Archive for the ‘America’ Tag
We know most Americans are born with a natural instinct to hate anything to do with communism. We also know they have great trouble understanding the fundamental difference between communism and socialism. So its not surprising that the suggestion the country embraces one of the greatest social reforms of this country, the NHS, has caused a very heated debate on the other side of the Atlantic. Of course president Obama’s plans for American healthcare does not include a model based on the NHS system, but for the republicans that’s an irrelevance.
The republican party, has been waging a campaign of miss information to persuade the American public that the NHS provides considerably worse healthcare than their system as a tactic to move support away from Obama. Of course the actual situation is far more complex, there is good and bad in both systems although the NHS does provide 100% cover were as over 55 million Americans have no or inadequate health cover. Now the republicans have an ally in the form of Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, who has derided the NHS as an anachronism.
The attack has given the labour party an opportunity to do some early electioneering claiming the NHS is better in their hands. Its not often a political issue in America spills over to the UK, but then their style of politics involves significantly more mud than over here and some of that mud has ended up on Tory faces. Respecting each others political system used to be an unwritten rule of diplomacy; but then that’s not something for which the Americans have much of a reputation.
Barack Obama is trying to sort out the inequalities of the American health care system where 46 million people have no health care insurance, most from the working classes and most being native Americans or immigrants. The situation is getting worse as business cut back their employee costs by reducing the level of cover provided to the bare minimum or withdrawing the perk altogether. You would have thought the country’s politicians would be keen to resolve the problem and actively working to find a solution. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The bill Obama is trying to get through Congress has a mix of measures that attempts to meet the needs of the many pressure groups who only want to see changes made on their terms. The problem he faces is two fold. Firstly many of these pressure groups have diametrically opposite views and would never find common ground; secondly many people see the provision of a universal health care service as a socialist policy; and socialism is too close to communism to be any part of the American Way.
The one option Obama has not discussed or considered is the model of healthcare used in the majority of the developed world; one provided by the government and paid for through taxation, sometimes with the option to add an element of private care or to substitute it entirely. Obama knows this model would have the conservative right taking to the streets in their thousands and jeopardise his chance of a second term even though he has only just started his first. He has made some brave decisions and completely changes many policies of the previous administration, on this matter, however, he seems to have gone soft.
Walking around down town USA its hard to think only 25% of Americans are obese. Fat people are everywhere. You regularly see individuals who are so big they have to use electric scooters to get around and young kids who must be several times their ideal weight. The cause, besides the individual’s propensity to over eat, is a diet of processed foods high in either fat or high-fructose corn syrup or both, and portion sizes that would feed a family for a week in most other parts of the world.
Supermarket shelves creak and bend under the weight of snack foods, confectionery and ready meals all sold in large or mega size packets. Cakes are smothered in butter cream, loaves of bread are several foot long and milk is sold by the gallon. Little space is set aside for fresh fruit and vegetables and what is available is limited to a few staples. Meat is sold as huge cuts often covered with sauces and flavourings. Many places are food deserts where there is little opportunity to eat healthy.
Eating out in America is an equally unhealthy habit for most people. The food is smothered with sweetened sauces and dressings, the portion sizes are huge and vegetables, other than potatoes in various forms, are a rarity. Drive down any main road and its restaurant, after fast food outlet, after ice cream shop, after coffee bar. There are good restaurants and there is good healthy food to eat, its just that too many people have lost the habit.
You may still be able to find a once common seaside amusement that comprises a full size model of a rotund policeman in a glass case. If you insert a few coins into the slot the policeman will start rolling about and laughing hysterically. Its an infectious laugh that will make even the sternest person break into a smile. The laughing policeman was a common sight at fun fairs when amusements were based on a rather more simple technology than the computer based entertainments on offer today.
In Old Town Kissimmee, Orlando and probably elsewhere across the USA is the American equivalent to the laughing policeman. It comprises a hooded, life size figure of a man seated in a heavy wooden chair with thick electric cables attached to his legs and wrists. ‘See Him Fry’, ‘Watch Him Sizzle’, ‘Hear Him Scream’, proclaims the amusement for those who decide to invest a Dollar and zap the man sitting in Old Sparky, the nick name for the electric chair.
America has several thousand convicted criminals waiting on death row and a significant lobby of pro death penalty activists. Its penal system is renowned for its brutality with many inmates being killed each year. The three strikes and your out system puts many individuals in prison for life, the vast majority of felons being black Americans and Hispanics. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the US constitution and has become an unassailable right even though school massacres are not uncommon. Its all rather ironic for a country that sees itself as the bringer of peace to the world.