Letter to the Future. V - Salud.

31 March 2010


To Future,

We have reached, or we are approaching, one of those fulcrums in time. Early last week President Obama signed into law the most significant piece of social legislation since the 1960's; health care reform has, in writing, come to America. I'm afraid, however, that that may not be the fulcrum. In my mind, for the supposed summit of the developed world to allow some 15% of its population to live day to day vulnerable to economic ruin at the onset of serious illness or the misfortune of a catastophic event is unconscienable .
Ringing in the streets are cries of "socialist" and worse; armed with incoherent anecdotes about fascism and vague references to peculiar interpretations of the constitution, the indignant masses lift their engorged images of self and promise to remove the tools of Washington - no matter the party - in the November elections. If we choose to exclude considerations of decent equity altogether from our decision making, then at least we can put on hats of self interest and see this: for every pressure we allow upon the impoversiehd we contribute a little more to an incalculable burden on society.

Poverty as an entity unto itself - particularly the species of poverty created and perfected by competitive markets - sews failure. This means and doesn't mean a few important things. It doesn't mean poor people are failures or have failed. It doesn't mean wealthy people are successes or have suceeded. This type of linear spectrum most certainly is a manufactured illusion. But poverty - and more specifically, ravinous gaps in wealth - is the garden ground for desperation, for violence, for inescapable dependence and a miserable void where education should reside. These are the walls of the womb in which a troubled people often grow. To have security is to to have control. To have control is to keep desperation at arms length and the makings for peace of mind, for productive life. But no security exists where a person owns not a single fiscal defense against the vagaries of disease. If we keep healthcare inaccessbily expensive we keep the poor sick. If we keep the poor sick we keep them poor too. Our nation cannot progress and be in the business of keeping poor Americans poor.

Healthcare, in my my world, is one of the most precarious cards to hold in our country's hand. It's also one of the most important. Its one of these things we simply have to get right because getting it wrong costs our country nothing less than its wellbeing. So it would make sense to me if we looked at it and said, "let's do what we have to do to get it right, we'll cut corners elsewhere." Fortunately, that wasn't necessary; this legislation saves money over ten years and introduces the insurance industry to 40 million customers whose acquaintance it had not yet had the pleasure of making. I for one smiled wide when I saw the congressional chamber erupt as the final count, 219 to the yeas against the nays' 210, ticked in, in that ancient C-SPAN fashion. 

But I don't know if, by a margin of 9 votes, this will be the fight of the decade, let alone the century. The legislation is monumental, please don't misinterpret me. But its common sense. What happens when the real heavyweights take to the plate? The insurance lobby is small potatoes when Big Oil is sitting at the table and climate change, unlike cancer, might still just be leftist propaganda. No, Future, the fulcrum I'm anticipating is not health care reform, not something here yet at all; its something yet to have arrived, some contention with enough bite that it will actually hurt somebody's pocket. As for the nature of the fulcrum, we have to wait and see. One more thing, Future: its said that the most popular party in America is the Tea Party. If that's the case, I'm telling you Future, this fulcrum could be a doosey. Erik in the past.

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