The Best

by digby

Patriotic Americans who insist that the United States is the highest pinnacle to which any nation can aspire, really should be shocked and embarrassed by things like this:

An estimated 2 million babies die within their first 24 hours each year worldwide and the United States has the second worst newborn mortality rate in the developed world, according to a new report.

American babies are three times more likely to die in their first month as children born in Japan, and newborn mortality is 2.5 times higher in the United States than in Finland, Iceland or Norway, Save the Children researchers found.

Only Latvia, with six deaths per 1,000 live births, has a higher death rate for newborns than the United States, which is tied near the bottom of industrialized nations with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with five deaths per 1,000 births.

"The United States has more neonatologists and neonatal intensive care beds per person than Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, but its newborn rate is higher than any of those countries," said the annual State of the World's Mothers report.


Tinker said some nations ranked high in part because they offer free health services for pregnant women and babies, while the United States suffers from disparities in access to health care.

I don't know why these Republicans aren't embarrassed that their great country ranks lower than every developed country in the world except Latvia, but they aren't. But then, they just lie, don't they? Here's your possible next president Rudy:

America has the best medical care in the world. People come here from around the world to take advantage of our path-breaking medicine and state-of-the-art treatments.

Well, rich people do anyway, and those are the only people who count.

I guess this argument works on Republicans who don't give a damn about anyone but themselves (most of them) and are employed. Let's hope they don't lose their jobs.

I've said this before but I really think this is something the Democrats should get into the health care debate. They need to inject a little righteous indignation that we are so lame in this --- appeal to the national pride. They should say "I'm embarrassed that this great country ranks below every developed country but Latvia," --- launch a sort of JFK "man on the moon" competitive thing that challenges the country to have the kind of health care we can be proud of, where we don't have babies dying needlessly because we don't provide their mothers adequate access to health care.

John Edwards brought up some passion on this in one of the debates and it was very effective. He mentioned it again in his speech last week:

A few weeks, ago I met a man named James Lowe in Wise, Virginia. James spent the first fifty years of his life without a voice -- literally without a voice -- because he didn't have health care. All he needed was a simple operation to fix a cleft palate. That a man in the richest country in the world could go unable to speak for 50 years because he couldn't pay for a $3,000 operation is something that should outrage every American. We are better than that. America is better that that.

I think that is the correct way to talk about this. It's outrageous. We should all be embarrassed and ashamed that this happens in our country and we should insist that something be done. But I'd go even further and put this in explicitly patriotic and competitive terms.

If you love your country and believe it is the greatest in the world, you will not let it continue to be anything less than the number one nation in every metric of good health. It's the American way to be the best.

Most of us don't need this kind of argument and plenty of others can be persuaded by a good plan or by the sense of their own precariousness. But there are those, I believe, who are temperamentally unable to make the leap to compassion or even, "there but for the grace of god go I" self-interest, at least not openly. They just can't do it. But this might be a way to give them a path to fundamentally changing the health care system. It's worth a try. We really need to get this done.