ROSE NOLEN: Health care debate reflects ideological split in U.S.

Monday, January 24, 2011 | 11:23 a.m. CST

I keep hearing politicians say that Americans do not want government health care. And when you think about it, you know in your heart that only those who have good insurance would say that.

For example, if your children were without health insurance would you not want government health care? And as far as the federal deficit is concerned, anyone old enough to pay taxes can figure out that if we end the two wars and not cut taxes for millionaires we can begin to clear our debts.

When people get sick and require medical treatment, somebody is going to have to pay for it. If they can't afford it, then the taxpayers are going to foot the bill whether they like it or not. When hospitals have to assume the burden they are forced to collect the money from people who have insurance.

How we treat people who are sick and in need tells the world about the kind of people we are. There's not enough propaganda anywhere to convey the message that we are a caring country when we deprive sick people of medical treatment because they can't afford it. The fact that some of us insist on calling ourselves "leaders of the free world" would cause some civilized people to ask themselves if they want to be a part of a world like that. And I'm not sure that people who are bringing up their children to believe that they have no responsibilities to other people really think about the consequences of that lesson.

Yet, I guess the time has finally come when we have to accept the fact that some people truly do not feel that it is their responsibility to help people who for various reasons are not able to financially support themselves. These people are apparently for real, and while we may not believe they represent American values, we need to accept them for who they are and quit trying to convince them that it is immoral not to help those in need.

People who feel this way were born in America, of American parentage. They believe that we are all on our own to succeed or fail. They believe that except when it comes to defending the country. They have not yet shared with us why anyone should sacrifice his or her life for anyone else. Or perhaps, they believe that instead of an army we should hire mercenaries to fight for us. Let's face it: there are some who believe that money can buy anything or anybody.

For years we have been hearing about something called the American Spirit. When some speak about the way they feel about their fellow citizens, I'm not sure I share the same spirit. It's hard for me to understand those who claim to believe that we all begin our journey on a fair and equal playing field.

Even if we can have civil discourse in the chambers of government, I have a hard time believing that outside of a common disaster we will ever be a united country. Our differences are too great and our ideologies are worlds apart. We seem to have radically different views as to what constitutes our value system.

Our attitudes concerning the separation of church and state are a case in point. Somehow we never get the two entirely separated. We still have "In God We Trust" on our money and we continue to use the phrase "One nation, under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. And there are those who are still willing to fight for prayer in school.

The one thing the two political parties agree on seems to be the need to start fundraising campaigns the minute they get in office. It doesn't seem likely, though, that we can expect new campaign finance laws to make that practice go away.

The place where our national leaders are guiding the country seems a little scary at times. We can only hope we land on solid ground.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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Mark Foecking January 24, 2011 | 2:50 p.m.

"anyone old enough to pay taxes can figure out that if we end the two wars and not cut taxes for millionaires we can begin to clear our debts."

Unfortunately that's not even close to being correct. The cost of both wars is roughly $150 billion/year, and letting the top interest rate rise to 39.5% would bring in about another $40 billion/year. Our deficits have exceeded $1 trillion/year for the past two years.


(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 24, 2011 | 3:01 p.m.

And how much of our deficit is interest to pay on the money that we borrowed to use for the war? And how much is interest to pay on the interest of the money that we borrowed to use for the war?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 24, 2011 | 3:41 p.m.

Paul Allaire wrote:

"And how much of our deficit is interest to pay on the money that we borrowed to use for the war? And how much is interest to pay on the interest of the money that we borrowed to use for the war?"

At todays interest rates, probably not more than $20 or $30 billion. It's a drop in the bucket (in governmental terms)

Our federal budget is something like $3 trillion dollars/year. The cost of the two wars is only about 5% of that.

Our total interest payments on the national debt are large because the debt is large.

It's satisfying for some to say "Oh the things we could do if we caould just spend the money we're spending on the wars on xxxxx" That's not necessarily true.


(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 24, 2011 | 3:52 p.m.

Oh please.
You can believe all the clever accounting you want, but Bush came into office with a healthy economy and a budget surplus.
If it wasn't the war that screwed it up then what was it?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 24, 2011 | 6:51 p.m.

Paul Allaire wrote:

"If it wasn't the war that screwed it up then what was it?"

All sorts of things. The economy slowed when the overbuilt dot-com market corrected itself. 9/11 had a transient effect on the economy. This last recession was brought on by a combination of irresponsible lending, irresponsible profiteering on the risks of that lending, and historically high oil prices. The war has played a part in our deficits, and economic ups and downs, but you can hardly say it caused all or even most of it.


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Derrick Fogle January 24, 2011 | 7:45 p.m.

I'd like to point out that the entire defense / security / war expenditures are roughly 25% of our entire federal budget. The line items directly related to the wars may only be a small part of that, but the aggregate expenditures for war activities are significant. And it's not just the raw cost of the wars, but the fact that spending money killing people and blowing stuff up is essentially a wealth destroyer, not a wealth creator.

The sad part is realizing that Pentagon expenditures support just about the only significant domestic manufacturing base (which still pays "good" wages) we have. We could completely eliminate the DoD and the wars, it would completely crash our economy, and the government still wouldn't be in the black. We would need to virtually eliminate the entire Pentagon AND almost every last bit of non-senior welfare, for the government to break even. But again, that would totally crash the economy.

Our economic mess is a big snowball, consisting of an awful lot of everything, that's been gathering mass and inertia for a long time. Virtually the entire world is over-leveraged in debt. And the one easy source of new real wealth - resource extraction in the form of fossil fuel mining - is probably at or near it's peak. There's no telling how much longer the debt accumulation / resource extraction ponzi scheme can last (it always lasts longer than anyone expects), but there's no easy way to correct these fundamental problems.

Without a drastic change in our lifestyle, anyway.

the h4x354x0r

(Report Comment)
John Schultz January 24, 2011 | 10:09 p.m.

Rose, how much is too much for health insurance? I provide my own health insurance instead of my employer, and pay about $155/month for a 40 year-old fat white guy who doesn't have any chronic maladies. Why shouldn't we expect the vast majority of Americans to do the same instead of seeking government solutions?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 25, 2011 | 9:39 a.m.

Derrick, I believe that if you take out the interest on the debt and only consider the remainder of the expenditures, then defense spending is about half of the budget, and that is without the additional spending for the war. I don't enjoy parroting statistics that other people have provided, knowing that creative accounting makes most of them worthless, so please read for yourself if that sounds wrong. The figure likely includes veteran's benefits and other costs that a conservative accountant would label as "welfare".

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 25, 2011 | 1:08 p.m.

@Paul: I personally think that the Military Industrial Complex actually eats up somewhere between 35%-45% of the entire federal budget, but...

The 25% figure I quote is obtained via official federal budget figures for 2010: DoD 18.74%; Veteran's Affairs 1.48%; Homeland Security 1.21%; and DoE .74%. These come up to 22.7%. Then I throw in another (very conservative) ~2.3% from areas like "Off budget discretionary spending" - 2.97% and "Dept. of State and other international programs" - 1.46%. That's easily a solid 25% of federal budget.

Then you have to decide for yourself how much the government lies about where the money really goes, how many other department's activities are really just a support for the MIC, and how much more is being spent totally off-budget that's not even in the off-budget figures. I don't really believe the peacenik's estimates of 50%, but I don't believe the "official" figures either. I think it's about 40%.

What blows me away about this whole debate is the total mental "compartmentalization" of government operations. When it comes to healthcare, the government is a complete bumbling idiot, incapable of doing anything right or providing any real truth. But when it comes to defense, domestic policing, and security, they are shining examples of purity and heroism???

Or, that "Democrats" are totally worthless hucksters and charlatans (or wonderful people), but somehow "Republicans" are all great, morally upstanding heroes (or greedy liars and cheats). Yeah, right.

Sorry, but that logic fails the most basic test of realism and rationality. As incompetent (or capable) as anyone might think the government is at running healthcare, the government is equally incompetent (or capable) of executing defense and domestic security. I won't even call that a fact; I'll call that an undeniable reality. If only we all had a quarter, and there was a vending machine that sold clues...

Don't forget that half the federal deficit is a drop in revenue from joblessness. The other half is increased spending, partly because because of joblessness. We've been fooling ourselves that we've been producing anything of real value, or that produces real new wealth, for a long time. The outlook for productive work that would allow us to pay down our debt is bleak.

(Report Comment)
Ed Ricciotti January 25, 2011 | 6:47 p.m.

"Rose, how much is too much for health insurance? I provide my own health insurance instead of my employer, and pay about $155/month for a 40 year-old fat white guy who doesn't have any chronic maladies. Why shouldn't we expect the vast majority of Americans to do the same instead of seeking government solutions?"

Because if you were a fat white guy with a pre-existing condition, you would not have been able to get that policy before the law. Problem is our health care delivery system is based on a flawed insurance model. Unlike car or home insurance, everyone will utilize the health care system during their lifetime. So you either have everyone all into the insurance system or you find another way to deliver health care. When it comes to health, one can't afford to wait for rational self interest to make it's way through the market.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 27, 2011 | 11:23 a.m.

Ok Derrick, those numbers sound real, but what I'm wondering is what percent of the budget is debt servicing. If something takes ten percent of a budget and debt servicing is forty percent of the budget, then ten percent of the remaining sixty percent is 16.7 percent of the money that is actually being spent.

So if your numbers show twenty five percent and fifty percent is being spent on paying interest on government bonds then the actual number is fifty percent. You may be beginning to see why I have so much contempt for people who use statistics to say anything.

(Report Comment)

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