Faith in the Government

Faith + Government = ???

Political seasons always get me down because it seems like the sane, respectful, and informed people never get a shot at having their voices heard on the main stage.  I don’t care what party you’re with…if you are sensitive to nuance and an adept critical thinker, no one is interested in hearing you.  Why are we so obsessed with watching carnage?

But I digress.

We all operate under some sort of confirmation bias when we choose our media consumption (although, many people will not admit this and cling to their Fox News instead) so, with that said, I admit that I am an NPR junkie and love programs with meat and courage like Moyers & Company, Frontline (a PBS show), and The Thomas Jefferson Hour.  The latter is what I’d like to point you to today.

To get back to my original point, it seems like there’s a lot of hot air being pushed around.  At best, it is irritating.  At worst it is the conscious decision to deceive the American electorate and kill dialogue.  People who dare question their own party are shamed into silence.  It’s better to be in but unhappy than out and ostracized.  (And yes, I’m talking directly to you, Republican Party.  Shame on you.)  The rhetoric demonizes government and chants the battle cry of Privatize!  Privatize! without looking at basic facts.  Government isn’t all bad.  Do you drive on highways?  (Federal)  Do you have Medicare? (Federal but with help from third party administrators)  Do you pay less than $8/gallon for gas?  (Federal subsidies)  How much did you pay for bread?  (Federal agriculture subsidies lower food prices)

So, my critically thinking brethren, where are we in response?  Why isn’t our rhetoric just as fiery calling BS on lies?  Can we fight fire with logic?  I’m not sure.  But I do know that I heard quite possibly the most brilliant, succinct, and respectful argument for ‘faith in government’ last night on the Thomas Jefferson Hour.  The podcast is below:

He eloquently states that the logic that free enterprise should rule supreme and that government should be kept out of nearly everything (*ahem Teaparty*) is absurd.  He correctly points out that we have tried that kind of government and it did not work.  Our rivers were ON FIRE.  We had rats in the meat supply.  Factory workers were locked away at night.  And this thanks to the free market.

With specific attention to healthcare, he asks a profound question:  do we really trust the private sector with our healthcare?  Do we really trust for-profit drug companies to tell us what medications we should take?  Really?

And I know from my own research that the idea that the private sector would be more efficient in delivering healthcare….well, that’s complete hogwash.  Let me introduce you to something called the Medical Loss Ratio.  It a metric used to determine how much money from premiums is actually spent on healthcare (by insurance companies).  Private insurance companies have a MLR of around 30%.  That means that 30 cents of every dollar is spent on overhead.  Contrast that to Medicare which has a MLR of around 3%.

(I’m happy to provide references upon request.)

Now, I’m not suggesting that we turn into northern European countries and give 90% of our income to the government.  And I’m not saying that government oversight is appropriate for everything.  But why are we, as Americans, so terrified of the government?  Why do we fight against it so very hard?

Clay makes the astute point that, as a culture, we have chosen to favor a system where the chance of becoming part of the 1% (the American Dream) is better than favoring a system that evens things out and cares for more people in a more meaningful way.  (the irony being that one does not become part of the 1% by grit alone.  Tax benefits and idiotic banking laws play a large part too.)

I believe we can have a hybrid.  If we get smart, empathetic, thinking people elected, I’d have more faith in the government to use my money wisely.  With the screaming that goes on in Washington, it’s no wonder people don’t trust the government.    But at some point, we need to have a little faith.

And that’s a tough pill to swallow.


As an addendum, I’d like to point out that this post is not intended to promote government as savior. I’m not pushing for big government, I’m pushing for smart government.  It just so happens that in many cases, government is more efficient (I’m thinking specifically about healthcare) so instead of fighting against solutions for purely ideological reasons, how about we, as a country sit down and address problems while simultaneously being open to all solutions as well?

All of this is making me want to revisit and post about the impacts of the Homestead Act of 1862 on our current  political narrative.  But that’s a post for another day.


~ by fluvial on September 17, 2012.

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