I already wrote, in a post last June, about how the “socialist” charges leveled at Barack Obama miss the mark. The “socialist” label lately applied to the new health-care law reminds me of the first session of the West German Bundestag, which I heard broadcast live on the radio in Germany in 1948. As some right-wing deputy was blabbering Sozialismus, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Kurt Schumacher, rejoined with Was wissen Sie vom Sozialismus? Buchstabieren Sie nur einmal das Wort! (What do you know about socialism? Let me hear you spell the word!)
In fact, the health-care law is about as capitalistic as any such legislation can be. By comparison — but only by comparison — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would fill a Marxist with joy. Of course, I don’t mean the dog-eat-dog, free-market capitalism of Adam Smith or Ayn Rand, a form that Wall Street said good-bye to many years ago, but modern capitalism, with corporations getting heaps of subsidies and a modicum of regulation from the government. That, plus tax incentives, health savings accounts (in private banks, of course) and the like — where in the world is the socialism?
I understand that Rush Limbaugh, the leading hurler of the “socialism” epithet, has gone back on his vow to move to Costa Rica if the law were to pass. I don’t think much of Rush Limbaugh, but I never thought of him as an ignoramus, and yet how did he not know that a civilized country like Costa Rica would have nationalized health care?
Here’s another personal experience. Unlike Spain, where government-run hospitals and clinics are open to tourists (as I found out from the excellent treatment that my wife received in a little mountain village after arriving from Morocco with an intestinal disorder), in Costa Rica such services are only for permanent residents. And so, when I found myself with wax-clogged ears the day before I was to fly back to the US, I discovered that all the doctors in the town where I was staying were working, on that day, at the public health center, and that without a national ID card I would not be attended there. All the doctors, that is, except one. I was given directions (Costa Ricans don’t use street addresses) to his office, was seen by him, and then referred back to the public health center, where I was to ask a nurse named Doña Carmen for a lavage. When I protested that I wouldn’t be served at the center, he said, “Just ask for Doña Carmen. She’s my wife.”