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The first of the newly created Mother-Son Debates focuses on Health Care Reform.

Russell’s (Son) Position:

The US will have universal health care (some form of it) within 15 years.  As the only industrialized nation without it there’s not much precedent against it.  The United States does not yet feel the necessity for covering everyone and was very much lagging behind other countries in the discussion of health care reform.  Most industrialized nations started the debate early in 20th century and were well on their way/done with the basics by the end of WWII – many countries out of necessity due to the high costs of WWII.  The continued superpower status and relatively rich population keep reform at bay.  A prolonged high unemployment rate and lengthy war deployments may push things along further faster.  Major reforms do not come about because of consideration of specific/individual trials and tribulations – a country needs a statistically significant number of citizens experiencing general difficulties.  Health care reform doesn’t differ drastically from education, transportation nor the military.  These are things we all want/need but don’t see the immediate value in.  We simply had several more centuries to figure out that a more educated, mobile and protected society is going to be more productive (no other justification is required for reform).  Furthermore, health care didn’t need to be figured out before early1900s because most people didn’t live long enough (lifespans in industrialized countries were still around 50 years or lower) for end of life medicine to be such a burden on society.  With the end of major world wars, improvement in nutrition, widespread clean water and germ theory people lived longer to be exposed to more complicated illnesses.  Medical technology progressed enough in the 1900s to give people hope they could cheat death long enough to make death something we didn’t handle culturally very well.  So here we are today:  still wealthy enough to think we can pay for all this health care out of pocket, still avoiding conversations about death and still about two decades behind the rest of the industrial world on social issues.   We’ll have universal health care, but it won’t be activism that brings it about.  Activism might move it along a year or two sooner and help us integrate the inevitable reform.

Donna’s (Mother) Position:

Healthcare is a basic human right, and as such, to be protected as a public good. All of a civilized society benefits from providing a progressively financed, single standard of high-quality healthcare to all of its citizens.

In the United States, a healthcare system centered on employer-based health insurance benefits developed and expanded in the mid-to-late 20th century.  But this system leaves large segments of the U.S. population with either no coverage for even basic healthcare needs or inadequate coverage.

Costs are exploding for individuals, companies and public entities, and though more than 16 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product is now consumed by healthcare, more than 45,000 Americans die every year simply due to lack of access to care.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation not to provide universalized access to healthcare to its citizens, and the World Health Organization reports that in several of the major measures of health outcomes, the U.S. lags well behind (life expectancy, infant mortality — to name just two).  We spend more than twice as much per capita on healthcare and yet our outcomes do not reflect it.
I’ve heard it said that if we had this level of spending on our Olympic team and our results were as poor, we’d have a society up in arms about making fundamental change.  It’s like paying for the Yankees and getting a minor league team or less.

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Happy 2010.  After several lengthy discussions over the holidays with my Mom I thought it might be interesting to generate an online Mother/Son debate to discuss the Big Issues in life.  Note: This post is the first time my mom will have heard of this idea but I suspect she’ll embrace this and start producing her viewpoints within 24 hours 😉

The Mother Son Debates will illuminate the differences in values, ideas, hopes and approaches to life between my mom and I.  Perhaps in putting these thoughts out there we might learn more about our respective generations, our social networks and the contexts of our own value formations.  We might also change some of our own view points in the process.  Oh, and yes, we’ll have a lot of fun!

Topics We’ll Debate:

  • Health Care Reform – why reform? who should pay? what’s the end result we want?
  • Free Will – do we have free will?
  • God – current concept of God? is there a God?
  • Education – what works? what doesn’t?
  • Designer Genetics – should we design our children?  redesign ourselves?
  • Technology Enhanced Human Biology – cyborgs? intelligence enhancers?
  • Determinism – is it all determined?
  • Global Warming – is it real? does it matter?
  • Human Rights – what are human rights?
  • Universal Truth – are there any universal truths?
  • Personal Responsibility – who’s responsible for everything?
  • War and Peace – is there a positive to war? is war necessary? is there an acceptable cost of war?
  • Generational Shifts – does every generation think the incoming generation has great challenges? eroding values? is not ready to take on the challenges? is the older generation a has been? old ideas? outdated? technophobic?

First topic will be Health Care Reform, as I know that will get my mom into the debate! 😉

The format is simple.  We’ll start with a one paragraph statement of our positions in one blog post.  The debate will happen via comments and follow on blog posts.  Everyone is free to join in the discussion.

Quoting old dead white guys is allowed but is greatly frowned upon.

About Donna Smith, My Mom:

Photo by Robin HollandDonna Smith is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Colorado College with a degree in history. Her journalism career includes work as a stringer for NEWSWEEK magazine. She has been honored by the Associated Press Managing Editors with 15 regional awards from 2004-2006 and by the Inland Press Association’s top honor in 2006 for community-based journalism. Since 2007, she has co-chaired the Progressive Democrats of America’s national “Healthcare Not Warfare” campaign, and she has so far spoken in 41 states and the District of Columbia about single-payer healthcare reform.

Donna continues an active writing and speaking career, and now blogs and writes op-ed pieces about the health care crisis. She also is the founder of American Patients United, a non-profit group educating citizens about health care reform on the national level. She also works as a national single-payer health care advocate and community organizer for the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. Donna and Larry now live in Washington, DC, and they have six children and 14 grandchildren.

About Me

You can ready the far-less-impressive-for-the purposes-of-intellectual-debate background in the About Russell tab of this blog.

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  • 37,000 participants on Facebook during the live debates last night.
  • live polling
  • live blogging
  • email direct to campaign advisors
  • immediate reactions
  • raw videos from the event
  • videos from the location

The debates were lively and alive.  Interactive and immersive.  Ok, ok, so some of the political banter during the debate itself was the same ol’ schtick but this time we get to tell these campaign managers what we need NOW.

Pretty amazing that we, the people, received 4 hours of coverage with all the candidates and had accessible and usable interactive tools to discuss.

The YouTube – CNN debate format was exceptionally cool too.  Imagine if Facebook and YouTube joined up to bring the audience, media tools, and interactive experiences all together.  Man, what a tool for democratic discussion!

Perhaps there’s a downside to this… the American Public.  The online / social network crowd is NOT representative of the American public.  Facebook and YouTube are not the tools of most people in the country.  It’s going to get easier and cheaper for campaigns and media outlets to use the online tools to reach people and they may leave out the non-tech-savvy crowd for sometime.

There has to be some way to bring the interactivity to the masses.

Can YouTube and Facebook use their considerable creativity and investments to “get local” and “get offline” to reach people?  These tools are bigger than online advertising vehicles.  They are platforms for national discussion, for democracy and for transparency.  As such, they need to grow into their bigger roles (heck, the consumers and media companies demand it!).

If you haven’t looked at the YouTube archives, MySpace Impact site, Facebook US Politics application nor many of the GREAT online politics sites… you need to do it.  Really, you do.  If you value your vote, your rights in this country, and the strength of the democracy.

Here are some book marks for you:

New Hampshire Primary Channel on YouTube 

Citizine Tube – YouTube Politics Vlog 

YouChoose 08 

Facebook US Politics Application

Impact on MySpace 

Politics Sites linked from Google… 

For fun, but actually a great Futures Market tool… Fantasy Congress 

~Russ

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