Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Serious Question Regarding Social Programs

for Small-Government Conservatives

Let me immediately identify myself as a sociopolitical Progressive, although do I try to be pragmatic about it. I believe that there should be various kinds and levels of “social safety nets” available to all people, recognize that the economic investment necessary to provide them is expensive, and yes, it requires a “redistribution of wealth” just as surely as does providing for “the common defense.”

Conservatives seem alright with that when it comes to maintaining overwhelming military might, but less so when it provides for social programs. They often give the impression that they believe these public services are being given to those who are for whatever reason, undeserving. When it comes to those less worthy, well, “It’s my money, and the government has no right to it without my express consent!” In addition, “The Government is inept, and I can better handle my money to provide for myself and my family!”

I agree that remedying waste, uncovering fraud, and maintaining a reasonable degree of efficiency are eternal battles when it comes to any bureaucratic functions, especially government. But government, in my perspective, is less about breaking even than it is about providing services and marshaling efforts that can only be achieved collectively.

I believe that cooperation is every bit as important as is competition in a healthy society despite the latter value being more heavily promoted. I believe in universal healthcare, although I recognize that the sky cannot be the limit – but that’s another discussion! I believe that in any solvent society healthcare is a human right, not a privilege, meaning that if an individual or other association cannot obtain it through their own reasonable efforts, it is the government’s duty to insure that it is accessible. If it is instead a privilege, a humane conservative – there are many such - may want to make legal and economic adjustments and offer incentives to maximize an individual’s opportunity to obtain healthcare, but ultimately, it is solely up to the individual to succeed or fail in that regard. Voluntary charities may provide some relief, but assistance is not required.

For the model to which I subscribe to be functional, everyone must participate otherwise we need to pick up the cost for “freeloaders” who could have contributed but did not. If you have no insurance, and you cannot afford private pay, clinics and hospitals are required to give you service nonetheless, and I agree that this is the maximally humane thing to do. But let’s just say that the financial viability of my preferred system is my problem, and consider you, the conservative individualist, who wants no part of it. Suppose I acknowledge our differences of opinion and of preference and agree that you may “opt out” of participation in such a network. All you have to do is foreswear utilization of its benefits.

Perhaps you have obtained employment that provides a good healthcare benefit; that’s excellent, and congratulations! Maybe you have made smart investments, receive regular dividends, and your family is healthy, and you can pay sufficient premiums for a private insurance plan, or have wealth enough to write out a check directly to your doctor, clinic, or hospital. Everybody’s happy, everybody is taken care of.

But you certainly know that there are reversals of fortune. No one is buying buggy-whips anymore and your company shuts down. A line of bad speculation distorts the stock market and your portfolio is now worth pennies. Your spouse contracts a disease that is expensive to treat, or you give birth to a child with a congenital defect. What do we do now? Humanity says that we take care of you regardless of your ability to pay; but you signed a waiver that you would not use public medical resources.

What do we do? Do you agree that, life is uncertain, you made your choice and “them’s the breaks,” and you, your child, or spouse should be turned away from lifesaving services and be allowed to perhaps die, comfortably or not? Really?

That is the way of life in nature, certainly, and in less complex societies. The strong, healthy, and wealthy dominate, and the rest… are less relevant.

This controversy is of course also germane to our other great socialized program, Social Security. Grandpa wasn’t clever enough, or didn’t plan ahead sufficiently for him and Gram, Dad died early, and Mom is living with us and we’re barely getting by. It was nice knowing you, Gramp, say hi to St. Pete, willya?

Sure I’m painting a caricature here to draw out the point. What do we do? If you listen to some over-the-top bombast, “Obamacare” is the most vile and unmitigated evil that has ever been visited upon the world, maybe worse than the Holocaust. Well, what’s your alternative? Tort reform and a $2000.- medical allowance are going to solve all of the problems of rising healthcare costs, of pre-existing conditions, of chronic catastrophic illness, and of access to care? Capitalism is the greatest good, and Government is the worst evil? Do you really believe that?

But I'd settle for people staking out a position so we know what we're arguing over: is it right, or a privilege? Let’s take it from there.

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At 5:54 PM, Blogger Emma Piepenbrok said...

You people do not care for animals at all


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