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Knee Deep In Mud

March 6, 2020 (1,085 words)

Decorum prevents me from describing the substance restraining our gait with the colorful term of my choice.

There is only one thing more disappointing than the Super Tuesday (March 3) primary voting that has vaulted Joe Biden back into contention for the Democratic nomination.

Okay, let’s make it two things: The way Bernie Sanders continues to be ostracized as a “socialist.” And the way Democratic voters are starting to be taken in by this siren song.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, Mr. Sanders has left himself open to such lazy tar-and-feather tactics, by choosing to proudly identify as a democratic socialist. And if this broad-stroke designation ends up costing him the nomination he will have no one but himself to blame.

But that still doesn’t excuse the superficial stereotyping that passes for insightful commentary around the dial, and in prestigious print outlets such as The Wall Street Journal.

Grown men and women, presumably of sound mind and body, continue to stake out their opposition to Mr. Sanders in the most far-fetched ways.

We have our former ambassador to the U.N. announcing, “This is No Time to Go Wobbly on Capitalism.” She has seen firsthand the destructive work of socialism in many countries around the world. Ergo, we have to maintain our present version of capitalism exactly as is.

And we have the eminent economic philosopher F.A. Hayek being routinely invoked, to belabor the point that socialism is a failed model that has no place in the U.S, or any other country, for that matter.

What on earth are all these people talking about? Did I miss something? Is Bernie Sanders proposing to nationalize Google or Microsoft?

serious discussions of stark policy differences…

Of course there are stark policy differences between Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden, and between Mr. Sanders and the current occupant of the White House. We would all be served by a serious discussion of those differences.

One big difference is Sanders’ support for a single-payer healthcare system, which has been dubbed Medicare for All. When he points out that we are the only industrialized nation on earth without some form of single-payer system, there is no reasoned response offered.

When he notes Americans pay far more per capita on health care than anywhere else in the world, there is silence. Or mentions the number of personal bankruptcies that occur every year as a result of exorbitant medical bills, or reflects on the high prices we must pay for prescription medicines, there is no intelligent rebuttal.

Instead, all we get over and over is a familiar tagline, about how Americans like their present health coverage, and want to maintain a system with more choices and free-market competition.

Which prompts me to ask the same question: What are these people talking about?

When your doctor writes you a prescription for a proprietary medication, what choice do you have in getting that prescription filled?

When you are diagnosed with a growth on your kidney and become a candidate for elective surgery, how exactly does free-market competition enter the picture? Are you supposed to “shop around” with other surgeons, comparing their fees?

Even if you were to undertake such an arduous process, where would it get you? No medical professional seems interested in answering the first question on every consumer’s mind: “How much will this procedure cost me, doctor”?

wanting to keep our doctors…

Instead of a serious discussion of these realities, we get the same old song and dance: Majorities tell pollsters they would rather keep their doctors.

Which begs the obvious question: Where exactly would your doctor go if we were to convert to a single-payer system? Would he or she abandon the practice of medicine and start selling cars? Or maybe go back to school and enter the legal profession?

The people who are championing our present health care system must be very healthy themselves, with little reason to engage it. Granted my evidence is anecdotal, but everyone I know who actually needs medical attention has experienced varying degrees of frustration with how the care is meted out, and invoiced.

It’s a convoluted system that leaves many of us, medical professionals and patients alike, feeling aggrieved. There may be no easy fix, but shouldn’t we at least try?

And of course health care is not the only contentious issue in this election cycle.

Many sensible people across the political spectrum think it’s time to consider some form of carbon tax on the fossil fuel industry. But not The Wall Street Journal, which is sticking to its guns and celebrates how fracking has shrunk the carbon footprint, and provided us with new-found energy independence.

I am certainly not suggesting this topic is any easier to tackle than healthcare. But giving blanket praise to something like fracking seems a bit short-sighted to me. Those who do so must not live in a state where fracking predominates, or live near an actual fracking operation. It’s a dirty business that takes quite a toll on the locals and their immediate environment.

Is Sanders interested in “driving every fossil fuel company out of business”? That strikes me as an extreme characterization, to say the least.

isn’t the hand-writing on the wall?…

Even so, Bernie Sanders or no Bernie Sanders, isn’t the hand-writing sort of on the wall when it comes to fossil fuel? Don’t the natural resources being utilized have an expiration date? Aren’t greenhouse gases responsible for at least some climate change? Isn’t this established industry standing in the way of pursuing “greener” energy alternatives?

“Sorry, guys” is all I can say to the WSJ, if your editorial writers remain stubbornly immune to this being “a moral issue,” as Mr. Sanders and others have dubbed it.

On and on it goes. Please don’t misconstrue my point, though. There are many aspects of the “liberal agenda” which I find misguided and do not embrace. But the reflexive conservative position that refuses to acknowledge a liberal can actually have something of value to contribute in certain important areas of public policy defies reason and logic.

Right along with the WSJ, I too am in favor of our country embarking on an eight-month-long impassioned debate on the issues, as we chart a course for the future.

But I worry the “will of the people” will be unduly influenced by what amounts to a silly smear campaign, waged on the part of respected media outlets, that insist on painting the upcoming November election as “a choice between freedom and socialism.”

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
March 6, 2020

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