Okay, I will get back to straight health care, but I am astonished at how many people seem incapable of taking a breath and understanding what happened in our election. I am no fan of either major party or the candidates they put worth. Earlier this year, in April I believe, I indulged myself in political venting in a commentary because of my dissatisfaction with how this election was proceeding. But the likely outcome was predictable if you watched and listened and understood the larger mood in the country.
Perhaps it is because most people in my circle, and probably in those of the readers of this blog, are among the fortunate in this country that we have so little sense of the forces driving the electorate. We have a good job, make a good living, don’t feel too stressed. We are the few and getting fewer. This is not the life of most Americans. They truly experience “lives of quiet desperation”. Look at long-term charts of income growth. It is pathetic. Look at the long-term rise in costs that are important to people–cars, education, sales and property taxes, houses, and, of course, perhaps most important of all–health care.
The vast majority of people have experienced, or at least believe they have experienced, a substantial degradation in their standard of living. They literally live paycheck to paycheck, terrified at the prospect of any unexpected expense, which often relates to their or a loved one’s health. At the same time, they see the very well-off who use their wealth, their position and their power to become even more well-off and to avoid consequences for inappropriate behavior of all types. And this well-off group of, dare I say it, elites, often derides the working class, the people who live between the East and West Coast power centers as hicks, rubes, dummies, racists, etc.; “deplorables” in a word, and imagines that this disdain is not noticed; that in a world driven by social media examples of this disdain would not be discovered and rapidly shared.
Could a worse candidate than Hillary Clinton, who came to epitomize these elitist characteristics, have been put forward by a major party in this environment? Leaked emails and speech transcripts made clear her real perceptions, and the mere fact that what she said and portrayed in public was so different from the private reality doomed her candidacy. And how much worse for her party would the outcome have been if her opponent had been anyone other the deeply, deeply flawed Donald Trump?
Let me say it again–most people in this country feel themselves to be in desperate economic straits and they have little hope that things will get better. And health care’s exploding costs, in the form of premium contributions, deductibles, copays and coinsurance play no small part in that desperation. Desperate people feel little risk in taking a chance–after all, how much worse could things get and maybe they get better. And that was the story of this election. And if we can’t figure out how to give these people hope, how to improve their sense of economic well-being, expect much worse in future elections.