- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

Web only

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the disunited states of America.

Now is the winter of some people’s discontent following the stormy election of President Bush. The Internet is all abuzz with residue resentment. Canada’s immigration Web site reports a sharp increase in inquiries from Americans seeking information on how they can defect to our chilly neighbor. Other Webheads are offering a “Boycott Ohio” petition.

That, in particular saddens me, since I grew up in Ohio and still have friends and relatives living behind the Buckeye curtain.

But the wackiest ideas I’ve run across so far is the option offered by Web sites that are calling for secession.

That’s right. Secession, you may recall, didn’t work out very well the last time it was tried in this country. (For the benefit of those of you who snoozed through history class, I point out that secession set the stage for the Civil War.)

Nevertheless, several Web sites are offering color maps of a new North American political landscape in which the so-called “blue states” that voted for Democratic Sen. John Kerry are joined to our northerly neighbor in a new, blue country called the “United States of Canada.”

The remaining states—the “red states” that voted for Bush—are renamed “Jesusland,” which sounds like a good name for some televangelist’s Christian amusement park.

Well, count me out. I think the best revenge for blue-state Americans is to continue to stand with our red-state brothers and sisters to hold Washington accountable, no matter which party happens to be in charge.

Besides, as much as I like to visit Canada, I don’t see much advantage to having Canada permanently visit me—except maybe national health insurance.

That’s not a small thing. As you may have heard Kerry mention repeatedly during the recent presidential campaign, an estimated 45 million Americans in this, the world’s most powerful and prosperous country, lack health insurance.

Back in the early 1990s, only about 30 million Americans lacked health insurance and President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton took a stab at trying to close that gap. Their push for universal coverage was beaten back quite impressively by the health insurance industry’s “Harry and Louise” ads. Those scary little attack ads painted horror scenarios of skyrocketing costs, shrinking coverage and Americans no longer able to choose their own doctors.

A decade later? Surprise, surprise. We have the higher costs and shrinking coverage that “Harry and Louise” warned us about, except that we also have even more uninsured patients.

Now, the same insurance industry tells us scary stories about Canadians rushing to the United States for elective surgery and other procedures they can’t get quickly enough in Canada. You have to turn to the news to hear the other side of that story, like the Americans now turning to Canada to get their flu shots or to find cheaper prices for American-made pharmaceuticals.

And you also might hear in the news about how Americans are more dissatisfied than citizens of other major industrial nations with their basic health care, even while paying more of their own money for treatment, according to a recent five-nation survey by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund.

One-third of Americans told the pollsters that the U.S. health care system should be completely rebuilt, which was far more than residents of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom. Just 16 percent of Americans said that the U.S. health care system needs only minor changes, the lowest number expressing approval among the countries surveyed.

Want to see President Bush’s plan for insuring the uninsured? Hold up a blank sheet of paper.

Well, OK, it’s not quite that bad, but close. He has offered tax-free health savings accounts for those who can afford to put money aside for their health care costs. The business-oriented Bush seems never to have witnessed a social problem that cannot be solved with a tax break.

But, what if you’re a minimum-wage waitress with kids who can’t afford to put money aside for health care costs? Well, I guess there’s always prayer.

Of course, no country’s health care system is perfect and America does offer the best health care that money can buy, if you can afford it. The problems come when you can’t afford it.

We’re problem solvers. That’s the American way. We can build a better system, if we want to. The first step is to demand what we have not had, a fair and balanced national health care debate, not just dueling campaign ads.

Clarence Page is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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