There has, for a long time, been a sort of split mind relationship between the Republican Party and the elderly. A huge portion of the Tea Party movement in 2010 were older Americans. A disproportionate number were men. And they were all angry.
Aside from their overt hostility toward government spending, one other factor united these angry elderly men. They were the beneficiaries of government spending.
There was some humor in the inherent contradictions. Signs were held:
Keep your government hands off my Social Security.
But the anger remains. And it has a hidden coherence that is not immediately apparent.
The most above board part of that is seen in the re-emergence of the Paul Ryan plan for doing away with Medicare as we know it. Political Correctness dictates the "as we know it" part of eliminating Medicare. The details are not yet available of Paul Ryan version 3.0, but most expect it to be a tighter version of 1.0 and 2.0 and the mini-versions that came between. It will replace Medicare "as we know it" with a voucher system.
Here are your coupons, here's a telephone book, good luck in finding a private plan that will give you enough medical coverage. The plan tends to shift increasing costs onto seniors without doing anything to reduce those costs.
Republicans have sold this approach in two ways.
First, private insurance is more efficient. After all, you wouldn't want your medical well being to be determined by the Post Office or Motor Vehicle Bureau. The only difficulty with this approach is that it is based on a documented falsehood. Medicare has proven itself to be the most efficient health care program in existence. In fact, when Republicans managed, some years ago, to wedge into Medicare a sort of sub-program of privatization called Medicare Advantage, it turned out to be phenomenally expensive with no appreciable gain in quality.
The second selling point in privatization was aimed directly at seniors and those about to become seniors. The new improved program of coupons was so good, so beneficial, so efficient, that it will not apply to you.
That was the selling point:
It's SO good, it won't apply to you. What a great deal!
An early proposed version of universal healthcare was a simple extension of Medicare to pretty much everyone. It would be cheaper, provide more benefits, and cover all God's children. But conservatives were so opposed that Democrats, still entranced by the spirit of compromise, stepped all over it and ended up with a more complex, although still workable, system we know and love as Obamacare.
There is a way to squeeze an intellectual pattern from the angry old man version of contemporary conservatism. It is the only squeeze that makes sense to this aging man. We might call it preservation of deserved positional prosperity.
We deserve our position in society. We deserve our benefits. For some of us, it is because we've worked hard all our lives and played by the rules. For others it may be because we are God's chosen elite. It's a sort of mom-always-liked-me-better-than-you syndrome. Would we be so fortunate if God didn't love us a little better than those down a few rungs?
We may as well face the truth. For some of us, the fact that so many of those a few rungs down are of a darker skin color is a valued feature of the status quo.
This sort of regard for other human beings as our inferiors affects issues from breakfast programs for hungry school kids to immigration to unemployment. At its worst, it is a sign that the malignancy of racism is with us still. Journalist and author Darrell Dawsey described it as the uncomfortable feeling that somewhere, somehow, some black person may be getting away with something.
But just as often, I suspect, what motivates "the base" is an affirmative desire to preserve our position relative to others. I believe it is implicit, hidden in plain sight, in most Republican public policy positions.
Allowing more folks in, undeserving folks, folks not like us, including those people will not detract from our well being. In fact it will put us in a better position.
A better position. But not a better comparative position.
Being well cared for feels far better if others have no care at all.
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