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Friday, September 04, 2009

suffrage, equality, and healthcare

I have been recently pondering the status of healthcare in conjunction with other historic struggles for equality. What brings to my mind the parallel is the issue of constitutionality. Many people believe that any form of universal healthcare would be unconstitutional and a violation of the intention of the founding fathers. But the fathers also did not grant women the right to vote, not did they provide for equal and civil rights for people of color.

As a nation, we the people of the United States of America should measure our society by a better moral standard than the constitution, and we should enact laws that are a reflection of what we know is good and right.

It is important to step back in the middle of these intense policy debates about healthcare and ask some basic moral questions. Do we believe that we should take care of each other? Should a person's physical care depend on their income? Should profit truly be the primary motivation for our healthcare system?


Jackie said...

Profit should not be the motive for providing care. I think it is cruel that people of any nation are forced to suffer or even die due to lack of funds. When did any faith say " thou shalt be greedy and care for only thyself?". The faiths that I know of preach comrardery and loving thy neighbor. When did mankind go so wrong and stray from these wonderful values.

Jonathan Erdman said...

It's interesting, Jackie, because "thou shalt be greedy and care for only thyself" seems to be the default for most of us. Still, most of us don't see ourselves in this light. In the current healthcare debate, for example, the reasons that people seem to oppose reform is because (1) they are afraid or (2) they do not see the need....or some combination of the above.

There are many people who are just afraid. Afraid that the government is going to kill people. Afraid this will mean the unraveling of the constitution. Afraid that this will lead to a society of irresponsibility, a nanny state, if you will.

So, it's hard to spot the greed, there, even if it is there. You know what I mean? The psyche/soul are complex. So that it seems to people like you and I that people are giving in to greed and fear, while it seems to the people themselves as though they are just trying to fight for traditional values, biblical values, good ole fashion American values, etc.

I am with you, though, Jackie. I think that the profit motive has corrupted the system through and through. But if this is the case, then we shouldn't be surprised if the powers that be work overtime to feed people's fear of reform, or suggest that there really isn't a problem at all.

Tamie said...

This is such a helpful post, and a helpful way of framing the debate. Maybe not framing it, but more, zooming out and looking at the bigger picture. The Founding Fathers were not saints, they were not angels, they were not people we should revere by default. It's really good, too, to put this in terms of a struggle for equality, which it really is, and to put it in moral terms, because it is indeed a moral question, whether those who have means should provide for those with lesser means.

Thanks for a great post.

Melody said...

I don't think it's greed on most people's part.

A lot of people opposed to the plan are afraid that the people who are already having trouble getting health-care now, are going to have an even harder time after it is implemented.

If the system fails it isn't going to hurt the rich people. They will still be able to afford to pay extra to get the care they need.

amy said...


I'm not understanding how the proposed plan will make it harder for the uninsured to get care. I can be dense about these things. Could you elaborate?

Javetta said...

I love the way you simplified this "great debate" with a reflective question of basic morality. But the scary part is the actual responses to the question...

Sherry Caffey said...

There is already Medicare for senior citizens and those mentally and physically challenged. Medicade for every child until 18 years of age born at proverty level. CHIPS- /children's Health Ins. Program for children not proverty level,but lower middle class, until 18 years of age. So as I see it, we already provide insurance for a large amount of the U.S. The ones left out is the middle class and the college students. I am in the first group and my son is in the second so I speak as one "not provided" for. The question is why do I think the grovernment should "provide" for me? Shouldn't I provide for myself if I am able to work? Groceries are also hard to pay for, should everyone receive food stamps. We all have to eat. Where does it stop? Instead of growing "big" government, we should be cutting it down, downsizing just like every other company is being forced to do. Instead, that is the company/government that is growing in size. There is no easy answer, but I do not think the national health care is the solution either. I believe it is back to the drawing board and figure out how we can reduce spending, reduce health care,reduce government in our lives.

Jonathan Erdman said...


Thanks for the thoughtful reply and question.

One thing I appreciated greatly about the President's speech is that he said (in summary): we are all in this together.

We each need to take responsibility both for ourselves (as individuals) and for the system as a whole. I appreciate those who advocate personal responsibility, but this should not be to the neglect of considerations of the system as a whole. I also appreciate those who consider the system as a whole, but this should not be done at the expense of personal responsibility.

So, to respond to the question "why should the government pay for my healthcare?"

First of all, I would say that someone has to pay for healthcare. The question that I think makes the most sense is this: what is the most cost-efficient, effective, and fair way to make sure that everyone has good healthcare? So, how can we go about building a system that takes care of everyone, has everyone chip in according to their means, and takes care of everyone to provide them with good healthcare.

Second, I would also say that the government is not a separate entity from "the people." The government is us and we are the government. The government is of the people and for the people. We fund the government with tax dollars, so if the government pays for your healthcare, it is with your dollars. So, you are still paying for your healthcare.

You and I, we pay a lot of money in taxes. We sometimes pay for things we don't agree with. I don't agree with the vast sums of U.S. treasure spent on the Iraq war. Tough beans for me, I guess....but I digress......Here's my question: Why not have your tax dollars go toward something good and noble, like healthcare for yourself and others who are uninsured?

Regarding food stamps for all....no, I don't think that everyone should have food stamps.....I do wish more people would grow their own food or support local CSA's, but that's beside the point.

One thing to keep in mind, however, about the current reform bill is that it is a market-based approach. As far as I can tell, the plan is meant to keep the current system in tact but to reform it so that costs can get under control.

Cynthia said...

The constitution, if viewed correctly, is not meant to be the highest moral code in the country, rather it is meant to set the framework for a limited federal government (and military), balanced and checked by it's 3 branches, so that people, unimpeded by the federal government, can (or should rather) practice what is truly the highest moral code dictated by a love of God. This is certainly an ideal that is hard to achieve. We only have to look at our history to see those that should act according to God's love don't always do so. I don't lament the good the government has tried to do for people. But ultimately when gov't takes center stage in peoples lives, the intended good is often nullified by the intensified burden placed on the people. Not to mention this type of gov't help does not bring true equality to people, rather it reinforces the class divide (in different, maybe more subtle ways) that we are trying to eliminate. I just think that as Christians we should be able to realize it is the truth of Christ lived out in us (universal church) that will bring the help people need and deserve, not the government. This is why I support Ron Paul.

"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win." Atticus Finch

Cynthia said...

check this out


Jonathan Erdman said...


Through all the debates on healthcare, I haven't been able to be persuaded that this is a big government versus small government discussion. I don't view "the government" as bad/evil/problematic/etc. in and of itself, and neither do I view "the people" (uninhibited by government) to be inherently good/efficient/etc. I do not believe that this dichotomy of "government" versus "the people" is legitimate. In other countries the two dialog with each other such that there is no divide.

When I look at healthcare, therefore, I view it primarily as a moral failure of the United States (a failure of both "the people" and "the government"--a collective failure). The failure in healthcare is a failure in many areas. It privileges the few, the wealthy, with great healthcare benefits. Those who are poor or in the lower middle classes can easily be left behind entirely. (Now, I realize that there are measures and programs in place to help the less fortunate, and I am thankful for these.)

Things in our nation at this point revolve entirely around "profit"--profit at any cost. It is now our guiding narrative and principle. Our economy, however, has become artificial and seems to have been built on a foundation of sand. This has effected healthcare as well. Fundamentally, the system is profit driven, and I think that has put us in the bind we are in now.

In short, I think we should get to the moral issue and not get side tracked on discussions of "big government" versus "the people."

Jonathan Erdman said...


My commenting was cut a bit short.

I wanted to also add that I appreciate your perspective on government. I sympathize with where you are coming from, and I don't want to suggest that the discussion is not worth having or that your points about government were not valid. I am just suggesting that the size/scope of government (for me) is not a guiding concern. It is a concern, just not my primary concern when it comes to healthcare.