While members of the House are fighting over so-called “abortion funding,” quibbling over what money might be used for in what situations, over 50 million Americans have no health insurance.
While the Republican National Committee is running radio ads bemoaning “Barack Obama’s massive spending experiment,” the US government is spending 100 billion per year on health care for the uninsured. In this country, we don’t let people die if they can’t afford care. Therefore, while Republicans speak darkly of the cost of paying for people’s health care, their government has been doing it for years, and not cost-effectively. The government’s health care spending per person is twice that of other industrialized nations, because here, the government doesn’t step in until a person is already very sick. President Obama is not about to create a spending problem; we already have a spending problem, and we have to fix it.
Conservative groups don’t want the government to save money on health care because they’re in bed with the insurance companies. Since “Save America’s Insurance Companies” is hardly a winning rallying cry, these groups are calling on their reliable foe/political friend, abortion.
The Family Research Council is gearing up for a five-state ad campaign that warns that under the new health care system, tax dollars will go abortion. Dan Gilgoff discusses the recent amendment to the health care bill and the difference between funding and subsidies. But Jessica Arons makes a more relevant point: a public health plan is just what it sounds like—a plan for people. Not for one person. This is not Tony Perkins’s health plan.
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Creating a public health care plan is a big deal, and a big change. Change is hard. But paying taxes for services you may not agree with or utilize is not a new concept. Our country works, and has always worked, in the following way: citizens pay taxes, and the government runs our country with that tax money. Or, as Arons more eloquently explains:
The Constitution authorizes Congress to collect taxes to provide for the common defense and general welfare. There is no footnote that says, "unless some of us disagree." All Americans can surely think of at least one use of their taxes to which they object — for some liberals, it might be the death penalty; for some conservatives, the teaching of evolution in public school. There are proper channels for disputing such policies, but attacking government funding is not one of them.
I don’t plan to avail myself of the resources of America’s prisons, and I may not even agree that all the people locked up there directly threaten my welfare (see non-violent, small-time drug dealers). But I pay for their meals. That’s the way America works. If Americans demanded to ban their tax dollars from going to services and institutions that offended their morals, our system of government would collapse.
And what’s most important, and most offensive, about this effort by the Family Research Council and its cronies is that it’s disingenuous. It’s one of several tactics that create social and cultural conflict to turn people against a bill that’s in their interest. I was particularly saddened by one clip in this NPR story, in which a disabled, unemployed sheetrock installer whose children are on Medicaid expresses his opposition to Obama’s plan. You can almost hear the Republican strategists cheering:
The health care plan he’s got, Obama, is going to hurt people in the long run. Minorities are going to get more attention than the whites and stuff like that. That’s the way I take it from what the news was talking about.
Conservative groups want to sink the health care bill because of their ties to the insurance industry. But it’s much more politically effective to use racism (which is, unfortunately, alive and well in this country) and a wedge issue like abortion to confuse and unsettle the public. In the meantime, we’ll keep spending 100 billion a year on a system that doesn’t work.