“It’s ticking away with my sanity
I’ve got too much time on my hands
It’s hard to believe such a calamity
I’ve got too much time on my hands
And it’s ticking away, ticking away from me.” — Tommy Shaw
Yesterday was an interesting day in the World Geography class I support. See, the district made a huge deal about the teaching of controversial topics. It isn’t even so much that we aren’t supposed to do it, but we have to be so careful as to not interject our own opinion into these things. Then, the teacher found a worksheet that described health care costs in the United States and nine other industrialized nations.
The teacher gave me the worksheet and asked me to look at the first question. It looked a little loaded and so we pivoted a little and hedged our bets. Look more carefully at the whole sheet (including the graph) and there was no way to spin it. All of the questions were loaded. It presented facts that could not be disputed and yet framed the discussion in such a negative way that you wanted to call the policy fight before one side got killed.
See, according to the graph, the United States spends more than 15 percent of its GDP on health care. Naturally, you’d have to read the fine print to know exactly what that all entails. We could naturally assume they are talking both health insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses. The other nine industrialized nations all hovered around ten percent. Sweden was the lowest at 9.3 percent.
We include the usual caveats in a conversation like this. Why did those that make the graph pick those specific countries? Wouldn’t we need to also see what people are getting for that care? The worksheet even asked a question of what we would expect to see in terms of quality of care. They asked the question in such a loaded way as the teacher and I expected another statement to appear that this assumption would be wrong.
We avoid teaching these things because we are under the impression that we have to show both sides. We are under the impression that both sides actually have equal merit. This is where we’ve landed in terms of political correctness and bending over backwards not to appear to have a liberal agenda. A worksheet clearly shows we are spending too much on health care and we have to somehow tiptoe around that.
There used to be a day when we could all agree on the facts before us. If information presented itself that we spent more on health care per capita then any country in the world then we could all agree we are spending too much on health care. We could all agree that you don’t pal around with white supremacists or sing Vladimir Putin’s praises. It makes us think we are taking crazy pills.
Obviously, the health care debate is not front and center right now. It just serves as an example of how blatant things have gotten. The worksheet clearly showed that we spend more than everyone else and implied that the results aren’t a lick better. Our training would dictate that we couldn’t share that with students. Common sense and facts seemingly have a liberal bias.
Politics is about accepting reality and then suggesting ways to make it better. If we want to stop a Russian mad man do we simply clamp down on him with more sanctions or do we actually physically intervene? We acknowledge that racism exists. We acknowledge that there are cases of racial bias in the judicial system and other systems. We endeavor to find ways to remove those biases. We certainly don’t join in with the lunatic fringe.
In terms of health care, we acknowledge we are spending too much and too many families are financially ruined because someone got sick. Of course, acknowledging that also forces us to acknowledge our own greed. We would acknowledge that we are the only industrialized nation without universal coverage. We would have to acknowledge that drug prices are higher here and insurance companies make a bigger profit here. We would have to grapple with the idea that any of these things are good.
Politics used to be about solutions to these problems we all acknowledged. We used to acknowledge that mad men shouldn’t have access to automatic weapons that can kill people by the dozens. We used to acknowledge that consumers deserved basic protections from predatory lenders or those that would swindle them. The debate came in how we protect people. It came in how we best serve their interests. It came in just how involved the government needed to be in providing these solutions. No one ever argued that these were good things. At least they didn’t until now.