Saturday, January 16, 2010

Irrational Fear

I have a new Smile Politely column up: Rational distrust vs. irrational fear.  It's about health care, government, and capitalism.

Yes, I generalize too much in my writing.  It's always been a problem. And by "always," I mean there has never been a time nor a piece of writing that didn't suffer from it. 

Dang. I did it again.


Robert Sievers said...


I thought your article was balanced and informative, so I will endeavor to match that in my response.

Tell me if my fears are rational or irrational, and why or why not. Because of my vision, I am able to get free glasses via a government run operation (Department of Rehabilitation Services). I went to them in mid-July, and they said "No problem, you qualify, let's get you some new glasses. We have some paperwork to get going on first.". "Ok,", said I, and complied with every request with the utmost speed. Last Thursday, I finally got my new glasses.

Now rather than going to Lens Crafters, dropping $250, and getting them "in about an hour", I decided to be a cheapskate, and get them free from your taxes. In retrospect, had I known it would have been six months, I would have chosen differently.

But here is the real question. I fear the government run health care plan will be similar to my glasses. What if it was some non-life threatening operation that I needed? Is it improper for me to not expect the same level of government service as I have already experienced? Is it irrational of me to expect more the same, or irrational of you to expect things will be different?

PG said...

Hi, Robert, I hope you enjoyed the holidays. You might be comparing apples and oranges, life-threatening problem versus new glasses, don't you think? My wife just broke her arm. Since she is a massage therapist, this will mean she will not earn money for months. She gave up her rental office. At the ER and then at the various medical facilities, we have sat through bureaucracy, paperwork, delays, endless interviews, constant repetition, down payments for surgery, and all manner of frustrations... and a really hefty price tag. That's the way the system currently works and it's really not health care at all; it's health business. I'm more than willing to take the "risk" that government-abetted health care will make life easier for people who cannot afford health care at all. I'm willing to pay the price for that. I'm one of those idiots -- unlike the uncharitable Rush Limbaugh -- who thinks taxes are a reasonable thing to expect to live with in a society. If some people cheat, well -- history has shown us that the rich cheat most of all. I don't care. Let Wall Street have their bonuses. But let's pay taxes and give health care to everyone. But I have to say that your story reminds me of the George Bernard Shaw story when he asked a woman if she'd sleep with him for a million pounds. Maybe for a million pounds, she said. For ten shillings?, he asked. Of course not, she replied, I'm not a prostitute. Well, he said, We've established that already, now we're just trying to fix your price." Only in your case, Robert, it has to do with socialism.

Dan S said...

I think it's rational to have doubts about universal health care. But, as PG pointed out, eyeglasses and life-threatening illenesses are apples and oranges. We have the exact same bureaucratic issues with our current health care system as we would with univeral health care.

The irrational part is believing that government bureaucracy is somehow worse than other kinds of bureaucracy. After all, the purpose of government bureaucracy is to ensure fairness. The purpose of business bureaucracy is to make money. And the beauty of government health care is that if you want to live your values and get your healthcare via profit-making businesses, you can still do that.

What's truly irrational about our current debate is having a public insurance option be equated with a government takeover of health care. That's just ideological blindness.

Robert Sievers said...

I never said anything about life threatening illnesses. Those cases are currently handled by the hospitals, the cost being absorbed be the rest of us.

I did mention NON life-threatening items, such as the case with PG's wife. He thinks the bureaucracy is worse with private companies. I think it will be worse with the government. Therein is the crux of our disagreement.

I also find it naïve to think that private insurance will last. It will be like private schools currently are, where anyone who doesn’t want the state run options pays double; hardly “fair”.

Fingtree said...

The hundreds of top executives that clear millions of $'s annually through the private insurance companies is SINFUL greed at it's best/worst. To then selectively deny people coverage, while they are paying for this coverage through these same greedy companies for the sake of profits is deplorable and UNPATRIOTIC. There are countless stories throughout America of the health care system ruining individuals and families lives because of an illness or surgery, cancer etc.. Many have lost their homes and everything they have worked for their whole lives. These are not the Republican labeled lazy types that are not covered because they're to lazy to work. These are hard working WHITE CHRISTIAN folks that bought into the American dream that; "if I work hard enough, I will make something of myself". Both of my parents fall into this category. They both worked for corporations that they paid into their companies health insurance coverage to for 25 plus years. Having only used the health care coverage minimal times for minor health issues for most of their tenure. Once they were diagnosed with cancer and it was determined they were not going to be able to continue to work, the insurance companies tried desperately to ensure ways to deny them coverage or to drop them completely. Facing terminal illness and being sick is enough stress one should have to deal with, to add the unnecessary and despicable transgressions of a greedy insurance company that has made a lifetime of profit off of you is much to much. By the time both of my parents had passed away, they had been diminished and down sized to peanuts. This also denied my brothers and I a piece of what my parents had worked so hard to give us unselfishly. The American system is set up to take, not to assist. American's pick and choose who they want to help. E.G. the country of Iraq. Through government funded privatized corporations and government funded military operations, we have given Trillions of dollars to assist them. I do not see that it has done anything positive for us at home. How is assisting Iraq with our government funding not socialized spending?

brownie said...

I'm afraid.

PG said...


Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.
Psalm 23:4 New International Version Bible

The LORD is my light and my salvation
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life
of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1 New International Version Bible

The LORD is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?
Psalm 118:6 New American Standard Bible

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 New Living Translation Bible

Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.
Psalm 27:3 New Living Translation Bible

brownie said...

Is that really you? I thought it was Robert until I looked at the name. Hmmm...

No longer afraid.


PG said...

Bible born and raised, forwards and backwards.

Tim said...


I have a real-world government-run health care example for you. When I lived for a year in Germany, I needed to get new glasses. I went into the store, got an exam, picked out a pair, and got my new glasses/lenses in about 2-3 days. I paid $10. All provided by my government-run health insurance.

I also was able to see a specialist (a urologist) by walking in off the street without having made any appointment or getting a referral. They scanned my card and were able to tell me immediately exactly what services my insurance covered. No forms. No claims.

PG's point seems to be appropriate here: you're willing to accept government run health care if it were efficient. This is no longer about principles, but about what benefits you best. (A common right-wing attitude.) Even by that standard, my experience with the German health care system would be a strong argument that such a system can work in your favor.

But for that to happen, you and your fellow conservatives have to lose the attitude that public=bad and private=good.

Great article, Dan.