Today, while visiting Jane Hall, the Eyeglass Frame Fashionista of Damariscotta, I learned why we will never be able to afford health care for all in this country. A certain visitor to Jane's office told us in no uncertain terms that the rich have never and will never pay any taxes. Could that really be the difference? Could it be that the members of the Public Option contingent think Americans are law-abiding and will do their civic duty, while the No Health Care For Brown People crowd believe the rich are so powerful they are above the law?
Jane's a friend from when I lived in Tenants Harbor. Interrupting our catch-up chat, a representative of the NFIB arrived in her stacked heels, swishy petal skirt and big hair. She carried a clipboard and it was clear from the garish smile that she was selling something.
Jane, sharply observant as ever, said in her slightly gravely voice, "Aaaannnd, you are obviously on a mission." NFIB Woman sat herself down and said, "Yes, I'm on a mission to save this country from falling apart." She pulled out an application form and said she was from the NFIB, as soon as she got the letters out of her mouth, Jane leaned back and said, "No, thank-you."
At that, the NFIB lady leaned in. "Now would you mind telling me why?" Jane politely said she had been a member before and the membership did not offer what she expected. NFIB Woman persisted, explaining that her organization was dedicated to "making sure Americans have health care that we can all afford." She went on to say that proposals with "universal health care" would cost small businesses too much money. Jane shook her head and explained that she favored universal health care and that we had to have it regardless of the costs.
They volleyed back and forth a bit while I wondered why this gal had not left at the first sign of resistance. Clearly she was a rookie activist. Persuasion is possible only if there are openings. Jane left no room for doubt. This woman should have taken her minimal lumps and left. She didn't. She persisted. I stayed mum as long as I could, but when she started mouthing the FOX News line that runs, If they can't even run the Cash for Clunkers program, how can they run health care?, I had to say that I knew where that logic had originated and it was hardly logical.
Then came the middle bits, predictable and mundane, especially since the fearmongering perpetrated by the insurance industry has become all but rote. Things shifted when I asked NFIB Woman woman for actual information. Her claim was that we could not afford health care for all, but when I asked her whether she knew how the interstate highway system and the biggest school construction projects in this country's history were funded during the middle of the 20th century. She had no idea. Then, since I was not confident that she would know who was president in the 1950s, I asked her what the income tax rate for the richest Americans was under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower. She said she did not know. When I told her 91 percent, she looked dismayed. Then I asked her what the highest rate was today. Unsurprisingly, she had no idea. When I told her 35 percent, I added that I paid at least 28 percent and I am an underemployed teacher.
She said she paid 30-something, and I asked her whether it was right that the uber-wealthy, I think I called them gazillionaires, paid four percent more than she did when they made thousands and thousands times more than she.
Then she took her most surprising stance. By this time she had stood up and tottered on her six-inch wooden heels. "Rich people won't pay their taxes," she said. "Pardon, me," I said. "The rich never pay their taxes," she reiterated. Stunned, I said, "Well, in that case we have a much bigger problem than health care."
Nine hours later, I still wonder if she understands the gravity of her claim. I reminded her that our ancestors had left 17th century England to escape the corruption and injustice of the aristocracy and asked if she was essentially saying that our situation is now the same. She looked blank and began to blather about how we should "respect each other's point of view." You know, the argument that there is no analysis or truth, just opinion.
Going over the top, I broke Godwins Law and brought up the Holocaust. I said, "Umm. The Holocaust was wrong. Some things are just wrong. Not obeying the law is wrong. [The gazillionaire scofflaws] would be in trouble." To my chagrin, she persisted with, "Rich people have never paid taxes and never will." I said, "Maybe as long as they and their corporations can get you to do their bidding." I told her the most honorable thing she could do with her time was stop shilling for the insurance companies.
By this point I had already recommended Thomas Franks', "What's the Matter with Kansas," to learn how members of the protected upper class get others to vote in opposition to their best interests. She looked at me as if I was recommending Kafka. It made me wonder if she had ever read a non-fiction book in her life.
I had already suggested that she got her talking points from Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. She demurred saying, "No. I got [the Cash for Clunkers example] from the radio." Oy.
In her parting paragraph she again beseeched me to acknowledge her right to her opinion. As she backed toward the door, she said, "No matter what our opinions, we should respect each other's point of view."
Jane and I gave her crickets.
Grrr. Wonder what her salary is and whether she has health insurance.
23 hours ago