Monday, January 4, 2010

Stewart Punks Kristol On Health Care Reform

It's recently been brought to my attention through private emails and public admonitions that many of you would like to see more of the lengthy commentary that was a staple of this site several months ago. Again, I apologize for the lack thereof (recounted and explained with as much emotional honesty as I could muster in this previous post) and I promise to make a considerable effort to pull myself from out my current intellectual funk. In so doing, I have a few things to say about this Jon Stewart interview of leading neoconservative William Kristol on health care reform in America from the middle of last year, which I apparently completely missed at the time. The mental disconnect here is staggering:

So, what does Kristol mean to say here? Stewart is the one who lets slip the phrase "our better citizens" yet Kristol seems to agree with the sentiment when he answers "Our soldiers? Absolutely." Now before I say what I'm about to say let me first state that I have great respect for the soldiers in our military and that I'm truly thankful for the protection they provide this country. In fact, for those not in the know, I almost attended West Point myself (I blew my scholarship partying way too much in my first year at Texas A&M instead). Just wanted to get that out of the way before I say this.

I'm getting a bit tired of the constant claim that every one of our military men and women are the best this nation has to offer, that by signing up to join the American military you somehow automatically become an incredible individual who is a far better person than those who have not done so. Granted, there are a lot of brave and extraordinarily capable individuals serving in the military (many of them truly are the best America has to offer) and we're lucky to have them fighting for us but the truth is that the military has also traditionally been somewhat of a last resort for many in our society, especially during times of economic duress.

Ever since the Bush administration got this country hopelessly mired in two intractable wars overseas our military has been stretched to the breaking point, so much so that the admission standards have had to be drastically lowered. As a result of these lowered standards, our military now admits recruits of lesser physical and mental prowess, recruits with less than healthy psychologies, recruits well over the traditional age of service and even recruits with substantial criminal records. We've watered down the ranks in an effort to maintain unsustainable recruitment numbers during a time of unpopular war. Yet Kristol and other neocons still insist that every one of these men and women are inherently better than any one of us and thus deserve better health care than you and I. Why is this?

Is it because they perform a service that is more dangerous than the average American's job? OK, I'll readily admit that but what does Kristol have to say about timber-cutters, deep sea fishermen, pilots, structural metal workers, delivery drivers, roofers, electrical power installers, farm workers, construction laborers and truck drivers? These are the ten most dangerous occupations in the country and I don't think that anyone could argue that these jobs are not essential to our economy and society, so all things being equal why should they not receive the same level of health care as those in our military?

Kristol also claims that "the military need different kinds of health care than the rest of us". Again I ask, why is this? Granted, their jobs (those active duty soldiers and civilian personnel who are currently serving and working in dangerous war zones, which is about ten percent of the total military employed by our government) are indeed dangerous but how is the health care they require that different from that of the occupations I referenced above? When a soldier incurs a serious head injury in battle does he need different medical care than a timber-cutter or construction laborer who receives the same type of head wound at their work site? Does a soldier who loses a limb in combat any more disadvantaged or physically traumatized than a farm worker who loses the same limb within the blades of a motorized thresher? Just how exactly are the wounds and injuries of soldiers in the military any different or more serious than those same wounds or injuries received by civilians, thus requiring "different kinds of health care than the rest of us"?

The obvious answer is that they are not but to Kristol and the other architects of the Iraq war who favor constant American military interventionism across the globe the role of the soldier and the United States military must be all but mythologized in order to support their warmongering ambitions. Yet the problem for the neocons is that most of America already subscribes to this supposed mythology: "Support Our Troops" signs are ubiquitous within our society and stories abound of everyday Americans buying beers for returned servicemen and women (which I wholeheartedly support by the way, especially for those soldiers who are under the legal drinking age). Despite the neocons' best efforts to insist otherwise, we Americans already treat our soldiers as our somewhat social betters.

So Kristol chooses instead to denigrate the sacrifices and hard work of those Americans not belonging to the military as being somehow inferior to that of our soldiers in order to justify his support for never-ending wars around the world (wars he himself would never deign to fight in, of course), hence his insistence that the well being of those in civilian American society deserves much less respect and regard than that of those serving in the American military. And despite his usual inane and hypocritical posturing about the costs of various government subsidies he is also all too happy to let those same Americans pay for these wars with the tax dollars they might very well have spent on their own health care system, if only it was something that they, you know, actually deserved.


Leslie Parsley said...

Bravo. I like the analysis of the insurance and medical care for the military compared to that of the workers in the 10 top most dangerous jobs. I guess they're not that important to the welfare of our country?

Keep it up.

JBW said...

Thanks, Leslie. And thanks for giving me shit, even if I was a bit too obtuse to notice.

JoMala "Truth 101" Kelly said...

Some occupations just enjoy mythical status. It's an easy answer for politicos to say our soldiers are our Nation's greatest asset. If you're in the midwest like me, they say farmers are great.

It used to be young people were our "greatest asset" but those times are changing. Apparently I'm not the only one with disrespectful kids that have deadbeat boyfriends.

I doubt the siv=ncerity of the Krystols and the rest of the right wing bloviators. While I would gladly pay more tax to see that our servicemen and women get what was promised them, I've had two righties in damn near four years of blogging say they would also.

Hypocritical assholes is what they are.

Steven said...

You might observe that policemen didn't make that list either despite their claims to the contrary. I'm a retired carpenter and I was always a little bit bothered by the fact that PR is what makes a job dangerous, not facts.

I'm also a former Navy Corpsman so I have some knowledge of of just how different the military medical care is when compared to civilian...the military one is free. Other than that, there is no difference. Bad doctors, nurses and corpsman can be found just as easily as we find their civilian counterparts. The same applies to the patients. I found the range of perceived intelligence levels among the troops to be staggering. (Officers included)

But, hey! it was a job and better than sitting around the house.

JBW said...

I admit that I was surprised to not find policemen or firefighters on that list, Steve. You're right, PR goes a long way. Thanks for stopping by.