple of cracked ribs) to stir one into stitching some ideas together about the state of our fledgling Obama presidency, the mood of the country, and some policy points.
First off, the cracked ribs.
Lesson learned: never turn your back on your lawn mower as you are pulling it out of some thick weeds you are chopping through. You might miss the fact that you have just dropped the blade into the dirt where some enterprising yellow jackets have set up shop, and, you know, they might not appreciate their home being mulched.
If there had been some YouTubes around, I’d probably be on top of the list of whacky sights. Needless to say, I was swarmed, ran off with hat and arms flailing helplessly–hopelessly–at the cloud of angry beasts, and promptly tripped and fell. Just like the protagonist in a ‘B’ movie does as he is chased by evil-doers, and we all groan because it is so predictable.
Except I knocked the wind out of myself as I hit the ground and broke a few ribs, and was rendered into a pincushion for hot, burning needles of pain as the yellow jackets drove their message home. But the YouTube spectacle didn’t end there.
My survival instinct pushed me to get up and I staggered–unable to breathe, mind you, making the motions like a fish out of water–another 150 feet to what I believed to be the safety of my hovel, arms a-flailing wildly at the growing entourage of opportunist and vindictive Vespula
I slammed the door shut behind me, gasped for air, and cringed at the pain in my ribs, and the dozens of burning stings, and found that I had brought another dozen vipers in with me, buzzing about, and clinging to my clothes and crawling under my shirt and pants. So I continued swatting at the flying ones as i tore my clothes off to kill the ones stinging me on my legs, arms and torso.
Yes, the YouTubes and their YouTubers would have been hugely amused at the speed with which I ripped off my clothes and killed the remaining yellow jackets. I was not.
Needless to say, I’m not allergic to bee stings, or I would have perished on the spot, and not have lived to recount this story (some of you may wish otherwise). As it was, that may have been preferable to trying to figure out what was worse: wasp stings or broken ribs. The next day the stings had subdued to burning lumps, and were healing up, but the ribs were just beginning to throb and had piercing stabs every time I moved.
I thought about going to see a doctor, but they were just broken ribs, and what would a doctor do but laugh at my story and send me on my way. Just like the time earlier this year I sprained my ankle (tripping on a pine cone no less–another vision worthy of the YouTubers). Or when I bruised my tailbone slipping on an icy curb with a big box of presents in my arm at Christmas. Yes, I have entered the middle-aged klutz time of my life.
But I have no insurance. I have been denied insurance by the major carriers in this state. The business I work for has no employee plan. So I have to pick and choose which of my injuries are worthy enough to scrape together the out-of-pocket money needed to get checked out.
Does that ache, or that pain need a trip to the doc? Is that stiffness due to middle age, or do I have something else going on? I’m great at self-diagnosis when it comes to saving money. But is that really a good long term plan for financial and personal health?
I get to play my own doctor until something serious shows up–like a blinding and disabling eye condition. Or my heartbeat starts sounding like my car did when it started running on only 5 cylinders. And then I get to beg for forgiveness–and a payment plan that will probably outlive me–for being “one of those” who need health care, but aren’t rich enough to pay for it out of my savings, or 401k, or HSA, or some other middle class luxury that I don’t understand or have any access to.
Or I get to limp along, hoping that tomorrow brings a better day. Maybe that spark plug will start firing again for a while until I can afford to get the old clunker in for a tuneup.
So what does all of this have to do with “We the Corporation?” As others have retreated to their end-of-summer vacations, I sit and think about how the health care battle has descended to a simple theme: those who advocate a pubic option in providing health care vs. those who are as adamant in their opposition to a government run plan. We the People vs. We the Corporation.
And of course, our politicians are caught in the middle, trying to figure out which way the breeze is blowing the strongest–all the while igniting brush fires for their supporters to fan, and the media to exaggerate, all just to gauge the smoke drift.
The politicians on the other hand, are caught not only between constituents fighting ideologic policy battles, they are caught between deep-pocketed corporations and lobbyists, and the federal government–both of which can perform the same basic function: collect premiums (or taxes) and pay health care expenses. Except one can do it for cheaper and better than the other. Which one? There’s your battle.
Corporatists say that with a mandate, they can do it. Progressives say corporations have tried and failed–which is why we have Medicare and Medicaid. And that the public plans have succeeded, failing only where the corporatists have inserted their interests into the system–like with the Medicare reforms of 2003.
I have been abused by the private insurance. I have been denied coverage for preexisting conditions. I collect more preexistings everytime I do stupid things like mow up yellow jackets, trip on pine cones, or fall on the ice.
But if I don’t go to the doctor, then it never becomes part of my “permanent record” and I don’t have to mention it the next time I apply for insurance (if I ever get the opportunity to). I pray that the 5-year “statute of limitations” that I seem to come across for the various proscribed conditions to which I qualify passes before I have to subject myself to medical care for them again.
So I have, let’s simply say, a bad attitude towards the insurance industry, and zero determination to see them thrive at the public trough. Much like abused spouses feel towards their ex. When I had insurance, many moons ago, I was still abused by a system that was more invested in finding a loophole or some fine print to keep me on the profit side of their equation. And when they finally realized that I was contributing more to their medical loss column than their profit column, I was jettisoned. Rescinded.
I have had to deal with government-provided health care for my kid and my parents. Medicare and Medicaid. Care provided by “we the people.” And it worked. The bills were paid. I didn’t have to fight anybody for anything. I never left a doctors office feeling like a shmuck after groveling for a payment arrangement, or a break in the fees. I didn’t have to leave the pharmacist empty handed because I couldn’t afford to feed a pharmaceutical company’s hugely inflated profits.
In short, those who are fighting health reformers’ attempts to allow “we the people” to take care of our own have been duped into doing the work of “we the corporation.” And many legislators and pundits seem to believe that it is ok for our country to mandate that people be forced into entering into a life-long (or at least until Medicare kicks in) contract with a private corporation. Even if that industry has abused us. It is no better than for the government to tell battered spouses that they need to go back home and just suck it up.
Ever since I read Senator Baucus’ White Paper last fall, I felt a sense of dread, as he laid the framework for how the mandate for “we the corporation” would be constructed. The IRS would be turned into a health insurance overseer–doling out credits to the poor, but worthy (not to you with the tax offset, mind you), and penalizing those without the proper corporate insurance contracts.
What Baucus laid out, and where the debate seems to be heading, is health reform that attempts to cover more people by forcing them, at the threat of IRS penalties, to enter into a contract with a private corporation. And I, being a classic sort of independent Montanan–libertarian and progressive–think that is rather fascist of our politicians to do so.
Which is why I have always stated that when our government advocates a mandate without a public option–one that all of those mandated can choose from–that we are solidifying a health care system paid to, built for, and demanded by “we the corporation.” And that is a fascist health care system. It is not a free market, capitalistic and democratic system. It is coercion forced upon us by legislators paid by corporations to create a system that is of, for and by the corporation. Not one that is built by, for and of “we the people.”
PS. I’d like to thank the yellow jackets for the opportunity to spend this sunday sitting in my easy chair nursing my broken ribs and thinking about the intersection of politics, health care reform, and fascist corporate takeovers of our health security, instead of going back out to beat back the knapweed some more.