walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

a few comments about That Chicken

Recently, Sue Lowden, who is running with some other people in the Republican primary for the Senate seat currently held by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, made some remarks about chickens in the context of paying for health care. More than one comment. It has gone viral:


That will help convert what particular procedures might cost you in chickens.

Republicans are finally Talking Frugal. For example, Tennessee Republican state Representative Mike Bell says regarding some Mennonites he knows that they pay cash for medical care and "work out arrangements" with hospitals for their children. "I know someone in the medical field who has been paid with vegetables from the Mennonite community."

This is from:


h/t TPM

The initial coverage of some of this talk suggested that perhaps Lowden meant "bargain" as in negotiate, rather than barter, as in exchange other-than-currency for goods or services. But that's not right. Lowden clearly meant barter and she clearly meant negotiate. I shall contemplate the possibilities.

First, I admire many of the health care decisions made by old order Mennonites and Amish. They use midwives for home births. They minimize expensive medical interventions at end of life. They focus more on disability than on death. Their perspective is that of the community as a whole (and those costs) rather than exclusively on extending the life of an individual, whatever "life" might mean. If you don't have electricity and you use an icebox for refrigeration, "breathing the meat" is not a dilemma you're likely to get into. (And yes, I recognize the substantial diversity even among old order communities. I'm assuming Bell meant old order communities, because anything else doesn't make much sense at all.)

However, I think I'm pretty close to the sympathetic edge of mainstream citizens of the US when it comes to these ideas. I think most women in the US aren't going to be happy about the idea of a midwife for a home birth. (Actually, I don't think this. I'm painfully certain of this. I wish it weren't so.) What most citizens think about medical treatment at end of life is a dicey conversation to get into. Every time I start talking about it with someone, I seem to get into trouble. But I for sure don't think that most centrist Americans would be overjoyed at cost to the community being an overriding concern. If that was okay to think about, "rationing" would not be a dirty word in the health care debate.

Second, if you look at what happens when old order Mennonites and Amish encounter hospitals (which isn't often), it's a little ugly. They tend to not have insurance. And the bills actually aren't paid by individuals -- they're more likely to be paid by the church. Which means they don't _go_ to the hospital unless they have some amount of support if not explicit permission. Do I think that Jane "typical taxpayer" American is going to like _that_ idea? Do most Catholics use birth control other than abstinence and/or some form of "natural" family planning? Do I need to say anything more?

Third, most of us don't have chickens or vegetables unless we paid cash for them, so whatever we might barter for health care would clearly have to be something we have now. My father was an electrician, and after being laid off in the Reagan recession, he got spooked and maintained a side business thereafter. One of the problems with being in business for oneself is collecting what is owed one and he went through some stages of figuring out how to actually do that. I distinctly recall when the fence along Dayton finally fell down; my father called everyone who owed him money and strongly encouraged them to join the work party to build a new one. Does Joe "typical taxpayer" American really want to dig postholes in exchange for prostate exams? The guy who fixed up old furniture reupholstered some chairs for my dad. I am tempted to speculate about the connection between a deflationary economic environment and a lack of currency to facilitate exchange, but why go there. Okay, I know why. I just don't have the energy right now.

Fourth, and I actually think this is what will prevent this idea from taking hold, I don't think most US citizens like to haggle. _Not_ haggling is a status marker, with all that that implies. At this point, the only people willing to dicker are newcomers who haven't figured out how we play the game, and people with so freaking much power and/or so utterly confident of their class status that they can basically do whatever the hell they want. For Lowden (and Bell, and anyone else who signs on) to pull this off, they're going to have to convince everyone that arguing over money is a Proper Way to Conduct Oneself, even in a medical setting -- which is extra special hard, given the amount of respect health care providers continue to command, and their near total ignorance of what they charge for their services. This is an extremely steep uphill battle, and while invoking grandparents might possibly work with some conservatives, it won't work at all with someone who believes that a lot of the past is the Bad Old Days.

I'm happy to learn that Republicans are, painfully and pathetically, finally returning to their How Can We Pinch That Penny Till It Bleeds roots. That is what I want from Republicans. As I get older, I'd like to have the option of being the chinchy rhymes with itch who votes Republican because she thinks all the young'uns are spendthrift idiots. (I'm not there yet, but I'm sure my time will come.) And when the Republicans are fighting the idea of cutting fraud in Medicare, and supporting Goldman Sachs, I feel like I don't even have that choice.

And I'm all about choice.
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