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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Of Bootstraps: McCain on Health Care

John McCain is talking about health care today, and I take issue with what he purports his position to be.

On the trail, John McCain has trotted out the old GOP saw about how people should make choices and government should not, pulling any relevance away from Obama or Clinton's health care plans and making it sound like the nasty, evil government will make you fill out a thirty page form in triplicate if you want to take an aspirin.

Sen. John McCain on Monday rejected a "big government" takeover of the health care system, saying he wants to empower families to make more medical decisions.

"I've made it very clear that what I want is for families to make decisions about their health care, not government, and that's the fundamental difference between myself and Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton," McCain told reporters in Miami, Florida, referring to the two remaining Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

"They want the government to make the decisions, I want the families to make decisions," he said.

I would respectfully remind the distinguished gentleman from Arizona that right now, American families don't make the decisions. Many families cannot afford health care — they cannot simply decide to afford it. And for those families that can actually afford health insurance, the health insurance companies make all the decisions.

An industry that has run rampant and more or less been allowed to do whatever it pleases forces health care decisions on to families. When a government provides something better (or more affordable, or more accessible, or even more fair) than a corporation will, Republicans call it socialism. When a corporate industry rules your life with an iron fist from atop an ever-ballooning slush fund with no oversight whatsoever, Republicans call that responsible government and a good, competitive market.

What John McCain is presenting is no surprise, and it is no different than what Republicans have been clamoring for all these years, and — prepare for a shock — it is the status quo.

"We have always trusted in ourselves to meet any challenge that required only our ingenuity and industry to surmount," the Arizona Republican said. "Any solution that robs us of that essential sense of ourselves is a cure far worse than the affliction it is meant to treat."

Painted in these tones, McCain makes increased access to health care sound like conscription in the Emperor's Army. What he's arguing in favor of is an America where your life is belittled, you can't afford to see a doctor when you're sick, and by the way, you can't call in sick to your low-paying job because American corporations don't have to run some gravy train where sick people don't have to work. What he's arguing for is the current health care system we have, one that subjugates the good of the American people for the good of the health insurance companies.

In the speech, McCain pays lip service to the high cost of health care in this country without actually addressing any methods of how to fix that in an unregulated industry and a runaway market. He says these things because he has to. I have no doubt Republicans would like it if health care companies found a way to keep costs down, but that's really more so people would complain less. I am almost willing to bet that if you asked Generic Republican Candidate if he thought health insurance companies should focus less on profits and more on providing access to medical care, the answers would span from hollering about preserving the free market to some nonsense about how they support the right of health insurance companies to have the choice to make health care more affordable, rather than allowing that dirty dirty socialized medicine to rear its ugly head.

"It is hard to pull yourself up by the bootstraps," my grandfather once said, "when you can't afford boots." The empty rhetoric from McCain assumes that ingenuity and industry, a real can-do spirit, can overcome cancer that isn't detected early enough because your health insurance didn't cover a referral for the lab work; that hard work can overcome two generations of Americans who are raised in an environment where you don't go to the doctor unless you break your leg or are bleeding from the eyes; that wanting wellness care is tantamount to being on the dole.

If they were honest, that would be one thing. If McCain said, "Listen, my friends, I believe that corporations should be given every advantage, and I would much rather safeguard insane profit margins for American businesses than actually go to battle for your health, quality of life, and safety," then we could at least take him at his word. When you say that you're defending America's families by rejecting increased access to health care, you're lying.

There are few things about public policy and governing that get me as riled up as commentary coloring what should be a basic process in the most advanced civilization in the world as some sort of creeping Red Plague. That is what you have here, and soon the GOP will run out of voters that haven't been personally affected by the rising health care crisis in the United States. Then maybe their discussions on the subject will reflect reality.

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