Sunday, January 06, 2008

How reactionaries play games with the English language

One of my pet peeves is the way political reactionaries and the religious right play games with the English language. Terms like "values voters," "pro-life," "pro-family," and "socialized medicine" take on significance as ideological code words. They become major political issues as Republican candidates--particularly those on the extreme right-- compete for support from the party's so-called "base" that twice saddled the nation with George W. Bush. In the process, genuine meanings are lost or badly distorted.

Take "socialized medicine," for example. As I understand what "socialized medicine" really is-- as actually practiced in some foreign countries--doctors are employed directly by the government and citizens cannot choose a doctor or hospital for their medical care.

None of the medical insurance plans proposed by the Democratic Presidential candidates contain such provisions. As I've studied their proposals, the plans would essentially extend the current Medicare system, which now limits coverage to the aged and the disabled, to any citizen willing to pay for the insurance.

Since I became eligible for Medicare in 1989, I have always selected my own doctors and hospitals and have never been forced by the government to seek treatment from a specific physician. For me and millions of other senior citizens, Medicare has been a blessing.

As a World War II veteran, I have on rare occasions used the services of the Veterans Administration. I have received hearing aids, which were available free to qualified veterans. I also occasionally buy prescription drugs from the VA at relatively low cost.

Some critics might describe the VA medical system as "socialized medicine." But it covers only those veterans who want to use it. Some veterans may complain about by the quality and availability of VA services. I am unaware, however, of any ideological complaints about socialized medicine, particularly from veterans too young to qualify for Medicare.

The opposition to extending Medicare coverage to all citizens, as proposed by the Democrats, comes largely from some elements of the medical establishment and from insurance and pharmaceutical industries concerned about the potential impact on profits. Allied with them are social reactionaries who want to reduce the role of government in American private lives

These zealots, labeling themselves "pro-family" and "pro-life," are hypocrites. (Have you ever known anyone who is "anti-family" or "anti-life"?) Indirectly, the zealots are proposing greater government interference in private lives. They want to restrict both a woman's control over her own body and to limit the rights of homosexuals on matters dealing with taxes, health care, inheritance, and related legal issues. They also contradict their opposition to government interference in private lives by their efforts to promote religious faith as part of the political dialog.

Interestingly, the anti-abortionists appear more concerned with an unborn fetus than with the welfare of born children. I am confident that the vast majority of the Congressmen who supported President Bush's veto of legislation to provide health insurance for children from low-income families also identify themselves as "pro-life" proponents.

Religious and social reactionaries want to ban gay marriage on the grounds that it endangers the sanctity of marriage. My wife and I have been married for nearly 55 years, and we have never felt that our relationship is threatened because gays and lesbians want the same legal and financial privileges that we enjoy. In all candor, I do regard formal same-sex marriage ceremonies as strange events and believe that the rights that homosexuals seek can be provided through more straightforward civil unions. I am enough of a libertarian, however, to recognize that I have no right to object to what they want to do.

I am insulted that so many political pundits describe the so-called pro-lifers and pro-family crusaders as "moral values" voters because of their obsession with what they regard as the sacredness of marriage and the sanctity of life. The implication is that the rest of us are unconcerned with moral issues. But our moral values are linked to the belief that Americans should enjoy personal freedom that does not interfere with the rights of others.

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8 Comments:

Blogger lilalia said...

I am not sure which countries you are referring to when you say, "-doctors are employed directly by the government and citizens cannot choose a doctor or hospital for their medical care", but this is not socialized medicine as practiced by any European country. Doctors in these countries are employed by the hospitals, or have their own private practices. As a patient, you certainly do have the choice of whom you want to be treated by and where you can go for diagnostic, surgical, and therapeutic procedures. Socialized medicine, in these countries, means that everyone is qualified to receive medical care and the quality or quantity of the care is not restricted to the amount paid by the individual.

Monday, January 07, 2008 5:44:00 AM  
Blogger Hoots said...

Outstanding!
Hope you don't mind if I steal the whole post verbatim and publish it on my blog. This needs a backup in cyberspace.

Monday, January 07, 2008 7:47:00 AM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

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The truth will set them free…

Monday, January 07, 2008 8:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

Closer to home in Canada, there is no restriction either on who to see or where to go for treatment.

Monday, January 07, 2008 3:34:00 PM  
Blogger Mortart said...

Thanks for the corrections about the provisions of "socialized medicine" in Canada and Europe. I evidently went overboard in trying to debunk reactionary fears about liberal proposals to extend Medicare benefits in the U.S.

Monday, January 07, 2008 3:40:00 PM  
Blogger Chancy said...

Mort
My husband Sam and I are both on Medicare and we have received excellent care from physicians of our choice. I agree with you that Medicare works well and should not be tampered with.
The "new" prescription drug plan does not live up to the excellent standard of the original Medicare plan. If you remember, Congress, under the leadership of Bush Republicans, caved in to the pharmaceutical lobbyists and restricted Medicare's ability to bargain with the drug companies for lower prices. We get stuck in the donut hole each year.

Janet
aka Chancy

Be well

Wednesday, January 09, 2008 7:36:00 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

The pro-life section does seem to content itself with the unborn fetus exclusively. The actual pregnant women seem to be merely vessels. Have you ever seen a pregnant woman in the US have so much as a single glass of wine in public without censure from everybody from the people at the next table down to the waiter. (oooh, sorry I'll shut up on that topic)

With the current bid for nomination going into "three ring" mode, I find the best way to get to what the candidates are actually saying on issues is to check on the candidate's website. The network news and other shows that cover politics are all but worthless on this front.

Friday, January 11, 2008 6:00:00 PM  
Blogger masdevallia said...

I have been preparing to rant about the medical system here as well. I was incensed when Hillary and Obama were playing verbal tennis about the requirements that they would burden the American people with to ensure that everyone has medical insurance.

I was living without health insurance for years because I didn't feel that I could afford it. I changed my mind when I read a story in Foreign Policy magazine about the leading cause of poverty in the world today - medical crises not covered by insurance. They told the stories of people from across the globe who had been middle class or even wealthy by their own country's standards. When one person from the family had an accident or fell ill it jeopardized the welfare of the entire family unit because everyone was burdened with the high cost of medical attention needed for their loved one. The effect was devastating.

I have been self insured for approximately 18 months. In this time my premiums have increased 72%. I went in (after four months of not using my insurance at all) to meet my doctor and get a checkup so that they would have a baseline of stat's in my file should I fall ill. After my evaluation, I took a test offered by my insurance company to evaluate my "long life potential." I ranked in the 91st percentile. Their recommendations for things I could do to extend my life were almost inane, like wear a hat whenever walking outdoors to limit exposure to the sun. (I already wear sunscreen on a daily basis.)

Less than one month later, six months after starting my coverage (not at year end when they raised it again) I got a letter that my rates were increasing the following month.

Kaiser's solution for me to have less expensive insurance is to opt for less coverage. I don't have the top plan. I don't have emergency only coverage. I have a good middle-of-the-road plan where I pay $25 when I see a physician and $15 for medicine (as long as it is on their approved list.)

When I got married I called my insurance to ask how much my husband and I will save by going on a family plan. The answer? $24 A YEAR.

I am baffled by the fact that health care is a for profit business. Clearly that needs to change.

Thank you for airing your concerns about this system. If I could put one question in front of these candidates, it would be, "What are you going to do to reform the medical system, including outrageous health insurance premiums and the high cost of prescription drugs?"

I would really appreciate a president that understands what a 72% increase in premiums means to a middle class family.

How are we supposed to buy a house? How are we supposed to save for retirement? How are we supposed to save money for our children's education?

I'm praying (I use the word loosely) for a miracle.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008 3:48:00 AM  

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