While our country looks like it might be coming apart at the seams, it’s good to revisit, every once in a while, moments when it did work. And that’s not so that we can feel nostalgic about a lost time, but so that we can remind ourselves how, given the right conditions, things could work well once again.
One example from history (and recently rediscovered by a number of blogs during the AHCA debacle in Congress) is this government propaganda film from 1949—the Harry S. Truman era—that promotes the idea of cradle-to-grave health care, and all for three cents a week. This money went to school nurses, nutritionists, family doctors, and neighborhood health departments.
Directed by Chuck Jones, better known for animating Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and the Road Runner, “So Much for So Little” follows our main character from infancy—where doctors help immunize babies against whooping cough, diphtheria, rheumatic fever, and smallpox—through school to dating, marriage, becoming parents, and settling into a nice, healthy retirement. Along the way, the government has made sure that health care is nothing to worry about.
The film won an Academy Award in 1950 for Documentary Short Subject—not best sci-fi, despite how radical this all sounds.
So what happened? John Maher at the blog Dot and Line puts it this way:
Partisanship and capitalism and racist zoning policies shattered its idealistic dream that Americans might actually pay communally for their health as well as that of their neighbors and fellow citizens.
Three cents per American per week wouldn’t cut it now in terms of universal health coverage. But according to Maher, quoting a 2009 Kingsepp study on the original Affordable Care Act, taxpayers would have to pay $3.61 a week.
So folks, don’t get despondent, get idealistic. The Greatest Generation came back from WWII with a grand idealism. Maybe this current generation just needs to fight and defeat Nazis all over again…
The Evolution of Chuck Jones, the Artist Behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck & Other Looney Tunes Legends: A Video Essay
How to Draw Bugs Bunny: A Primer by Legendary Animator Chuck Jones
This American Life Demystifies the American Healthcare System
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.
How inspirational! We will make Great Leaps and bounds striving for the great ideals of the perfect society, and we will slay those Nazis that pollute our land!
Ever onward, comrades!
But hell, all the ads on this page want me to worry about my credit score, so infant mortality can’t be very important.
How’s your community health care doing in Russia, comrade?
Ah yes, the obligatory comments from Trumpies, whose only interest in this site (since “culture” is a foreign word to them) is waiting until it dares express an opinion to the left of the John Birch Society.
Universal health is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for improving the health of the population.
Canada’s health care system is crumbling, which you quickly discover if you have to actually use it for something beyond the flu. And for people with incomes, it’s expensive. And it’s slow. And you’ll be stored in a closet or hallway. And it doesn’t cover drugs or dental or vision or therapy. So it’s even more expensive.
Looking south, you can see that for their dollars, US residents at least get something for their thousands. And often they’re even treated like human beings.
Yeah, we get something for our thousands.
Right up until the point that those thousands are gone, and then You had better die quick, or else you won’t just lose YOUR house, but you’ll lose your Kids’ houses too.
And your Grandkids will have to pay off your student loans to boot.
I can respond with just three letters NHS (provided me with peace of mind and occasional treatment for the past 70 years).
Happily for me I have had far less back than I have paid in but what I have paid has gone to support or treat someone in greater need. No one in Britain loses sleep, or fears bankruptcy through ill health and the transaction costs of a public and universal health service are significantly lower than a system which needs to produce invoices and bills at every stage. You can pay for private healthcare here, but few bother.