Friday, November 8, 2013

"We hate the government, except for the large part of it that helps us"

[Colin Woodard's map of 11 American nations]
I just got back from another nation.

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%.
Of the seven of us gathered around a table at El Adobe Cafe earlier this week, five get Medicare, one gets VA benefits, and one is a caregiver. My friends love these programs because they need them, and they know what their lives would be like without them. At the same time, some of them hate the federal government that makes the programs possible.
I don't get it, but I've learned that arguing gets me nowhere. Even if these people are biting the government's outstretched hand, I'm glad they're getting fed. And speaking of food, El Adobe Cafe serves some of the best Mexican food I've ever eaten. The Far West gets some things exactly right.


Dolores Walker said...

iariatyLaVonne, here's a voice from your past. (Walla Walla, writers group, Pioneer Methodist) What a thrill to find you are still writing. I just came across your recent blog posts and boy, do I agree with you! I cannot figure out why those government haters can't see their hypocrisy. I'm glad you were talking to them, not me, because I'm not as kind. Bless you! Keep up the good work!

Thanks also for defending the ACA. I'm still Obama's friend too.

LaVonne Neff said...

Dolores, my goodness! How great to hear from you! Are you on Facebook? If so, send me a friend request and then we can catch up.

Edwin (Bud) Racine said...

ya nailed it, LaVonne. Thanks. How best to share your newsletter with those who are not on FB?

LaVonne Neff said...

Thanks, Bud. Best is probably to send a link to the home page, , and encourage them to sign up for emailed notifications (or, if they use a feed, to add the URL to that). Or just send a link to the specific article you want to share.