In making the news rounds yesterday I came across a piece by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine. I am a serial offender of sharing links especially through my twitter account but this piece deserved more attention then a 140 character bump. In Chait’s piece he poses the question as such, “what forms of material deprivation are morally acceptable?” What moral, not legal justification, can one make for the denial of health care? What are the moral outcomes of your belief? As the Supreme Court wrestles with the individual mandate’s constitutionality this simple question has gotten lost in the shuffle. Chait explores this question comparing access to high definition television, something all of us are comfortable letting market forces decide, and access to basic medical care, something most of us are uncomfortable letting market forces decide.
- “It’s vital to bring yourself face-to face with the implications of mass uninsurance to force you to decide what forms of material deprivation ought to be morally acceptable. This question has become, at least at the moment, the primary philosophical divide between the parties. “All sides accept that some of us should continue to enjoy vastly greater comforts and pleasures than others. If you don’t work as hard as Mitt Romney has, or were born less smart, or to worse parents, or enjoyed worse schools, or invested your skills in an industry that collapsed, or suffered any other misfortune, then you will be punished for this. Your television may be low-definition, or you might not be able to heat or cool your home as comfortably as you would like; you may clothe your children in discarded garments from the Salvation Army. This is not in dispute. What is being disputed is whether the punishments to the losers in the market system should include, in addition to these other things, a denial of access to non-emergency medical treatment. The Republican position is that it should. They may not want a woman to have to suffer an untreated broken ankle for lack of affordable treatment. Likewise, I don’t want people to be denied nice televisions or other luxuries. I just don’t think high-definition television or nice clothing are goods that society owes to one and all.
When posed as a moral question I can not accept the externality of mass uninsurance. The distribution of health care through a society is not equivalent to the distribution of material goods. To frame the debate around the idea that we are somehow redistributing material goods through health care reform is a red herring to draw our attention away from the indefensible moral foundations of health care reform’s opposition. A vast majority of people living in the advanced world have access to health care and it is viewed not as a material good, but a precondition to a healthy and competitive country. Outside the United States there is very little debate about the moral obligation to provide health care. That is why the stance the GOP has adopted is so remarkable, this is an argument that no major political party in the advance world would make, none that is accept for the American GOP.
- That is how Republicans think about health care.” Democrats will confine the unfortunate to many forms of deprivation, but not deprivation of basic medical care. Republicans will. The GOP is the only mainstream political party in the advanced world to hold this stance.
I think it is important to recognize the true nature of the debate we are having. This is not a question about the constitutionality of individual mandates. The individual mandate was a Republican solution to health care when other alternatives were on the table. Moreover, in the last decade we’ve only has one Republican idea about how to handle the uninsured and it was though an individual mandate. Their abandoning of their own position is indicative of the nature of their real problem with health care reform, they don’t want to reform the health care system. In fact, mass uninsurance and defense of the status quo is their goal. That is why there is no alternative plan being offered. If it were policy distinctions that were in question there would be explicit alternatives being discussed.
It is important to highlight how extreme a position this is. The opponents of health care reform who oppose it without providing other means for the uninsured to receive care do not morally object to the suffering of the uninsured. That is in the broader world political spectrum a very extreme view. It is an argument not being made anywhere else in the advanced world. Like our forefathers who took longer than the rest of the advanced world to abolish slavery, it appears that America is lagging behind the advanced world in it’s moral foundations once again. It is an institutionalized failure to recognize the dignity of our fellow man that we suffer from, a deficiency that makes the conditions for democracy unsustainable. The fate of free society is in the balance and the cause of our times must be to assert the moral authority to care for those who can not care for themselves.
Be sure to read: Health Care as a Privilege: What the GOP won’t Admit
Reblogged from Life and Times http://spdeveer.tumblr.com