O Canada, Health Care, Glorious and Free

It is smooth sailing for Canadians accessing quality health care at reasonable cost.  Shelburne Harbour, Nova Scotia, Sept. 14, 2017.
It is smooth sailing for Canadians accessing quality health care at reasonable cost. Shelburne Harbour, Nova Scotia, Sept. 14, 2017. TheDemocraticView.com

My wife Mary and I recently took a short vacation to the Maritime provinces.  We visited Yarmouth and Shelburne, among other small towns along the South Coast of Nova Scotia.  We reveled in the natural beauty of the landscapes and the warmth of the people we met.

The only time it got even remotely strained was when a Canadian customs agent asked “the purpose of our trip” and I joked that “I was seeking asylum from Donald Trump.”  Oops! As a veteran of the Vietnam War protests, I was remembering a time when Americans did flee to Canada to escape the draft, and were mostly welcomed.

Today, I am told, Americans are fleeing once again, but this time many are seeking access to the Canadian health care system which most closely resembles the single payer, “Medicare for All” approach advocated by Bernie Sanders and other Democrats.

But unlike the Vietnam War era, the welcome mat is not out.  The custom agent (and wife Mary) were visibly upset with my half-assed humor.  Before letting me through, the agent made me prove we had travel reservations for the return trip to the U.S.  Canadians, understandably, do not want to bear the costs for Americans looking for access to affordable health care.

The Canadian health care system is not perfect.  Some services are not covered, like dental, vision and mental health. Users must pay out-of-pocket or carry private insurance.  Still, basic health services are free; total per capital costs are significantly lower than in the U.S. and health outcomes, such as life expectancy and infant mortality, are better.

All citizens, Franklin Roosevelt once proclaimed, have a “right” to a living wage, housing and health care.

Obamacare was a positive step in that direction.  In their latest effort, the Graham-Cassidy bill, Republicans are trying to roll back Obamacare not because they believe in “states rights,” as their latest, repackaged rhetoric would have you believe.  Rather, Republicans simply want to avoid paying higher taxes to subsidize low income folks – even if that means effectively denying basic health coverage to millions of people.

Well, democracy has a price.  Franklin Roosevelt understood that.  Canadians understand it and are living it every day.  But somewhere along the line, many Americans lost sight of basic democratic values of justice and equality.  People struggling to make ends meet should never have to choose between food on the table and a visit to the doctor.  Never.

Republicans, motivated by big money and corporate interests, are once again assailing our basic rights – and we need to fight back.

O Canada! Our home and native land!

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free!

A Small Ray of Hope for American Democracy

Senator John McCain

Here at TDV we are Progressives. We believe in strong government that works for the people to improve their lives. That includes enabling a robust economy and providing educational opportunity and quality health care to all Americans. And, in the richest country on earth, no one, ever, should be forced to live in poverty.

Then, on the other hand, we are also realists. Not everyone is going to agree with us. Our point of view is more prevalent among young people in the big cities of our country. In rural America, the prevailing view tends to be much more conservative, libertarian, and anti-government.

This tension is not new. It has been a dominant theme in American politics since the founding when Jefferson and Hamilton faced off over the role of government, the creation of a central bank and the drafting of a constitution.

Yet, throughout our history, the political parties have usually found a way to reach compromise and to put the good of the people above partisan politics.

With the most recent election, however, any concept of compromise to achieve a higher public good seems to have gone missing. Trump and his allies, with few exceptions, appear to be in this exclusively for their own aggrandizement. Trump may be democratically elected, but he acts exactly like what he is: an oligarch.

Following the President’s lead, Republicans in Congress recently tried to ram through the repeal of “Obamacare”, President’s Obama’s signature health care legislation, with no Democratic support. During the debate in Congress, it started to become painfully obvious, and more than a little depressing, that our democratic system was floundering the shoals of abject partisanship. Are we really going to deny millions of people health care so we can cut taxes for the rich yet again?

Then one man, Senator John McCain, stood up, and joining two of his female colleagues, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, issued a “thumbs down,” to the repeal of Obamacare.

And in so doing so McCain, recently diagnosed with brain cancer, saved millions of Americans from losing their health care. Now, inspired by McCain, Collins and Murkowski, other Republicans such as Senator Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate committee responsible for health care legislation, have promised to work with Democrats to fix Obamacare rather than repeal it. And, so, after months of vicious partisanship, there appears to be a glimmer of hope that Democrats and Republicans can actually work together to get something accomplished for the good of the American people.

McCain is a conservative who supports high defense spending and the aggressive use of American military power.  TDV doesn’t agree with much of what McCain stands for, but we admire him as a hero and a patriot who endured torture during more than five years of captivity in North Vietnam’s infamous “Hanoi Hilton” (Hao Lo prison).  More recently, McCain has also proven himself a man of real principal who rebuffed the leaders of his own party to help save American democracy.

Thank you (again) Senator McCain for your service.  A few more people like you in Congress and maybe our troubled democracy can be still be salvaged.

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