“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.” – Adrian Rogers
Which are the people who should die because they lack Little Green Pieces of Paper? Let’s identify them quickly, find them, and give them each the shot we use to end the life of the dogs we love who can no longer live a decent life, and then get around to getting health care covered for everyone else.
I am not qualified to judge who is worthy and who is not. I don’t know their whole story, and neither does the worker at the welfare office punching information into a computer that will apply an algorithm to determine if they deserve any help at all, and if so, how much.
I understand the archaic need for The Puritan Work Ethic. I also know that Sloth was once considered a sin. It’s one of the Seven Deadly Sins, in fact. It shares its distinction with other equally evil things such as Pride and Greed. I don’t think Pride is a sin. I think Greed is. I know many people who believe Greed isn’t, and Pride is… and some who believe none of them are sins.
Early in our history, failing to work as hard as one can was, in fact, quite possibly lethal. Per Hansa and Beret, in Giants in The Earth, had to work ceaselessly in order to survive. He had to do all of the work of building a place to live: cutting the trees, making them into something he could use, and then assembling all the pieces to build his house. He had to raise his own food. His wife had an equal portion of difficult tasks to complete. There was no time for them to consider sitting down and reading a book, or even, most of the time, getting around to watching a nice sunset. They were simply too busy. Any moment spent not working put them in possibly mortal danger.
Ben Franklin told us that, “Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden; it is forbidden because it is hurtful.” Sloth was undoubtedly sinful at one point in the history of our world.
Because of Per Hansa and Beret’s work, and the work of hundreds of thousands like them, our civilization has grown and prospered. No one has to build their own houses anymore. We can get our food at the grocery store. We have time to trade ideas on Facebook.
The idea that relaxing is evil, that someone who is unable, or unwilling, to collect large stacks of Little Green Pieces of Paper is somehow worse and less deserving than other people, is no longer valid. It’s not up to me to tell anyone how to live. It is, however, as a society, as a civilization, necessary to ensure that our citizens can all, at the very least, continue to live as long as possible.
No one deserves to be homeless, regardless of how much I may disapprove of how they live the life they have in that home. No one deserves to be hungry, even if I think badly of them. It turns out my values are not the only possible values to consider. I don’t have a monopoly on the truth, but I don’t want anyone to be without the basics of survival.
We all agree that everyone deserves a free and appropriate public education. That’s PL 94-142, and no one objects to the idea that all children go to school. We’ve done it that way for a very long time, and there’s nothing remotely radical about that idea now.
Why can’t we also have public health care?
I believe Health Care is a Human Right. Someone this morning told me it’s not, because I have no right to someone else’s labor. That’s an interesting point.
On the other hand, I never asked parents to pay me to teach their kids. I was paid by the state for my labor. The only right the parents had to my labor was that their taxes paid for it.
Why can’t the state set up public hospitals? Go, when you need to, without insurance, without a bill. You show up. The doctors and nurses fix you. You go home. All done.
Is it because Doctors would have to work for less money? No doctors want to work for teacher pay? Okay… then pay them properly. Are doctors, who I admire and respect, more important than teachers? If so, point to the doctor who became a doctor without any teachers.
Imagine this …
Sylvia is a 23 year old mother of a 16 month old girl, Christina. She works 40 hours a week as a shift leader at Olive Garden, and is earning $16.50 an hour. After taxes, she brings home $568 a week. Her total monthly income is $2272. Rent in her 2 bedroom apartment is $1400 a month. Day Care is $1350. Groceries for herself and her daughter run $250. The cell phone she uses to connect with the world has mobile hotspot and tethering so she can get online with her computer. She pays $150 a month for all that. Gas runs $100 a month. Utilities come out to about $250 a month. For just these basics of survival, she comes out $1228 in the hole every month. If she wants auto insurance to keep her car from getting impounded, that’s another $150 a month. Even though she owns her car free and clear (it’s a 2004 Camry), so she has no car payment, there’s no way she can survive on what she has.
She lives with her roommate, Bethany, a 25 year old Amazon employee who packs for shipping. She makes 15.00 an hour, also working 40 hours a week. This comes out to just under $2000 a month. She has the same expenses as Sylvia. Living on her own, she would be $300 a month in the hole.
Living with her roommate, Bethany has $575 a month left over. Sylvia has $947. They should be fine. They really should. Unless…
A car breaks down. That’s going to cost anywhere from $100 to $1000. They might be able to afford that, though.
They need new clothes, or they want to see a movie, or go out to dinner, or, God forbid, take a trip somewhere. Suddenly the money evaporates.
One of them gets sick. See, in the budgets above, guess what we didn’t consider? Yes… that’s right: Health Insurance
The average cost for health insurance without an employer paying for it is about $450 a month for an individual. It’s about $1350 for a family. They each need health insurance, and they can’t use the family plan to cover all three of them because Sylvia and Bethany aren’t married. Sylvia’s $947 is now gone. She has a baby to insure, as well. Bethany’s $575 is down to $125… and it’s not even enough to cover the difference between Sylvia’s earnings and her health insurance costs.
Health Insurance might cover as much as 80% of covered procedures. Rarely does it cover more than that. If your hospital stay is $100,000… and that’s a reasonably cheap visit… you still owe $20,000. How are the girls ever going to pay that? They’re finished. It’s really no wonder the suicide rate keeps climbing. When one loses hope, life is pointless.
Add to this problem that when one of them gets sick, the income for the whole household drops. They didn’t have enough to make ends meet in the first place, and now they have even less. Now they start figuring out which bills to pay, and which bills to blow off until they can afford them. And, when they’re late, late fees get added, and they’re in even deeper trouble.
What would be your solution to the problems these women face?
There are some I wish to eliminate off the top.
- It’s their problem, not mine! They should have…. whatever. This isn’t a solution. It’s dodging a solution. I have no idea what they deserve. Neither do you. I can, however, observe what they need. They need affordable healthcare.
- They should work more. Then they could afford it. I’m not buying this solution, either. You work LESS when you’re sick, not more. And, at 40 hours a week, they’re working full time. There’s little point in living if you can’t enjoy any of it.
- They should get healthcare from their employers. That would be helpful, but some employers offer it; others don’t. Even with insurance from their employers, they’re out of pocket any time they need to see a doctor. They really can’t afford to be.
Now, as Sherlock Holmes once said, “… when you eliminate the impossible, what ever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
I’m looking for a solution that allows these women to live a decent life. I have a suggestion.
In a few years, Sylvia will be able to send her daughter to school. This will eliminate much of the cost of Day Care. And… you know how much she’ll pay to send her daughter not only to be cared for, but actually taught, by highly trained professionals? Yes… that’s right. Zero dollars.
No one ever asks how to pay for public schools because we’ve had them since 1635. They’re simply accepted. There’s a LOT of debate about how MUCH to spend on them, and what teachers should be paid, and what they should be doing within those taxpayer funded buildings. But their need to exist is never even questioned. We all understand that education is essential to being a member of society. We actually punish parents who don’t send their kids to school if they don’t at least home school them.
I believe Education is vital. I would go so far as to say it’s a human right.
I believe the same about healthcare. And it seems to me the solution is the same as we used for Education. Let’s make it free and appropriate and public.
Public hospitals exist in which Doctors and Nurse and Staff are all employees of the state, just as Teachers and Aides and Staff are at a public school.
It costs nothing to go to the public hospital, just as it costs nothing to go to the public school. If you’re dissatisfied with the public hospital, you can do just as parents do when they’re dissatisfied with the public school: pay to go to a better one.
Now Sylvia and Bethany can make it again. If they get sick, they’re still going to take a hit on monthly income, but they have the money left to get by for a little longer.
I’m not going into the deep logistics of Economics here. I would suggest that if we have to raise taxes a bit to pay for it, then so be it. We won’t need to raise them so much that it costs an extra $900 a month, and every dime below the $900 is a savings for Sylvia and Bethany. And it’s a savings for all of the Sylvias and Bethanies out there. More importantly, it give us all the means to live a little longer. Isn’t that what we all want for all people?
A life spent doing nothing but working in order to do nothing but survive is a stolen life. There’s no point in living without being able to enjoy living at least a little. We’re not settlers in the wilderness anymore. We’re the crowning achievement of our species working together for 200,000 years to advance to a place where, finally, we can provide more than the basic necessities of life for everyone who wants them. Why don’t we do that, then? Let’s work together to make life better for Bethany and Sylvia and Christina, and all those out there like them, and all those who will follow them in the future. Let’s create a world in which we all want to live.