I am a proud American.
I mean, technically I'm not - since I'm not an American and don't have citizenship yet - but when it comes to my attitude to life, the American mentality fits me like a glove.
Take unemployment, for example. Uncle Sam owes me months of plump unemployment cheques and I'm not interested in accepting a single one of them.
I want to work. I've had that attitude ever since I first entered the job pool. In my life, I've spent precisely two weeks on 'the dole' and soon traded my $40 a week of unemployment payments for $38 a week spent tending bar in the roughest club in Cornwall.
I'd rather work than not, even if I don't get any extra money for it.
In America, the system ostensibly rewards you for that attitude. I have the option of claiming months of unemployment cheques, but instead I made a couple of phone calls and founds myself a job two weeks after getting fired earning just a little bit more.
In the land of opportunity, there's always a dollar to be earned if you're willing to get out and shovel for it (or, in my case, write a shitload of marketing copy.)
But this is where the 'American dream' loses its luster and you suddenly see the advantage of the so-called 'socialist' European system.
In Europe, thanks to universal health care coverage, you could happily leap into temporary work assignments and support yourself and your family well into the indefinite future.
In America? Not so much...
Because while I can earn the same dollar amount working a temporary writing assignment, such gigs don't cover health insurance. Instead, I'm forced to rely on the federal system, COBRA, or try and find such 'benefits' privately. They are, for want of a better term, extortionate.
COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, gives workers up to twelve months of their former health insurance after being laid off. However, they have to pay the entire whack, rather than what their employer previously covered. For me, that turns a $120 monthly payment into an $800 one.
Likewise, the cheapest health insurance package available for my family in New Jersey was $650 a month and covered the bare minimum, with huge out-of-pocket percentages.
It's not until you're 'out there' trying to find health care coverage for yourself and your family that you realize quite how broken the American system is.
What I find so frustrating is that the right wing and the idiot 'tea partiers' are arguing that there's nothing wrong with the current health care system - but that's because they're blinkered dolts who all have health care provided for them by their mundane day jobs. Throw them into the same situation as I'm in right now and hopefully they'd realize that the health insurance companies of America are bleeding them dry in a shameless act of extortion.
But, sadly, few of these idiots are presented with reality very often and that's why they keep peddling their poorly informed right-wing rubbish.
These idiots are supposed to be all about what makes America great - which is independence and opportunity. Instead, they're backing a system that perpetuates a generation of health care slavery - with people forced to work underpaid, under-appreciated jobs merely for the benefits they offer.
I propose something truly radical - a country in which affordable health care was available for all, regardless of whether or not it was bought through your employer. I'd quite happily never take a full time job again - and earn a lot more money and generate a heck of a lot more income for the economy doing so - if I knew I could guarantee health coverage for my family independently.
Unfortunately, that's fantasy. While the left wing talk about 'government sponsored' health care, the right wing are perpetuating a system that's nearly as tyrannical - one in which corporations possess the same monopoly that the 'tea partiers' are worried the government might one day have.
Ultimately, they're as dogmatic as the most left-wing Democrats and I'm left realizing that the true spirit of American independence - individualism, personal responsibility and opportunity - is something far beyond their comprehension.