This is, of course, an absurd question. Getting all 300 million of us to agree on this isn’t going to be easy. But a parody circulating on the internet shows how misunderstood we Americans can be.
National social programs are relatively new in the States—Medicare, the plan that gives medical care to those over 65, is only forty years old. Social security, the national pension plan for people who have worked legally for a wage, is about sixty years old. Welfare programs for the poor are often tolerated at arm’s length with the nose held.
But while many view these programs with disdain or suspicion, few turn them down. And many of us think these programs contribute to the salvation of our national soul. But the strong strains of individualism that have existed here for four hundred years cause many Americans to behave in a manner that seems insane to outsiders. But while ideology contributes to this fear of health care reform, it’s only a part of the picture.
In the U.S., most people under 65 get their health insurance from their employers, so as long as they have a job, they may feel safe. But this hold on health insurance is very tenuous. Employers looking to save money may drop plans. If you lose your job, you have to pay impossible amounts for private insurance. So when someone has insurance, they hold on for dear life, and anything seen to possibly interfere with the status quo may be feared. To an outsider, it may seem that a segment of Americans are fighting to keep themselves uninsured, but in reality, they are fighting to keep afloat, and change—any change—can seem like an existential threat.
What the reaction against health care reform tells me is not that we are a bunch of idiots who can’t recognize our own self-interest, but that we are so frightened we are paralyzed.
At least some of us. There is also a pretty big strain of insane wing-nuttery.