There’s no cure for selfishness

From Joe Conason at Salon:

Sept. 11, 2009 | In the lyrical conclusion of President Obama’s speech on healthcare, he talked about the emotions and experiences that drove his late friend Sen. Edward Kennedy to work so tirelessly and passionately for universal coverage. He tried to describe what Kennedy must have felt as two of his children suffered through bouts of cancer. Ordeals such as those, said the president, had helped Kennedy to understand the “sheer terror and helplessness” of parents whose children are stricken by serious disease, and lack the means to save them.

Reaching out to his opponents, the president tried to emphasize that such empathy toward other human beings “is not a partisan feeling,” but is instead an aspect of our national character.


To support that reassuring observation, he cited the landmark bills that Kennedy’s Republican colleagues have co-sponsored in years past to extend healthcare to children and protect hospital patients. As he said, Americans of all parties (and none) surely possess the capacity for compassion.

But why then do nearly all of the Republicans in Congress find it so difficult to empathize with the tens of millions of their uninsured and underinsured fellow citizens — and so easy to contemplate the ruin of reform yet again, even though that means condemning hundreds of thousands to sickness, bankruptcy and even death? Why would they still insist, after 40 successful years of Medicare, that government must have no further role in ensuring decent healthcare for every American?

Perhaps the problem is that a certain kind of Republican — often with a connection to the White House or Capitol Hill — will only endorse government action to remedy the adversity they have experienced for themselves.

Original DVD cover

The most recent example is Cindy McCain, the wife of the Arizona senator, who announced the other day that she suffers from migraine headaches, which she considers a “disability.” She is outraged that the United States government only spends $13 million annually for medical research on migraines, and is bent on increasing that amount drastically. She is determined that a remedy will be found someday soon — with federal money.


Nothing wrong with that ambition, of course — except that the [John] McCain approach to healthcare, expressed during last year’s presidential campaign, rejects government action in favor of market fundamentalism. His plan would have deregulated the insurance companies and diminished the insufficient protections that government now provides to consumers, while covering a tiny percentage of the uninsured. He is leading the Senate attack on the “public option” in the Obama health plan, because he thinks government is already too big and too wasteful.


Why shouldn’t the migraine sufferers be left to the mercy of the marketplace, where the pharmaceutical manufacturers will take tender care of them? The market alone won’t provide the necessary scientific effort, as Mrs. McCain perhaps understands — so effective empathy requires federal support.

A constricted compassion that arises solely from personal experience has somehow come to seem peculiarly Republican.


Only after her husband began to disappear into the twilight of Alzheimer’s disease did [Nancy] Reagan perceive the value of the kind of government action they both had spent a lifetime denigrating. Government was the problem, not the solution, according to the Reaganite dogma. But then Nancy realized that federal support for stem-cell research might someday bring relief to patients like her beloved Ronnie, and anguished families like hers. Suddenly, spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on something other than Star Wars wasn’t such a terrible idea.

As for [Pete] Domenici, the tragedy that opened his eyes began when his daughter Clare, then in college, started to exhibit symptoms of the schizophrenia that eventually disabled her. That was when the New Mexico senator, often described by the Washington press as “a crusty conservative,” discovered how much of society, including the insurance industry, discriminated against mental patients and their families.

Domenici’s chief ally in the long struggle for mental-health parity was the late Paul Wellstone, the legendary progressive senator from Minnesota whose older brother had lived with severe mental illness from adolescence.


All his life, Wellstone demanded a more compassionate society and a more decent government — not because he or his family was suffering but because he felt a moral imperative. And despite the president’s poetic explanation of Kennedy’s commitment, the truth is that his fight for universal healthcare began years before either of his children was stricken with cancer. Affliction may have deepened their commitment, but their perception always extended far beyond their own plight.

Even the best of today’s Republicans seem to lack that quality, to say the least. Enjoying the ample blessings of the Federal Employee Health Benefits program and access to the best military hospitals, they’re totally insulated from the troubles of those who lack adequate insurance, or any insurance at all.

If the Republican right manages to kill healthcare reform this year, then perhaps some brave Democrat should introduce a new kind of bill — cutting off every member of Congress from the “public option” that protects them and their families.


Filed under 2008 election, Barack Obama, Democrats, Edward Kennedy, humor, John McCain, movies, parody, Pete Domenici, politics, Republicans, Ronald Reagan, Senate, snark, Wordpress Political Blogs

14 responses to “There’s no cure for selfishness

  1. Well, I don’t think they are going to get it killed, I think it is going to pass with a good bill, with a strong public option and we are all going to love it.

    But if it doesn’t, and I find it highly unlikely then I agree, cancel all the rethugs insurance and let them eat cake.

    • i’m won’t get my expectations up, so i won’t be disappointed with whatever passes. i already know it won’t be what i want, because i think the insurance companies are useless and do nothing but take money away from health care and put it in ceos’ and shareholders’ pockets. that said, something is better than nothing, i suppose.

      i don’t think most of the rethugs (and dems, too, for that matter) will really care too much if their health insurance is canceled, especially in the senate, and almost all of them are multi-millionaires. there’s a doctor on call at all times in the capitol building for emergencies, and they have enough buddies in the medical lobbies so that they’ll be able to get free care.

      • So, Nonnie, you’d like single-payer? My ex-gf lives in Canada, and she has had very good experiences with the quality of health care up there.

        • absolutely. years ago, my sister went to high school for about a year in israel, and my mom lived there for a while. they said the care was excellent and didn’t cost a dime. that included dental as well. there’s no reason–other than greed–that it can’t be done here.

  2. jacksmith

    Why A Strong Public Option Is Essential – By jacksmith ā€” Working Class

    Robert Reich explains the pubic option:

    John Garamendi on the Public Option and the Grassroots:

    It’s not just because more than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 77% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (86% of democrats, 75% of independents, and 72% republicans). Basically everyone.

    It’s not just because according to a new AARP POLL: 86 percent of seniors want universal healthcare security for All, including 93% of Democrats, 87% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans. With 79% of seniors supporting creating a new strong Government-run public option plan, available immediately. Including 89% of Democrats, 80% of Independents, and 61% of Republicans, STUNNING!!

    It’s not just because it will lower cost. Because a strong public option will dramatically lower cost for everyone. And dramatically improved the quality of care everyone receives in America and around the World. Rich, middle class, and poor a like.

    It’s not just because it will save trillions of dollars and prevent the needless deaths of millions more of YOU, caused by a rush to profit by the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!

    It’s not just because every expert in every field, including economist, and Nobel laureates all agree that free market based healthcare systems don’t work. Never have and never will. The US has the only truly free market based healthcare system in the World. And as you all know now, IT IS A DISASTER!

    It’s not just because providing or denying medically necessary care for profit motivations is wrong. Because it is WRONG! It’s professionally, ethically, and morally REPUGNANT!, Animalistic, VILE and EVIL.


    The public option is ESSENTIAL because over 200 million of you are trapped in the forest of the wolves. Which is the forest of the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! With no way out except through needless inhumane suffering, and DEATH. While the wolves tear at your flesh, and rip you limb from lib. Then feast on your lifeless bodies like a dead carcase for transplant parts.

    At the most vulnerable times of your lives (when you were sick and hurting), millions of you have had to fight and loose cruel, but heroic battles. Fighting against the big guns of the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! in the forest of the wolves. All because you have no place else to go. You have no other CHOICE!

    But the PUBLIC OPTION will give you someplace safe to go. And it will give us someplace safe to take you. The public option will be your refugium (your refuge). Where the wolves cannot get at you when your down, hurting, and vulnerable. Where everyone who needs it can find rest, security, comfort and the care they need. Protected by the BIG GUNS of We The People Of The United States. THE MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE AND COUNTRY ON EARTH.

    This is why it is so critical that we do not lead another 50 million vulnerable, uninsured Americans into the forest of the wolves, without the protections of a Strong Government-run public option. We The People Of The United States MUST NOT LET THAT HAPPEN to any more of our fellow Americans. If healthcare reform does not contain a strong public option on day one. YOU MUST! KILL IT. Or you will do far more harm than good. And millions more will die needlessly. Rich, middle class, and poor a like.

    To those who would continue to obstruct good and true healthcare reform for the American people, and who seek to trap millions more vulnerable Americans in the forest of the wolves. We will continue to fight you. We are prepared to wage all out war against you, and will eagerly DESTROY! you. Time…is…UP! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! No Co-op’s! No Triggers! NO INDIVIDUAL MANDATES! without a Strong public option on day one.

    Healthcare reform can be the GREATEST! Accomplishment of our time and century. A time when future generations may say of us, that we were all, AMERICAS GREATEST GENERATIONS.


    I therefore call on all my fellow Americans and the peoples of the World. To join us in this fight so that we may finish becoming the better America that we aspire to be for everyone.


    I have been privileged to be witness as many of you fought, and struggled to take your first breath, and your last breath on this earth. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Life is precious.

    Whatever the cost. WE! MUST SUCCEED.

    God Bless You My Fellow Human Beings

    jacksmith ā€” Working Class

    No Triggers!


    Krugman on heathcare (

    Senator Bernie Sanders on healthcare (

    • welcome back, jacksmith.

      i agree with almost all of what you said, but i’m still going back and forth about killing the bill if it’s not all we want it to be. we keep talking about a public option and how it has to be in the bill, but do we know how those in the house and senate define public option? i honestly don’t know if it’s better to kill a bill that will cover some people who are not presently covered or to ditch it in hopes of getting one that covers everyone. we don’t know what congress is going to look like after the next election, so do we take a chance on doing nothing? what if we don’t get another chance?

  3. At first I thought- Why Nancy R? She spoke out & for stem cell research– but your post shed light on the years of them working to cut government funding & deregulation.
    Nancy flip flopped when she found a need, just as the beer baroness Cindy Lou McCain– oober wealthy lady wants the government to find the solution. Hey Cindy Lou~ sell a house or two & make a donation!

    Bottom lines:
    What we have is NOT a system.
    We have to start somewhere.

    • i’ve been saying for years that, if i get some dire illness, i pray that some politician had it before me, because that’s the only way there will be any research being done to cure it. forget the research, and they still piss me off. do you think nancy ever had to wipe st. ronnie’s ass or change his sheets or worry about how she was going to get him to the doctor’s office? she and her husband never did a damned thing to help people out when their loved ones were ill. they never worried about people who couldn’t afford expensive live-in help. cindy lou can afford to go to the doctor whenever she wants. she doesn’t have to skip a few meals to get tests done or pay for meds. you’d think as mothers they’d have a little bit of compassion for others, but they don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves.

  4. American culture on the average is becoming more of a me, me and only me society. Who looks out for the other guy any more? That segment of our population seems to be shrinking way too quickly. Of course, another problem is the fact that most people are afraid of change and the unknown. Even though we hear all the negative, the fact that we voted Obama in to office hopefully reflects the majority of what America needs and wants for our healthcare system and a change for the better will happen during his term. It might be baby steps, but better that, than nothing.

    • i don’t know if americans are really getting more selfish or if it’s just a matter of the selfish self-centered ones getting more attention. i do agree that most people are afraid of change. however, these days, a lot of people are having change forced upon then. they are losing jobs and losing benefits, and it can happen to anyone. if they don’t support change, they’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

  5. Let’s be honest, Americans have the attention span of a spoon. They are more worried about Taylor Swift getting her feelings hurt than they are about medical reform.

    Remember when “the public” wanted the war(s) to end? That one isn’t panning out too well, either.

  6. What you wishy washy, namby pamby socialist pansies forget is that Canada and Israel actually care about their citizen’s welfare, that those goverments are reflections of their people’s highest values. So what if we, the Mercan people, love our money more than we love our neighbors. God’s American, and He loves what we’re doing, even if it contradicts both the Tanakh and the New Testament šŸ˜›