Here is an example of what makes Roger Ebert such an extraordinary writer. He takes the story of a small town — Tracy, California — announcing it will begin charging $300 for every emergency call to the fire department that does not involve a fire, and uses it as a lens through which to view the fringe-right tea party movement, and the ongoing debate over national healthcare reform in Washington, D.C.
Ebert, from his blog article “The gathering storm”:
The state of Illinois is broke. The schools aren't being paid. It's the same in California. Where do you live? It's pretty much the same everywhere. Cities are broke. Universities are laying off faculty. Storefronts are for rent. Condos are unsold. Companies are going bankrupt. Costs are going up. In my tiny world, the cost of high-speed internet in the Press Room of the Oscars this year is $500. If you know much about the cost of wi-fi , $500 for six hours is extortion. But you need to make that phone call. Your job requires wi-fi. You're sick, and need to buy those drugs for twice what they cost in Canada. If you sell something people absolutely must have, you feel justified in sticking them up.
. . . The Senate finally got a jobs bill passed, thanks to Republican senators who broke with party ranks. They defended themselves by saying: "My state needs this." Do you live in a state that doesn't? The next step is health care. We have the most expensive health care in the world, and compared to the results of other developed nations, it's way overpriced. The free lunch for drug and insurance companies is over, too. If nothing is done to rationalize health costs, will we see sick people in tent cities in the parking lots of hospitals?
If we all agree we should share the cost of 911 calls, why don't we want to share the costs of what we may require after we place one?