“Bring a chicken to the doctor”

I’m playing truant from UK politics for a bit, because the US stuff is just so much more fun.

In a sign that the Republican party may have irretrievably lost the plot, Sue Lowden, who is the party’s leading candidate in the state of Nevada for the US Senate elections in November, has suggested the following as an alternative for a publicly funded healthcare system:

Let’s change the system, and talk about what the possibilities are.  I’m telling you that this works.  You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house.  I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care

That’s right, a candidate for high political office in the fourth sixth eighth (take your pick) richest country in the world is proposing a system where everyone pays cash for their medical treatments, and those who can’t stump up the cash barter with their doctors instead.  You know, barter – that system of economic exchange that preceded the development of a money economy [apparently it didn’t – there are times when Wikipedia can be a real killjoy] is usually regarded as a feature of less economically developed nations.  Anyway, I’ll just give you a moment to savour the mental image of a patient turning up at a doctor’s office in downtown LA with a squawking chicken under one arm, or a sackful of onions over their shoulders…

Ok, welcome back.

Sue Lowden isn’t just some two-bit backwoods hick, by the way, unfairly propelled into the spotlight by a liberal media keen to make out that their opponents aren’t just wrong but also terminally stupid.  In November, she’s going to be challenging for the seat of Harry Reid, the current Senate majority leader, and, setting aside Obama himself, probably Hate Figure #1 for the Republicans.  This is pretty much going to be the key Senate race for Republicans this time around, the seat they want to win more than any other.  They are desperate to defeat this man, not just to strip him of the majority leadership, but to utterly humiliate him by evicting him from the Senate altogether – and Sue Lowden is the best they can come up with?

I mean, forget the whack-job ideas filled with manifest absurdities that an eight-year-old could point out (the multinational pharmaceutical company that makes your statin or your insulin injections is going to accept regular payments in farmyard produce?) – they’re more-or-less par-for-the-course for a Tea-party-fondling Republican.  Just look at her personal demeanour – this drone-voiced, charisma-free woman who looks so exhausted that she seems to be on the verge of physical collapse, this is the person the Republicans think Nevadans are going to send off to Washington to fight their corner for them?  She looks like she’d struggle to fight her way to the top of a flight of stairs, never mind taking on the challenges of national politics.  I’m beginning to wonder if the present-day Republican party is a bit like the 2001-era Conservative party in the UK, where ideological purity was so important that people like Iain Duncan Smith were propelled to prominent office, even though they were clearly wildly unsuitable for anything (such as politics, for example) that involved appealing to the public.  Because, if so, then that’s really good news for the Democrats.

And now, please enjoy this dancing chicken video, specially created for the purposes of mocking Sue Lowden:

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5 Responses to “Bring a chicken to the doctor”

  1. gun street girl says:

    I’m just totally praying that this is taken out of context and she really has a fabulous, thoughtful, reasonable plan for providing reliable health care to all Americans, even those that don’t have access to chickens or house paint.

  2. David says:

    My dad is a retired duck farmer, so I may have some contacts if anyone needs any help getting hold of live poultry.

    Having only last weekend been the recipient of brilliant and free NHS healthcare I feel like a lottery winner thinking about our poor US American cousins’ struggles.

    I quite like the idea of Local Exchange Trading Systems, but somehow healthcare just seems to be one of those areas where, oh, I don’t know, wouldn’t it be nice if we really did all have equal and fair access to it? By the time it came for me to have surgery, I’m not sure I was capable of offering anything in exchange – other than body parts.

    OK, now I’m on the road to recovery I could be more useful, but I can’t begin to imagine how many thousands of pounds worth of time and equipment I must have used to make me well again. Maybe I should start my own chicken farm on the bit of communal grass outside the block of flats where I live?

  3. Kapitano says:

    How many chickens to have your tonsils out? Answer here.

    But I don’t think this is a point of irretrievable plot-losing. I’m not sure there was ever a plot to lose. Recently we’ve had, off the top of my head:

    * Glenn Beck telling us the NASA symbol is Muslim propaganda.

    * Michael Steele claiming that anyone who asked how his visit to an S&M lesbian strip club could be listed on expenses as “Meals”…is racist.

    * Rush Limbaugh warning against giving aid to Haiti because earthquake relief is a socialist plot.

    * Sarah Palin telling us that recompensing doctors for consultations on treatment for terminal diseases is a plot to kill old people.

    To say nothing of Andrew Brietbart, Andrew Schlafly, Dick Armey and the good folks of WingNutDaily pretending to believe Obama’s election was a 40-year old Kenyan conspiracy to increase US taxes.

  4. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    gun street girl – it’s always possible she’s been taken out of context, but, given she has repeated the same idea several times, there are limits as to how out of context it can be – it must be a central plank in her ideas, if nothing else. As for a fabulous, thoughtful, reasonable plan – well, i certainly hope so! :o) But it seems unlikely to me that any such plan could involve barter payments. If i was inclined to be charitable, i think the best i could do is suggest that maybe her thinking is at an early stage, and she’ll develop more nuanced ideas in due course. But it’s pretty odd in itself that a politician seeking election hasn’t already thought the issue through, since healthcare has been the big issue in US politics over the last 2 years.

    David – i wonder if ducks are more or less valuable than chickens? ;o) You make an excellent point – some medical procedures are expensive, and some people who need them will never be able to pay for them, either via insurance, or in cash, or through the medium of poultry. The bottom line is that either those of us who are poorer simply die, or alternatively that those who are better off subsidise the treatment of those who can’t afford to pay. As things stand, of course, better off Americans subsidise healthcare anyway, because hospitals have to treat critically ill patients even if they can’t pay, and they can only cover the cost of that by charging more to the patients who do pay, and that’s reflected in higher insurance premiums. Lowden’s plan would still involve subsidy, it’s just that the sympathetic doctors she talks about would bear the cost of the subsidy alone – which would ultimately put them out of business.

    I’m really glad you got the treatment you needed and are getting better, by the way. :o)

    Kapitano – i agree, certainly, that ‘whack-job ideas filled with manifest absurdities that an eight-year-old could point out’ are not anything new on the American ultra-right. Why i think it’s possibly something of a departure is that Sue Lowden is a prospective candidate. When she was running for VP, Palin seemed a lot more measured in her ideas, i think – certainly in terms of what i’ve noticed, the extreme wing-nuttery only started after Obama had won. For years, extremist Republicans have sounded pretty loopy when they’re talking to other Republicans – which is pretty much what Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, FOX news, WND and now Sarah Palin do for a living – but when they’ve been talking to the public at large, and trying to persuade undecided voters (and maybe even registered Democrats) to vote for them, they’ve kept the really loopy stuff more under wraps.

    It’s the fact that an apparently fairly prominent Republican seeking an office she’ll only win if non-Republicans vote for her is prepared to be so upfront with…strange ideas that seems new to me. It’s why i wondered about the ideological purity thing – that she said all the right, wing-nutish things to the selection commitees so they chose her over other, slicker candidates, even though her presentational skills, and media judgement, and general demeanour seem like they would be unhelpful when it comes to convincing non-aligned voters.

    But, hey, what do i know? I pretty much just wanted to point and laugh… ;o)

  5. Katherine says:

    You’re not the only one who wanted to point and laugh. The link below goes to a US radio show, which is an approximate equivalent to the BBC’s Have I Got News For You. It’s on every Saturday and I’ve been listening to it almost every week for years.

    This takes you to the homepage:


    This takes you to a particular segment from last week, featuring the fabulous health through chickens plan:


    Not intended to be a spammy comment but I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t enjoy this as much as I do, Aethelread.

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