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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 13, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Health care: public vs. private; true costs; democracy

President’s message doesn’t need adjusting

One might infer from your headline [“Stunned by critics, Obama adjusts message,” Aug. 11, page one] that President Obama’s critics had confronted the president with such incisive arguments against his health-care reform proposals that he needed to adjust his message to address their telling points.

Not at all. I am sure Obama, like most people who have thought at all about health-care reform, is stunned at his critics utter lack of sense. Rather than adding to the discussion of what would be best for the American people, his critics instead resort to slimy personal attacks on Obama and shopworn slogans that still work to frighten many anxious Americans.

The critics don’t intend to help build a better health-care system, they intend to destroy our president and his noble goals: a health-care system for all that moves to cut out the stupendous waste in the current system, reduces costs and focuses on a better, health-focused system.

— Robert M. Stevenson, Port Townsend

Why stop at merely “big” government?

Paul Krugman is right. Big Government will be our salvation [“Avoiding the economic abyss,” syndicated column, Aug. 11].

But I see him and raise him a bundle. Big Government is good but Huge Government is better and Super-Sized Government even better than that.

Only when government makes most of our decisions for us will Americans attain the health, freedom and prosperity we all deserve. Look no further than Cuba, Vietnam and the former Soviet socialist republics for examples of what I mean.

Huge armies of all-powerful government bureaucrats running everything is not something to fear but something to embrace and maybe even love. A glorious future awaits us.

I know, I know. The British statesman Lord Acton once famously said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But not here, not in America, and certainly not in the Democratic Party.

— Jeffrey Weiser, Redmond

Nothing to be proud of

America, you should be ashamed of yourself: 50 million uninsured and growing. More underinsured and bankrupt everyday.

For many, particularly children and young adults, the only access they have to health care is the emergency room — or traveling to Third World-style free clinics, the costs of which must then be allocated to the rest of us. What kind of a legacy is that?

We have created a system where doctors get paid for services rather than outcomes, where prevention is essentially nonexistent, and where we’d rather pop a pill than take responsibility for our own lifestyles that lack both exercise and a proper diet.

And we certainly are seeing the impact of replacing civic education with a 24-hour news cycle and constant reality television. Civility is dead.

When did we begin to replace pride in our government with conspiracy theories. When did we reverse JFK’s “Ask not,” substituting personal selfishness and the immediate acceptance of talking-heads misinformation.

Rather than invest in our own society, we’d rather perpetuate a system in which we hand billions over to for-profit insurance companies that deny care, pharmaceutical companies that focus more on impotence than the eradication of disease, and physician specialists who never tell you what procedures are going to cost nor have any real threat of competition — which is why many make more than $700,000 a year.

Call it what you will, but those are the true taxes on society and they’re growing unsustainably. That’s the real tax we pay.

— Marston Gould, Tacoma

Democracy on trial

I recently read a difficult but very timely book by the great constitutional scholar Ronald Dworkin. The book’s title poses a question that is always pertinent, but that is given an even sharper edge by the recent rhetorical riots at health-care town halls: “Is Democracy Possible Here?”

Dworkin’s thesis is that, in order to have a debate over an issue within any open, democratic society, the various sides of the debate must agree on certain fundamental principles concerning human dignity, must explicitly acknowledge that agreement, and must articulate their differences as a matter of achieving these common fundamental goals. Only by emphasizing our uniting principles and conducting the debate in that context is it possible to have a debate instead of a mere shouting match. In fact, Dworkin argues, democracy itself is only possible on such a basis.

So I’m beginning to wonder, as I stand on the sidelines watching the ongoing health-care theater of the absurd, if perhaps the answer to the title of Dworkin’s book is “No.”

Seeing one’s adversaries as wrong is one thing and legitimate. Seeing them as the avatars of Hitler and Dr. Mengele is something else again. If there ever was an issue on which the American public needs to grow up, it is the health-care issue. Instead, too many of us, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Rush Limbaugh, indulge in the verbal equivalent of diaper-wetting, not only because we disagree, but because we allow ourselves to disagree to the point of purple-jowled slobbering incoherence, moral illiteracy and mutual intolerance. A grown country should know better!

I am 60 years old, nearing retirement, and getting old enough that the health-care issue is something that is “up close and personal.”

I have an equally personal stake in the quality of the debate that settles that issue, assuming it gets settled. If the best the pro and con sides of the health-care debate can provide is the Cro-Magnon crudity of Limbaugh and the hysteria of Pelosi, then I may end up paying for their indulgence in juvenility in the coin of my health, even of my life.

Pelosi and Limbaugh deserve each other. A plague on both their houses.

— James R. Cowles, Kent

Happy with a government plan

This year, I switched from Premera at my work to my husband’s government-run health plan, the Uniform Medical Plan. I couldn’t be happier.

It’s way, way better coverage than anything I’ve ever had from a private-sector plan, and I know my health-care providers are happy I made the switch. Claims are processed faster and the providers receive a higher level of compensation.

–Karen Therese, Seattle

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