American identity

America's Health Care Identity Crisis

About every July 4th or after a presidential election writers try to explain the American Identity. Some of them, especially of late, conclude that the American Identity is in crises. America does not know who she is. Others say America knows who she is—she is freedom of speech, religion, and opportunity. America is individualism. If there is an American Identity crisis, it is because we have replaced these freedoms with government interference.

There's no denying American democracy is under attack, but ironically our present debilitating state has crystallized our identity. As the famous quote by Carl Jung, "you are what you do, not what you say you'll do." America is and has always been what it does, not what it says.

America is a place where:

  • Slumlords rent substandard, barely habitable housing to the poor because people will pay to live there
  • Payday lenders, check-cashing centers and prepaid debit card providers keep the working poor in a cycle of debt offering services traditional banks will not
  • Children, under strict rules, receive summer meals from food trucks
  • Families wait days to receive free dental care at tent clinics where buckets of pulled teeth pile up
  • Hospitals charge the poor and uninsured full price for the same medical care the rich and insured receive at a steep discount
  • A cancer-stricken Senator who's been on the receiving but never the giving end of compassion, votes to put in motion a vote that will make health care more expensive for the poor, sick and elderly
And yes America is still a preferable place to live than just about any other country in the world. We still have a far superior economic and political system than most. But that is why conservative efforts to leave the poor at the mercy of health insurance companies and so-called free-market health care are so frustrating.

Avik Roy, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Tom Price and other conservatives talk about the freedom people will have to buy only the health insurance they can afford even if it's crappy coverage. That's the equivalent of saying that it is okay for families to pay rent at market rates for a house without a working toilet, broken windows and holes in the walls. These guys use the traditional definition of American Identity, freedom, to justify withholding legitimate government services and investment in its citizens.


Why doesn't America cringe at the thought of buckets full of rotten teeth and decide that's not what America is? Why doesn't America say that even though there is a market for a specific service, we won't let the lucky take advantage of the unlucky? Why isn't America ashamed that it believes more in the principle of freedom to die prematurely than providing basic health care to everyone?

America talks a good talk about democracy and freedom, but the world sees all the bad stuff too. They see the wretched conditions of America's poor communities. They see poverty, gun violence and a country unwilling to solve its health care access and cost problems. They see America for what it does, not what it says.
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