[NSFW WARNING: Graphic content. You do NOT want to see the images here, but I think maybe you should.]
I’ve been wanting to write something deep, something analytical, something based on solid policy on the subject of the Republican war on everything, especially women and the poor, and just haven’t been able to do it. Why? Simple. There’s just too damned much material. I’m only one writer. I have but so many resources. I know only but so much, don’t have the experience, and have a list of excuses longer than Ron Jeremy’s arm. Besides, there are already millions and millions of dollars being poured into generating tons and tons of perfectly rational, articulate reasons why government needs to fund little things like health care for women and the poor, why government needs to regulate everything from what may be pumped into the air we breathe to the rapacious behaviors of bankers and power brokers.
Words. Words. Words.
Don’t get me wrong. We need more of that. More of the appropriate research, more sane policy positions, more justifiable reasons, more necessary funding, more just regulation.
But how do words even begin to address this?
Let’s be really clear here. The Republican strategy for a healthier America boils down to a myopic focus on the “rights” of individuals over all else, especially the rights of cynical and incredibly wealthy and powerful individuals to keep as many of their trillions of pennies as they can while extracting trillions more of those pennies from the pockets of everybody else, including the dupes among the poor and the working class that think such sound-bite friendly policy as Guns & Jesus sum up the meaning of the American experience. In short:
The poor: fuck ’em.
Women: fuck ’em.
Children: fuck ’em.
The elderly: fuck ’em.
The ill and infirm: fuck ’em.
Brown people: fuck ’em.
Teachers: fuck ’em.
Students: fuck ’em.
Workers: fuck ’em.
The list of people to be fucked just goes on and on and on, like a corpulent pain-reliever addicted energized bunny on steroids beating a drum made from the rotting flesh of its dead victims.
I expect a certain amount of greed and evil to come from the unimaginably wealthy and powerful. We’ve been warned about that ever since humankind started recording its history. I even expect a certain amount of truly troglodytic stupidity from the credulous yokels of our backwaters. Hell, it’s hardly like America has cornered the market on either. The Romneys and Gingriches of the world keep excellent company with kings and aristocrats who love nothing more than flicking a few crowns to the bereaved when their miscarriages of social justice run down the innocent like so many tanks at Tianenmen Square. And our yokels? Everywhere, like a pestilence, from the mountains of the Middle East to the rice paddies of Asia to the triple canopy jungles of Africa and Latin America.
But seriously folks, it’s time to wise the fuck up. American society isn’t an old rusty pickup that can be mended to the last mile with a bit of balin’ wire and n*****rigging backwoods engineering. To be fair, I know you are smarter than that, by far. I work with you, live with you, walk among you day in and day out. You are the fount of the great American Know-How and Can-Do. You are the engine of American ingenuity. I see it every. Single. Fucking. Day.
You get that complex machinery is a system that needs constant maintenance. You can look and listen for the most obscure symptoms of malfunction and can sort out, in short order, just what is wrong and what needs to be done about it. You know that one thing wrong, left unchecked, can eventually trash the whole kit n’ kaboodle. You can strike out into the wilderness for days (even weeks), fend off bears and wolves, and come back with enough meat for a whole season. You wake at three and work your asses off in shops, factories, mines, and oil fields until quittin’ time. You make time for your kids. You save, save, save for their future (and the occasional six-pack and new toy for yourself). You’re married to the sweetest little lady in whole goddamned world who somehow manages to keep the same schedule, but instead focuses on keeping the whole family clean, clothed, fed, cared for, and seen to. And you’re in bed by 10 on a late night, maybe after a little lights-out fun when, I’m sure, you’re not nearly so prudish as our sweater-vested Idiot du Jour would like to believe. Hell, you might be grinning even now, knowing that just last night you broke laws that are still on the books in some states.
You are the men and women of America, and you have your principles, dammit. Guns & Jesus!
News flash! America is a complex system in need of constant maintenance. Its shocks are shot. The seals are blown. The hoses are dry rotted. The pistons are pitted. The axle is bent. The tires are flat. It’s leaking everywhere. And the damned A/C doesn’t even work right. The only thing that still works is the radio, but the blasted battery is dead.
I get all the good there is to be known about you, and there is a ton of it. But c’mon. Use some of that great American Know How when you look under the hood of your country.
Somehow, it seems, you believe that if you could just keep more of your pennies in your own pockets instead of doling them out to Big Gubmint, you’d be able to reap what you sow. All that Can Do and Know How and all those 12 to 15 hour days will result in you having the money to keep the family housed, fed, clothed, and properly schooled. You’ll have enough left over for the occasional new toy, whether it’s a nicer house, a newer car, a scope for your rifle, or the latest, greatest unbreakable wrench.
There’s only one problem. If enough people felt that way, there would be No. More. America.
America is only as great as the least of us. The fewer least of us, the greater we, as all of America, are. Political strategies that result in slightly bigger paychecks for you (and tremendously bigger dividends for the wealthiest) are ultimately a cancer that eats away at the very flesh and bones of America.
Go ahead. Cut social spending on little things like breast health exams for women by defunding Planned Parenthood. After all, it’s just part of a great, complex social machine. And you’ll be okay, right? I mean, you will be making more because Uncle Sam won’t be extracting hard-earned dollars from your wallet to give to the undeserving. Unregulated, your employer will still be paying you all that wonderful overtime, right? This is a good thing, because, unregulated, your employer probably won’t continue to include health insurance as part of your compensation. That’s right. It’s not given to you. You earn it. But they won’t have to “give” it to you any longer, so you’ll need some of that extra money to pay for private insurance out of pocket. For yourself. For your wife. For your 2.5 kids.
Unregulated, the insurance companies will just be beating your damned door down for your business, right? They’ll see you, Mrs. You, and your precious flock of special, unique snowflakes and automatically cover all of you. Never mind your dad’s history of heart disease. Your mother-in-law’s sciatica. Your child with diabetes will fit perfectly into their plan. Your other child with asthma will, too. Oh, and your other .5 child? The one in the incubator hooked up to life support and pain meds?
Not that you wouldn’t have had this poor, miserable child’s term aborted, because she is part of God’s special plan for you, after all, but even if you’d wanted to, especially when shown the ultrasounds and told by the doctor what her fate would be, abortion wouldn’t have been an option. Of course, you, personally, would never dream of letting the little missus see one of those back-alley coat hanger specialists and you’d never dream of pushing her down the stairs or just kicking her in the gut. No, you’d allow this child, her mother, and your entire family to endure exquisite suffering. Luckily for you, an unregulated insurance company would cover her, too. Right?
Thank goodness for a free market! Of course that friendly insurance exec wants your lovely family to be covered under its plan. And with all that overtime you work, you’ll be able to afford the monthly premiums, the out-of-pocket expenses, the surprise fees, and every other little thing they want to bill you for.
Good thing for all that overtime, too. I mean, once you’re making less than minimum wage, you’ll need it. Less than minimum wage? What? Oh, you think you’ll get to keep making top dollar! I see. Of course. Because an unregulated employer would just love to give you lots of extra money when they’re not required to. See, without that minimum wage, everybody’s wages go south. The burger flipper might be making $1/hour. Compared to that, sure, your excellent mechanical skills are worth more. What, how’s $5/hour sound? That’s a lot more than a buck. With overtime, you’d get $7.50/hour!
Oh, wait. There’s that overtime again. I’m sorry. We’ve got to take that back. See, that’s a result of regulation. No, for every hour over 40 you work, it’ll still be $5/hour. Maybe. Maybe the really prudent, unregulated employer will just put everyone on a flat rate and require as much OT as necessary to get the job done. That’s okay, with premiums like the ones you’ll be paying to the insurance company, it’ll be worth it.
Oh, wait. You really thought you’d be able to afford those premiums. What, did you think Friendly Insurance was going to insure your beautiful family at bargain prices? Supply and demand, my friend. Supply and demand. What you need is going to cost more. Much, much more. And your wages? Hah. That’s just not going to cut it. Luckily for you, the ER will have to take in patients, even when they’re uninsured. And you won’t have to worry about the .5 child. Since the wife will be giving birth unattended in the hallway of an overcrowded ER at a charity hospital, it’s not like .5 will survive long enough to make it to an incubator anyway.
Oh, wait. The ER has to take uninsured patients? That’s a regulation. Yup, Charity Hospital for you.
Enjoy health care in your new America.
Now. Can you think of anything else in a complex system that might just go to shit if we’re not rationally regulating and all of us, every last blessed one of us, isn’t contributing our fair share?
Just in case your answer is no, I thought I should share one little resource that you might find comes in handy all too soon. Get your body bags while they’re cheap. Supply and demand and a free market, right?
Tombstone: photo by Kim Traynor. Licensed under Creative Commons.
Breast cancer photo uploaded to Wikipedia by Kauczuk, licensed for unrestricted redistribution, commercial use, and modification.
Anencephaly photo released into the public domain by its author, Ed Uthman.