A Healthcare Argument Part Two

Here is a series of emails that has been sent around concerning the healthcare legislation. I found them extremely interesting and that both sides had valid points. Names have been changed for privacy.


I normally delete emails after reading them.  In the case of your email below from mid-September, I did not.  I kept it because I wanted to respond, not in a kneejerk fashion, but in a more thoughtful manner.  Over the past weeks, I have returned to your email many times.  In doing so, I have wondered whether you wrote it after serious reflection, or whether you sent it in reaction to your irritation over a media report or something that you saw on the web.  In all likelyhood, it is due to the serious health issues that many in our extended are facing at this very moment.

Several items in your missive caught my attention, the first being your reference to “lily white screamers.”  The statement is one of those lines that both the left and the right throw out with little or no backup.  In essence, if I am a liberal and you disagree with me, then you must be white, and you must be racist.  If I am a conservative and you disagree with me, you must be a socialist who wants to divide the pie, rather than enlarge the pie.  Both are shallow, sophomoric thinking and both serve to limit real debate on critical issues.

Such statements also dismiss the opinions of a large number of Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, and others who do not happen to adhere to positions that they are expected to hold, primarily by self-styled leaders who have forged lucrative careers out of claiming to represent them.  We have too long tolerated the kind of thinking that says that a black conservative must be an Uncle Tom, and the kind of mindlessness that allows such statements to go unchallenged.  It is the kind of discrimination that allows the statements and opinions, regardless of how outlandish they may be, of individuals such as Al Sharpton to have standing, while dismissing and/or vilifying the opinions of intellectuals such as Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams, regardless of the quality of their education, intellect, accomplishments, or research.

Your second characterization was that those opposed to the health care proposals were “screamers.”  It is true that there have been some loud town hall meetings, but there have been relatively few in which people were drowned out and not allowed to speak.  To me, the most striking aspect of the protests, and the tea parties in particular, has been the stark contrast with traditional protests and demonstrations that we have seen from the left.  It is now a  common place occurrence in institutions of “higher learning” that faculty who once marched in protest of the Vietnam War and for freedom of speech while trashing facilities now seek to ban those who disagree with them from speaking on campus.  When that fails, they encourage students, not to listen and debate, but the disrupt the presentations so that those opposed to their views cannot speak.  Left wing protests at G7 summits are frequently violent, and liberal protestors the Republican National Convention last year threatened attendees with violence and accosted at least one conservative female commentator.  The only violence to date at Tea Parties have been attacks on participants by liberal thugs.  The most visible of which was the SEIU’s beating of a black man in St. Louis for selling t-shirts and other items saying “Don’t Tread On Me.”

As you know, I lived and worked in Washington for 5 years.  During that time I saw many protests and have followed others since then.  Events such as the “Million Man March” and even the celebratory presidential inauguration earlier this year leave the Mall in a mess and the taxpayer borne cost of clean up is high.  There are two such protests that stand in stark contrast to the norm.  The first is the farmers protest that took place in the dead of winter during early 1979, my first year in D.C.  Farmers drove their tractors from all over the country and parked them on the snow covered Mall.  At the time, both Beth and I worked for Secretary Califano and our offices were in the Humphrey Building on the Mall.  During the protest, many of the farmers ate in our cafeteria.  The were polite, hard working Americans, who left the mall clean when they were finished.  This summer’s July 4th Tea Party was another such event.  There was no violence on the part of the Tea Partiers, and before leaving they cleaned up their own trash.  While they exercised their right to protest, they did so with respect for public property and for the taxpayers who foot the bill.

Your complete statement was as follows: “It is time for some of us to start speaking up rather than allowing the lily-white screamers on the Right to completely have the floor”. What an interesting statement.  Just when have these folks controlled the floor?  ABC, NBC, CBS. MSNBC,CNBC, CNN,the Washington Post, the New York Times, the LA Times, the Miami Herald, the Boston Globe, Time, Newsweek have covered these events only when left no choice.  When they have covered such events, they appear to be adversaries, not journalists.  Certainly, you cannot mean that Fox News constitutes a majority of one.  By the way, I rarely watch Fox and I find it difficult to listen to O’Reilly or Hannity for more than a few seconds, and therefore, rarely do so.  Furthermore, the Democrat Party controls the White House, the House of Representatives and has a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.  There is nothing that the Republicans could do to stop a united Democrat Party.

Let’s turn to health care, the subject of your memo.  Do you know anyone who would argue that health care is bad?  I would venture to guess that even the most hardened among us agree that there needs to be some kind of health safety net. Most would agree that no one should lose their home and/or be financially ruined due to a catastrophic illness.  Most would agree that there is some degree of moral obligation when it comes to health care.  The questions are what form any safety net should take, how it should be paid for, and the point at which collective responsibility begins and personality ends.

As you of all people should know considering your background with LA County, Federal and State Governments do provide a number of health care programs for children and for the poor.  In addition, veterans are provided benefits through the VA, and seniors thorough Medicare.  Hospitals are not allowed to deny emergency care based on ability to pay.  None of this is perfect, and emergency room services are abused, but health care is there for the elderly, the poor, and children.

Of the remaining uninsured, a significant number are in this country illegally.  Whether they should be given legal status and the rights and benefits that go with that is a complex subject for debate that needs to be decided though our political process, not through health care legislation.  The numbers of uninsured include young adults that can afford, but choose not to purchase health insurance believing that their risk is small.  Others are uninsured for short periods between jobs and can elect to be covered under COBRA.  Then there are those who loose their jobs and cannot get/afford COBRA coverage.  Others fall between the cracks and cannot afford expensive coverage, but have incomes too high to qualify for government programs.  The actual number of uninsured that do not have the ability to obtain insurance is very important because that number should drive the the types of solutions that we seek to apply to the problem.  Like the fat kid in a canoe, the pending health care legislation will fundamentally alter our economy and will control our budgetary course from now own.  This is a game changer, not a pass it now and iron out the problems latter issue.

Moral responsibility.  Is that responsibility simply a collective responsibility, or is it an individual responsibility as well?  When does one stop and the other start?  Collective responsibilities are always easier to get behind.  This is especially true for individuals who pay limited taxes because someone else foots the bill.  Keep in mind that the government pays for nothing.  The government taxes to fund its programs, it does not create wealth, but if the pending legislation passes it will surely redistribute wealth.

Individual moral responsibility.  Does that responsibility require indivuals to conduct their lives in a manner that dictates they do not abuse their bodies, they do not have children they cannot/will not care for, that they deny themselves luxuries in order to buy health insurance, that they prepare themselves to earn a reasonable living, and that they conduct their affairs in a fiscally responsible manner?  Does the safety net come in after an individual has conducted themselves responsibly but still needs our assistance, or does it excuse/promote irresponsible behavior and force someone else to pick up the tab?  Does it lie somewhere in between?  If someone truly believes that there is a moral responsibility to provide health care to the poor, are they donating their time and resources to charitable organizations dedicated to that effort, or are they waiting for the collective we to take care of it.

Critical that we pass health care this year?  Are you sure, and if so, why?  Act on tort reform, bring down State barriers that limit competition for insurance, stop penalizing small businesses, and get serious about defining who we need to cover and what form that coverage should take.  We need a health care system that sensibly addresses the needs of individuals, not “the people.”   We need to increase choice and self reliance, not promote dependance and increase the public dole.  When I am Mary’s age, I want to know that I can have access to the kind of cutting edge treatments that she received.  I do not want a bureaucrat deciding if I am worthy, or if I am too old.



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