Opinion » Letter From The Editor

Hail, Finlandia!

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Do you know how many health-care-related bankruptcies there were in Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Australia, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, Chile, Canada, and Finland last year? Zero.

Do you know how many health-care-related bankruptcies there were in the United States last year? Try 643,000, give or take a few.

All over this country, people are rationing their medicines, putting off going to the doctor, putting off paying the rent, losing their cars, ruining their credit, burning through their retirement funds, and losing their homes. Why? Because our health-care "system" is broken. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't have some form of universal health care. We're the only First World country that shoves people into poverty because they have the misfortune to get sick.

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In the countries I listed above, citizens and their governments recognize that health care is a right, not a privilege tied to one's income level, not something that can be denied by an insurance company or made so exorbitantly expensive that it bankrupts hundreds of thousands of us each year. It's insane. And yes, it's sick.

If all these other countries have figured out how to provide health care at a reasonable cost, why can't we? It's way past time to get serious about changing our health-care system from one driven by the profit motive to one created to serve all of us. A pill that costs a penny to produce shouldn't cost $300 to buy. An insulin medicine that hasn't changed in 15 years shouldn't quintuple in cost. A life-saving Epipen that costs pennies to make shouldn't increase in price six-fold, simply because the manufacturer decided to extort people to raise its stock price.

It was interesting to me to hear President Trump — while in "Pleasure," California, for a post-fire photo-op — cite Finland for its forest-management policies. Nevermind that, as usual, he was babbling like Cliff Clavin, uttering stream-of-consciousness policy pronouncements with no basis in fact. Focus instead on the idea of his using Finland as a model. If Trump wants to cite Finland as an example of good governance, I'm down with the president. Finland has a great public health-care system, sensible gun-control laws, and a burgeoning middle class. So, yeah, let's emulate Finland, even if it means we have to start raking the Sierras.

The country voted overwhelmingly for change in the midterms, both in terms of the popular vote and in the blue wave that transformed the makeup of the House of Representatives. Now it's time to start rolling back the divisive, corporate-driven agenda that has shaped the country since the GOP took control of the House and Senate in 2010. So much damage has been done. Environmental regulations have been rolled back. Immigration reform has been abandoned in favor of hateful fear-mongering — the absurd "caravan" scam being the most recent example. And thanks to this administration's horrific immigration policies, we now have 10,000 children living in cages, and no real plan to fix the problem.

It's time to turn back the tide of dumb-assery, as the country wakes from the Trump fever-dream and realizes it's been hustled by a dim-witted, self-absorbed grifter.

We need to focus like a laser on our election system, peeling back the layers of legislation put in place by GOP-led state governments to make voting more difficult. We need to form a bipartisan system for creating electoral districts, in order to rid ourselves of the partisan gerrymandering that allows the minority party to control the levers of power in so many states.

Locally, we're already seeing how a change in the power structure can be put to work quickly, as this week, the newly elected county commission eliminated the unfair profit-driven system of charging juveniles in detention to make phone calls. Similarly, the misguided policy that resulted in people losing their driver's license for nonpayment of fines has been struck down by the courts, thanks to the tireless work of activist attorneys. These are small but significant steps, but they are an indication that some of those in power understand that helping people who are caught in the gears of the system helps us all.

Here's the checklist Democrats need to focus on: fix health care, enact sensible gun laws, and restore and preserve voting rights for all. Getting caught up in investigations of the president would be a mistake, in my opinion. Trump's gonna Trump — until he gets trumped.

And that's coming, too.

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