What do you tell a guy who is sick, goes into a coma and doesn't have health insurance? Who pays for his coverage? Are you saying society should just let him die?
That’s the question put to Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) by Wolf Blitzer in the closing moments of Monday night’s Tea Party Express/CNN GOP Debate.
Before Paul could answer, several members of the Tea Party laden audience enthusiastically shouted out “Yeah!”
Yeah, let him die! Yeah!
Nobody in the crowd objected.
And then, right there, you got to see exactly who and what Ron Paul really is.
Right then, in that single moment, Ron Paul revealed not only his true character, but the moral failure that defines the modern American libertarian.
In a word, the answer was an unabashed: Yes!
Let him die.
Let him die, he deserves it.
Paul’s response was, “We never turned anybody away from the hospital. We have given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves, assume responsibility for ourselves, that's the reason the cost is so high."
We never turn anybody away. That’s why the costs are so high. Logically therefore, if we turn people away, if we let them die, it’s money in our pockets.
Moral failure I said, moral failure it is.
The rest of Paul’s response and the comments he has repeatedly expressed elsewhere make it very clear that in his opinion we should have turned people away, we should have let them die – or rather Government should let them die.
Paul’s viewpoint embraces the libertarian ideal of personal responsibility.
And sure, personal responsibility sounds good, I mean we should all be responsible for our own actions. Right? Including that guy who didn’t buy himself medical insurance.
The problem is that the idea of personal responsibility when used in this context is nothing but white noise, it’s a chimera.
Like “common sense,” when used in the context of government, personal responsibility is indefinable and unquantifiable in any but the most vague sense. For personal responsibility to be a valid standard it would have to be measurable – and either we would all have to be created equal and identical or we have to have a valid and useful way to quantify each individual and determine the proper baseline of responsible action. In other words you first have to define what responsible action is, and then you have to determine if responsible action is an absolute or if it is something measured relative to each individual. What might be considered responsible action for me is likely quite different from what it would be for you, or for someone with autism, or a corporate titan.
Again, the idea is only useful in only the broadest of terms and the libertarian version on display Monday night completely ignores situational context.
Take the example of the man in the coma, he doesn’t have insurance.
Blitzer didn’t say that he chose to forgo coverage, but that was the assumption by the libertarian crowd. So let us say it was true, According to Blitzer’s scenario, the man chose not to buy insurance. Irresponsible? Maybe. But maybe he just can’t afford to both feed his kids and buy insurance despite working two full time jobs, because those were the only kind of jobs he could get in this economy. So maybe he chose to buy food for his children and pay his electric bill instead. Does that make him irresponsible? Maybe, just maybe, he was living near one of those rivers that overflowed last month, and he lost everything in the flood and guess what? He had homeowners insurance but the claims adjuster decreed his loss to be not covered because, and dig this, he didn’t have actual flood insurance, or earthquake insurance, or Little Green Men From Mars insurance – and now he’s lost his home and business and health coverage and lives on the street. Irresponsible? Or was he just fucked over by God and State Farm? Don’t think that’s happening right now? You’re fooling yourself. It happened to members of my own family after hurricane Ivan – they had hurricane insurance, but when the storm surge roared more than a mile inland and destroyed their house, the insurance company said, sorry, that’s flood damage and not hurricane damage even thought the flood was caused directly and provably by the hurricane. Too bad for you. Maybe they could have sued, if they were Ron Paul, but poor people don’t get that option – and so they would have lost everything and been homeless, but for FEMA. They did everything they were supposed to, but the insurance company moved the goal posts and denied 50,000 people their claims. Were those people irresponsible?
To libertarians it just doesn’t matter, can’t pay, it’s not my problem.
Paul and his Tea Party supporters use the term personal responsibility in the simplest and most childish manner, responsibility is always black and white. The man does not have insurance. He cannot pay. No one will pay for him. Therefore, turn him out, let him die. He is not my responsibility – this, in the very essence, is the bankrupt selfish philosophy of libertarianism.
The real Ron Paul is a cold calculating selfish little son of bitch.
The real Ron Paul is the kind of doctor who thinks that it’s OK to let a man die – if he can’t pay.
And if as a doctor he doesn’t actually believe that, then as a politician and the man who would be President of the United States he’s perfectly willing to go along with the lynch mob in order to curry favor from those who do – and in the final count, it makes no damned difference whatsoever, the result is the same.
Paul had a moment, a moment, to push back the mob, to demonstrate authentic leadership and actual moral courage – and did not.
He did not, because his words and actions clearly demonstrate what kind of man he really is. And that man is sorely lacking in moral courage.
Note that none of the other candidates on the stage raised an objection either.
The libertarians, including Ron Paul, who make up the stony bitter heart of the Tea Party beat the drum of personal responsibility and wave the bloody red flag of individual liberty, but at their core they are cowards. It takes courage to place duty, honor, and the welfare of society above yourself. It takes courage, moral courage, to place the welfare of others before your own selfish desires. It takes courage to do the right thing even when it may cost you personally, even when nobody is watching. All the charity and pro bono work in the world doesn’t change that, courage is what you do when it matters.
There is no honor, no morality, no courage in letting a man die because he can’t pay – even if he came to such straights by his own device or his own choice.
Now it is true that Ron Paul did not, in point of fact, actually say “let him die” – and a vocal number of Tea Party types have their genuine Ayn Rand underpants all in a bunch today pointing that out. They’re right … and they are still wrong. Paul may not have said “let him die,” but he mostly certainly implied it – that’s exactly where this nonsense of institutionalized personal responsibility comes from. However, note that Paul himself fails to take personal responsibility for the implications of his own words. Instead of saying exactly what he really meant, i.e. let him die, Paul tries to weasel out of responsibility by saying that while the government should let the uninsured die, charity and church should step up and save the man.
And just like the libertarian ideal of personal responsibility, this nonsense of church and charity doesn’t hold water when put to the actual test.
Prior to social safety nets, millions died because church and charity wasn’t enough. It is never enough.
Ask yourself something, how exactly does this work? Specifically. Do you really expect those who embrace a stunted me-first philosophy of selfishness, and who vocally enjoin others to do the same, will actually look out for each other? Really? On the same scale as the federal government does now? You really expect those selfish people to do that from the goodness of their hearts? Hell, those were the same bastards shouting “let him die” on Monday night! Do you really think that churches and communities made up of those same self centered sons of bitches will suddenly embrace charity? Are you goofy?
Communities made up of selfish people are selfish communities. They’re often easy to spot, the gates give them away.
Churches made up of selfish hateful bigots are selfish hateful bigoted churches. That’s not an opinion, that’s a goddamned fact.
Ron Paul’s libertarian wet dream fails at the most fundamental level.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep right on saying it, the purpose of government is to protect the weak from the ruthless, otherwise what damned good is it?
Paul, and those libertarians like him, are social Darwinists. They strongly believe that those who find themselves at the mercy of the mob, deserve their misfortune. These are the same folks who think their own station will never change, that misfortune will never find them, that their God will always favor them and theirs, and that they themselves will never be the uninsured man in the coma.
These are the same people who think that a family who can barely afford to put food on the table, or shoes on their kids’ feet, or pay the electric bill, actually have a choice when it comes to purchasing several hundred dollars worth of health and dental insurance each month.
These are the same people who seem to think that minimum wage jobs and part time employers actually provide affordable health benefits.
These are the same hysterical idiots who accused Obama of creating “death panels,” but would now let a man die because because they do not deem him worthy.
And these are the same hypocrites who would let a man die because he could not pay, and yet would mandate that a poor woman, who also cannot pay, bear an unwanted baby to term – and then complain about having to pay for its healthcare (yes, a poor woman, a rich woman can always find a safe abortion, whether it’s legal or not).
These are the same frightened assholes who embrace torture, so long as it’s done in Jesus name (and to others).
These are the folks who, like Michele Bachmann, seek and take government money in the form of subsides even though they don’t need it, but decry such government programs when others they deem unfit receive similar largess.
These are the same people who would hold a man accountable – to the death – for failing to foresee the consequences of being uninsured, but would not hold a corporation, even though it be legally defined as a “person,” to the same standard – because that would be bad for business.
These are the self-professed Christians who every single Sunday hear their prophet’s very explicit and unequivocal command to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and heal the sick, and would self-righteously let a man die because he could not pay – and these are the same folks who would cheer wildly at Rick Perry’s execution tally.
These are the very same folks, specifically including most of those standing on that stage Monday night, who would piously proclaim this a solely Christian nation and who have stated their desire to see the United States under Biblical law, and yet – and yet – seem never to have heard of the passage for which this post is named. Why is that, do you suppose?
Understand something, whether or not, the man in question, the one without insurance, is a lazy worthless bastard who has come to dire straits through his own shortsighted foolishness has no bearing whatsoever on either your responsibility or your morality.
Certainly, he might be a rotten piece of human jetsam, useless, worthless, a blot on society and parasite on mankind, in a coma because he was shot while robbing a liquor store – maybe he made a choice to be who and what he is and he is responsible for the consequences, or maybe he is just the victim of circumstance.
All of that changes not one iota the morality of letting him die because he cannot pay.
His immorality and irresponsible behavior has no bearing whatsoever on mine. And my moral compass says we don’t let a man die if we can prevent it.
Oh most certainly saving his worthless scumbag ass is hard. It’s downright galling. You goddamned right it is. You’ll get no argument from me on that score. Nevertheless.
If doing the right thing was easy, everybody would be doing it.
If responsibility was easy, we wouldn’t need government.
If morality was easy, well then God wouldn’t have to threaten Christians with hellfire and damnation now would He?
Two days ago, in Salt Lake City, a motorcyclist collided with a car. The wreck was horrific. The biker ended up trapped beneath the burning wreckage where he would mostly certainly have died an agonizing death.
A group of onlookers risked their own lives and lifted the burning car with their own hands and pulled the gravely injured man to safety.
No really, why?
Motorcycles are dangerous. More, the motorcyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet. By definition, he put himself in that position – yes he did, if he’d been driving a large safe SUV, he would never have ended up under that burning car. Maybe he couldn’t afford a safer vehicle because he’s unemployed or a lazy bastard. Maybe he just loved the thrill of riding a motorcycle. Maybe he should have taken public transportation, or walked, or stayed home. Whatever, it was his choice to ride that bike, and to do it without a helmet, to deliberately endanger his own life. Hell, maybe he was an asshole, maybe he beats his dog, and steals his neighbor’s newspaper, and parks in handicapped spots. Maybe he was a broke worthless bum.
Should those people have let that man die?
Well why not?
The morality of your action is not determined by the worthiness of others.
Likewise, your personal responsibility has absolutely nothing to do with anybody but you.
Yes, say the libertarians, exactly! Taking personal responsibility is my choice, my right. If I help somebody it should be because I choose to do so, not because the government makes me.
These people are arguing semantics. They preach personal responsibility, but look the other way when it comes to public responsibility. They want to enjoy the benefit of society without having to be accountable for it. The nation they so benefit from includes the poor and the lazy and the infirm and the uninsured, and they would avert their eyes from that and pretend that it is not their moral responsibility.
In the end, either you are the kind of person who would let a man die because he cannot pay, or you are not.
In the end, either you are the kind of person who would let the poor die because by your standards they are not worthy of society, you would let the hungry starve because by your measure they deserve it, you would let the ragged ones go unclothed because they have not earned their place in your world, in the end you are that guy, or you are not.
In the end, you either choose to participate in society and thereby help your fellow man, whether or not he is worthy, or you do not.
In the end, either you are the kind of citizen who takes public responsibility for civilization, i.e. you are your brother’s keeper – or you damned well are not.
It’s really just that simple.
Update: Comments for this post are now closed, they’re going to stay that way.
I turned commenting off last night, because with the sudden influx of trolls, illiterates, and frothingly rabid Paulistas, I was not willing to let the forum go unmoderated after I went to bed. This turned out to be a wise choice.
I’ll say this, if you want to incur the mindless wrath of a whole lot of very very angry fanatics, you can either shank Jesus right in the kidney or say something unflattering about “Dr Paul.”
Here’s a sample from this morning’s hate mail (all quotes are verbatim):
- Lazy, fat, certainly mindless
- HOW DARE YOU!
- You. Are. A. Fucking. Asshole!!!!!
- I demand to know who your agenda is.
- RON PAUL 2012! (repeat about 100X)
- What NOT MY COMMENT POSTED?! DID YOU DLETE MY COMMENT! YOU EVERY HERE OF THE 1ST AMENDMENT ASSHOLE
and my favorite so far:
- WHOS PAYING YOU???!!!! WHOS PAYING YOU??!!!
That was just from the first couple of emails. I deleted the rest without reading them. And as amusing as that is, I’ve got other shit to do today and don’t feel like devoting my weekend to weeding out the nonsense.
However, don’t despair, comments will be turned back on - after Ron Paul has been dead for at least a decade.
Really though, fine bunch of people you got there, Ron. Really, really, stellar group.