Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this past March, Vice President Pence made the following comment:
“Today Democrats openly advocate an economic system that has impoverished millions of people around the world. Under the guise of Medicare for all and a Green New Deal, Democrats are embracing the same tired economic theories that have impoverished nations and stifled the liberties of millions over the past centuries. That system is socialism.”
Republicans use the term (often used interchangeably with communism) to describe government programs, paid for through taxes, provided to all members of society. This includes Social Security and Medicare and by extension, public education, public safety (police and fire departments, the FBI, and airport security), water and sewerage treatment, national parks, agricultural subsidies, and government funded infrastructure to name a few. They love to use the term to stir up their base and to listen to CPAC attendees it did just that. And Republicans such as Pence like to use the term to rile Democrats and liberals who know that he is misusing the word.
So, let’s start with the basics. One definition (Google) of socialism is: “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” In this definition you can replace ‘community as a whole” with the word government, which would be acting as an agent for society.
The universal health care plan I am advocating (and the Medicare-for-all many Democrats support) does not meet this definition. A government agency, the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) in my proposal, collects revenues and pays providers for medical services; i.e. it shifts primary responsibility for administering health insurance from private insurers to a single government agency (hence the term single payer). The NHIP does not provide medical services. Doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, physical therapists, mental health counselors, etc. continue to operate as private health care providers. Based on this definition, when Pence refers to universal health care as socialism, he’s lying.
In my plan the NHIP would be a division of a larger agency, the Department of Health Services (DHP). Would the DHS promulgate regulations? Absolutely. Government agencies have always had regulatory authority, especially regulations designed to protect the welfare of American citizens, such as regulating the amount of radiation you can be exposed to when getting an x-ray.
However, let’s not forget that the private, for-profit health insurance industry also regulates health providers, such as deciding which treatments it will or will not pay for. This does not appear to concern Pence as the regulatory function is being carried out by the private sector, accountable only to its highly compensated board of directors, rather than the government which is ultimately accountable to the people through their elected representatives.
Okay, I get it. Pence is talking to his ultra-right wing political base and he’s telling them what they want to hear. But what disturbs me about this is that Pence is lying. He’s not just using words to frame a political position; he is knowingly and purposely lying. This from a man who has stated that he puts his Christian faith above all else. I thought one of the Ten Commandments was not to give false evidence, i.e. not to lie. I guess Pence conveniently forgets this Commandment when making political speeches.
In fact, when it comes to health care, Pence has demonstrated anything but Christian values. For example, as Governor of Indiana, Pence opposed needle exchange programs to protect addicts from sexually transmitted diseases. Pence views drug users as criminals who should be imprisoned rather than addicts who could benefit from treatment. As a representative he voted against the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D) and against legislation regulating the tobacco industry. In other words, programs that would help and protect the most vulnerable and needy members of society or as Jesus called them, “the least of these.”
In his comments to CPAC, Pence wrongfully calls universal
health care socialism, and worse equates it with a process that stifles
liberty. But it is Pence who has stifled
access to health care and thus both life and liberty to the American people.
 There are a few exceptions. For example, NIH hospitals will continue to treat patients as part of their medical research programs and VA hospitals will continue to treat military veterans.
 I spent most of my adult life working in state owned and operated psychiatric hospitals, where staff are paid employees of the state. This is as close as we get in the U.S.A. to socialized medicine.