ISU health care reform forum: Arnie Arnesen and Steffen Schmidt

Chelsea Davis

Former President Ronald Reagan, who said that government is not the answer but the problem, was echoed.

“I was invited to a poor part of New Hampshire when I was running for Congress,” said Arnie Arnesen, talk radio personality and former Democratic representative of New Hampshire.

The room was packed with people who didn’t like her. They were telling her the solution was to take health care and education away from those on welfare.

“Anger has misdirected people,” Arnesen said. “It’s taught people the wrong questions to ask. They look at what other people have, and their answer is to take it away from them. We need to rechannel the anger and redirect the questions.”

Arnesen brought up Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck as prime examples of the leaders of this misdirected anger.

“The conservatives have this echo chamber of Limbaughs and Becks,” Arnesen said. “They’re on three hours a day, five days a week. They tell this misinformation over and over and over again and they become the lore of the land.”

Arnesen said the problems from this new bill are so overwhelming that in a bizarre way, she really hates it.

“Look at the community demographic. We should be asking, ‘Are we healthy?’ not ‘Are you healthy?'” Arnesen said. “The conversation needs to be about all of us. We’re so afraid to have a conversation about what’s good for all of us.”

She quoted Harper’s Magazine, which said the media net worth of a white American women, age 36 to 49, is $42,600. But the media net worth of a non-white American woman of the same age is only $5.

“If we can’t fix what is so obviously hemorrhaging and failing us, then how in the world do we fix the rest of us?” Arnesen said.

Arnesen gave the example of what would happen if an undocumented worker in Arizona was hurt and had to call for help.

“The feds would never touch him,” Arnesen said. “They would call 911 or the county hospital, which would be obligated to come out and pick him up; then the state and county would be responsible for the bill. If not, the federal government has to pay the bill. Immigration is not just about undocumented workers, it’s about your county hospital going bankrupt because of them.”

Arnesen went on to say that by not having fixed this, the U.S. has legitimized the anger and frustration that has done nothing to fix it.

“It’s so depressing. There’s a color portion to this conversation that has to be talked about, as well,” Arnesen said. “We’ve made some really stupid decisions that have embedded that sense of racism.”

Arnesen said she was jealous of Republicans.

“Their solution can fit on a bumper sticker. It’s ‘no,'” Arnesen said. “In the meantime, the liberals’ solution includes about 25,000 pages of discussion.”

Arnesen said Americans build their lives around “no,” instead of building them around “yes.”

“It’s not an easy ‘yes,’ it’s a very hard ‘yes’, and it takes a very long time to get to ‘yes,'” Arnesen said. “But it’s how we build lives and countries. You can’t govern with ‘no.'”

Dean Prestemon, emeritus professor of forestry, spoke up.

“We now have an entire population that is a ‘no’ population,” Prestemon said.

Steffen Schmidt, professor of political science at Iowa State, continued the discussion.

“My students in my American government class don’t see any reason why they should be paying health insurance for people when they are not,” Schmidt said. “But I told them I don’t like to pay taxes to pay for your own college tuition. Why should I pay taxes for your college education?”

Schmidt said Americans don’t understand the idea of the common and public good, only the personal and private good.

“Our lives revolve around that,” Schmidt said. “It’s a cultural phenomenon that is much bigger than health care reform and infuses a lot of what we’re doing.”

Schmidt proceeded to call out the economists, including Peter Orazem, professor of economics, who was sitting in the audience.

“The economists have realized they were at fault because of their equations saying, ‘this is how it works,'” Schmidt said. “Then they all fell on their knees and begged for forgiveness because they had been delusional with their own models that gave us a false impression.”

Orazem chuckled and responded without hesitation.

“Perhaps we don’t have quite as much control over the world as you think,” Orazem said.