Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cut the Crap!

Maybe I’m naive, but I thought elected officials were supposed to serve the public. Apparently, they are not getting that message.

In the first month of the 112th Congress, the GOP leaders in the House of Representatives had exactly three accomplishments:

  • They read aloud a redacted version of the Constitution.
  • They voted to deny insurance coverage to 40 million Americans and sentenced another 40,000 to premature death due to lack of access to medical care.
  • They strengthened the Koch/Corporate America/Tea Party hold on the functioning of government by repealing the presidential campaign write-off in income tax returns.
What they didn’t do was address the issues of jobs, the environment, health care, civil rights, or anything else that improves the quality of life for all Americans.

Now, the South Dakota legislature has taken a whiff of craziness from the Washington GOP. It is proposing a law that would require any citizen over the age of 21 to own a gun. This is not some gun-crazy NRA-sponsored legislation, but rather a silly attempt to conflate mandatory gun ownership with mandatory health insurance. The legislators are not so much in favor of requiring gun ownership as they are in proving their fallacious point that the government should not require citizens to purchase something, whether it is guns or insurance.

Putting aside the fact that guns are used to kill while health insurance is used to save lives, their chimerical mixing of guns and health fails on many levels.

First is the area of personal responsibility vs collective responsibility.  It’s not one of the other - it’s both. Republicans are big on personal responsibility with their “every man to himself” attitude and their reluctance to spend money to assist the less fortunate. They would eviscerate safety and quality regulations for consumer products and the food we eat, leaving those determinations to individuals. Owning a gun is a personal decision. Each individual must make the tradeoff between perceived safety against intruders and the statistical evidence of the danger of having firearms in one’s home. This individual responsibility comes with the collective responsibility of using the firearm safely and keeping it secure from unauthorized use.

Carrying health insurance is also a mix of individual and collective responsibility. The Affordable Care Act, which the South Dakota legislators are trying to mock, does require everyone to carry minimal insurance. This is how insurance works - spread the risk to keep premiums at a reasonable rate. No one can guarantee that he or she won’t need medical care at some point, and reliance on emergency room care in lieu of preventive medicine is a drain on all taxpayers. The anti-health lobby decries the comparison to automobile insurance, babbling that one could opt out of owning a car. Yet, in this day and age, a car is almost always necessary to hold a job and generally function in society. (Need I point out that the same people who espouse not owning a car are typically those who resist support to public transit?)

So, collectively, carrying some level of health insurance should be required, and is constitutional. Congress has the power to levy taxes and spend funds for the “general welfare of the United States.”  Nothing promotes the general welfare more than an healthy populace. No one is preventing those who wish to carry additional insurance from doing so.

I don’t know what the local issues are in South Dakota, but I’m sure there are some, whether it is jobs, agriculture, taxation, or whatever. So my message to the South Dakota legislature, as well as to the GOP House members is simple:  “Cut the crap!” Instead of posturing for points from your benefactors, do the work that the people sent you to do and start tackling the important problems. Yes, that’s harder than reading the Constitution or repealing a bill without presenting a viable alternative or proposing silly mandatory gun-ownership legislation, but if you’re not up to that task, I’m sure there are constituents in your district who are.

1 comment:

  1. It's ironic. Had the Democrats had the honesty to simply propose a new payroll tax to pay for Obamacare, there would have been no constitutional problems. Of course, there likely also would have been no bill.

    What they did pass is clearly unconstitutional. The federal government simply cannot force citizens to buy a product from private businesses. Two judges have already ruled so, urged on by 26 states.

    So it is likely back to the drawing board. Obama claims that (this time) he is willing to work with all parties to fix the bill while protecting what is good in it. We will see if he really means it.

    Contrary to what you say, Republicans do have plans that would expand access to health care without requiring a government takeover. I am grateful to see that, due to typical Democratic overreach, they will likely get their shot.