Friday, July 31, 2009

Single Payer Health Care WILL work - it works for fire fghters and police!

One thing that Senator Al Franked proved when he wrote "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" was that people who get their news from talk radio (and now Fox news) feel they are among the best informed people when they are really the least informed people. And their lemming-like repetitious spewing of the same health-care industry talking points that a single-payer or government option is bad socialism and can't work as well as private business is oh so wrong!

Want examples of that? Check out the article below -

Firefighting in the 1800’s: A Corrupt, Bloated, Private For-Profit Industry

July 30th, 2009 · Go on and comment

The loudest voice, piercing through the debate over health care is unquestionably sure “privatization is always better.” Because Republicans (who are in the government) will readily tell you - the government never does anything right. Which explains why the most popular people in their Grand Old Party no longer hold any personally “taxing” jobs in the government (Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and as of Sunday, Sarah Palin), opting (fittingly) for private political gigs.

Less government control is always good? The private sector is always first-rate? Free market capitalism is the cure-all? Even for health care?!
Let’s look at this reasonably: Firefighting used to be a private for-profit industry. In the 1800’s, the early days of urbanization, in cities like New York and Baltimore, there were private “clubs” or “gangs” who were in charge of putting out fires. The infamous Boss Tweed started his illustrious political career at a volunteer fire company. The way it functioned was the first club at the scene got money from the insurance company. So, they had an incentive to get there fast. They also had an incentive to sabotage competition. They also often ended up getting in fights over territory and many times buildings would burn down before the issue was resolved. They were glorified looters. It was corrupt, bloated and expensive - but at least it wasn’t the much maligned “government controlled.”

There was a scene in Martin Scorsesse's "Gangs of New York" which illustrated this perfectly!

Actual fire-fighting was rare in the Five Points, and the arson was often used by firefighting companies to settle territorial disputes. The crook William Tweed, of course, had his fingers into every pie, and chief among those pies was fire-fighting.


The territorial warfare extended to the firefighting as well. With more than 37 amateur fire-brigades in the Five Points, there was a lot of competition over who would get to quell the fire.

In the movie we see Tammany’s fire brigade arriving to the scene of a house set on fire, only to get into a fight with a rivalling fire brigade, the Black Joke. (the latter is famous for starting the Draft Riots[10]) While the two firefighting companies fight over who gets to extinguish the fire, the house is burning down in the background, and looters make their way in to steal any of what’s left of worth[11]. In a hilarious scene that is unfortunately true to history, we see the exchange between the victims of the fire and fire brigade chief Tweed:

FAMILY: For god’s sake. They’re taking everything!

TWEED: In your next time of trouble ma’m, call Tammany first! (handing a business card)

FAMILY: It’s not too late. You can still save my house!

Of course he can, but that’s not what he is here for. With the house still burning, the two fire ‘tribe’ leaders, Tammany and the Black Joke chief, quarrel casually over a territorial dispute:
BLACK JOKE CHIEF: May I point out that this building is burning to ashes?

TWEED: And may I point out that this area is the provenance of my own America’s firebrigade. And that you lot only belong in the Bowery.

BLACK JOKE CHIEF: May I point out that you are outmanned, outmanouvered, and at the moment outfought!


Upon which the reinforcements arrive on the scene, Bill the Butcher and his army of Natives. When Bill remarks that the fire has burnt near everything of value in the house, Tweed orders his firefighting ‘thugs’ to ransack the next house. “Mustn’t lead it [the fire] spread!”, he notes with a wink.
In other words, old-time private-enterprise fire fighters functioned a lot like modern-day health care corporations backed by Wall Street gamblers!

Around the time of the Civil War, firefighting in big cities was reformed and taken over by the government. Currently firefighters in most major metropolises are trained by the government, employed by the government and given health care - wait for it - by the government.

That's right - they became employees of the municipal governments and got standardized pay and benefits - all in exchange for risking their lives when they run into burning buildings and rescue people. Would you say that fire fighters themselves and the American people who they protect are better off under a government-run fire fighting system or do you want to go back to the bad old days?

Yet if we had to have the “conversation” about the firefighting industry today, we’d have socialism-phobic South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint on the TV every chance he could get saying things like, “Do you want a government bureaucrat between you and the safety of your home?”

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio would hold press conferences and ask, “Do you want your firefighting to be like going to the DMV? Do you want Uncle Sam to come breaking down your door every time some Washington fat cat says there’s a fire?”

There would be 30-second TV spots paid for by the powerful firefighting lobby featuring stars and stripes graphics and the national anthem playing softly in the background with a booming voice-over trumpeting, “Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were volunteer firefighters. Support traditional values and oppose government waste. Tell your representative you want a bi-partisan solution to fire reform.”

News programs would be interviewing sobbing people whose homes fell through the cracks and burned to the ground. “I don’t want to see the government take-over firefighting, but I sure miss Momma’s oil paintings.”

And President Barack Obama would relay his childhood experience with a fire then point out the failure of the for-profit firefighting industrial complex that “threatens to bankrupt this country.” And then those most in need of firefighting services would foam about his birth certificate and confuse Karl Marx with Charles Darwin on misspelled protest signs at events put on by covert firefighting lobbyists.

But instead, today firefighters are national heroes. They’re organized, quick, competent and with few exceptions pillars of the community. Their duty is to protect people and their property and they do it. They make no profits, are part of the government and they help people 24-hours a day. They even let seniors live. No debate necessary. What started out as a shady gaming of the system where the general public’s welfare was at risk is today something of national pride.

You're damn right they are national heroes. On 9/11, NYFD and NYPD members ran into buildings to rescue people, even though there was a chance the buildings might collapse on them. I was in NYC a few weeks after 9/11, and if they thought you were NYFD, or NYPD, or even fire or police from another part of the country - you couldn't buy yourself a drink in ANY bar in NYC.

Do you really think that private for-profit fire fighters of the Tweed era would have the training or the "testicular fortitude" to run into those buildings? No - they'd be fighting amongst themselves to see who would get the honor or sitting on a barrel over a hydrant. Maybe even trying to find a way to collect the insurance bounty for not doing any actual work - or looting nearby stores!

So government can do something right. It’s happened.

You're damn right it's happened!

Less government is not always good. The private sector is not always first-rate. And free market capitalism does not cure all.

Do I want my health care to be like the DMV? I’ve seen clinics that make the DMV look like destination spa. DMV is affordable and I can always get seen the same day (I have insurance and I can’t say the same about my doctor). So yeah, DMV-esque wouldn’t be too bad. What would be better is if doctors could be like firefighters.

This piece ran at the Huffington Post.

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