By Jack Perry
Some Americans have this unreasonable fear of anything termed “socialism” despite the fact that our NATO allies in the Cold War (you know, on the other side of the Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces) have had public health care for quite some time. And also, there has been a socialized medical system in place within the United States for some years now. That being: The Veterans Administration. Oh, yes, this is socialized medicine no matter how you want to gussy it up in patriotic duty, wrapped in the American flag, and whistling the Star Spangled Banner while extolling the virtues of private insurance medicine. Any rumors of cutting VA benefits will be met with outrage from folks who often, paradoxically, also oppose universal health care for all Americans. Why?
Usually, the argument goes something like this: “Those veterans earned those VA benefits!” Okay, number one, this is supposed to be a nation of equality under the law. To say that the military and veterans are some caste above the civilian people may have worked in the early Indo-European Bronze Age, but I would hope we’ve progressed since then. You cannot say that military service alone entitles one to more rights than anyone else. And I say that as a veteran of the United States Army.
But what I’d really like to say is this: Everyone earns it. But not everyone gets it. How so? I will explain. Since the beginning of the Cold War, every man, woman, and child in the United States has been an unknowing combatant in a war. That being, the United States has volunteered every citizen to sit on Ground Zero should a nuclear war ever occur because ICBMs are targeted on cities, not just military targets. Therefore, every citizen is a combatant without choice in the matter as sure as if they had been drafted into the military. Now who earns it?
If we cannot agree that all people deserve medical care, then I say it’s time to ask ourselves what, exactly, we stand for now.
Through meddlesome foreign policy in the Middle East, the United States government has volunteered every American to serve in a shadow war it began with various terrorist groups. As we saw on 9/11, it is average Americans often killed in this conflict. In terrorist attacks, it is often American civilians targeted since the government itself is highly protected against such attacks. Therefore, every citizen is a combatant without choice in the matter as sure as if they had been drafted into the military. Again, now who earns it.
The military itself is armed and paid by whom? Themselves? No. Taxpayers work and pay income tax, whether they agree with the use of military force or not. People have been jailed for refusing to pay taxes because they objected to those taxes being used for war or other objectionable government policies. Henry David Thoreau was one such person. On the face of this, Americans are basically the paymaster of the entire military whether they agree or not. But there is more. We know that the United States could not have helped win World War Two were it not for the industrial, mineral, and agricultural output of the American civilian workforce. This concept has not changed. So now, this means every civilian worker is contributing to the ability of the military to fight and win a war just as sure as if they carried and fired weapons themselves. The workers built the weapons in the first place. Therefore, again, who earns what?
Taxpayers fund the VA. Pay attention to that fact. Americans pay taxes to fund a socialized medicine system they are not all entitled to use. Is this fair? Is this right? Conservatives like to say, “Why should I be forced to pay for someone else’s health care?!” Okay, but I can say the same about the VA. Americans without health care are being forced to fund the health care of others through the VA. And it’s a closed system since only veterans can use that system. This isn’t about who earns what at this point. It’s about the hypocrisy of saying on the one hand it’s wrong to have to pay for other peoples’ medical care when you are doing exactly that with veterans. Don’t give me this crap about who “earned” it. As I pointed out above, everybody earns it. But not everyone gets it.
What is it that we’re asking young men and women to go fight and die for? Is it the right of a handful of people to get fabulously wealthy while tens of millions lack even basic medical care?
Let the military try and exist without personnel being paid. Let the military try and fight a war without food, ammo, or replacement weapons. Let military personnel go without medical care because it’s too “expensive”. If anyone suggested this, that person would be called un-American. But Americans whose taxes pay the military, feed and arm the military, and provide medical care to the military are told that they must do without public health care because it’s too “expensive”. Again, the military cannot exist without the civilians. They’re not a self-sustaining organism. So it’s high time to take care of everyone and not just the most visible members.
Bernie Sanders proposes Medicare For All. Everyone deserves it. If we cannot agree that all people deserve medical care, then I say it’s time to ask ourselves what, exactly, we stand for now. What is it that we’re asking young men and women to go fight and die for? Is it the right of a handful of people to get fabulously wealthy while tens of millions lack even basic medical care? Because if that’s the case, we need to be clear about the mission of those young men and women and stop hiding behind claims we’re about human rights. Because we’re not. But we can be: Medicare For All. It’s time. Everyone Earns It.