Everything Wrong with Conservatism Revealed in One Emotional Encounter

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This emotional encounter, between a constituent who desperately needs help, and a clueless Republican U.S. Senator who doesn't know the meaning of "irony," sums up everything wrong with conservatism in one fell swoop.

1. As CNN’s Rick Sanchez points out, Sen. Coburn says the government is not the solution, but "he just told her to come and see him, isn't he the government?" Duh. So what or who IS the solution, Sen. Coburn, if it is NOT THE GOVERNMENT?!? And who on earth do you think YOU are, if not part of the "government of the people, by the people, for the people" that you have such contempt for?

1a. Why on earth are people like Tom Coburn, who fundamentally believe that government is a bad thing, working for the government?!? It would be like someone applying to your company and, in the interview, saying "I hate your company and this entire industry, I have nothing but contempt for it, so please hire me."

2. Also, as Rick Sanchez asks, "after helping her, what will [Coburn] do about the other 46 million 999,000 Americans who don't have insurance and the thousands upon thousands of Americans who say they do have insurance but, like her, they're not getting coverage." Let's grant that Sen. Coburn's office is good with constituent services; even so, somehow I doubt he'll be able to help every other person in Oklahoma - let alone America - who needs help with their health insurance.

3. The point is, this is an enormous, systemic problem, not something that can be solved one person at a time, one dramatic incident at a town hall meeting at a time. Do Tom Coburn and his fellow Republicans really believe that the problems with our healthcare-for-profit system in this country can be solved by constituents calling their U.S. Senator's office, or by neighbors helping neighbors? Yeah, sure, it would be great to think that your neighbor was an expert in heart surgery or kidney dialysis or whatever and would be there to help when needed, but something tells me they're not. Also, how many of people are going to have the chance to stand up at the next town hall meeting with their Congressperson and cry for help? Finally, why in America should someone HAVE TO cry to their Congressperson at all in order to get health care, a fundamental human right?!?

4. A big part of the problem here is that ideological conservatives like Tom Coburn have a religion-like faith in the All Knowing, All Seeing Free Market. Apparently, they missed Economics altogether, or at least the part where the concept of "market failure" was discussed. And they also must have missed the class where the discussion was about how government sets the rules for the country's economic system, and how those rules must often be tweaked or even dramatically changed. They also must have missed the class where the discussion turned to examples from U.S. history where the government stepped in and solved a problem that the "market" wasn't adequately addressing. For instance: the eight-hour work day, the 40-hour work week, workers compensation, minimum wages, safety and health standards at workplaces, child labor laws, Social Security, Medicare, action on many environmental problems (DDT, CFCs, leaded gasoline), etc., etc.

5. Aside from all the flaws in logic and gaps in knowledge of economics and history, Tom Coburn and his fellow conservatives also don't appear to understand that there are other values in life than making money, maximizing "efficiency," or ensuring the power of corporations. In this case, the issue is whether, as a nation, we prefer a system where private health insurance company "bureaucrats" decide whether or not we get the care we need. The issue here is also whether we believe it's morally right for private insurance companies with a strong, profit-motivated incentive to deny or minimize the coverage they provide, to decide, essentially, whether people get to live or die (or go bankrupt). This gets down to questions of ethics and morality, and makes me seriously doubt whether people like Tom Coburn care about anything but money and power (or ever read the New Testament?).

6. Point #5 - the belief that profit, money and "efficiency" are the only values in life that matter - leads to the bizarre (not to mention utterly ignorant) notion, held by Tom Coburn and many of his fellow conservatives, that the private sector is always good while the government is always bad. They believe this even though, when you read the U.S. Constitution, you see phrases like "promote the general welfare" (I believe Sarah Palin calls that "socialism") and "a more perfect Union" (do Coburn et al. really believe that having tens of millions of uninsured, plus almost everyone else in a system where one serious illness could bankrupt them is "more perfect?"). And they believe this even though, when you read U.S. history, what you find is case after case of the government stepping in and correcting rampant abuses - sweatshops, wildly unsafe workplaces, child labor, pollution pouring into air and water, monopolistic power, etc., etc. - by the private sector. Actually, if Coburn et al. had read U.S. history (or understood it), they'd know that government intervention often saved capitalism from its worst excesses and clear failures, thus keeping it chugging along.

I could go on and on all day with this, because the illogic, ignorance, and idiocy of conservatives like Tom Coburn know no bounds. Again, study this video, because it reveals pretty much about everything wrong with conservatism in one emotional encounter.