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In the recent health care debate, many Democrats were driven by their belief that some version of "health care reform," regardless of "content," was necessary for political survival.
Fox News was driven by its belief that carefully spinning coverage toward a conservative audience would boost its ratings. MSNBC did the same in the opposite direction, just as successfully as Fox. Many Republicans are still trying to make health care Obama's political "waterloo", by using exaggerated phrases like "government takeover of health care" and "death panels." None of this was fair and balanced, except maybe CNN at times.
But apart from all the selfish agendas, what are the deeper issues? I think it comes down to a very real cultural disagreement that has always existed among Americans. It's the tension between "rugged American individualism" and "the common good."
How much should individuals sacrifice for the common good? And how much should the common good risk so that a few individuals might take us all to a better place? More specifically, should those who have the best health care be willing to sacrifice some of it so those with none or little can reach a minimum standard?
For more than 200 years, we've managed to avoid unhealthy extremes and make progress, although a few middle-aged white men had to make some sacrifices along the way regarding the rights of children, women, the elderly and African-Americans. Obviously, there was a need for government to force this at times.
Medicare, Social Security, the Post Office and the military are not perfect, but do we really want to go backward and become totally dependent on United Health Care, JP Morgan, UPS and Blackwater?
A private takeover of health care scares me just as much as a government takeover. Capitalism, which focuses on the individual, and socialism, which focuses on the group, are both bad when left standing alone. America has always managed to take the good from both.
We can blame our problems on the government or Wall Street, but the problem is not there. The problem is greedy and dishonest individuals who manage to exploit both using fear and confusion. Rather than playing to our fears, there should be more honest debate around the philosophical and historical questions noted above.
The greatest threat today is from selfish politicians and media broadcasters using high-powered marketing strategies to exploit our differences for their own selfish gain, rather than acknowledging some truth on both sides and working together.
For example, the health care bill could have been better if individual Republicans would have cooperated more rather than simply focusing on defeating the Democrats. Likewise, far too many individual Democrats and Republicans sold out to special interest groups to benefit their own political careers.
I do admire a couple of Democrats who voted for reform, knowing they would probably lose their next election in November. Am I my brother's keeper or is it ultimately "every man for himself?"