I’m not a huge fan of Keith Olbermann’s Countdown broadcast, primarily because of the melodrama to which he often resorts to convey it. I believe he is a necessary presence on our airwaves, if only to respond in kind to the nonstop hate broadcasts spewed daily from the network which Roger Ailes runs for Rupert Murdoch. While I understand the need for advocacy journalism, and while I appreciate the relatively high proportion of substance within Mr. Olbermann’s angry rhetoric, I prefer my melodrama contained within fiction. I like my news and political commentary presented with dignity, or at least intelligent discourse punctuated by low-key satire. Paying attention to Olbermann constitutes work, despite the fact that I have cause to agree with much of what he says on his program.
Last autumn, about one month after my mother died, after her having substantively benefited from the government-sponsored administration of medical coverage for the elderly which we’d been promised as taxpayers, under circumstances which would have impoverished or bankrupted both her and her son had this coverage not existed, Olbermann broadcast an hour-long Special Comment about the need for health care reform.
He began the hour with an account of his father’s recent decline in health and subsequent hospitalization, a story which contained many familiar moments of discovery, denial, apprehension, and outrage. Living alone, Olbermann’s ailing father had collapsed and remained unattended for hours. I need not change many details in this story to stress the similarity to what I experienced with my mother. If you see no other part of this 43-minute expression of betrayal, watch the first fifteen minutes.
Yes, Keith Olbermann makes more money than I do. He could afford to see to his father’s care. He knows this, and he addresses it, too. I have yet to hear any of the screaming, mentally disturbed, blame-the-victim crowd over at Fox News address this issue in any substantive way. They’re paid handsomely to say other things.
After decades of failed attempts, a degree of health care reform has just become law. I find it insufficient, but it is a basis upon which to add to the legacy of humane governance which both Social Security and Medicare helped create.
Whoever you are, whatever your income or expectations of privilege and inheritance, I don’t care what your opinion of this law might be. Because you can’t tell me that, without it, an unregulated free market can provide either competition or ethical business practices to guarantee me proper medical coverage.
Insurance companies exist, as any corporate entity does, to generate profit. Left unsupervised by a federal government whose authority permits them to function within its economy, they will pursue any means to do so that they can devise a sufficiently profitable case for. And this is what they have done.
Had my mother not qualified for Medicare and Medicaid — systems into which she had paid taxes for decades — the Aetna/Cigna/Wellpoint “free market” would have reduced our family to medieval levels of poverty and homelessness. All in the name of short-term profits.
My friends in England look upon our national situation in quiet horror, having solved these problems long before. I imagine they marvel at the reprehensible ability of insurance-company-funded publicists and astroturf “movements” to demonize their National Health Service to audiences who have no other source of information outside their small towns.
I find it interesting that Olbermann started in sports journalism. There are times he makes me think he’s a character who escaped from Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night and made a name for himself in the real world.
At one point in this broadcast, Olbermann asks “what is government for?” Right now — with some exceptions — it’s a money-laundering operation for ambitious, talentless shills. Before the so-called “Reagan Revolution,” before rich, paranoid conservatives — mindful of the political lessons taught by populist opinion of Viet Nam and Watergate — bought up radio stations, television stations, and newspapers, before our infrastructure was left to collapse from indifference… our government had actually learned the consequences of neglect and suffering, and it was a bit more.