Saturday, January 12, 2008

Impressions of America

Given my recent visit to Florida, I’d like to share some of my impressions about America. America seems to be of two minds about the role of their Federal government. On the one hand they are all for Liberty, which in their minds means no government interference in their lives. On the other hand, they seem terribly impressed by Federal government authority. I’ll give three examples. In visiting a restaurant I noticed signs advertising the fact that all of their meat was USDA inspected. Now to a Canadian it would be ridiculous to advertise that the meat sold in your restaurant was inspected by Agriculture Canada. Now I’m not debating the need for inspections, but rather the fact that Americans would see Federal government involvement as a selling point. Watching television I saw my second example. There was an infomercial trying to sell gold coins. The viewers were assured that the U.S. Mint had been authorized by Congress to produce gold coins, as if Federal government involvement was a selling point! A third example was visible every time I drove past the gate of our vacation community. The guards at the gate all had American flags sewn on their uniforms, making them look more formal even though they were employees of a private company. Perhaps the Canadian Federal government interferes more in Canadians lives, and maybe Canadians have an unfortunate expectation that it is the roll of the government to take care of them, but I don’t think Canadians have the same awe of Federal government authority (or at least Americans aren’t as independent minded as they’d like to think).

Another thought from my visit to the United States. I was watching an interview with Mitt Romney. He was very clear that he didn’t support much government involvement in making sure Americans had access to health care. His reason was very clear; that’s socialism. On the other hand, he was all in favour of the government helping out people who were in risk of losing their homes due to the current sub-prime mortgage problems. So if someone gets sick and the government helps pay for their expenses, it’s socialism. But if you foolishly take on a mortgage you can’t afford, bailing you out is simple human decency. OK, I understand now. I remember talking to a doctor on a previous trip to the United States. When I said I was from Canada he said, “Canada? Socialized medicine.” Yup, that was all he knew about Canada. I’ve thought about his response. What is meant by socialized medicine? It means when I’m sick I get medical treatment, and at the same time doctors are in the top 1% of income earners.

Speaking of health insurance, while watching American television one cannot help to be struck by what an issue it is. Perhaps 80% of Americans have health insurance, but what about the number who are terrified of losing their jobs and their health insurance. Or the people who don’t have enough health insurance. Or the people whose whole family budget is devastated by premiums. Or what about the people who are uninsurable because of previous health conditions. To me it’s a bit shocking that people in the most powerful nation in the world need to live in such fear. That’s not to say that the Canadian system is perfect; we need to make some changes. But the situation south of the border is shocking.


Blogger Rileysowner said...

I don't know if you are aware of this, but basically even if the US decided to provide health care similar to what we have in Canada, they could not afford it.

10:19 p.m.  
Blogger Shawn Abigail said...

On January 11, 2008, Captain Capitalism posted a chart showing that the United States spends more on public+private spending on health care than Canada, although they have less public spending.

10:46 p.m.  
Blogger Ed LeBlanc said...

American awe of their federal government is partly due to their patriotism and in many cases they see their government as an extension of that. As an example Americans have more respect and awe of their presidency because they see it as one of their key cultural institutions. Canadians do not see the Prime Minister's office in the same light.
US flags on private security guards is no surprise. Americans like to fly their flags everywhere, on their cars, on their homes, etc. They are big flag wavers, much more so than Canadians.
Health insurance is protrayed in fearful way on TV because the US media is in favour of it so they do a lot of stories on it. Yet, I've never seen a poll in the US at election time where health care was a top issue. In Canada it always is, where we have socialized medicine, but down there its the economy, national security and immigration that are the top issues, not health care.
I think the fear seen on TV is mainly media generated.
And yes, in Canada we do have socialized medicine. The government pays for it via our taxes and our doctors are paid by the provinces. That makes it part of our social welfare system,i.e. socialized medicine.

6:35 a.m.  

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