The Supreme Court upheld of the constitutionality of the president’s plan for health care reform. Thirty million Americans, some of whom might have died without it, are now eligible for health care. It couldn’t come soon enough for some Republicans, who can take advantage of the physical therapy available after someone’s jaw drops to the ground.
But, it’s been a really tough week for liberty.
You know liberty. That’s when people who collect social security when they are eligible, benefit from Medicare, use public highways, send their kids to public schools, and depend on publicly paid policemen to safeguard their lives and property get taken terrible advantage of by the voracious federal government. Liberty is when you would rather entrust your wellbeing to the good intentions of Jamie ($9 billion and counting) Dimon and Exxon/Mobil. There is a bell named in liberty’s honor in Philadelphia and it is similarly cracked.
When he is president, Mitt Romney is going to repeal the Affordable Care Act (don’t be too concerned, the chances of either happening are slim to nil). Then, he is going to do his very best to see that 50 million uninsured folks in America have access to some kind of health care by encouraging states that are lagging behind and offering incentives and other stuff that sound really good in a speech if no one asks you any questions about them.
If that approach doesn’t work, Mickey and Judy are going to have a fundraiser in a barn outside of Topeka.
There is something particularly galling about watching a supremely privileged character like Romney rail against what should be the right of any citizen in a nation that calls itself civilized. He’s gotten rich beyond Midas largely by downsizing work forces during his years as a "venture capitalist." When the job goes, most peoples’ health insurance goes with it. So you not only have a man who is responsible for throwing people out of work, you also have a guy who wants to make obtaining affordable health care for those same people as difficult as possible.
You have to wonder how many of the nice folks waving their anti-Obamacare placards for the news cameras are without healthcare. (An academic question, if ever there was one.) I would also guess that, in one way or another, the taxpayer - that beleaguered entity whose pocketbooks these concerned citizens are professing to defend - either subsidizes or completely pays for healthcare for many of them.
So, have we deteriorated to a stonyhearted "I’ve got mine and good luck to you" society? I don’t think so, despite the best efforts of some incredibly callous and selfish people.
Mitt Romney has never spent a single mini-second of his plush life without the best health care available on the planet. This exalted status wasn’t something he earned; it was bestowed upon him the moment he was born.
What exactly makes Romney’s potential to humankind so much more valuable than some child born in an inner-city ghetto, who probably won’t even receive adequate nutrition? The fact that his parents are rich? Does the absence of a bank account or a family name really diminish a human being’s worth to that extent in America today? (Sadly, that’s another academic question.)
For all the congressional caterwauling, this has never been a political issue, not at its heart. It’s a moral one. Because it is essentially a moral question, with strong implications concerning our own sense of ourselves, I believe that doing the right thing will prevail in America, despite all the gnashing of teeth from Fox News and the tattered defenders of liberty and self.
Until this nation can truthfully say that every individual starts from the same point, with the same advantages as everyone else, we are going to have to bear a responsibility to extend some amount of care and concern towards the less fortunate. People who howl against the president’s health care reform because of its potential cost while they condone extending the Bush tax cuts should hang their heads in shame.
There is another aspect of the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality and its importance can hardly be understated. Those of us who despaired that the man we elected in November of 2008 had turned out to be something of a disappointment can happily pronounce ourselves dead wrong. More significantly, those who were hesitant to vote for Barack Obama in the fall, despite what his opposition represents, will be forced to reevaluate their opinion of the man. He persevered in the face of some of the most outrageous distortions (remember death panels?), lies, and blatant partisan posturing in the nation’s history while Americans’ access to affordable health care hung in the balance.
Obama persevered and he won and his victory puts Mitt Romney in the extremely unenviable position of having to invent some reason besides unconstitutionality to peddle to his constituents as an excuse for denying American citizens their right to a healthy life. Anti-liberty just doesn’t have the same ring, no pun intended.
Alden Graves is a columnist and reviewer who lives in Bennington.