Wednesday, 19 January 2011

If this is Capitalism, then call me a Socialist!

Tomorrow will mark two years since Barack Obama took office as President of the United States and today the House Representatives voted to repeal his Health care reform bill which many will argue is his greatest achievement to date.
So why repeal it? most Europeans it seems like a 'no-brainer' to use an American term, yet the US population are divided on whether everyone should have the right to decent and safe healthcare irrespective of their financial situation. To be very frank I just don't get it. Perhaps I'm missing something but I find myself asking whether this is what true Capitalism looks like?

Simply put Capitalism is defined as "an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state." (Source Oxford Dictionary Online) Socialism on the other hand, advocates public or common ownership and management of resources.
With Capitalism comes a tendency for a more individualistic society - as money is king ultimately, we must all work towards making more of it, even if this is to the detriment of others. Contrary to what Fox News would have their dimwitted audience believe, countries in Europe follow the Capitalist model rather than the socialist one, however most Europeans understand and appreciate the need for the State to intervene in order to protect vulnerable members of society. Hence Europeans' bewilderment about public opposition to the US Healthcare reform bill. I suspect there is also a widely held belief shared by most decent human beings that certain rights must not be compromised, rights such as access to  food, education and yes healthcare!
In African societies, it is a given that we take care of our extended families - and although this can prove burdensome at times for able-bodied and better off family members, it results in closer and stronger family bonds and everyone in society from the young to the old feel cared for.
In European countries where nuclear families are more common,  people still accept that they have an obligation to contribute towards a better society, i.e. by paying their taxes or other social contributions. I'm not suggesting for a moment that people don't complain about this or at times about able-bodied people who 'sponge off' society, they certainly do. Nonetheless I've yet to hear someone bemoan the fact that unemployed or poorer members of society are receiving free healthcare which their taxes pay for. It just seems like a very odd thing to me in a so-called civilised and developed country. Such an attitude furthers the rich poor divide and although such disparity is something the Western media documents as representative of developing countries, the images post Hurricane Katrina tell us quite something else. I wonder though if the Americans who complain about having to fund healthcare simply choose to ignore the adverse effects of a society where companies thrive at the expense of the poor and sick or where the wealthy can afford the best medical treatments while the poor and struggling have to choose between their health and say the roof over their heads.To date the main and only valid argument I've heard from those opposed to Obama's Affordable Health Care Act is that it will mean a rise in their taxes. Although there are other gripes, such as the fear of government using healthcare funding for abortions and the government taking over and operating a second rate healthcare system - such arguments have been rebutted unequivocally. The crux of opponents' argument therefore is that they are expected to susidise through their taxes those with the greatest need which simply put reflects an 'everyman for himself' attitude.

Before the Act came in last year, 46 million Americans were without health insurance, children with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage, and insurers could cancel your policy retroactively because of an unintentional mistake on your application. The Act has addressed these and many more issues so what exactly is so objectionable about it?
I understand that American Society thrives on hard work and for many people, success has come as a result of sheer drive and determination. This is an admirable quality and why the country is still viewed as the land of opportunity. Yet we cannot ignore the fact that the 'lazy and privileged' also exist. There are those who were born into 'money' whose paths have been carved for them and who are where they are today simply because of their heritage. I can think of a few former US Presidents to illustrate this point. It is therefore disingenuous to suggest that the vulnerable among us should be denied assistance when there was never a level playing field to begin with. If we all started on an equal footing, this argument may be somewhat persuasive but even then.... as we say in Africa 'No one knows what tomorrow will bring'. There are times when in spite of our best efforts we find ourselves in need of a helping hand; there have been stories of people whose lives were turned upside down following a redundancy. There are those who recognise that all  it will take is a few missed mortgage payments for them to find themselves without a roof over their heads and in need of assistance.

It's one thing to deny people financial support but quite another to refuse them healthcare when they are at their most vulnerable. Healthcare should be a right not a privilege and if supporting a system that provides a more equitable system where companies are not allowed to exploit the vulnerable, means being accused of Socialism, then that is a badge I will proudly wear.

1 comment:

JBH said...

Hear! Hear! Hibiscus. Well said! I just don't get why people can't see the good that would come out of universal healthcare. Granted those of us who can afford it may frown upon the supposed horror stories we hear about say the NHS.. long lines, red tape etc and are quite happy paying that little extra to get "extra special" "world class" care etc... but how can you consider yourself human when you feel no pain for you ailing neighbor who cannot afford healthcare and like you said, has to decide between keeping a roof over their head or getting medical care. Really.. really sad state of affairs.