The National Public Radio news program “All Things Considered” declared 2010 – The Year of Mean.
NPR, not a media outlet to go too far out on a limb, couched their declaration in a bit of tongue in cheek satire.
But even NPR couldn’t shy away from the question underlying the truth of their observation.
What kind of country are we becoming?
I toyed with a number of labels for this “mean” movement. Evil-doers was already taken. Tyrants or oppressors? No, not yet. Pigwidgeons had some appeal despite its association with Harry Potter. A pigwidgeon is described as a stupid and contemptible elf. But pigwidgeons are not normally nasty, just stupid; so pigwidgeon may work for a certain ex-half-governor but not for the broader movement.
Meanie is too wimpy. The word caitiff has some appeal. Webster describes it as a “base and despicable person, a mean and wicked man”. To add to the word’s appeal, it also describes a certain kind of vampire. But this blog is not likely to catapult the word “caitiff” into the popular lexicon. So I continued my search.
Ruffians didn’t seem inclusive enough. It may describe some of the gun-toting extremists in the movement, but not John Boehner.
So I settled on brutes. I am open to other words, but for now, it’s brutes.
2010 saw the brutes attack a variety of issues and concerns of working Americans, but my focus is health care.
Their cause gained some momentum in the first month of 2010 when the Democrats lost the seat held by the long time champion of universal health care, Ted Kennedy. Scott Brown (R-MA), with support from the brutes, ambushed the Democrats by upending their feckless candidate, Martha Coakley.
It is a sad commentary on American politics when a Senate majority of 59% is not considered a safe margin to pass anything.
Are we becoming a country of minority rule instead of majority rule?
The Brutes and health care reform
Health care reform ultimately did pass in 2010. It was indeed an historic achievement.
It was not a great bill, but it does make an effort to expand access to care, contain costs and improve health care quality. Given its poor foundation (the current health care and insurance industries), it should be no surprise that the result is less than ideal.
It was an important milestone in American politics.
One of the groups that stands to benefit significantly is young Americans. Employers are now required to permit young adults to stay on their employer-sponsored plans to age 26. Together with other significant reforms, the bill supporters claim that it will cut the number of uninsured in America by half.
The Brutes and working Americans
Almost all of these people are on the fringes of the working middle class. They may work for an employer, sometimes several employers, but none of them offer health insurance. They may be sick and trying to get back to work. They may be young and trying to enter the work force. They may be entrepreneurs who are not only drawing on their bank accounts to start new businesses, but also banking that their health will sustain them until their businesses can.
The brutes don’t like these Americans. They prefer tax breaks for the rich.
Are we becoming a country that is turning its back on the people whose backs build this country?
The Affordable Care Act has a number of initiatives designed to make the market for health insurance more transparent and therefore more accessible.
The brutes don’t like government regulation. Therefore they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Are we becoming a nation that places ideology ahead of practical solutions? Isn’t that what toppled the Soviet Union?
The future of America?
As a result of the 2010 Congressional elections the brutes will now be able to parade their disdain for working Americans and their bias for the rich and powerful on a more prominent stage. I don’t expect 2011 to be less mean.
I can only hope that the true nature of the brutes will become exposed for all to see.
Maybe then we can cast the meanness and the brutes aside and move America forward.