Published today in the Bristol Herald Courier. Words in bold were edited out of the printed edition:
United States citizens are prevented from having good government not so much by our politicians as by the short attention span and short-term memory problems of the electorate. This is demonstrated clearly in the debate over affordable health care. Brian Jenkins. in a letter published Sunday April 24 in the Bristol Herald Courier provides a good example.
First of all, I know Mr. Jenkins is not alone. Many people share his opinion, and some, like Mr. Jenkins, feel free – under freedom of speech, which I defend – to make linguistic obscene gestures [see quote*] in public forums like the Sunday paper, and an editor may choose to print that.
Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance consumer costs actually have gone down. If your insurance costs more than it did before the ACA, you should shop around. This applies to both individuals and employer or cooperative group insurance. That people are not shopping around is a symptom of a very short attention span. Actual sustained attention to the problem would produce a better result.
As to short-term memory, President Obama proposed a public option similar to Medicare. The only argument against his plan that was actually true was that it would be better and less expensive than private health insurance and would attract people away from private insurers, cutting into their profits. Other ideological arguments were put forward to distract people with short attention spans, but all of these – death panels, funding for abortion, creeping socialism, etc. – would have been dismissed if people had thought about them for a while or sought actual information. In any case, the opposition prevailed, and ACA passed without a public option.
Only a short-term memory problem can account for blaming President Obama, who proposed a low-cost public option, for a nonexistent increase in consumer cost. ACA is far better than what we had before, but not as good as it would have been with the public option. And single payer, where we all pitch in and bear one another’s burdens, would be best and least expensive.
* Quoted from Brian Jenkins, writing in a letter to the editor published in the Bristol Herald Courier April 24, 2011. “I guess the only thing I can do is give Obama two thumbs down and two fingers up for his screw up as usual.”