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Monday, September 8, 2008

Big Government

One of the fundamental differences between Republicans and Democrats is this concept of Big Government. I find it fascinating as both parties have plenty, it just gets played out in different ways. So for instance, if the government were to take over health care, for instance, Republicans get all nervous about socialized medicine and the lack of choice and fear the basic decline in care and services. However, if the government takes over a financial institution, like say, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, then that is for the good of the people because if we have a problem with our financial institutions, then that creates havoc for our nation. How is the government taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac NOT Big Government?
Big Government of me is also realized in the enormous amount of money we spend on our military. Our budget is so skewed towards defense I am happy at this point that I don't pay any tax to the US. The war in Iraq is something I have opposed from the beginning. I think the amount of government money we are pouring into that situation is ridiculous. I'd rather see that money spent on health care. But for some reason military spending is not seen as big government but spending it on health care is. I find it all very fascinating.
I have learned a few things about health care in the past 10 years. The system in Sweden is far from perfect, but let's face it, so is the situation in the US. I have had excellent health care in Sweden. I have needed surgery as well as the care of specialists. I have needed to see my family physician and a physical therapist so I have needed to explore the range of medical care. At times it has been hard to navigate the system. And at times it has taken a long time. But overall I have been very satisfied with the level of care I have been provided and the cost has been modest. Yes, we pay very high taxes in Sweden, but at least the bulk of our taxes are being used in ways that benefit me: Health care, clean city, care for the poor and disenfranchised in our city. All of these things give me a high quality of life that provide a great lifestyle for me.
My mom has very sick over the past year, fighting ovarian cancer. She has had chemotherapy and surgery. She has regular blood work and Drs. appointments. Her care has been excellent and available, but it has cost my parents in ways that I find unbelievable. They also have "good insurance" with a standard 20% co-pay. 20% ends up being quite a lot of money when the treatment cost is in the thousands. For awhile my mom needed a post-chemo shot that required at $500.00 co-pay. CO-PAY! There is no cap on what they should be shelling out, no limit to what they have to spend on health care. We are so thankful that at this point in their lives, they have the ability to fund this treatment. But we all wonder aloud what people do who don't have the means to pay for such treatment. Is it really our view as a nation that they simply shouldn't have the privilege of care? I can't believe that as one of the wealthiest nations in the world we really believe that.
Neither Sweden or the US have it completely right. But at least in Sweden no one has to make the choice to either pursue medical care or buy food for their family. Every single person has the right to medical care. It is not connected to employment benefits, it is a right afforded to them by the government because Sweden has said this is a core value to us. Yes, I pay, through my taxes, for this right. But I don't mind because I would rather provide health care for the poor in my neighborhood than see them suffer.
I totally disagree with the concept of lowering taxes so that people will have more money to purchase health insurance. This keeps the insurance companies fat and still means that people have to make a choice about how to use their money, especially if money is tight. Most lower income people won't use that extra money to buy insurance because they need energy, fuel, and food every day and they are having trouble covering those costs. Why not decide that as a nation, we are interested in creating a healthy society where health care is a right? Yes, there are a million problems associated with such a move, but doesn't that sound like a good challenge for the years ahead?