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David Brooks Is Concerned, You Guys! Medicare For All Is Hard & Stuff So F*ck It

Elections

New York Times columnist David Brooks has an opinion about Medicare for All. It's not a good or even all that interesting an opinion, but he's going to share it with us anyway.

See? Medicare for All is impossible. Health care expert and political genius David Brooks said so. We can all give up now and move on to more important matters, like carefully considering the feelings and bruised egos of bigots. Brooks also dismisses Medicare for All as just a big dream, like the one we often have where the New York Times hires decent columnists.

Brooks is a rich guy with reliable access to health care, but that doesn't mean he has no skin in this game. Maybe one of the valets at his club died from a preventable illness. It's not as though Brooks thinks universal coverage is a bad idea. His buddies in Britain and Canada, after all, all swear by their single-payer systems. He just doesn't understand how you could possibly make that work in the United States. And if Brooks -- a card-carrying white man -- can't figure it out, how on earth could Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris?


BROOKS: [Medicare for All] sounds good. But the trick is in the transition.

OK, then let's get some David Copperfields on the job. You can't just shout "American exceptionalism!" without ever actually being exceptional. Even if means pulling a muscle or two, we should at least try to fix our broken health care system.

Proponents of Medicare for all are saying: We're going to take away the insurance you have and are happy with, and we're going to replace it with a new system you haven't experienced yet because, trust us, we're the federal government!

The familiar conservative sentiment that the federal government is wholly incompetent and we shouldn't trust them to do anything other than control the world's most powerful military.

The insurance companies would have to transition. Lots of people work for and serve this industry. All-inclusive public health care would destroy this industry beyond recognition, and those people would have to find other work.

People opposed Amazon early on because of the online retailer's impact on independent bookstores. People weren't crazy about iTunes either because it (along with Amazon) put a lot of record stores out of business. We also have personal experience in an industry that's being slowly tortured on the rack. The free market crowd all claim that this is just how innovation rolls. There are short-term pain points but in the long term, there are new, better jobs and increased efficiency.

If we dare think similarly about health care, the same people gasp in horror. People must forever have their solid-paying 9 to 5s jobs denying health care claims from sick people. Meanwhile, the iPhone has killed the photojournalist. Yes, a drastic overhaul of how health care is administered in this country would require corresponding job training and career placement programs for most employees in the insurance industry. This happens all the time in the private sector. No board of directors has ever voted down a profitable merger -- or even a "rightsizing" -- because the secretarial staff might lose their jobs.

The American people would have to transition. Americans are more decentralized, diverse and individualistic than people in the nations with single-payer systems. They are more suspicious of centralized government and tend to dislike higher taxes.

We are so goddamn tired of conservatives claiming that "suspicion" of "centralized government" and an opposition to "higher taxes" are the average American's natural condition rather than the result of decades of right-wing propaganda. Maybe instead of promoting the sort of hollow patriotism that condemns Colin Kaepernick, our leaders could push the crazy notion that we are all in this together. GoFundMe demonstrates that not all Americans are selfish assholes.

This morning on Twitter, Brooks warned Democrats that their recent midterm victories could all be for naught if they dared do anything radical. Just lock Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez up in a closet and maintain the status quo. Seriously, what's the point of gaining power if you're so obsessed with keeping it that you don't even try to improve the lives of Americans?

It's astonishing that Brooks would invoke the electoral shellackin' of 2010. Here's the thing: People are alive now because Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act that year. Yes, we got our asses handed to us a few months later, thanks to a combination of Republican lies and liberal ennui. But it's not like we have nothing to show for our majority. The ACA is an overall net positive for Americans, so much so that the Republican attempts to repeal it failed because they had nothing better to offer. Nancy Pelosi was vindicated when she said that Democrats had to first pass the ACA before Americans could actually appreciate it. The ACA is what helped Democrats win back the House last year. It's not just why Pelosi lost her gavel. It's also how she got it back. We'd watch the hell out of that movie.

At this point, the easiest way to get to a single-payer system would probably be to go back to 1776 and undo that whole American Revolution thing.

Stop. You're not helping. Although, we imagine that was never the point.

[NYT / NPR / Vox]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.

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