Friday, August 08, 2008

In Defence of Barry Obama #2

America's talk radio is dominated by the conservatives - and when they're attacking Barack Obama (which is pretty much all the time) they love to throw words around like 'socialist' and 'Marxist.'

As a Brit, I find the whole idea of labelling Obama a socialist to be laughable. These poor Republicans have no concept of what a real socialist is.

Back when I was a boy (before Tony Blair made the Labour Party all cute and fluffy) there was a real socialist movement in the UK. The sort of thing that would have driven the likes of talk radio presenters Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Mike Reagan running for cover.

Fear Comrade Obama

Part of the right wing campaign of mischaracterization stems from the conservative's desire to frighten voters.

Although 'the Red Menace' disappeared when the Cold War did, America still remembers the days of the McCarthy witchhunts and the fear that your next door neighbour could be a 'red.'

Socialism and Marxism are dirty words (whereas in England, they just make you think of angry young students trying to flog you copies of The Socialist Worker.)

There are two pieces of ammunition the right wing use to label Obama as a socialist. One of them is his call for 'Universal Health Care.'

The Spectre of the NHS

To the conservatives, the idea of 'Universal Health Care' is interpreted as some kind of nationalized health program akin to the National Health Service we have in the UK. The only problem is that Barack Obama isn't advocating anything of the sort.

'Universal Health Care' does not mean government run health care. It simply means 'health care for all.' And that's the crux of his health care policy. Obama wants to make affordable health care available for everybody, with guaranteed eligibility for those with 'pre-existing conditions.'

In addition to giving the 'uncoverable' access to medical treatment, he also wants to reduce the overall cost of health care by an average of $2,500 per family. He intends to do this by cutting the costs of actual medical treatment and reducing drug costs by eliminating patents pharmaceutical companies have.

I'm not in agreement with Obama's ideas. The idea of eliminating patents has the disadvantage of removing any incentive pharmaceutical companies have for developing new drugs, so like many of Obama's policies, it's blissfully naive. I think John McCain's health care strategy is more realistic and practical.

However, nothing Obama proposes could be interpreted as 'socialised' health care - even the government sponsored health coverage for children and those with pre-existing conditions.

What the conservatives attack as 'nationalised' government health care for the uninsured is nothing of the sort. In fact, Barack Obama isn't advocating anything that doesn't already exist.

Despite all the propaganda, America does offer free medical treatment to millions of uninsured people every single year - hospitals are forbidden by law from turning away the sick or injured. Because hospitals have to absorb the costs of treating these uninsured people, treatment costs go up and, as a result, so do insurance costs. We pay for it in our high premiums.

By actually organising and regulating health care for the people who fall through the cracks of the current medical system, Obama will hopefully save hospitals millions of dollars and those economies will be passed on to us, the consumer. Sure, we still have to pay for giving these people health care - but I'd rather pay less through taxation than more through health insurance premiums.

Misrepresented

Barack Obama is a lot of unlikeable things - misguided and idealistic in some respects (the other 'socialist' strategy the right wing attack him for, taxing the oil companies and redistributing that money to the tax payer, is certainly some kind of off-colour social engineering program.)

But he's not a socialist - no matter how much the right wing try to convince us he is.

1 comment:

Expatmum said...

The state of health care in this country (US) makes me weep. As my husband owns a company, we get to pay 100% of our health insurance. For us and three kids, we pay over $15,000 per year, and that's with a $5000 deductible,. Last year, because of a few broken bones, we actually hit the deductible and started to get something back for our contributions, but this year we won't come near it.
Our local childrens' hospital ER is filled with kids with snotty noses, who shouldn't be in an ER at all. Consequently, the cost of anything my kids receive in terms of treatment, is about five times what it really should be.