Vote in your own self-interest

All of us, I think, harbor a few secret beliefs, things we rarely confide but hold to be verities.

In my heart, I don’t believe anyone truly enjoys opera. The ululations of sopranos, particularly, torture my ears. When that caterwauling starts, my hand snaps to the tuner like a frog’s tongue to a fly.

I’ve been told this is a failing in me and not in the world at large, but the belief persists: Opera lovers are faking it.

Another one: I believe the only reasons anybody who doesn’t own too much stuff or live in Nome would buy an SUV are to show off or to hide a worry he may not admit even to himself. Economics aside, smaller cars are so much more nimble and fun that the notion of SUVs as Compensators is fixed in my mind. When people gape at your Hummer, don’t assume they’re envious. Maybe they’re speculating about what it must be like to use tweezers when you pee.

And people who back John McCain, if they were adequately informed, would switch their allegiance regardless of who the Democrat was. It’s Obama now, but Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson or Joe Biden all would be better choices than Sen. What-Beliefs-Shall-I-Hold-Today? (R-Ariz.). So would John Edwards, if Americans didn’t labor under the delusion that marital infidelity is A) a topic for public discussion and B) rare.

Obvious as this may seem, conservatives are resistant. Even those millions who realize they made a mistake backing George W. Bush claim to believe that McCain, who’s voted with him 95 percent of the time, will provide the drastic change the nation needs.

McCain fans, of course, dismiss this criticism with their usual impeccable logic: “You’re just a liberal.”

Yes, and proud of it. But that doesn’t address the paradox of believing McCain has become the anti-Bush, concerned about (or even aware of) the problems of the average family.

His health insurance plan, for one example, is laugh-out-loud funny in a break-down-sobbing way.

Here’s a synopsis: If you now get coverage from your employer, it’s tax-free. McCain’s plan would collect taxes on that, then use the money to fund tax credits so people who don’t have insurance could buy it. (You mean you haven’t seen his ads explaining that he’ll raise your taxes $3.5 trillion? Imagine.)

What’s wrong with that, aside from the Bushian monkey-motion of government loudly passing out money with one hand while it quietly picks your pocket with the other? For starters, the credit, $2,500 per individual and $5,000 for a family, is a fraction of what health insurance actually costs. If employers drop coverage on the pretext that government help is available, good luck finding a comparable plan at twice the price.

Add this: Private insurers could reject patients with pre-existing conditions or those deemed high risk, normally covered under group plans. Your husband’s asthma? The tiny benign heart murmur on your son’s sports physical? Sorry.

But wait, there’s more: Administrative costs, which already eat up one-third of the money we spend on health care, would almost certainly increase. Imagine your dealings with your insurer now, then subtract the leverage you get from the threat that someday, if huge numbers of employees complain, your employer might, willy-nilly, whisper in the ear of the carrier. You think it’s tough in a group? Wait until you try it solo.

Don’t believe me. Go to McCain’s website. Check the blogs. It’s almost enough to make you glad he won’t have the money to do what he says, even if you secretly believe he plans to do nothing at all.