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Writer says it is time for America to have tough conversation on healthcare

Vox Pop

Whether I am driving around Medford, opening up my mailbox, paging through Facebook, or reading The Star News, I get a lot of notices telling me to that I have a dire choice ahead of me this election between ‘the survival of capitalism’ or ‘death by socialism’. To me, this is such an interesting claim to be made since we decided as a country, decades ago, to be a socialist democracy. I very rarely hear any of the politicians who fear monger about the ‘liberal attempt to turn our country to socialism’ actually stating that they want a true capitalistonly system. Although you and I may disagree on the level to which we support government-funded systems, I would like you to consider for a minute what a true capitalist society would look like.

To start with, we need to acknowledge the many socialist services that we have all come to accept. For example, Taylor County is served by a governmentfunded EMS service, which includes police, fire fighters and ambulance services. In a capitalist system, these services might be subscription-based (you would have to opt in to paying a subscription, like Netflix) or a pay prior to service. Can you imagine calling the fire department and needing to pull out your wallet before they turn the hoses on? Or having 911 be a subscriptionservice that you can call only if you are up to date on your subscription?

Another example of socialism we all seem to accept is road maintenance. This again is a government provided service to ensure that roads across the entire state are drive-able. A pure capitalist system would likely have road maintenance paid for by tolls and access to roads would be based on ability to pay. As a rural county, this would have massive impacts on our road quality, as we would either have very high tolls to cover the expensive costs of road maintenance or lower quality of roads due to the inability to pay. Medford and sections of 13 and 64 that connect to 29 might be profitable, but I cannot imagine roads connecting the further reaches of Taylor County being anywhere close to profitable.

Rural broadband is another great example - for the last couple of years there has been a huge push by our state representatives and city council to ensure affordable broadband access across the county. I am grateful for this push and believe this is an important investment by the state of Wisconsin in rural communities. But did you notice that terminology - ‘affordable access’? That statement is a recognition that from a capitalist perspective, providing broadband to rural areas is not cost efficient or affordable. The Star News quoted fiber optic lines at $90,000/mile - can you imagine the capitalist rate of broadband access in Gilman? Perkinstown? Heck, even Medford costs would be through the roof. Do we want access to internet in our county to be tied to profitable rates? Are you ready to pay $300+/month while Milwaukee pays $30/month?

Living in a social democracy is simply recognizing that there are aspects where we want to provide benefits to all citizens in a way that the market would not provide. This is what taxes pay for - from social security to the farm bill, public education to city water, our tax dollars, in Taylor County and across the nation, are pooled together to increase our purchasing power and provide benefits to all of us. If you like most of the programs named above, then you, like me, are part socialist.

Now certainly, I believe that one of the social benefits we should provide is health care. I recognize that many people disagree with this and please feel free to. There are really good conversations to be had about what social benefits government should and can effectively provide and how to have fair distribution of these benefi ts. But there is a lot of intentional propaganda to label and demonize people who think like me as ‘diabolical socialists bent on destroying the country.’ Nearly all of us seem to agree that America should provide social benefits to all citizens - let’s cut out the false propaganda so we can have real tough conversations on how we want to provide these benefits.

— Ben Koch, Medford