Health Care Reform and 9/11, or yet another way to demonstrate that the GOP and its allies are moral imbeciles.
I remember September 11, 2001, very well indeed. That morning, I’d walked across 12th St. at Sixth Ave. to grab a quick breakfast at Joe Jr.’s. I even remember what I had: a toasted bialy with raspberry jam and a cup of coffee. I was chatting with a couple of other guys at the counter about the Monday Night Football game the evening before — the Giants at Denver. See — I remember.
Then a guy who looked as if he had lived way too hard during the sixties opened the door and said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Tower…and we didn’t believe him.
I walked out of the diner about five minutes later, looked to my left…
….you know what I saw.
I didn’t stay to the end. I knew that I was watching people die, and I could not just stand there in the middle of Sixth Ave. — The Avenue of the Americas! — as that happened.
The official figure is that on that day 2,976 innocents died.
It was horrific — a disaster, a tragedy, and a crime.
For the sake of those almost three thousand dead, with the aim of preventing such a loss ever again, the United States went to war, twice.
We have committed an astonishing amount of treasure to those conflicts — about one trillion now, and counting — and we have asked hundreds of thousands of Americans to serve in truly difficult circumstances to defend us from harm.
We have received that last full measure of devotion from thousands of those Americans — 5,344 members of the uniformed services as I write this — all in response to the loss of those three thousand taken from us on September 11, 2001.*
Now, in January 2010, we are debating a question that seems far removed from the stark horror and terror of 9/11.
We confront once more the question of whether or not an American’s access to health care should, in this country at this moment, be something every American can expect.
We all know where we are, confronting a Senate bill that is deeply flawed. It is compromised in a dozen different directions, and it does not deal with several of the root problems in the health care complex that the United States must some day solve.
But, but, but… at its core it does this one thing: it provides health insurance to 30 million Americans who do not now have it. Whether or not it can be improved by one legislative maneuver or another, it still does that.
We know one thing about the lack of coverage. It kills people.
The latest Harvard Medical School Study estimates that 45,000 Americans die each year from lack of coverage.
You can see where this is going, I’m sure.
Thirty million people is about 1o percent of the population of the United States. One tenth of 45,000 is 4,500. But of course, it’s worse than that. The US Census estimates that about 46 million Americans lack health insurance each year. That thirty million who would benefit under the Senate bill account for about two thirds of that total.
If we cannot find a way to pass the Senate bill, with or without changes…if we can’t get this through, then those thirty millions will remain uninsured. Some of them will die each year as a result. If the Harvard study is right, that number could be as high as 30,000 Americans gone who did not need to go.
Even if you think the Harvard study may overstate the death toll, then give the number a haircut — say cut it almost in half — and you still have some 18,o00 Americans dead each year from financial arrest. Six 9/11s. One every couple of months
We were willing to go to war; we are still willing to spend billions each year on the fight; as a nation we accept the necessity of sacrifice, of the loss of good women and men cut off in their prime, to respond to the criminal tragedy that was 9/11, with its 2,976 men and women killed.
We’re losing many times that many every year that we could save right now….and yet the GOP and its allies think it is more important to win a political battle than it is to prevent this annual massacre.
I don’t accuse our friends across the aisle of a willful desire to kill their fellow citizens in their thousands. Rather, it is willed ignorance — that’s where I bring them in guilty.
Theirs is a careful not-knowing, a skill that allows them to unsee the unglamorous and unnoticed missed infection here, the unmedicated heart failure there.
But the outcome is the same, and the current attempt to derail the health care/health insurance reform measures available to us now makes those who are doing so accessories before the fact — co-conspirators — in all those unnecessary deaths.
That’s what blocking health care means. Leave aside the compelling policy argument, all the practical reasons why this makes sense: if you knew that there was some action you could take to prevent 9/11, what would be the moral cost of choosing not to do so?
That’s what the GOP should ask itself; that’s what the perfection-at-any-cost wing of my own Democratic party needs to remember. That’s what the rest of us should be dinning in our neighbors ears: Those who for financial interest or partisan advantage are lying about health care now are committing perhaps another 9/11 every two months.
Year after year.
We need to get this done now.
*Not to mention, of course, the journalists, contractors, coalition military and above all, civilians who have lost their lives in these conflicts.
Image: Nicholas Maes, “Christ Before Pilate” (Pilate washing his hands), before 1670.