No, You Are Not Self-Sufficient and Self-Reliant.

The president elect and speaker of the house are teaming up to gut health care in this country. I know plenty of people who applaud it on the grounds that it’s just common-sense to do so (common sense – you know, that thing that us simplistic academics whose gots book-learning lack [and no, that is NOT a caricature, I have had people say that to me]), and that we are a country of tough, self-reliant, lean mean mother f*****s. Um . . . No.

Okay seven things:

  1. First and foremost, denying people universal access to healthcare is cruel, plain and simple. Jesus and the Old Testament enjoin us to take care of the weak and vulnerable, to look after the sick. You are not a very good Christian, Jew, Muslim, or, for that matter, human being, if you can simply set aside this principle. This is so in evidence throughout the texts of these faiths that I am not even going to bother to cite the appropriate passages – they are too legion.
  1. Any anthropology class will tell you, no, you are not self-reliant. That is why even primitive societies have division of labor, because, well, no one can do everything by themselves. Try reading Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition, with her outstanding discussion of labor and human society. More than once I’ve had to tolerate preppers and paranoids in my region explain to me how when the brown hordes arrive they would head for the hills and be self-sufficient as they fought the government. Well, that is until Indiana no longer produces and sends mason jars for canning. Or when the ammo runs out. And when they have a medical condition that requires something above the five year old ibuprofen they have in their medicine cabinet. I’m sure suburban Americans know enough to smelt ore and glass to produce their own and be “self-sufficient”. And I’m sure their adherence to a strictly scientific, rational view of the world, will allow them to make cancer meds from tree bark. Not! Society requires, surprise surprise, division of labor and cooperation.
  1. The American myth of self-reliance and sufficiency has always been a fraud. Even my hero Henry David Thoreau headed to his mother’s house at night for dinner. So much for Walden being an Eden providing God’s bounty in abundance. Anyone for a plate of beans? But the myth is absurd in the modern world and the country needs to lose this. The ethos arose well before modern medicine – and its expense. No one can possibly afford it and precious few can in old age once they are no longer able to work. And no, there is no effing way that your church congregation can hold a bake sale to pay for your chemo or your stints implant. These procedures cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. One procedure can wipe out a lifetime’s worth of savings at one blow – this, by the way, is the leading cause of bankruptcy in our country. The myth has been swallowed by plenty of people – every semester I have the discussion with at least one student from our red region who lectures me (!) about self-reliance. I would love too, but as a paternal figure cannot say or ask, “And who is paying for your college?” I could further add, “Um, you know even this little private college gets federal funds?”
  1. The system of Medicare has worked really really well. I know – I cared for elderly parents and paid their bills. But more than that, that we have this government insurance program means that the next generation is not burdened with debt for health care in looking after the elderly. That frees up resources to buy everything from houses to cars to a college education; it helps, in short, to fuel the economy. This is true in general of government spending: as the largest spender in the country, the government fuels the economy. To eliminate this insurance program (which is what it is) will have a deleterious impact, because historically, whenever the government spends money, the economy tends to thrive (sorry free marketers, but it’s true historically).
  1. It is NOT an “Entitlement” and I really wish we would get rid of that term. It makes it sound as though we are getting something for free. We are not – we have all paid into the system for years. We are getting services returned to us for which we paid. Many of us have paid into it for 20, 30, 40 years, or longer, and are now being told that we are not going to get the services for which we have paid thousands of dollars over time in the expectation of return. What the president elect and Ryan are doing is nothing less than theft, attempting to pull a switch that will leave millions impoverished. It is a swindle of epic proportions.
  1. Let me emphasize again the essential cruelty and dishonesty of the GOP and their policies. There is a meanness of spirit here. There is an ethos of derisive disdain and laying by the heel the least among us – and there will be many more of the “least” if this policy sees fruition. The most tell-tale sign of that is that this policy proposal has thus far seen little in the way of publicity. That is indicative of either shame or anxiety – they know this proposal is wrong, the party leader knows he campaigned to save Medicare not destroy it, and he lied about it (surprise again!)
  1. If you want to oppose this policy, contribute to AARP for the campaign they are sure to launch against this, send letters to your local and major national newspapers (such as the New York Times), write to your congressmen, write to your governor, and write to Ryan and the president elect. You can do something, you are not helpless.

Let me conclude with this: Pars republican delenda est.




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