Sunday, September 20, 2009

Response to a right-wing article on healthcare reform

I was in my folks' car the other night on the way to a birthday dinner, and happened to pick up a publication that was opened to the following article (my comments inserted).

Those of us who oppose a massive increase in the role the national government plays in health care

Offering an affordable insurance option to those currently shut out of the system would not represent a "massive increase," especially if you accept the right wing's assertions that we "only" have a few tens of millions, not 47 million, uninsured right now.


This is a derisive term, and its use within the very first sentence marks this entire essay as prejudicial.

do so because we fear the immense and unsustainable national debt it would incur

The President has stated that any plan he signs must be deficit-neutral. Besides, where were all of you when we were racking up a trillion-dollar deficit in Iraq? Is killing little brown people worth more to you than saving American lives right now?

and because we are certain that medical care in America would deteriorate.

Please provide some substantiation or precedent -- any -- for this assertion.

But there is a bigger reason most of us oppose it: We believe that the bigger the government becomes, the smaller the individual citizen becomes.

Are you talking about the government that tapped your phones and data-mined your email and threw your citizens in prison for years without habeas corpus? Well, okay. Or the one that wants to be sure you can visit a doctor when you need to? Somehow I cannot see the sinister intent in this.

Here are five reasons why bigger government makes less impressive people.

Oh, okay, here we have a clue! Providing health care to citizens would keep them from having to stitch up their own wounds. Yes, that is very impressive! Certainly more than I would undertake, myself. Perhaps I need to cut myself real bad, and treat the wound myself, to be a more "impressive" citizen.

1. People who are able to take care of themselves and do so are generally better than people who are able to take care of themselves but rely on others.

Is this label of "better" a moral judgment or factual? In what way are they "better"? Did Jesus differentiate between "better" or "worse" people, apart from the self-righteous Pharisees whom He bitterly derided for trying to deny the common folk a bit of relief?

Of course, there are times when some people have absolutely no choice and must rely on others to take care of them. Life is tragic and some people, despite their best efforts and their commitment to being a responsible person, must have others support them.

Of course. And? Your proposal?

Even if one believes, as the left does by definition, that the ideal society is one in which the state takes care of as many of our needs as possible,

I don't consider myself a member of "the left," although I do wholeheartedly support President Obama's health reform proposals. The state takes care of as many of our needs as possible? I have never heard this anywhere, nor seen it promoted by any left-leaning pundits. Would like some examples.

one must acknowledge that this has deleterious effects on many, if not most, citizens' moral character. The moment one acknowledges that the more one takes care of oneself, the more developed is his or her character, one must acknowledge that a bigger state diminishes its citizens' characters.

This statement is completely theoretical and not supported in practice in any country that has a national health care system.

Presumably one might argue that there is no relationship between character development and taking responsibility for oneself. But to do so is to turn the concept of character, as it has been understood throughout Judeo-Christian and Western history, on its head. The essence of good character is to care of oneself and then take of others who cannot take care of themselves.

Awesome idea! So how come all these people of "good character" haven't succeeded in eliminating the health care access problem in our country? Why was my next-door neighbor despondent last night, forced to move due to no new job prospects despite a long and diligent search, and if his wife loses her job, without any health coverage at all? Where are all these people of "good character" in his predicament?

2. The more people come to rely on government, the more they develop a sense of entitlement -- an attitude characterized by the belief that one is owed (whatever the state provides and more).

Please provide examples.

This is a second big government blow to character development because it has at least three terrible consequences:

First, the more one feels entitled, the less one believes he has to work for anything. Why work hard if I can look to the state to give much of what I need, and, increasingly, much of what I want?

People in France work less hours per week and less weeks per year than Americans do. They also experience far less stress (what a surprise!) leading to longer life expectancies. They have socialized medicine, yet still manage to maintain a functioning economy. It was OUR economy that nearly toppled the entire world financial system.

Second, the more one feels entitled, the less grateful one feels. This is obvious: The more one expects to be given, the less one is grateful for what one is given. Third, the more entitled and the less grateful one feels, the angrier one becomes. The opposite of gratitude is not only ingratitude, it is anger. People who do not get what they think they are entitled to become angry.

Again, please provide examples. Are the French holding mass rallies protesting their health care system? Are they generally angry about it?

3. People develop disdain for work.

One of the effects of the welfare state on vast numbers of European citizens is disdain for work. This is in keeping with Marx's view of utopia as a time when people will work very little and devote their large amount of non-working time writing poetry and engaging in other such lofty pursuits. Work is not regarded by the left as ennobling. It is highly ennobling in the American value system, however.

Do French people not work? Also, what's wrong with poetry? I would rather live a life surrounded by poetry than by people who slave away in a paper bag factory for 20 years, hating every minute of it. These are the people who are most likely to "go postal" someday. No thanks.

4. People become preoccupied with vacation time.

Along with disdain for work, one witnesses among Western Europeans a preoccupation with not working. Vacation time has become a moral value among many Europeans. There have been riots in countries like France merely over working hours. In Sweden and elsewhere, more and more workers take more and more time off from work, knowing they will be paid anyway. In Germany and elsewhere, it is against the law to keep one's store open after a certain hour, lest that give that store owner an income advantage and thereby compel a competing store to stay open longer as well. And, of course, Americans are viewed as working far too hard.

Umm, yes. Western Europeans are very adamant about their vacation time. And their health benefits, according to WHO rankings placing us in the 37th position. Americans DO work too hard. And we spend about twice as much as any other developed country on health care, for worse outcomes. Is our goal to make Americans healthier and happier, or simply to make them work harder?

5. People are rendered more selfish.

Not only does bigger government teach people not to take care of themselves, it teaches them not to take of others. Smaller government is the primary reason Americans give more charity and volunteer more time per capita than do Europeans living in welfare states. Why take care of your fellow citizen, or even your family, when the government will do it for you?

Which charity will help my next-door neighbor in his dilemma? I don't want to lose this family as neighbors -- isn't there some charity that will pay a portion of their rent until he can find work again? Please?

This preoccupation with self includes foreign policy: Why care about, let alone risk dying for, another country's liberty? That is the view of the world's left.

Yes, why should I go overseas and risk my life for some other country's liberties when my own countrymen are dying at home for lack of health care?

Of course, there are fine idealistic individuals on the left, and selfish individuals on the right. But as a rule, bigger government increases the number of angry, ungrateful, lazy, spoiled and self-centered individuals. Which is why some of us believe that increased nationalization of health care is worth shouting about. And even crying over.

Show me one country where that "rule" plays out, in the case of nationalized health care. Just one. Please.

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