The Country We Deserve

Stories like this one fill me with so many conflicting emotions. Let’s just start at the beginning, shall we?

SEWANEE, Tenn. – As Robin Layman, a mother of two who has major health troubles but no insurance, arrived at a free clinic here, she had a big personal stake in the Supreme Court’s imminent decision on the new national health care law.

Not that she realized that.“What new law?” she said. “I’ve not heard anything about that.”


Layman was hardly the only patient unaware that the law aims to help people like her, by expanding health insurance beginning in 2014. And this gets to the heart of the political dilemma for Democrats: Despite spending tremendous political capital to pass the law, the party is unlikely to win many votes from the law’s future beneficiaries, most of whom live in Republican-dominated states in the South and West.In fact, many at the clinic said they don’t vote at all.

Oh, lord have mercy. My knee-jerk reaction is to scream, “Pay some fucking attention, people! Christ on a cracker, what the hell is wrong with you?” But I already know the answer to that. It’s not that they’re too busy or lazy or uneducated to pay attention — there may be an element of that, but that’s not the crux of the issue.

The real problem is that these are people who have given up. They’ve decided — with good reason — that our institutions were not created for them. Those things like caring about who goes to Washington and what’s happening in the news are for other people. Robin Layman has already been told she doesn’t matter, so what’s the point of civic crap like voting? What’s it going to get her?

It’s really hard to argue with that. Turn on any news broadcast — Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, it doesn’t matter — and tell me who’s talking about people like Robin Layman? No one. We had one presidential candidate in the past decade who did that, and he ended up being a scoundrel. The worst thing John Edwards did wasn’t having a baby with his mistress, it was in bringing the plight of the working poor onto the national stage and then dropping it like a hot potato when he got tripped up by ambition and his penis.

You don’t have to be Gandhi or Jesus Christ to care about the poor. Republicans never back down, they wear their toe-tapping, diaper-clad scandals like a badge of honor. I guess when you’re out there beating the drum for the wealthy and powerful, you can get away with stuff like that.

The other thing I needed to say about this TNR story is that this isn’t just a dilemma for Democrats. This is a dilemma for the nation. People like Robin Layman are not going away, regardless of what the Supreme Court does. They will still be there, sleeping in their cars at the po’ folks clinic, hoping to finally get some professional care for the problem they’ve been putting off for months until it finally got so bad they couldn’t ignore it any longer. They will continue to be a drag on the nation, not just economically but also socially and morally.

I find it enormously ironic that Tennessee would become a national poster child for our broken healthcare system. Healthcare is a really big business in Tennessee; a lot of people here have made a shit ton of money off of it. I’m not just talking about bazillionaires like the Frist family, or “supply side” guru Arthur Laffer, who serves on the board of a medical tourism company. It’s not just U.S. Rep. Diane Black, whose husband owns a major drug testing company (where Bill Frist sits on the board. Cozy.) We’re a big center for biotech and pharmaceutical companies, too.

If the healthcare industry is so important to Tennessee’s economy, and so many of our political leaders and most prominent citizens are making bazillions of dollars off of it, how come so many of our citizens are left out in the cold when it comes to their healthcare needs? Just wondering.

I don’t know how to make people care. I don’t know how you make Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker care about the tens of thousands of uninsured people in this state. Until those folks start showing up and demanding some attention, the plutocrats and politicians won’t care.

And I don’t know how to motivate our poor, the people in the trenches who live our healthcare crisis day in and day out. I don’t know how you get them to believe that they really can change the system, when that system has failed them so many times and in so many ways.

So we’re left with a situation where raising taxes on millionaires by 3% is anathema, and the poor continue to be voiceless and ignored. The longer we wait, the more entrenched our broken system becomes, especially here in Tennessee where so many of our political leaders profit from exploiting a broken system.

I guess we’ll just have to wait until the bodies start piling up outside the mansion gates and the problem can no longer be ignored. Not a very satisfying solution, is it?

19 thoughts on “The Country We Deserve

  1. SB – I don’t have tv, so I am clueless. Sometimes I think I should get one, so I can see what information is out there, and then I remember.
    I am not a true patriot.

  2. A double ‘How’s that working out for ya!’ Classic slogan for both sorts of party dupes. When you just fell off the turnip truck, that feels like total Q.E.D., Doesn’t it?
    Partisan indoctrination has degraded your habits of mind. Five times a decade your betters herd you down the party cattle chutes, absorbing and dissipating any spontaneous reform impulse, making you eat their shit sandwich and say “Mmmmm!” Five times a decade you get screwed. Five times a decade you blame people who don’t share your parochial American ignorance.
    Through the miracle of modern statist indoctrination, your betters keep you ignorant of the wider world. Otherwise you’d know there’s more to civil society than electoral politics, and you wouldn’t think it all comes down to pulling your electoral pud.

  3. Do not condescend to people who choose not to vote. They are not as stupid and declassed as you think. In many cases they understand things you do not seem to grasp (such as migrants, who know a rigged system when they see one; or Meg Whitman, who is evidently better than you at working the system for money.) Objectively regarded, nonvoters are the rational and realistic ones.

  4. I can understand why they don’t vote.
    For years and years I’ve fought to try to keep SS and Medicare in place and for years and years my family and friends voted for the political party that wants to destroy it.
    Last night I became exhausted after yet another around of it’s the poor people fault, unions hurt everyone and corporate tax rates are too high. I told my friends that they were absolutely right and deserved Paul Ryan’s budget plan.
    Sometimes it’s complete and utter exhaustion.

  5. “I guess we’ll just have to wait until the bodies start piling up outside the mansion gates” …either that or until the bodies start piling up inside the mansion gates. Don’t think it won’t come to that if this continues…

  6. I think it is a lost cause and we might as well give the TEAPUBLICANS what they are screaming for. Maybe then when they are living under our crumbling bridges with their hungry uneducated children with no help in sight and they hear their leaders brag that “the united states is the wealthiest country on the globe” they will put down their don’t tread on me flags and get a brain..

  7. The most exasperating thing is that when the Robin Layman’s of the world vote, they will vote Republican – without fail – because they don’t like the idea of the “queers” getting married, or all those illegals taking all the “great” jobs, or the fact that there’s a black guy in the White House. In virtually every WalMart parking lot across America, you see tired, broken people, driving tired broken cars, plastered with all the Fox-approved hateful, stupid bumper stickers about the “librul” media, “no-bama”, and keeping the government out of their “social security.” If I weren’t so cognizant of the law, I’d give into my impulse to take a ball bat to each one of those heaps.
    I grew up in Indiana, where FDR literally saved their sorry-assed farms several generations ago, and they’re still fighting the New Deal, and voting lock-step Republican.
    Deserve what they get indeed…unfortunately, the rest of us pay for their ignorance and gullibility.

  8. I am always amazed at the lack of informatioin penetrance. As a glarinbg example, surveys still show that even now a large percentage of the population doesn’t know that AIDS is spread ONLY by blood / body fluid contact. More germane to the article, an enormous percentage of voters, on both sides, cast their votes without being able to answer basic questions about any of the candidates. Sadly, Leno’s “Jay Walking” is all too believeable (even to believing that there are people who will sign the necessary releases to allow their stupidity to be shown on network TV) – even thouth I am unclear if the actual Jay Walking segments have significant staging or not.
    Sadder still, despite notable exceptions, those who need the help the most are likely to be the ones with the lowest information penetrance.

  9. “…the law aims to help people like her, by expanding health insurance beginning in 2014.”
    Yeah, stupid voters who aren’t up to date on a law that doesn’t kick in for another two years, if it’s not struck down tomorrow! Nobody could have predicted that passing a law that didn’t kick in for five years would garner no great public support. After all, doesn’t everyone love knowing they’ll be forced to buy crappy private health insurance a couple years from now?
    Again, why are liberals rabidly defending a Heritage Foundation plan? Oh, right, because Democrats — who are so very different from Republicans these days — passed it after cutting deals with Big Pharma, the insurance companies, and other important donors. After all, “Healthcare is a really big business in Tennessee; a lot of people here have made a shit ton of money off of it.” And certainly THAT isn’t the problem, is it?

  10. Voting is for powerless chumps, a one in 50 million chance to influence a choice between two parties that do not represent you.
    Yeah, how’s that working for the “powerless chumps,” anyway? How’d that work after the 2010 midterms?

  11. k,
    Funny, I saw one of those ads you describe this evening, while cooking dinner and watching MSNBC — Al Sharpton’s show. And I thought, fuckitall. That is the LAST group of people who need to see that ad. Maybe they’re running it everywhere, but I can’t say I’ve seen it before.
    That ad should be running on Fox and during sporting events and everything else. And yes of course the wingnuts would whine about “mah tax dollahs paying for Propagandah!!!” to which I’d reply, “Two words: Mission Accomplished. Now fuck off.”
    But, see that’s me. And there you have it.

  12. Voting is for powerless chumps, a one in 50 million chance to influence a choice between two parties that do not represent you. Any educated person knows that the franchise is the bundled seven-figure contribution. Any remaining voter now is like the lab pigeons that peck the lever harder and harder when the pellets stop coming out.

  13. Now, see, this is what I would call an opportunity. This is where the DNC, or Colbert’s Super Pac, or somebody could buy up some airtime on Nascar or some such program, and put an ad up saying “Obamacare would insure poor people without insurance. The Republicans want to repeal it.”
    What? Ten seconds of air time? Follow it up with, “Maybe you should figure out where to vote.”
    Or, I dunno, leaflets? It should be simple.
    If you don’t tell people where their self-interest lies, they won’t know.

  14. SB,
    Maybe it is the country we deserve… but it certainly is the country the top elites want! There’s a reason why so many people feel disconnected – because they have been. On purpose. Forty+ years of “government is the problem” is going to leave a mark. And I think we’re just entering the phase where government doesn’t even try (or no longer exists). Sadly, the disconnected are just the first casualties. Then will come those on the losing side (that is, those of the liberal bent). One day, perhaps, the loyal mouthbreathing followers (or as Driftglass calls them, the “pig people”) will also pay for their loyal service to the elites. I just hope I’m around long enough to watch (with glee) the time when elite .01%ers start eating their own seed corn in the remaining 1%. By the time the doctors and lawyers ( feel the sting, they’ll be boiled too. Maybe then, maybe, these educated folks will take the lead and begin to organize the rest. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a real shift and non-violent change. More likely, though, we’re in for the rough ride a la France 1789 or Spain 1936). Those of us who see things the way we do need to be prepared for that – truly prepared. Otherwise there is no way we’re going to “get our country back.”

  15. Speaking from my own experience, it seems like relatively prosperous demographics are already starting to feel the pinch. People are losing homes, businesses. Some respond with what I guess is quiet resignation. Others are flipping out in astounding but pointless ways – lashing out at their own families and neighbors. Some poor souls are losing it in every sense and will now be spending their sunset years in an institution.
    As to voting, have you seen this?
    Under our current circumstances, asking someone to vote may be like offering someone a ride when we don’t have a car. What could we do to start having honest vote-counting, maybe beginning on small local elections? What could we do that the powers-that-be would not wreck?
    Ian Welsh was right. Those who come after us are going to have to re-create community institutions from the ground up. Keeping this country healthy by now is like trying to maintain health in a body ravaged by cancer. Anything you give the body, intending to keep it healthy, just gets diverted to feed the tumors.
    James Galbraith said leaving a good record of what has been lost is something we can do now to help those who will rebuild when it is finally possible again. Actually, this blog is one of the places where that record is being kept, so thank you for that Southern Beale.

  16. Meh. I’m not thinking, never mind. I guess I just wanted to make a jab at apathetic hipsters.

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