H. L. Mencken is credited with saying, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people." While he may well have said it, and believed he had good reason for his observation, I think he overstates his point. The American people are plenty intelligent. But we are busy. We want our information in shorthand. We have short atttention spans. And if we trust someone, or those representing some ideology, we believe that what they will tell us is the truth. And we want to see that truth in black and white, instead of the shades of grey that represent it. Therein lies the problem. There, and the fact that so many of our leaders are willing to represent that the truth is black and white.
Certain buzzwords set us off.
For instance, "government run", for some people, means the discussion can end right now. It's fashionable not to trust the government when one party is in office, but to label people as unpatriotic if they don't blindly follow government intervention when the other party is in office. Health care is a prime example. Never mind the contradictory knowledge that the health plan the government does run is effective, and our government, for all it's foibles, is still, after 235 years, the best in the world.
"Public option" is another such phrase. Some people are blind to everything that follows, believing in deregulation and free markets above all else. On the other hand, the short memory regarding the banking industry suggests they don't realize that when there really is only one option, even if it is a free market one, greed can and does take hold to the point where we have to bail out those who got rich at our expense, just to save the economy. The most ridiculous statement I've heard against the public option comes from Iowa Senator Grassley, who essentially said, if there is a public option, too many people may choose it, and that could put existing health insurers out of business. Think of the contradiction there. With free choice, if we choose the public option over existing insurers, presumably because it is more efficient and cheaper, current companies would either need to change or go out of business. And that's a bad thing? Isn't that the cornerstone of free markets and capitalism?
"Death panel", boy does that one bring up images of Orwell. The presumption is, a government run plan would limit access to certain physical interventions. Of course every private insurer in business today does just that. Try getting Lipitor (the cholesterol medication, shown to prevent heart attacks, but more costly than virtually all others because of a multi-million dollar advertising budget) paid for from most health plans. Try getting Zithromax for an infection, before going through the cheaper, and less effective, Amoxicillan.
Then there's the likes of Michelle Bachman, pro-life, but making statements like, "I'm not going to let the government come between me and my doctor" over health care; obviously oblivious to the fact that insurance actuaries already come between her and her doctor. Either that, or she's willing to ignore it for a campaign contribution.
No, we do not lack intelligence, we lack the willingness to see nuances. And there are more than a few of our leaders who will stir up a mob mentality over half-truths told out of context.
The truth is, we already have government run health care and a public option. Those who lack insurance, or the ability to pay for health care, still receive it in emergency rooms throughout the country. Only they wait until an illness or an injury reaches crisis proportions. By then such care is extremely costly when compared to ongoing care and prevention associated with being able to treat illness at it's earliest stage. On the other hand, since insurance companies don't pay for these folks being treated, and don't receive a premium or co-pay from them, they are less concerned with their well planned care. And they're the ones making campaign contributions.
When a doctor who hasn't practiced medicine, but leads a health plan, can retire with a $9,000,000 golden parachute and receive stock options sufficient to purchase a prime piece of real estate and create a park in his name, there is something wrong; at least as wrong as the CEO of an automobile manufacturer showing up to lobby for a bailout, in a private plane. Yet there the taxpayers took over a whole industry. Here, we're just supposed to continue getting raped.