10 nov. 2009

"Oh, What a Night" Health Care Reform

Those were the words of Nancy Pelosi last weekend in the House of Representatives. After months of debate, the House passed historic health care reform legislation late on Saturday evening. Many people outside the USA might not understand why this is such a big issue in the U.S. This nation is the only rich democracy in the world which does not have some form of universal coverage. In many ways this is a huge breakthrough. The Associated Press reported that evening:

“In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed landmark health care legislation Saturday night to expand coverage to tens of millions who lack it and place tough new restrictions on the insurance industry. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous.”

As it can be expected, reactions of all kinds have emerged after this historical landmark. Here I would like to make a quick review of the different reactions that the American media has produced. On the one hand, the right-wing media’s opposed to the bill as expected. Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News Channel's senior judicial analyst, wrote an article the day before which had the title: Kiss Your Freedoms Goodbye If Health Care Passes. The article was of course charged with a strong right-wing agenda which opposed to the bill. The arguments against the bill are rather vague, he says, “It [Congress] doesn't care about the Constitution, it doesn't care about your inalienable rights”. He constantly talks about the loss of freedom, and he used a rhetoric which aims to spark the flame of fear: “It will raise your taxes, steal your freedom, invade your privacy, and ration your health care”. But the statement that struck me the most was the following:

“America, this is not an academic issue. If this health care bill becomes law, life as you have known it, freedom as you have exercised it, privacy as you have enjoyed it, will cease to be.”

It is shocking to see how a journalist from a “serious” cable news network can state such arguments lacking any kind of relevant data in order to back up his thesis. The problem is that these people who are upset about healthcare reform already have good coverage. If they get sick, they can go to the doctor. They are also good at defining the debate to make people think that money will be taken from the rich and given to the poor. This is another clear example of the culture of fear that is presented in the lives of so many Americans.

On the other hand, the left-wing media was mostly of great joy, although in some cases, it states that this reform is not enough. There is one article from the Huffington Post that called my attention, written by Stephen Gyllenhaal. He turned around these arguments about the constitution that we heard before from Judge Napolitano:

“Yes! We should celebrate the passing of this Health Care Bill in the House. Yes, this is the way democracy has worked from its start in this country with its Declaration of Independence for white men (not women, not slaves, etc.) - pretty much a mess at the start, a mess in the middle, a mess now, even as woman and African Americans have sorted out some of that earlier insanity via democracy.”

It is certainly peculiar the way in which nowadays the constitution and the declaration of Independence continue to be used in this kind of contexts. Nevertheless, not all the reactions from the left were 100% positive. Filmmaker Michael Moore complains that the bill fails in key issues such as woman’s right to choose or controlling cost. Regardless whether this bill might be watered down or not, I think it can become a big landmark in the history of the United States. If president Obama can actually achieve real reform of the U.S. healthcare system, he deserves a lot more than a trophy in Sweden.

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© Pablo Camus
Maira Gall