Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Health Care Debate: A Case of “Systematic Misunderstanding”

My Fellow Americans,

If the President’s health care summit (photo: CBS News) on Feb. 25 revealed anything, it showed America how far apart our leaders are in the debate.  Honestly, after about a year of this back and forth about health care, I wasn’t really surprised by the result.  I was searching for a way to describe what has been going on in this country – not only regarding health care – but also the stimulus package, cap and trade, et al.image6186902x

I think I found it.  It’s called systematic misunderstanding.

Let me share something with you from The Lexus and the Olive Tree, by Thomas L. Friedman.  On page 340, Friedman writes:

Again, the contrast: [Yousef] Boutrous-Ghali is the most creative, high-tech driver of globalization in Egypt, but his elevator man says a prayer before taking you up to his office.

[This] captured for me the real tension at the heart of Egypt while its small, cell-phone-armed, globalizing elites were definitely pushing to get online and onto the global economic train, most others feared they would be left behind or lose their identity trying to catch it.  Indeed I was struck, after a week of discussing both the costs and benefits of globalization, how most Egyptians, including many intellectuals, could only see the costs.  The more I explained globalization, the more they expressed unease about it.  It eventually struck me that I was encountering what anthropologists call “systematic misunderstanding.” Systematic misunderstanding arises when your framework and the other person’s framework are so fundamentally different that it cannot be corrected by providing more information.

Now, you may be saying to yourself: “No kidding.  Of course Democrats and Republicans don’t agree.  That’s why we have a two-party system.”  That is certainly true and you would be right in thinking that.  However, I think this is a fundamental concept that President Barack Obama is missing – either due to ignorance or arrogance.

If you were watching or reading the coverage of the health care summit closely, the concept of systematic understanding was evident throughout the day.  Staff writer Dan Balz of The Washington Post put it best when he wrote this in his Feb. 27 article:

Democrats think more government is the answer; Republicans say the opposite, that market competition is the best antidote to the ailing system. Republicans are focused on cost, both rising premiums and government expenditures. They haven't made universal coverage anything close to a priority. Democrats are more determined to expand coverage to many millions more who lack insurance. But they say they have not ignored costs. Their proposals, they argue, would reduce premiums and the deficit. Republicans say the projected governmental savings will never be realized.

If that doesn’t exemplify systematic misunderstanding, I don’t know what does.  Democrats say “government, government, government.”  Republicans say “market competition.”  That’s enough to conclude that the likelihood of there being an agreement on health care is miniscule at best.

However, it is my observation that this idea of systematic misunderstanding doesn’t just stop with Democrats and Republicans – it also expands to the current administration and the American people.  It appears as if the Obama administration doesn’t care what the American people want.  They basically go ahead and do their own thing – all in the name of helping Americans.  They act as if they are in tune with the majority of Americans when, in fact, that notion couldn’t be further from the truth.

Take for instance this excerpt from a Feb. 26 Fox News article by C.L. Gray, M.D.:

Republicans advanced several limited steps to move health care toward fiscal solvency while emphasizing patient and physician autonomy. Yet the Democrats rejected the concept of a stepwise approach in favor of sweeping reform crammed down the throats of 75% of American citizens (25% agree with the plan).

Americans are innately suspicious of sweeping government reform. They desperately want the problems with our health care system fixed, but they want the government to leave what works well enough alone. Voters are growing weary of the pork, payoffs, bribes, and backroom deals that now consume our capital. The Democrats have cut a deal with every major player at the table in an effort to gain control over health care reform and the American people know it.

I don’t know about you, but, to me, that doesn’t sound like a government that gets it.  It also doesn’t appear to me that the American people want the government involved in health care reform.  But their cries of “stay out” fall on deaf ears.  It’s systematic misunderstanding at its best.

Until Democrats and Republicans agree to keep government out of our health decisions and this administration gets more in tune with America – consider systematic misunderstanding a new buzz word.

Let me turn it over to you, America.  What do you think?  Should the government be involved in health care or should we let the market take care of it?

With the Democrats and the Obama administration not truthfully willing to listen to the other side, I don’t see coming to any kind of systematic UNDERSTANDING any time soon.

- The Refounding Father

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