Let’s forget about “fake news” and search for the truth

We are at yet another gridlock on Capitol Hill. Unilateral healthcare reform won’t be passed and it is unlikely repeal (actually only partial repeal) will succeed as well.

Why is it so difficult for our political leaders to act with, what most of out here in the hinterland would call, “common sense?”

The first problem is that we see (or hear) only what we want. Because there is such a plethora of news (or “fake news”) sources, we each tend to gravitate towards the ones that make us comfortable. I would suspect that in our area, the conservative-focused Fox News out-ranks most of the other outlets by a fairly wide margin. Likewise, more liberal-minded thinkers might migrate towards CNN or some other similarly biased source.

I am not sure we ever had truly “unbiased” reporting (we are all captives of our environment and experiences). However, it appeared that in times past there was some semblance of balance, at least in the major outlets. Walter Cronkite signed off with “And that’s the way it is…” and we believed him.

Such is not the case today. You are either a hater or a lover of political icons. Anything that doesn’t correspond to your beliefs is now “fake news.” I’m not sure I even know what that means. It is all just information, some more reliable and believable than others. What has been lost are the subtleties, nuances and caveats.

I find it difficult to make coherent argument in the text I’m allotted for this column. I frequently have to ask my editor for just a bit more space. Even with that, I generally have to cut out much of the supporting information. Typically, all that is left is what appear to be bold, unsupported assertions.

Digital communication is even worse. In a Twitter world, you only get 140 characters (less than in the previous paragraph). Even I have to admit that many of our President’s tweets seem, shall we say, less than intelligible. Yet, I wonder what the real back story is. Often, I find myself agreeing with the principle, but not the words. I really do hate having Donald Trump as the “messenger,” but he is who we got.

Our fundamental problem runs deeper than the fact that modern communications strip everything bare, leaving us with stark, raving, antagonistic micro-phrases that we each filter through our own biases, ultimately to love or hate. In the process, I fear we are losing our understanding of the truth. Perception may be reality, but it is rarely the truth.

All of this is just the outward manifestation of a philosophical battle that has been raging for millennia. It is a war over the meaning (and even appropriateness) of “fairness”. It is a clash between the “collective good” and “individual rights.” It is a complex engagement, but we have let ourselves be pushed to the extremes.

America was founded on freedom of the individual. Over the past century, collectivism has been on the ascendancy, even if its more extreme position, epitomized by Soviet communism, has waned.

The base line in our country has now firmly established a trend that the government, not the individual, is responsible for our well-being. More worrisome, it is now acceptable for the government to force compliance. Every regulatory regime the government establishes is replete with examples.

Forced collectivization is no more evident than in the area of healthcare. Under Obama Care, the mandate and penalty features force individuals to buy health insurance or pay a “tax.” It exists to balance healthy young people (who might otherwise choose not to pay for a product they statistically may not need) and older or sick people who most assuredly will consume healthcare. The economic logic is undeniable, but the requirement restricts choices. The same is true with the mandated minimum services provisions that require maternity coverage and a host of other services many people may not need or want but are forced to pay for.

I find it interesting that millions of people who might become uninsured if the Republican’s repeal and replace Obama Care are really “choosing” to not have insurance, not being thrown out of the system. The CBO study states,” Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate…because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties.” There is a huge difference between losing healthcare coverage and choosing not to buy it. That fact is in the nuance of their report, not the tweet version.

So this is where we are today. We pick our “facts.” We don’t believe each other. Our policies reflect this deep division. Moreover, politicians (being just that), reflect this ever-growing chasm. We have all or nothing policies. One side believes that government is the (only) solution. The other believes that government is the problem.

It is both. The government has a role to play in that process, but I as an individual, ought to have the freedom to choose what is right for me.

We must return to a more civilized debate.

I will concede that we need to find a way to cover basic health services in an affordable fashion and that probably requires broad (if not universal) participation. Will you concede that I ought to be able to pick the coverages I want and be allowed to pay only for those?

Perhaps that would be a start.

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