Democracy and Protests Against Health Care Reform

I’ve had numerous posts regarding the distortions being spread by those protesting health care reform. Opposing such spread of misinformation, and disagreeing on principles, should not translate into opposition to protests and questioning of government in principle. Ezra Klein writes that It Is Democracy, Not Health Reform, That Is Sick. He concludes:

What we’re seeing here is not merely distrust in the House health-care reform bill. It’s distrust in the political system. A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the “institutional checks” that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable. If it was not unthinkable, then no number of institutional checks could repair that relationship. Similarly, the relationship between the protesters and the government is not healthy. The protesters believe the government capable of madness. There is no evidence for that claim, which means that there is no answer for it, either. That claim is not about what is in this bill, or what government has done in Medicare and Medicaid and the VA. It is about what a certain slice of Americans think their government — and by extension, their fellow citizens — capable of.

The protesters are wrong in their facts on this case but a certain amount of distrust of the political system is a prudent thing. The founding fathers even advised this. Ezra doesn’t believe the government is capable of madness. Has he forgotten Vietnam, Watergate, Iraq, and the entire Bush years? Remember when we argued that protest was patriotic?

I also disagree with Ezra’s lack of respect for the importance of “institutional checks.” The breakdown of such checks is responsible for many of the horrors of the Bush years. In reforming health care, as in most government action, the devil is in the details and it is important that we institute the right institutional checks.

Ezra ends with mention of Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA. Government has been successful in one out of three here. Medicare does an excellent job of providing coverage for the elderly and the disabled and, with some tweaks, would be an excellent model for a public plan. Medicaid, due to limited funding to care for the poor, is a total disaster and ideally I would like to see it abolished with Medicaid patients instead transferred to the public plan if it survives. I have also discussed in previous posts how those outside of the medical profession such as Klein are misled by faulty data to believe the VA system is far better than it really is. While some liberal bloggers might be mislead by faulty data on the VA, many of those who have experienced its flaws first hand have legitimate reason to question those who promote this as a desirable system. Fortunately  a totally government run program such as the VA isn’t on the table.

There is a lot of misinformation being spread by the right, but there are also legitimate questions about health care reform. Questions about what types of “institutional checks” will prevent “madness” on the part of government is not unreasonable. Of course the protesters should also keep in mind that, while no government program will be perfect, there is also a lot of madness in our current system.

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  1. 1
    Nancy says:

    Tell me…who’s going to win the game if most of your team is sitting on the bench????
    I have set up a petition to have paid health care removed from our representatives in Congress until such time as they reform health care – to include a strong public option – for ‘we the people’ who they are supposed to represent.

    If you agree with what I am doing – I am going to ask you to do what I have been
    asking others to do…sign it, then spread the word to anyone and everyone you know!

  2. 2
    firerobin says:

    It’s amazing how misinformed the anti-health care people are!

  3. 3
    Leslie Parsley says:

    “There is a lot of misinformation being spread by the right, but there are also legitimate questions about health care reform.”

    This is indisputable, but if these people are genuinely concerned and if they are serious about having their questions answered, then maybe they should quit yelling. Or, at least have the courtesy to allow others to ask question and hear answers. I don’t think these people give a tinker’s damn about HC. I sincerely believe they have all this pent up anger over – God forbid – a black president and these protests over HC are just a conduit for expressing their outrage over  everything.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    I bet we have a combination. There are people with closed minds and misconceptions which will not be changed. There are probably also others who are scared by the right wing misinformation but might still listen to facts. (I see a lot of patients such as this). We can criticize those who spread misinformation while still respecting the right to protest, and still understanding that there are people who are scared (generally due to hearing the right wing misinformation).

  5. 5
    Shane says:

    Medicare would be an excellent model for health care? Are you joking!!!!!
    We spend $15000 per medicare beneficiary if we multiply that times the number of people in the US it would be 4.5 trillion dollars ($4,500,000,000,000) that is 30% of our GDP. This of course wouldn’t include the remaining 2.5 trillion dollar budget we have. So total that is 7 trillion dollar budget, that is 45% of our GDP.
    Let make sure you understand that is 7 trillion dollars not being put back into the economy. 7 trillion dollars annually is enough to employ 140 million people at a $50,000 annual salary. Note the US employment numbers show only about 120 million employed in the US.  Now if I look at basic profit and loss formulas and acceptable cost of labor I would say that could leave at least 30% of our nation unemployed. Starting to see why Europe has such high unemployment.
    And if hard numbers don’t get you let see what our constitution says. Hmm, no clause saying the government was granted authority to provide health care. Nor is there a clause granting authority to regulate it or the insurance industry. And the regulations on both combined may be causing health care to be 50% to 60% higher than it would be otherwise.
    Maybe if the government got 100% out of  the way is the solution, not them geting 100% in the way.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Your numbers are high as to how much Medicare spends per beneficiary. Besides, you cannot multiply how much we spend on Medicare to compare to the general population. Medicare only covers those over age 65 and the disabled–those with the highest health care expenses. Medicare spends four times as much on beneficiaries in the last year of life, which greatly exaggerates Medicare spending if extrapolated to the entire population.

    Medicare has been more economical than comparable private plans. With private Medicare Advantage plans it costs 13% to 19% more to care for the same population. Plus, Medicare compares favorably to private insurance when you consider that nobody on Medicare loses coverage due to becoming sick or losing their job.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:


    As I said, there is a considerable amount of misinformation leading to fear. See the above comment.

  8. 8
    Tracy Joseph Bogert says:

    Open letter to the birther nuts
    Dear dumbasses
    If Obama isn’t a citizen then the CIA, Bush Jr, Bush Sr, and John McCain are all in on the conspiracy. Think about that. Instead of trying to derail healthcare reform Why don’t you wing nuts find something better to do like shoot up an abortion clinic or buy another gun. Just to show you I am not a chickenshit like you birther wing nuts I will leave my email and name.

    TJ Bogert -Texas email

  9. 9
    Eclectic Radical says:

    To the direct meat of Ezra Klein’s somewhat disingenuous bit of bitching about right wing protesters, I have to honestly say that this is how both sides of the political spectrum react to the topic of citizen demonstrations. When one is demonstrating it support of an issue one supports or protesting an issue one opposes, right or left, it is easy to call a protester a ‘hero of democracy’ or to spin other such laudatory labels. As Mr. Klein did, himself, during the Bush administration.
    On the other hand, when one demonstrates in favor of an issue one opposes or protests an issue one suports, it is a lot harder to refrain from attacking protesters.
    I had a discussion on this topic on my own blog with a reader who was objecting to my thesis that one could not trumpet the arrest of protesters as a victory for free speech. Her argument, made very firmly, was that when protesters were acting to muzzle someone else’s free speech then they had crossed the line. That, as a purely intellectual point of debate, has a great deal of merit. Though I believe the freedom to protest, unfortunately, includes the freedom to shout and sometimes you have to shout back if you want to be heard.
    However, more recently, she wrote a piece on her own blog essentially supporting the health care protests (undertaken specifically to prevent legislators from answering questions about the bill or explaining it to their constituents) as spontaneous expressions of democratic love of country.
    In this country, in our highly charged partisan political system, the hard core ‘Republican’ and the hard core ‘Democrat’ want it both ways.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    In other words, it is human nature to think you have the right to say (including shouting down others) and nobody has the right to interfere or shout you down. The absurdity of Ezra’s post would be clearer to any liberals who might go along with him if you ignore the topic being discussed (health care) and think of it as being written by a conservative objecting to liberals protesting the Iraq war or other acts of the Bush administration.

  11. 11
    Leslie Parsley says:

    Ron. You’re right. Was scanning too fast and should have kept the ole mouth shut – or the hands off the keyboard.

  12. 12
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “The absurdity of Ezra’s post would be clearer to any liberals who might go along with him if you ignore the topic being discussed (health care) and think of it as being written by a conservative objecting to liberals protesting the Iraq war or other acts of the Bush administration.”
    Exactly. Unfortunately, we live in a time when partisan conflict means more than political values. It’s why both sides talk about the virtues of direct democracy over judicial activism when they get their way in legislatures and judges overrule them, only to demand that judges overrule legislative decisions they don’t like. The debate is not really about judicial activism or direct democracy, but about getting one’s way and the means one believes will best serve one’s partisan interests.
    The problem is that politics is goals-oriented and results-oriented, not values-oriented. What matters in politics is winning. Partisan political writers are part of that system rather than reliable commentators on it.
    Except for me, of course. My word is as gold. 😉

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