Let nurses nurse again


Af­ter fi­nally catch­ing last month’s vi­ral video of Se­na­tor John McCain’s dra­matic floor vote, I wanted to watch re­runs all week­end. Part of me en­joyed the well­known mav­er­ick’s just-in-time en­trance from an­other round of pres­sure from the vice pres­i­dent. Part of me rel­ished the former POW’s ex­tended arm and fin­gers cocked as if cast­ing a spell, but McCain’s pro­tracted use of an al­ready preg­nant pause was what re­ally did it for me. Of course, the former navy pi­lot’s swift and daunt­less thumbs-down fol­lowed by a brief gaze at his col­leagues on the other side of the aisle added to the po­lit­i­cal theater, as did the se­na­tor’s Santa-style exe­unt. Done with his work, he turned with a jerk.

Next came a sud­den ex­plo­sion of fright­ened gasps, an awk­ward hoot, some clap­ping, and a few­muf­fled cheers. In con­trast, the arms-crossed, face-down ma­jor­ity leader stood in a still, cold si­lence to­tally ig­nored by his peers. The scene con­cluded with a sig­nif­i­cant de­noue­ment. As pal­pa­ble ap­plause be­gan to erupt in the cham­ber, all ex­pres­sions of ex­u­ber­ance were im­me­di­ately halted by a fran­tic and de­ter­mined ges­ture from the Demo­cratic leader. Amer­ica had dodged a bul­let in the mid­dle of the night, but we were go­ing to dodge it with dig­nity, not rowdy high-fives.

But is “dig­nity” re­ally the right word here? Can there be much dig­nity when you live in the only in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tion with­out free health-care? Can there be much dig­nity in a na­tion where the party in power has spent the sum­mer— in­deed much of the last decade— try­ing to re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple with health­care ben­e­fits?

Like flies to wan­ton boys, cor­po­rate in­ter­ests play with our lives. Where’s the dig­nity in that?

The dig­nity, of course, lies in the use of this mo­ment as a way to lever­age the creation of a bet­ter sys­tem. Dig­nity on this im­mensely im­por­tant is­sue re­sides in your clear, con­sis­tent, and vo­cal sup­port for the ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion: low­er­ing the age for Medi­care eli­gi­bil­ity to zero. Do it over time if that seems nec­es­sary. Add ages 0-5 and 60+ in the first year, 0-15 and 50+ in year two, 0-25 and 40+ in year three, and the tran­si­tion to a sin­gle-payer Medi­care­for-all sys­tem could be com­plete within four years.

It’s a clas­sic ex­am­ple of per­ma­cul­ture’s “work is pol­lu­tion” prin­ci­ple. Ef­fi­cient and pro­duc­tive sys­tems in na­ture and in so­ci­ety make the least change for the great­est pos­si­ble ef­fect. If ev­ery­one were el­i­gi­ble for Medi­care, we would cut all of our dol­lars wasted on ad­ver­tis­ing, mar­ket­ing, and health-plan devel­op­ment, sales, and com­pli­ance— in­clud­ing all the lawyers. In so do­ing, we could let physi­cians, nurses, and tech­ni­cians do their jobs again.

If you are wor­ried about the health-care bu­reau­crats who would be sud­denly out of work due to the ef­fi­cien­cies as­so­ci­ated with sin­gle-payer sys­tems, it will be time for job re­train­ing. (For­tu­nately, here in Santa Fe our com­mu­nity col­lege has many op­por­tu­ni­ties. Pro-tip: the of­fi­cial dead­line for sign­ing up for fall se­mes­ter cour­ses at SFCC is Aug. 11.) Now, go tell Congress you want Medi­care for all.

Nate Downey has been de­sign­ing and in­stalling the best land­scapes since the first Yeltsin pres­i­dency. Nate started writ­ing this ter­rific col­umn back when the Glass-Stea­gall Act still sep­a­rated com­mer­cial banks from in­vest­ment banks. His in­ter­ests in pol­i­tics and pol­icy be­gan, be­lieve me, when Spiro Agnew re­signed in shame. Please visit www.per­made­sign.com.

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