Donít Blame Karl Marx
In these social and political circles, my attitude is apparently peculiar. While the left cheers and the right fulminates – or worse – I do neither. Blame it on my years spent in Washington, when various motions and movements threatened the civilized world, as we know it – “but waking no such matter.” (The quote comes from a Shakespearean sonnet the last line of which goes: “In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.”)
The president and all his men and a woman (Nancy Pelosi) have whomped together seemingly a cure all, fittingly, for the nation’s health care problems. Their celebration, by the way, I took for the tremendous victory they won in the political battle. Certainly, each is aware of how much work lies ahead: the devil lies in the details, as the saying goes.
It was in Shakespeare’s time, that the Anglo-Saxon world considered and accepted responsibility for the less fortunate. The Poor Law of 1601 differentiated between the “worthy” and the “unworthy;” the former were entitled to dignity and consideration while their less-esteemed compatriots were given the back of society’s hand – still they gathered consolation: meals to eat.
When poorhouses came along a century or so later, there was medical care thrown in. After all, the upper reaches of the population couldn’t very well let their less fortunate brothers and sisters die off; that wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do. As a Biblical thing or for survival of the species, medical care accompanied any charitable handouts. There was a possibility that what ailed the poor could be transmitted to their better-off patrons. Couldn’t take a chance on that.
Institutions to care for the poor, the destitute and aged spread widely before and after the American Revolution; they were mostly local. The first federal involvement came with the Social Security Act, passed and shaped during the Great Depression.
The Saturday Evening Post sent me a bag imprinted with its name, so that I could sell the magazines in my neighborhood; for that enterprise, mother applied and received a Social Security card for me. I didn’t know what it meant. In time I learned.
When Medicare came along, I was not only full-grown but serving as a consultant to the White House when Lyndon Johnson was president. He managed after the elections, when he triumphed over Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, to realize Harry Truman’s dream, to get Medicare and Medicaid enacted. (Mr. Johnson also horsed through the Congress major legal programs to support the Civil Rights movement.)
Both Social Security and Medicare-Medicaid can be considered extensions of that Poor Law of 1601; so is the health care program passed last week. If you don’t like the suggestion, then how would you put it?
Meanwhile, I refuse to jump off a skyscraper or order ice cream for all my friends; I’ve read what people say and what they fear. Don’t bother me, however, until the courts and all the “pols” have their say and way.
There’s little to be gained from provoking my nearest and dearest, those farthest away and those thoroughly detested. Whoever and whatever? Call me when the passed motion gets to the final destination, and not before.
Sing no sad songs or ring funereal bells for that system that had hospitals abandoning patients in public parks; mothers and fathers watching their children die before their eyes and able to do nothing.
George W. Bush, aided and abetted by Dick Cheney, spent the nation into bankruptcy to a fare-the-well and slaughtered thousands of human beings, Americans and otherwise, and that’s fact, not speculation.
How much worse can life be for the human race?