|[Colin Woodard's map of 11 American nations]|
According to Colin Woodard, author of American Nations (and this recent article summarizing that book's thesis), the United States comprises eleven distinct cultures. By upbringing and acculturation, I belong to two of them, The Left Coast and Yankeedom. Earlier this week, I got together with friends in The Far West. I am still scratching my head.
Some of these friends hate the federal government, especially its Democratic representatives, and particularly the Obama administration. My views about government, Democrats, and Obama are radically different from theirs, though I understand why some people fear government overreach, I accept that good Republicans exist, and I occasionally disagree with President Obama myself.
But here's what baffles me. Everyone in the group of Far West friends I saw this week is a huge fan of VA hospitals, even though the US Department of Veterans Affairs is the second-largest department of the US government, and even though, as T.R. Reid points out in The Healing of America, VA healthcare is one of the world's purest examples of "socialized medicine."
Everyone in the group is also a huge fan of Medicare, even though Medicare is a US government program that closely resembles Canada's National Health Insurance, often derided by Obamacare opponents.
When I suggested that it would be nice if everybody in America had access to healthcare as good as that provided by VA hospitals or Medicare, everyone nodded. I think they were agreeing with me, though perhaps they were just being polite.
The thing is, we wouldn't have VA hospitals or Medicare if we didn't have a strong federal government.
- The Veterans Health Administration, established during the Truman years as the Department of Medicine and Surgery, today "operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system."
- Medicare, signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson with Harry S Truman by his side, accounts for 14% of today's national budget--and that's without including the government's healthcare programs for the poor. Add Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and you bring the total up to 21%.