Saturday, October 17, 2009

Health Reform and the Ongoing Struggle between Reason and Emotion

No one can make me mad—except myself.

Adolescents are walking, talking bundles of hormones and emotions. Most of them have a rudimentary brain, but many seldom use it in their day-to-day decisions and relationships. Those who are bright and well taught may be able to write coherent paragraphs and do quadratic equations; however, they may be stumped when it comes to knowing who and what to believe when it comes to feelings.

If adolescents feel passion, they assume that the object of their affection is perfect and a potential source of all that is wonderful. If they feel anger, they assume someone has done something to make them angry. Unless someone helps them understand, they have no way of knowing how fickle emotions can be—or, more importantly, that they can choose how to feel.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the elementary or secondary curricula in schools that teaches people the difference between thoughts and feelings—or which to trust when the two are in conflict. Consequently, the habit of acting on emotions and giving them too much credence persists throughout life. Many—if not most—of us muddle along as best we can, unsure when to think with our heads and when to go with our gut, making lots of mistakes along the way. (For a great discussion on this topic, see Jonah Lehrer’s book How We Decide.)

In America, this lack of general knowledge about emotions and how they affect decision making results in a naïve public—one that can be easily manipulated and exploited. Merchants and advertisers depend on consumers who can be swayed by their feelings—who, for example, can be persuaded to “trust Bayer,” which may cost two or three times as much as identical generic aspirin.

We live in an economy that is largely driven by the ignorance of the consumer—but when it comes to emotional decision making, that’s the least of our problems. After all, manufacturers of name-brand products have to make a buck, and generally, we all agree that competition is a good thing. Buyer beware.

When it comes to political decisions, however, a naïve public can be much more problematic. Nowhere is this more evident than in the current struggle over health care reform.

There are at least two sides to any topic as broad as American health care. In a rational country, one side would be focusing on fact-based assessments of the costs of reform, the other on the needs of the people. After all, in an imperfect world, there will always be the need for some cost-benefit analysis.

Instead of doing their job of providing rational, objective assessments of costs, however, members of the GOP (General Opposition Party) and so-called fiscal conservatives have thrown in their lot with the extreme right, which has had decades of success manipulating the public by stirring up fear and anger. Manipulation of public sentiments is a useful tool for preventing progress—especially when “progress” means interfering with a process by which a few become obscenely rich by exploiting the masses.

In the case of health care reform, the extreme right—protecting the interests of insurance companies and for-profit medical industries—has frightened and angered huge segments of the naïve, gullible public with lies about “death panels,” forced abortions, and threats to Medicare. They’ve done this primarily through propaganda—which, like all propaganda, masquerades as “news”—on Fox TV and AM radio. This disinformation campaign has been hugely successful—but that doesn’t make it right.

People who know better—or should know better—just stand by when these lies are being told, figuring that if public sentiment seems to be swinging their way, the end justifies the means. I think it’s wrong to manipulate people through lies. I think it’s wrong for people who should know better to jump onto an emotional bandwagon, regardless of where that wagon might be going.

When adolescents wallow in emotions and enjoy the drama, that’s understandable. When adults do the same thing, it’s a shame. And in 21st Century America, there’s no excuse for intelligent adults to continue to be naïve, emotionally volatile, and ignorant about the difference between rational and emotional decision making.

Objective, fact-based analysis of issues of national concern is readily available. All most people have to do to find it is change the channel.


Idna said...

Once again a predictable, emotional rant against the GOP, Fox, talk radio, etc. (you know,the usual suspects.)

I will not list the number of Health Care Reform ideas and bills that have been put forward by the GOP. If you pay attention at all, you should be aware of these. (You should also be aware that Pelosi and Reid refuse to consider any of these for a serious hearing or discussion in their respective houses.)So to continue the myth that the GOP has no ideas and just says NO to everything is completely dishonest.

You finish your blog with the satement "Objective, fact-based analysis of issues of national concern is readily available."

Beyond the insulting rant against the usual suspects, I can't see any discussion of health reform issues or facts in your post. However, there is one liberal talking point phrase that you use that deserves a closer look. You say, ...the extreme right—protecting the interests of insurance companies and for-profit medical industries.

"For-profit medical industries". Care to explain why it is a bad thing for a medical industry to make a profit?

Here's an example of what happens when a "medical industry" company is forced by government to NOT make a profit.

In 1957, 26 companies supplied the market for standard children's vaccines. By 2005, there were four. What happened?

Excessive government red tape, price controls and out-of-control lawsuits plagued the industry.

The 'Vaccines for Children Program' was the final nail in the coffin of the American vaccine industry. Established by the Clinton administration in 1994, it created a single-buyer system for children's vaccines. The government buys more than half of all childhood vaccines – at a huge discount. Getting a return on their investment became next to impossible for the vaccine manufacturers. Most of them left the country or went out of business.

We still need the vaccines for the kids. So we have to buy the bulk of it from other countries... where our vaccine industry was outsourced.

So we lost a vital medical industry, manufacturing and research jobs and introduction of new products because of government interference. Is this the model we should follow?

Objective, fact based analysis ... not talking points.

Citizen Jane said...

Hi, Idna,

Health care is a very different "product" than any manufactured item. If one can't afford the best sofa, a cheaper one will do fine. If one can't afford a sofa, there are other ways to meet the need, and quality of life need not suffer. With health care, however, the opportunity for life and quality of life for everyone is dependent on excellent, affordable care.

That said, there's nothing wrong with for-profit companies providing medical services, so long as these conditions are met:

1) quality care--including "health" care and not just "sick" care--is available for everyone,

2) the system is affordable and sustainable, and

3) people don't have to plan their entire lives around having a job that will make health care available.

The present system is light years from meeting those conditions, and and nothing the GOP has put forward would address those concerns. The market depends on competition to make anything affordable, and that competition must be built into any workable national plan.

Can you direct me to a source that could provide me with more information about this children's vaccine issue of which you speak?

Thanks for your comments!

Idna said...

Hi Jane,

I'd be happy to send you some info about vaccine manufacturers.

One Written in May 2009: What made vaccine industry so sickly?

A very thorough one written in 2004 (when there was another flu outbreak)What’s Behind the Flu Vaccine Shortage by Devon Herrick, Ph.D., a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis

Background to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act shows how tort litigation is one of the components of creating disincentives to continue investment in developing and manufacturing vaccines and finally driving manufacturers out of business:

There are many articles about the current swine flu vaccine shortages. One in USA Today shows how reliant we are on foreign manufacturers (latter part of article)

Bottom line, and it's a no brainer ... if a company must lay out a bunch of money to produce a product and they are strangled by government & trial lawyers and end up losing money, they will go out of business. But we still need the product.

Idna said...

Woops! I forgot to put the website address for What’s Behind the Flu Vaccine Shortage by
Devon Herrick, Ph.D

Sue said...

Jane, the three points you list in your reply to Idna seem to me to be absolute essentials of a good health care program. Yet I'm also not seeing these being addressed in the Democratic-sponsored legislation. There seems to be more interest in forcing people to buy insurance they probably cannot afford than in making reasonable health coverage available without it being connected to employment -- which in my opinion is the most necessary aspect of reform. "For profit" or "not for profit" doesn't seem to make much difference in my experience. The "not for profit" insurers/providers maintain "reserves" that most "for profit" businesses would love to achieve as profits (same result, different terminology) while many people can only afford the most rudimentary emergency care.

I think competition is good, and it seems to me to be the best way to assure reasonably-priced health care for all. But let's make sure that all have reasonably-priced access to it.

Six said...

Citizen Jane, you come off sounding a bit delusional. Your deep hatred for those who have an opposing view point is causing you to do exactly what you claim your enemy is doing.

I have heard many good suggestions - on both sides - to address needed reform. So how you and somehow the leaders of the Democratic party have missed them is suspect. As Idna has pointed out, the major problem I have with the current plan is the mandatory purchase of insurance. To claim that the GOP has not had useful, relevant, necessary suggestions is completely false.

The fact is that if there is a suggestion put out there that is not in lock-step with the Administrations agenda, it is immediately dismissed, disregarded and the author of said suggestion faces the wrath of the left - think not? Ask John Mackey how the suggestions of what he has found to work in his company that he penned in an opt-ed has worked out for him! (and go talk to the protestors - hilariously uninformed!! Anecdotally, not one I talked to actually read his opt-ed, but they were all condeming him for it!!)

I will not give the Republicans a pass on this as they could have very easily been in control of this debate had they decided to take on this issue 6 years ago themselves. However they were too busy misleading us about two unecessary wars and using fear to take away rights.

On a side note, Obama did do some good today - although he didn't go far enough. He has said he will follow through and end the Federal Raids Med Marijuana. It only took him nearly a year of breaking his promise to get to this point!

Citizen Jane said...

Thanks for the links, Idna. I notice that two of them are from representatives of conservative "think tanks"--The Pacific Research Institute and the American Research Institute. All too often, the "research" these organizations do is to spruce up and repackage talking points the conservative minority wants to push. That's not to say that the issue of vaccine supplies isn't complex and that the system may not be as good as it should be. I'm just saying that I consider those sources suspect.

BTW, I'm reading Republican Gomorrah, a very revealing book about some of the founding fathers of the extreme right movement, especially the religious right. Through it, I'm getting some interesting insights into how this complex of "think tanks" originated and maintains funding. Should you decide to read the book, I'd be interested in discussing it.

Citizen Jane said...

Hi, Six. Good to hear from you.

Obama is eight months into his administration. He's saved the economy, mobilized the world to address the problem of nuclear armaments, gotten us a good long way down the road toward closing Gitmo and getting out of Irag, and accomplished a good many things not on his original list. But gays are fuming because he hasn't yet rid the military of the loathsome "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and now you're mad that he hasn't righted other wrongs--yet. Give the man a little time--he has to work through Congress. It's a miracle that he gets anything done at all, don't you think?

Six said...

Hi Citizen Jane! Good to hear from you and I was quite pleased there was a post for me get up and arms about today! ;-)

You believe he saved our economy? Seriously? Well I will save that for another rant.

I am not saying his plate is not full... however if he spent a little less time cheerleading and giving speeches about how the Republicans are holding him back, he might have accomplished a little more thus far.

How long would it take for him draft a one or two sentence Executive Order ending the homophobic policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' if it meant as much to him as his supporters want to believe it does. I think he is not as friendly as many claim him to be to the gay rights debate. Until he actually proves otherwise, no matter how many speeches he gives, I don't see how anyone can believe otherwise. The man is president - he can make it happen and doesn't need to give 5 speeches beforehand before he does.

How many phone calls do you think it would take for him to call the head of the DEA and say, "Don't raid legitimate Med Marijuana Co-Ops operating legally under thier respective state-laws?" One.

Instead, he prefers to parade to places and give speeches about how wonderful he and Chicago is, do late-night talk shows and go on speaking tour to condem the Republicans.

Too busy to actually give gays and lesbians the equal treatment they deserve, but not too busy to give speeches about it. Nice.

Idna said...

Dear Jane,
"Thoughts and comments from a rational perspective", that's the tagline that you use for your blog. You put forth 3 conditions that you say must be met regarding a health care bill. So far so good. They are admirable goals.

Then, as Six points out, you revert back to the same old "nothing the GOP has put
forward would address those concerns". In order to come from a rational perspective, I would assume that one would base their arguments on facts. So I'm honestly dumbfounded that you insist on repeating this democrat/liberal talking point which is just not true.

Either you are oblivious to the facts because your news sources neglect to inform you or they are outright dishonest. You can't say you use a rational perspective when coming from either a point of ignorance or dishonesty.

With the exception of the public option, President Obama and GOP lawmakers agree on most major provisions on health care reform. Many "news media", however, would
like to perpetuate the "Republicans are stubborn and opposed to Everything" myth and you may not be aware of some facts.

Obama calls for choice and competition, as you do, Jane. Republicans couldn't agree more. So to put flesh to Obama's rhetoric, Arizona Republican Rep. John Shaddeg wrote a bill (H.R. 3217) to allow Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines, and therefore to dramatically step up competitive forces in the insurance market. The bill is still sitting idle in Committee since July.

Obama said he would not sign a health care bill that "adds one dime to the deficit". You like this, Jane, so does the GOP. Once again, Republicans tried to do something more than just rhetoric.

An amendment, offered by Rep. Tom
McClintock, R-Calif., would have prohibited any health care legislation from going into effect unless it were deficit neutral. This plan to ensure Obama's no-deficit pledge was killed by Democrats in committee.

How about BO's aversion to bureaucrats making personal health care decisions?

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., offered an amendment that would explicitly prohibit federal officials from making those decisions. Led by Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., committee Democrats killed the amendment.

How about making sure that we don't euthanize granny to save on costs? (Being a granny myself, this is getting personal!) An amendment proposed by Rep. Walley
Herger, R-Calif., which would forbid the federal government from conducting comparative effectiveness research on health care treatments--the precursor to
health care rationing--was killed in the Ways and Means committee at Chairman Rangel's behest.

BO's campaign pledge of not raising taxes for individuals making less than $200,000. Rep. Paul Ryan's amendment, R-Wis., would exempt all individuals making less than that from all taxes contained in the bill. It was killed in the Ways and Means Committee. A similar amendment, offered by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-WA., in the Education and Labor Committee, was shot down by panel Democrats.

Obama: "Don't pay attention to those scary stories about how [seniors' Medicare] benefits will be cut." Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla. - amendment to strip the
bill of language that cuts funding for Medicare Advantage. Shot down by Charlie Rangle & committee Democrats.

There are many more examples, but I am limited here.

I hope some of these facts will make you rethink the "General Opposition Party" phrase of which you are so fond.

Idna said...

Dear Six,

I was happy to see your reference to John Mackey of Whole Foods. His article in the Wall Street Journal should be required reading for anyone who has anything to say about the health care debate. And, as you say, it was hilarious to hear the uninformed protestors' crazy talk about something that they never read.

Here's the link to this excellent article:

(No reason to be afraid to read this, Jane, even though it is carried by the Wall Street Journal, what you probably label a "suspect" source. What's next... book burnings?)

Idna said...

I just tested the link to the Mackey article and part of the url address was cut off. I'm going to try it again, but if it doesn't work, just google John Mackey WSJ

Six said...


I am all for protesting - I have attended protests in the past and believe it is a part of the fundamental of Free Speech. This was (and continues to be) clearly a well organized, substantially funded protest (yes Jane, the left does that too) equipped with fliers to hand out, a massive 3ft by 12ft latex banner saying 'Whole Foods Hurts Our Community' that could be read from an airplane in the sky. It has been obvious through going to and driving by Whole Foods and seeing them that this is a regularly planned protest where there must be some sort of signup or union assignment. The banner alone probably cost $200-$300 dollars or more, not to mention the little display they had set up. And I don't recall ever seeing the same people there twice.

What I actually asked the one protester I spoke with was, 'what about Whole Foods hurts our community'? The response was that the CEO opposes Healthcare reform and takes advantage of his employees. Digging a little deeper, it became descended into just reciting talking points from the handouts and not something she had actually looked up, researched or had any actual knowledge of - but the union provided flier says... heh. As I mentioned, the protestor had no clue what penned in the article (which starts off by saying 'we clearly need reform') which outlined 8 reforms that included controversial ideas such as making the costs more transparent and allowing for individuals who purchase thier own plan to recieve the same tax benefit that a company recieves for providing a plan - wow, scary stuff! The protestor had no clue what Whole Foods actually offers it's employees - which I have since learned is beyond what is typically offered by the competing 'unionized' grocery stores - but she sure knew her unverifiable talking points and the villify Mackey and Whole Foods as everything that is wrong with society today.

Seems that these union employees there protestng are unpatriotic by Janes standards...