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Today the Republicans in Congress held a birth control hearing.  Outside the committee room they apparently hung a sign that said "NO GIRLS" (with the R charmingly backwards, of course; they're so cute at that age), because no person capable of actually giving birth seemed to be in attendance.  I wonder how the old boys network would like it if Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Maria Cantwell, Nikki Tsongas, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and -- what the hell? -- Michele Bachmann all got together to have a hearing on whether insurance companies should have to pay for Viagra?  I bet they'd need some.

Our health care priorities are all screwed up.  I know everyone here knows that, but I just had to type it.  Call it the catharsis of keyboarding.  As a nurse, it has bothered me for a long time.  I once had the privilege of working at Shriners Burns Hospital in Boston, which provides worlds class burn care to children free of care.  When I worked there no one paid, although I understand that things have changed a little, and that now if a patient's insurance will cover all or part of treatment Shriners will take payment.  But still no one is turned away.  If you cannot afford care, it will still be provided, paid for by a trust.  Socialized medicine, in other words.  And guess what?  It wasn't substandard; in fact it was the best in the world.  And it was friendly, prompt, and highly professional, a far cry from the desultory bureaucratic nightmare that the Right would have you believe is the reality of socialized medicine in places like Britain and Canada.  I have worked with a lot of British and Canadian medical professionals, and they have all said that while their systems were not flawless, they were still very effective and much preferable to the American system, which they consider obscene.

That's the word: Obscene.  That's what our priorities are in this country in regard to business of health care.  The very fact that we use the phrase "business of health care" encapsulates the problem perfectly.  Health shouldn't be a business.  It should be a fundamental human right.

Money, money, money.  It all comes back to money.  Think of the billions spent in research to create Viagra and its ilk.  An alien species watching us would assume that Erectile Dysfunction was the most dread health threat of our age.  Cancer?  Pfft.  DO YOU REALIZE SOME GUYS CAN'T EVEN GET BONERS?  If breast cancer got the the kind of money erectile dysfunction does we wouldn't need Komen for the Cure.

Birth control?  Seriously?  We're arguing about goddam birth control?!  Didn't our grandparents settle this issue?  Give me a break.  I mean, I suppose in a weird kind of way I should be glad.  If this kind of paleo-issue is the best the Republicans have got, then our chances look awfully good in November.  If you seriously believe that women having sex is the most important issue facing our country then you are woefully out of step with prevailing opinion in the United States.  So go ahead, nominate Rick Santorum.  But all you're gonna do is guarantee him a comfortable income writing books and making speeches, because he (and anyone like him) ain't gonna get anywhere near the White House.

I'm an angry nurse.  I've seen too many kids (I'm a pediatric nurse) not get treatment they needed because no one could pay for it.  It's especially bad in mental health, where there are literally millions more patients than there are beds.  If people had any idea how many mentally ill children are left to languish all day in the emergency room only to get doped up and shipped back to an unhealthy (or worse) home situation because there was no place to send them, they would be appalled.  Well, the ones without R's next to their names would anyway.

But that's too harsh.  I'd like to think even most Republicans would agree no one wants to see people suffer.  Realistically, the only way to make that happen is through socialized medicine.  Yes, I said "socialized medicine," not "single-payer."  I find "single-payer" to be a somewhat disingenuous term, and I can't escape the feeling that it was created by some vocabulary engineer specifically to keep the source of payment (i.e. the government) vague.  In that sense it is not only intellectually dishonest, but a sign of weakness on our part.  We shouldn't hide from our socialist roots just because the other side has made "socialist" a bad word.  In fact, I think we should reclaim it.  Hell yes, we should say, we're socialists.  Here's what that actually MEANS.  We need to stop living with a Cold War mentality and start educating people as to what socialism really is and how it would make their lives better.

Because this?  A society where we produce Viagra by the truckload while hospitals face a critical shortage of the cancer drug Methotrexate?  This isn't gonna work.

Originally posted to Jon Stafford on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 04:32 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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