Anger in America

Today when a Canadian friend asked, “Why is there so much anger over the health care bill?” I immediately thought of 3 related issues:

  1. Process: “The whole thing was completely clandestine. It was the opposite of ‘change we can believe in’.”
  2. Price: “How can we possibly expand an entitlement program at a time when our national debt is absolutely staggering. It’s intergenerational assault.”
  3. Product: “Good Lord. Do we really want the folks who run the Department of Motor Vehicles running our health care?”

A quick story on the last point:

Last summer a friend lost his job, and I thought I’d cheer him up by sending him and his sons a few tickets to a baseball game. (His sons are proud members of Red Sox Nation.) I went to a US Post Office on a Monday morning and explained my situation – that I absolutely, positively HAD to get these tickets to my friend by Friday, and that I was willing to pay for special delivery.

The postal worker told me to relax. “Those tickets will be there by Wednesday morning.”

Do I need to tell you how this story ends? Needless to say, the tickets did not arrive on Wednesday or Thursday or even Friday, the day of the game. When I returned to the same postal employee and told him about my predicament, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Stuff happens.” I don’t recall his grabbing a hanky to dry up his tears.

As I walked home from the Post Office, I was reminded of George Will’s line on the functions of government: “The purpose of government is to defend the shores and deliver the mail. And on second thought, Fed Ex will do a better job with the mail.”


2 thoughts on “Anger in America

  1. Dear Jim –

    As a periodic reader of your blog, I notice that one of the recurring themes in the Power Point relates to differences between Canada and the US. As you have rightly pointed out, it is a subject that occupies a disproportionate amount of attention “up here”, relative to the small amount of consideration it seems to get “down there”. While it doesn’t seem that you need any suggestions for topics for your blog…could you humour me (with a “u”) with this one?

    Can you please take a stab at trying to explain to the boys (and to some of us adults as well) why this week’s historic health care legislation is so controversial “down there”…and more fundamentally, why the US seems to have reacted so violently to this important step in nation-building…enflaming the divisive, adversarial and partisan rifts that often seem to define America’s very being?

    I can’t argue the technical merits of this legislation – it is too complex and it is still too early to understand many of its implication. At this point, however, it suffices to say that the legislation involves extending health care coverage to many millions of people who could otherwise not afford it. To me, it is a relatively moot point whether the solution involves single-pay universal health care (à la Canada) or a modified private insurance scheme that increases coverage of the US population – whereas, for many millions of Americans, this distinction seems to be the basis for labelling the solution as either outright communist, or merely socialist.

    But how is it that this has become such a lightning rod issue? One gets the impression that this goes beyond partisan politics – beyond the eternal struggle between the Right and the Left. Media coverage gives one the impression that this goes to the very core of a debate about American values that seems to rage on indefinitely: doing what’s right for the populace at large vs. preserving the all-mighty free market system. While the latter has been the tide that has lifted many boats, too many millions of Americans seem to have suffered systemically from a social philosophy that is skewed in favour (again with a “u”) of the middle and upper-end of the socio-economic demographic.

    Canada, as you’ve come to discover, is a kindler and gentler place. We have our fair share of riches, quirks, and national travesties – but we do seem to strike a healthier (no pun intended) socio-economic balance, while still allowing for constructive debate, and avoiding such deep fissures in our social and political fabric.

    Can you help explain why two close neighbours (also with a “u”) – with so much in common at so many levels – can be so different in their approaches to the fundamental well-being of their people?

    Kind regards,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s