Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
New England, USA
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.


AUGUST 3, 2011 4:18AM

A Real Show of Humanity

Rate: 20 Flag

As they voted to approve the debt ceiling hike, the almost bigger news seemed to be the return of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) to the House to participate in the historic vote after being shot in the head in January.

If you watch the video, you see that everyone on the House floor seemed ecstatic. Nancy Pelosi framed it as a story of personal courage. It was very touching to watch—a real “Kumbaya” moment.

It just goes to show that it's easy to care about someone with a familiar face. Too bad that doesn't describe the vast majority of citizens because, while it was a story of courage, it was also a story of health care. Surviving a major trauma to the brain requires very good health care. And fortunately, members of Congress have top notch health insurance. It's all just part of the package one gets for being a public servant.

And so what amazing irony that this little bit of human drama should unfold at just the moment when the Republican party was celebrating a political victory in its quest to drastically cut or eliminate government-funded safety nets.

And now that the debt limit is out of the way, the Congress can return to important business, like stripping goverment employees of collective bargaining rights, as was done in Wisconsin. Getting rid of those pesky unions is important so they can't make “unreasonable” demands, like asking for things like safe working conditions, health care, and retirement—things government employees should have no right to expect.

Unless they're members of Congress.

If you got value from this post, please "rate" it.

For Further Reading
Health Insurance: A Modest Proposal (Sep, 2009)

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Bless Gabrielle Gifford.
She returns to the House.
The majority if the Senate?
They're demented as O.S. ads.
They walk into the street nude?
See them get lobbied by greedy.
The demented House & Senate?
The ill-ilk wobble about drunk.
Why leave House with a scar?
Ay bless sanity. Healthy folks.
Yesterday was masquerades.
Capital Hill are stark naked.
Demented. Why wear scarf?
They're all pea same in pod.
I still pray for heathy folks.
We people need more help.
We'd best become frugal.
It is so totally infuriating that congress has for itself what it denies the citizens who pay them. Well,sorry, citizens only contribute a salary (and the health care), while the *real* money comes from your American cockamamie legalized bribery thing. Why the **greatest nation on earth** doesn't demand and get what two-bit countries like Norway (what?--six million people or something?) get, or us, your neighbours to the north....I simply don't get it. Or, rather, I do get it - great health care with no monetary catastrophe attached to it.
True! Congress members have an excellent health care plan... paid fully or in part by the citizens of the USA.

Interested to know who else has the best health care they can get paid, in this case, paid fully by the US tax payers? Members of the armed forces:

Without health care, the U.S. will lose the perpetual war

If the single-payer system is good enough for our military, it should be good enough for everbody else, right? As discussed in the link above:

* By providing medical insurance, the soldiers are more likely to be in better health when they are called for duty. Basically, the United States armed forces want to ensure that their soldiers are in the best possible health even when they are not in combat situations.

* By providing medical insurance to the soldiers' immediate family, the soldiers who are on tours of duty here and abroad have one less worry about the health and well-being of their loved ones, and can therefore devote that much more energy towards the objective.
It was heartening to see Giffords' return. But a pity it was for such a dismal measure.
Art, you're right, what few masks remained are coming quickly off.

Myriad, I often write "(TM)" after phrases like greatest nation on earth. We long ago stopped investing in that notion and seem now only to invest in the defense of the brand.

Kanuk, you must be in error. By definition. The armed forces have socialized health care. Need I say more? That can't be the best.... can it?

Abrawang, it certainly was a weird bittersweet thing.
Kent, you are right on target in pointing out the double standard at work in D.C. these days! Remembering how the hours right after the shooting of Rep. Giffords unfolded and at one point news came out that she had died, it then became a story of how excellent healthcare made the difference for her. When I think of Michael Moore's film "Sicko" I recall that the film was about those who HAD health insurance, but they entered nightmarish situations for a variety of reasons anyway. Clearly the safety net in the way of healthcare that brought Gabrielle Giffords back from the precipice could pay for a very expensive time at the hospital and rehabilitation medical center. Many in the same situation could find that their insurance only covered X number of days and a host of other limitations and in the end declaring bankruptcy might be in the cards for them.
Half of those applauding her, were responsible in part for her getting shot in the first place. Can you spell HYPOCRITES!
designanator, your remark reminded me of something I think I can get a whole post out of. It has to do with the complex dynamic of what happens in that bankrupting process. It's way more complex than meets the eye.
Kenny, that's surely true. It wasn't really my focus for this article but it's good of you to mention it for completeness. And, of course, Congress is motivated to keep its own from being shot. So the interesting question there is whether they solve this problem by adjusting gun regulations generally or by narrowly addressing the issue of security against or penalty for shooting Congressfolk. I suspect we'll see more of the latter than the former, which will underscore your point about hypocrisy, though in fact I think we've seen very little action so far.
A better ending for such a contentiousness vote could not have been written.

As I sit here running a fever and just got back from being refused for a doctor visit. I had not enough money to pay.

If I am supposed to insert cheering here Kent, it ain't in me right now.
Infuriating, Inhuman, Insensitive, Incompetent, Inadequate, Insolent, Inculpate, Ingrown, Insidious, Intolerable, Insincere, Insistent, Inculcating, Inexplicable, Inferior, Indolent, Inane, Insane
and all I want to do is see anyone who voted for this lose his/her incumbency.
rated with love
Good job putting that in perspective, Kent. [R]
No offense to Gabriele, I wish her the best in her recovery; however they have used this dramatic return to provide an enormous amount of emotional appeal without discussing the issues. they never miss an opportunity to find a way to avoid addressing the most important issues.

If I was higher profile someone would surely accuse me of disrespecting Gabrielle, which isn't my intention; quite the contrary I think the way they have handled the issue is disrespectful to Gabrielle and many other victims. They didn't spend any time addressing the causes of this violence and how it escalates instead they used it to conduct more demagoguery which means that more violent acts will inevitably occur because they passed up another opportunity to address important issues. The most important right any victim should have is not to be a victim in the first place and by passing up the opportunity to learn they ensure that future victims will continue to lose that right unnecessarily.

This psychological prevention of violence is of course on top of the health care issue that you mentioned which is also important.
Kent…you wrote: Kanuk, you must be in error. By definition. The armed forces have socialized health care. Need I say more? That can't be the best.... can it?

(Admittedly, I am discussing this comment out of context, but it provides a decent platform for something that should be said, so please excuse the diversion.)

For someone who has NO health care…health care that is “not the best”…can be a life saver. Health care that “is not the best” can be pretty damn good.

Fifteen years ago I had cancer…and no health insurance at all. But I was a vet…and I went to the VA for treatment. I really disliked the atmosphere; the doctors; the nurses; the chemotherepy; the radiation treatments; the coming back and forth every day for months; the lack of professionalism in much of the staff; the “wait your turn” attitude; and damn near everything else about the experience.

But that was fifteen years ago…and I am still on the side of the grass where golf is played. The health care I got did the job.

Maybe what we need is a bit of socialized health care (read that, not the best) for the people who JUST DO NOT HAVE ANY AT ALL! Let the fortunate people who have bucks get the premium care…the premium doctors…the premium specialists. But let the people who have none…get something…and get something without a bunch of bullshit.

Of course, they do get “something”…even if it means “The Emergency Room”…which is the least cost effective way of getting help. But wouldn’t it be a decent incremental step to get “something” rather than nothing…and then try to improve it.

Yeah, the health care in the armed forces and the VA ARE socialized health care…and “YES”, it isn’t the best…but it is something. And sometimes, “something” makes all the difference.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled program.
How is it we see this, but they do not. They do, but ignore it and move in their own direction of slash, burn and conquer. I am glad Gabrielle is still alive, doing apparently well, but I understand the problem with the difference in her health care and the rest of us all too well. Good post.
Frank, I favor socialized health care and probably should not have relied on sarcasm. The heavy use of italic was supposed to cue you. I don't think health care should be for-profit at all, period. Maybe particular well-defined non-discretionary services like blood tests could be for-profit since they can be commoditized and the lowest price one can be as good as any other as long as certain standards of care are met. But not the care itself. Among other things, the phrase used in the economics world seems to be the ugly and cumbersome price elasticity of demand, which health care does not have any of, which means it doesn't respond to market pressures and someone selling it can double the price and people will simply be forced to pay. Any business that is like that is not operating on the free market already.
Mission, I'm sorry you're not feeling well and very sorry about the pathetic state of our health care system. That simple preventative care should be beyond reach is maddening.

Poetess—me, too, since I think they'd have had to fall back on the simple proposal or 14.4, either of which would have been better. But the stock market is down in part because the market is realizing that not doing any taxing and only cutting spending is going to fuel more recession. Great.

libby, thanks. :)
Kent…never really thought you were on the other side of where I was on this issue. I was just using an opportunity to give an anecdotal heads-up to socialized health care services. I did a hijacking of your thread to make a speech of sorts…not necessarily to you, but to your readers.

I do think there can be some free market dynamics in the healthcare “industry.” The very rich can afford the very best doctors (the most expensive doctors regardless of actual abilities)…and the very best doctors can take the chance that their superior skills may make them a free-market commodity that can prosper. I have no problem with doctors refusing to be part of a (more near to a) socialized health care endeavor. But my bet is many doctors would engage…and “training and internships” can be incorporated into the overall scheme to insure plenty of doctors and facilities are available for a more general, less free market, health care system.

In any case, your explanation of why the health care industry should not be exclusively a function of the free marketplace was excellent…and I thank you for it.

Don’t think there is a chance in hell of convincing enough of the American public of the logic, sense, and efficacy of this approach, but nice to know there are people who see the reality.
Two things I've said elsewhere:

1. The horrible thing about this "compromise" is not the $385B in defense spending cuts, the exemption of Social Security, Medicare, or Pell from further cuts or even the Super-Congress (although that smells to high heaven). No the really horrible thing is what we can expect with further deep cuts to all the other varieties of government spending that society depends on to keep it from being a sixth rate, Third World country. And we can certainly expect more hostage-taking from the GOP against Obama in the near future.

2. James Carville went on the radio today, and said that Obama should have structured things differently from the beginning. He should have invoked 14.4. And if this bad deal went down, this is what he should have said, "Fine. The Republicans control the entire economic process for the next 17 months. And because of this, they should be held 100% responsible for all of the 'prosperity' that's going to follow from this deal."
Easy for Carville to say, ONL.

But if Obama did anything remotely like that, the roar from both the right and the left would have been deafening. Deservedly so, in my opinion.

In any case, I think "the people" will rightly judge the Republicans to be the villians in this deal...and will turn the White House and both chambers of congress over to them anyway.

We'll see.
Zachery, I agree. Talking about this is a risk that someone will think I'm saying something bad about her or taking advantage. But I'm not intending to. It's necessary, though, to occasionally highlight these divisions. Because the ones not powerful or high profile enough to get public audience are no less important. And we need to understand that there is such a discrepancy.

Jane, to answer your question is complicated. One can discuss the cost, but that cost hides other benefits that also have dollar values. For example, we could talk about reducing costs by not buying antibiotics. But people would die and that would have cost, more than there would be for the antibiotics. The Social Security problem is sort of like that, only bigger. There are some legitimate issues of efficiency and fraud in there, but they're too complex to reduce to an issue of big/small. The matter ought not be reduced to simple slogans and sound bites.

Sheila, it's easy to take for granted things you don't have to think about. I think some of us see it more clearly because we cannot avoid seeing it. We've had to scrape for money at certain times, to worry we're not covered at other times, etc. There's also an unfortunate but understandable desire to believe that if one succeeds in getting a job with proper care, it's because one worked hard for it—which often people did. The problem with the theory, though, is that there are many who work hard for such things and don't get them, so it's hard for the people who do get them to understand that the hard work isn't relevant to whether you get covered, only luck is.

Frank, whether the rich should get better care is an ethically complicated thing that I don't want to either agree with or disagree with here. It has benefits and costs. It's a potential slippery slope to a two-tiered system. And it creates a system in which people in one class feel an entitlement to better. A possible alternate theory, for example, is to say that if rich people want better care, they should invest in the system as a whole being better. Yeah, that would dilute their effort, but it would help a lot of people. So I don't know. I do understand that primitive urge to want to work extra hard to have an effect on one's future, and yet in the case of health care it isn't the same as saying that the people who want an iPod badly enough can work harder or sacrifice more. And then there are further complexities about the issue of whether there are people in the nation who should get better care, not because they deserve it but because we as a nation need them. We'd like to believe all people were equal, and yet saving one life could sometimes save many more than saving another. That's just a truth, not a value statement. The value statement comes when you decide if that's reason enough to save one person over another, or who would decide. In Dr. Strangelove, the politicians see themselves as obviously important to save lest there be mineshafts without someone to administer them, showing that this can obviously be carried to the absurd. I'm not going to suggest an answer here, only questions.

Lefty, some find observations as usual. Yep. Maybe Obama could still sort of do that thing in #2, but it would have to be worded just right, and at this point he's partly complicit. He could pull it off if he had to, but at this point to do it might involve acknowledging that he personally has failed and (for example) won't run, thus avoiding any claim he was saying it for self-serving reasons. But he can't just make it a casual statement at this point.