Throughout the 2008 presidential election and continuing into the current term, the greatest and most controversial debate has been centered around one thing, a universal healthcare system in the United States. It has occupied the minds of politicians and Americans day and night. Debates and speeches on this topic have taken over rallies, city council meetings, and more than one State of the Union Address.
These debates are heating with concerns of increase taxes, decrease salaries for doctors, and the ethical question of whether or not healthcare is a basic right for all people or a privilege only to be held by those who can afford it. Understanding the use of rhetoric in this debate is important in forming a well-informed opinion on universal healthcare in America. First off, in order to form any argument effectively, the audience must know the credibility of the rhetor. This is where Aristotle’s concept of ethos takes hold.
The audience is much more likely to acknowledge and accept a person’s point of view if they are confident that they know what they are talking about. For example, Ron Paul on the opposing side, comments during the CNN Debate on January 19, 2012 when asked about universal health care saying, “Thank you, I thought maybe you were prejudiced against doctors or doctors who practiced medicine in the military or something” (Sweet). Ron Paul successfully utilized the concept of ethos. At the very beginning he informs every one of his credentials by saying he is a doctor, two different times in the first sentence.
After all, healthcare is a doctors business. His status as a doctor automatically opens the audience to listen to him as someone who has worked first hand seeing and working through things other people have not. He further emphasizes his credibility by stating, “I have had the privilege to practice medicine in the early 60’s” (Sweet) toward the middle of the speech to remind us of his authority. There is even more ethos established when Paul calls everyone to come together to fight the “socialized” health care and insurance companies.
Through his trustworthiness and appeal to emotions he furthers his credibility by underlining the care that goes into being a physician. Ron Paul did an excellent job getting his audience to see that he is knowledgeable inside and outside of the health system and an honest man through the use of ethos. The next type of artistic proof explained by Aristotle is logos. Logos is concerned with the reasons of the argument. Both sides of the argument overflow with various facts and figures that support that health care needs to be reformed.
For instance, it has been said by multiple government leaders that 46 million Americans are without healthcare (Lawrence). This statement gets the audience to realize how far this problem has gone. The increased number has to do with rising insurance costs, greater medical expenses, and expensive administrative staff. The media and news reporters use logos in order to provide facts also. New York Times writes, “Governmental sources stating that healthcare costs have jumped 73% in the last five years while salaries have increased by only 15%.
This is an extremely uneven percentage” (Thaler). According to the U. S. Census, “U. S. is ranked number one in highest healthcare costs per capita but only ranking number fifteen in key health statistics” (US Census). This fact shocks readers into thinking about the quality of American healthcare versus its cost. It has established both sides of the argument through numbers that it is time for change. Arguments against universal care use logos to lay out the negative side effects without extra emotions involved.
Some are taxes will increase to provide an increase in public services, it is unequal and unfair, competition will be decreased, and health care providers will be paid less, therefore there will be less qualified providers. While on the other side of the spectrum, advocates for universal healthcare also use logos. Part of the Affordable Care Act provides free preventative care, closing the donut hole for Medicare patients, expanding the age children can be covered by parents and increasing the number covered by Medicaid. On the opposite side of ethos and logos, is pathos.
Current President Barrack Obama is one of the best when it comes to pathos, or emotions when trying to persuade an audience. Pathos is how the rhetor gets the audience to care about an issue and further influence them. When examining different leaders in the issue, Obama successfully integrates emotions into a logical argument. For instance, when introducing the topic in his State of the Union Address on January 27, 2012, he started by saying, “By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year.
Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small-business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber” (Remarks). The use of short emotional phrases undeniably grabbed the attention of the listeners to sympathize with those affected by this crisis while also making them realize they too are affected. Through emotion, a sense of unity is formed with the simple use of pathos. It is hard to argue the idea of wanting to help everyone.
But the opposition fires back emotions of fear not only through political leaders but the everyday American people. Citizens have been protesting on the streets, creating websites, and some are even going door to door. People have the freedom of life, liberty and happiness. All other forms give government the right to interfere or physically force individuals according to what they see as necessary. So it is about freedom. Free market capitalism provides the most freedom, and requires that people have individual rights. The word freedom is such a powerful and positive word; it is the foundation of our country.
When threatening to compromise our freedom, they have instilled another kind of fear in our reactions. In my opinion, we are overlooking the origin of the problem. Currently, health care bills and services is the number one reason why people go bankrupt today (US Census). This includes people with health insurance. What this is saying is, even if you have health insurance, it does not secure your health. Health insurance needs to be reconstructed and costs need to be reduced so it is more effective and more people can afford it rather than be given it.
In order for this to happen, costs all around must decrease also. This includes malpractice lawsuits, and in return malpractice insurance, cost of drugs, cost of treatment and cost of education. Physicians pay high prices to ensure the safety of their practice from lawsuits, and at the same time struggling with medical school loans. With cutting some of the other costs that has gotten out of hand, I believe insurance compansies would no longer have to charge as much as they do now. Forcing everyone to buy health insurance is against what this country is about.
It is hard for me to justify government, or a group of people, to have control over individual rights, such as one’s life (health) and one’s property (money). We have the right to pursue happiness, prices need to be lowered so we can afford it rather than the government taking on the health care.
- Gerard A. Hauser, Introduction to Rhetorical Theory, 2nd Edition. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 2002
- Lawrence, Jill. “Census:46 Million Uninsured; Nearly Twice as Many Are in Public Plans. ” Politics Daily. Huffpost. 2010. Web. 1 June 2012.
- “Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address. ” The White House. 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 01 June 2012.
- Sweet, Lynn. “South Carolina GOP CNN debate, Jan. 19, 2012. Transcript. ” The Scoop From Washington. Chicago Sun Times, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 1 June 2012.
- Thaler, Richard. “Slippery-Slope Logic, Applied to Health Care. ” Economic View. The New York Times, 12 May 2012. Web. 1 June 2012.
- US Census “The 2012 Statistical Abstract. ” : Health Expenditures. Web. 29 May 2012. http://www. census. gov/compendia/statab/cats/health_nutrition/health_expenditures. html.