I recently went to a most engaging and informative movie called The Waiting Room sponsored by Missourians for Single Payer Health Care. There was a crowd of about thirty people. It was good to see so many people on a Thursday night come to see a movie that focuses on the perils that so many people currently face because they are without any form of health insurance.
What was not good to see was that I was the youngest person in the room. At 66 years old, I’ve been on Medicare for a year and truly appreciate all the benefits I receive from it. But the point of showing the film was to heighten the awareness of Medicare to those too young to currently qualify for Medicare. These are the people who would immediately benefit from expanding the eligibility for Medicare. They need what their seniors already have. Where were those younger people? They were nowhere to be found.
Some may pass it off as simple apathy. Obviously this is part of the problem, but it goes well beyond that. We need to ask who were the people who influenced them to become apathetic about a public issue that has such a personal impact. What kind of parenting did they have? What kind of education did they have?
Critiquing parenting is difficult to do, especially since there are about as many different ways to parent as there are parent. But schools are much easier to critique because in so many ways they operate like a monolith.
It has now been well over a dozen years since the George W. Bush Administration brought us the “No Child Left Behind” program, more appropriately referred to as the “No TEST Left Behind.” Students and teachers alike are herded to march to the beat of the standardized tests. All of the tests have one thing in common; they suppose that there is one and only one correct answer.
These tests do not challenge students to question. They do not encourage active participation in public issues. They do not raise students’ awareness of the problems that our world faces and how we might go about trying to resolve them.
Few students learn in school about how virtually industrialized country in the world other than the United States has a system of universal health care or Medicare for all. What they do learn a lot about is charity. To the schools’ credit, they do inform students that others in the world are suffering and need help, but isn’t it convenient for conservatives that the only forms of help that the schools actively acknowledge are ones in the private sector. You might think that the Red Cross or the American Cancer Society are part of the government, but they are not. They do outstanding work, but their capacity to fully address the challenges that they face is as limited as the total amount of money that Americans have to give to charity. Whether the issue is cancer research, providing better hospital or clinic care for those who are infirmed, the bottom line is that the federal government has what charities don’t have: the resources to address it. It would require eliminating the ceiling on income taxed for payroll taxes from $113,700 to no limit. This would be a progressive tax. However, far too many Americans have come to accept the conservative mantra that the best government is the least government.
So while many younger Americans have far less than optimal health care coverage, they tend to address questions about their needs to their employer, their union, or to a seemingly insensitive insurance company. What “pre-seniors” don’t do is to look to their federal government to deliver a service that is a basic human right. Their employers, unions, and insurance companies do not have as a primary goal “the well-being of the people.” Neither do the states. Health care is clearly a service that is the responsibility of our national government. But conservatives seem to win the battle because citizens who are entitled to this basic right don’t quite understand it. As odd as it may seem, the first place to start enlightening the public is in our schools. If that won’t work, then progressives have to use every other legal method to help people consider the benefits that they would accrue from a Medicare for all system.