It was a historic day in this country just a couple of short weeks ago, when on June 28th, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act, thereby paving the way to expand health coverage for millions of previously uninsured Americans.
For a moment, let’s put aside the fact that in nearly every other developed nation, this argument is practically nonexistent. That is because nearly every other developed nation understands that not only is universal coverage a basic civil right, but also that governments are morally and civically obligated to ensure the health and well-being of all their citizens.
But here in the United States, in the absence of near-universal health care, whatever coverage a person receives (if any) is almost solely dependent on that person’s socioeconomic class.
We are then left to examine all of the leftover rhetoric that has dominated popular discourse since the court’s decision. And what we find is both baffling and disheartening.
Increased moral and racial panic: The demographics of this country are rapidly changing as the population of the Latino community grows. Many Latinos in this country are mired in systemic poverty and, hence, stand to gain considerably from expanded healthcare coverage – much to the chagrin of many who insist that expanded coverage “rewards these lazy folk.”
Such moral panic should not come as a surprise. Recall that the domestic programs of the New Deal were once seen as bastions of American greatness – that is, until these programs were expanded in the 1960s under the Great Society, when (coupled with the Civil Rights Act of 1964) Latinos and African Americans were granted greater access. Suddenly, within a matter of a decade, these programs became reframed in popular discourse as “entitlement programs” that supposedly “lazy” blacks and Latinos took advantage of.
The “no one works harder than me” argument: We have heard it used many times by those who are fond of disparaging the poor and less fortunate. These folks firmly believe that they are amongst the elite few who work hard and earn their benefits, and that expanded coverage will reward everyone else who is simply lazy and makes bad decisions. Their own egocentrism will not allow them to perceive the world beyond such dichotomies, nor allow them to understand that those who are less fortunate carry burdens that are almost unimaginable to those who are privileged with good health.
Government employees who are against “big-government healthcare”: The sheer idiocy of this camp of individuals is mind-boggling. Keep in mind that this camp includes every single congressperson who is against such coverage, given that all of them – every single one of them – is automatically eligible to receive quality health insurance paid for by their scary big-government employer. Their political rhetoric can almost be excused as mere pandering. But when the line of reasoning comes from police officers, firefighters, postal workers, military personnel, etc., I cannot fathom the amount of cognitive dissonance that results.
My point is fairly simple. When you strip away all of the rhetoric from the past two weeks, you are left with one mantra coming from these folks: “My healthcare is non-negotiable, but your healthcare is expendable.” If this sounds ridiculous to many of you, that is because it should.
History will remember these attempts at finding a civic and moral justification for selfishness as asinine and insidious.