Alan Zendell, March 8, 2017
Most of what you read in the media about health care in the United States is exaggerated, spun for political reasons, or outright lies. Health care is a very complex issue until you strip away the special interests and politics. Then it becomes extremely simple.
Although our Constitution explicitly charges the government with promoting the general welfare of the population, in recent years, the word entitlement has become associated with greed and laziness. Our Bill of Rights guarantees every citizen the freedom of speech and worship, the right to bear arms, and host of other entitlements that we take for granted. The Declaration of Independence asserts that every American is entitled to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, yet none of our foundational documents makes explicit mention of health care.
Does that mean our founding fathers didn’t believe basic health care was a right of every American? No. It means that in the mid-eighteenth century there was no health care as we know it, and Jefferson and Adams can be forgiven for not being prescient about how medical science would evolve.
When the question of health care as an entitlement is posed today, the most common response is, “Who’s going to pay for it?” That is the real heart of the matter. Had the Bill of Rights elevated health care to the level of firearms, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation in 2017. Our economic development would have included the need to pay for health care at every turn. Instead, our country now has a huge divide which may be impossible to bridge. That divide is what gave birth to the Tea Party. Ignore the rhetoric. What the Tea Party is about is preventing the enormous transfer of wealth that would be required to fill the gaps left by the founders.
When Bernie Sanders asserted that every American had the right to decent health care, he made the mistake of labeling himself a Socialist. The society he proposed looks very much like most of the social democracies of Europe. Is Germany a socialist country? Is Holland or Denmark?
When our politicians are asked why America is the only industrialized democracy without a national health care system, the answer most often given is that the cost would too high here. But that answer is incorrect. Health care costs in the Netherlands and Australia are as high as ours, yet both countries have federally funded health care. The right answer is that our priorities are wrong.
Representative Jason Chaffetz (R, Utah) essentially said the same thing, yesterday, only he got it backwards. Chaffetz said individuals needed to decide whether to spend their incomes on iPhones or health care. You could by a new iPhone every two weeks, and still not spend as much in one year as the average unsubsidized health insurance plan costs in the United States.
Chaffetz should have addressed the top of the food chain. It’s a simple matter of taxes versus expenditures, and the bottom ninety percent of the population is already taxed to the limit. There’s no question that America can afford to provide quality health care for everyone if it has the will to do it. Most of Europe funds national health care through a value added tax (VAT) of about twenty percent, paid on every consumer item except basic necessities. No complicated income tax structures with entitlements for groups powerful enough to get them legislated, just the kind of simple tax structure most so-called conservatives claim to prefer.
If you believe our country has a moral responsibility to assure the health of every American, you have to be realistic. Most of the wealthiest people in America will fight to the death to avoid the kind of transfer of wealth that would make that possible. And they will win, unless people fight back at the ballot box. The only chance to have a level playing field in health care in this country is if the voters replace those people in Congress who don’t want one with people who do.
If every congressional district that went for Sanders in 2016 votes that way in the 2018 mid-term elections, we’ll have a fighting chance. The choice isn’t between iPhones and health insurance. It’s between how many yachts and private planes and country clubs are worth the health of the people who build and service them. Americans don’t need tax credits. They need a guarantee that the cost of dealing with illness or injury will not devastate their families.
It really is just that simple.