7/30/2009

Being Conservative

Yesterday's conversation with my neighbor really stuck with me. In fact, I think I dreamed of what my responses should have been all night. The comment that in regard to a national health care system, "We need to go slow. To make sure we get the best outcome for everyone," stuck with me the strongest.

I'm reading a David Halberstam book, Teammates, about Ted Williams and his friends in the last days of Williams' life. In that book, Halberstam spends a little time explaining one of baseball's most controversial moments; the last game of the 1946 World Series. In the 9th inning, the game was tied and Boston's excellent centerfielder, Dominic DiMaggio, was injured and out of the lineup. A journeyman, Leon Culbertson, was in his place. Enos Slaughter, one of the game's most dangerous baserunners was on first and Harry Walker, a scatter hitter, was at bat. "Country" Slaughter had decided that he was going to go all the way on anything Walker hit out of the infield, particularly if that hit went into centerfield. Walker put the ball right where Slaughter wanted it.

Here's what Bobby Doer said about the play," It was brutal--as bad a field as I've ever played on. So bumpy and rough. Dom (DiMaggio) was accustomed to it by then, and not afraid of it. But Leon was very tentative with it. Dominic played balls aggressively; Leon played this one conservatively."

That's my definition of "conservative," too. My experience with taking the conservative route always ends in losing, too. Shakespeare's Falstaff used a less common term when he said, "The better part of valor is discretion." Playing the ball "conservatively," avoiding battle with "discretion," running away in outright cowardice, it's all the same.

The United States Congress has been talking about a single-payer national healthcare reform since Harry Truman's administration. Nixon side-tracked that movement by handing the keys to the nation's medical system to the worst of all possible "solutions"; HMO's. At that point in history, even conservatives realized that our national system was "in crisis." The conservative "fix" during the 1990's was to defeat, again, the Clinton's national healthcare system and to allow dope companies to market directly to consumers, which ballooned drug use and cost. So, "taking it slow and carefully" means wasting trillions of dollars and sixty years to get to . . . what? An opportunity to "break Obama," according to hillbilly senator, Jim DeMint? Another opportunity to pork-barrell more profits for insurance companies, dope dealers, and the rest of the crowd who prey on America's sinking national health crisis?

We are a conservative nation.

All this reminds me of the conversion to the metric system that every industrial expert describes as one of the most critical competitiveness disadvantages our country faces. We are, for practical purposes, the last nation in the industrialized world to give a damn about the length of the king's foot and a base-12 measurement system and the rest of the archaic "standards" that make up the English/SAE measurement system. Thomas Jefferson was the first American President to recommend that we convert to a decimal/metric system and in 1792, the United States was the first nation to adopt a decimal currency system. The metric system was made "legal for trade" in 1866. In 1971, the infamous Report to the Congress: A Metric America, A Decision Whose Time Has Come was delivered to Congress and that study recommended the country fully convert to the metric system in 10 years. A decade later, the Great Communicator Ronny Reagan, disbanded the U.S. Metric Board and declared the movement "dead." In 1988, Congress converted the federal government to the metric system and industry has been "electively" moving to the metric system since the 1970s. However, complete conversion to the metric system is nowhere in sight.

Apparently, our overwhelmingly conservative elected representatives will not be satisfied until the United States has the worst national health system in the world. In 2000, we were somewhere between 37th and 39th, falling below the high standards of the United Arab Emirates, Chile, Columbia, and Oman. In 2000, we were still healthier than Cuba, Slovenia, and Croatia, but just barely.

I am still working on generating a similar comparison for the 2006 data. They seem to have been effectively attacked on the 2000 position, from U.S. conservatives, that they are avoiding such a clear ranking of nations. Battling data is an easy win for conservative "think tanks" (the ultimate oxymoron), since US citizens are doing as well with math and science as is our healthcare system (28th of 40 industrialized nations in mathematics scores). If history is a guide, moving to a rational national healthcare system is at least 200 years in the future. If we can't manage something as rational and simple as changing to the international measurement system, something as emotionally charged, financially motivated, and easily misled as a healthcare system is impossible.

If I'm right, it's just more evidence that the United States is a radically conservative nation. If you don't understand my meaning, let me be clear: the country is cowardly, mentally disabled, and lacking in necessary survival skills.

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