I wanted to open this by saying that there are so many things I don’t understand about the people crying “socialism” in regards to having public health care, but that isn’t entirely true. I intellectually understand a lot of the factors leading them to that reaction. Some of it is simply that they have good insurance through their employers and don’t want to possibly wait another day to get seen by a doctor so that we can all be covered. It’s a naive way to think in this economy when a person could lose his/her job and be without insurance or with insurance at staggering COBRA premiums.
I could go into the racial undertones of the anti-health care reform language (directed both at Obama, and at the “others” who may take away “our” health insurance/doctors), but what I want to focus on is why public health care is good for entrepreneurs – and, by extension, for capitalism.
If our leaders are really concerned with the needs of small businesses and individual start-ups of new businesses as they say they are, their resistance to publicly run health care is puzzling. Needing to maintain a relationship with a specific employer in order to have health insurance actually deters people from striking out on their own and becoming innovators.
I could write up some scenarios for you, but you should already know them. Someone with a child with chronic health conditions cannot stop working at a job with great benefits just because they “have a great idea for a business” because no individual plan would provide the level of care the group employee plan does (nor would the individual plan probably cover the child, what with the child’s pre-existing conditions and all).
You could have Crone’s, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, severe mental illness, whatever – and you are either lucky enough to be trapped with an employer who offers benefits that keep your illness from driving you into bankruptcy, or you get sick. And sickness can be disastrous.
So what are you going to do? Forget yourself, even – if you have people relying on you who absolutely need good medical care are you going to strike out on your own with that new business idea or are you going to stay at your job (hoping benefits don’t get cut more, hoping you don’t get laid off)? In my experience, people with great ideas stay at their jobs because when faced with the kinds of medical bills they would be paying without it, they simply can’t do anything else.
If you’re a capitalist who thinks big business is the only way to go, then this is a pretty good set up. However, no politician likes to go on about how much they looove big business. They’re always talking about “the little guy.” American ingenuity and exceptionalism blah blah blah. But they don’t really mean it. Our fates are tied to the whims of behemoths. Social programs support us so that we have a safety net. As anyone who has ever gone from a dangerous situation to a safe one knows, safety brings freedom. When you’re not in reactive mode, you can plan and dream and innovate.
It’s hard for me to untangle this argument from morality though. At its root, I think it’s immoral for us as a society to not leverage our power as a community to support and buffer each other so that we can all do better.
(A side note to the “SOCIALIST/COMMUNIST” screamers: please read Marx. It is so embarrassing when you use the term “socialist/communist” in place of “i don’t even want to hear what you say” because, due to the context in which you are using it, it is plain that you don’t actually have full knowledge of the tenets of that philosophy.)