- Commenting Rules. Read these before you comment. Really. I'm not kidding.
- Sharing material from Stonekettle Station. Read this if you're thinking about reposting, linking, quoting, or just plain stealing material from Stonekettle Station. Seriously, read this before sharing, otherwise I will unleash the badgers.

- Stonekettle Station's Greatest Hits: The good stuff, it's in here!
- Reader Links: Sites recommended by readers, pimp your site today!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brother’s Keeper

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?

Don’t agree?

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.

Why?

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?

No?

Well why not?

Same thing.

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. 

108 comments:

  1. These used to be the same guys who freaked out about death panels. Turns out they're not worried about the deaths, just the panels.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I actually learned this lesson when I was a law student.

    You can try all you want to get people to get off welfare. You can give them job training and make them go on interviews. You can kick them out of a benefit program if they don't follow the rules or if they've been in the program for too long without any signs of future employment. You can make the application process for the next benefit program as unfriendly, difficult, and downright humiliating as possible.

    And plenty of people will get off welfare.

    But at the end of the day, there are still going to be some people who won't work the program, won't go on the job interviews, won't fill out the forms completely, and just won't jump through all the hoops you set up in order to make the system work.

    And you just have to ask yourself: Is society cool with letting these jerks die of cold or hunger on our streets? Or are we going to suck it up and give them enough to stay alive, even if they refuse to play by our rules?

    It's really that simple. Yes, these people are sponging off the system. And yes, I wish they'd play by the rules and work the programs and try to get work. But I don't consider whatever share of my tax dollars is going to keep them alive to be a waste of money. It is the cost I'm willing to pay to be able to look myself in the mirror and see a human being looking back.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just heartfelt, honest gratitude, Jim.

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Warner: It is the cost I'm willing to pay to be able to look myself in the mirror and see a human being looking back

    That. Exactly that and nothing less. Goddamned right.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very powerful post Jim. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The guy who raised the money for & encouraged Paul to run in 2008, died 2 weeks after the campaign ended. Pneumonia, $400,000 Medical debt. They do let others die for their principles

    Sadly, the Libertarian heart apparently does not include health care. The poor guy raised tens of millions of dollars and couldn’t afford the $300-$600 a month that COBRA medical insurance would have cost.

    Wall Street Journal at the time (2nd half)
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121521859205329713.html?mod=todays_us_page_one

    http://inthesetimes.com/duly-noted/entry/11975/ron_pauls_former_campaign_manager_died_uninsured_free/

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Not wanting to get all theological, but you're right in the disconnect - the problem with these "Christian" folks is that they will find fault with others for anything that befalls them - those folks "sinned" or weren't "right with God" so therefore they get what they deserve. I was talking with a pastor friend about this - where we were reflecting on folks who have missed the simple message of Christ - "love one another as I have loved you." And right there are examples of healing the sick - without compensation, without insurance, without anything. It's breaking a commandment to put other gods before me - and the gods these folks see in the mirror are, indeed, themselves. Luther says we sin when we look to ourselves for salvation. Libertarian and person of faith? Yes, false faith. Thanks always for you clear and well reasoned commentaries. Does the mind and heart good to read them.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. PS, Google signed me in under my institutional identity, while I am informed by my work, my statement was intended to be personal. And happens to be based on my Lutheran understanding of what a person is to do toward others.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Okay, one more time. Jim, I am so sorry I'm drooling all over your comments page with my inability to type in English. I blame my geochem homework for destroying what's left of my brain. Anyhoo.

    I think Blitzer actually did specify that this hypothetical guy had a good job and had just chosen to forgo buying insurance. Which was a completely transparent and pathetic attempt to softball the question, and makes absolutely no sense. Even if such an animal as the wealthy guy with no insurance existed, we'd still be obligated to take care of him. Because we're f*****g human beings, that's why.

    When I volunteered as an EMT-B, I took plenty of people to the hospital that I thought were drags on society. But I would never in a million years have left them on the street to die. Because one of the first things I learned in EMS is that we don't judge. You never know the whole story, and even if you do, you still have no right to condemn another human being to death out of your own whim or personal judgment.

    Because there's a name for someone like that. And I'm pretty sure it's "murderer."

    ReplyDelete
  12. The problem with the death panels is apparently the middleman. Just kill 'em all.

    Oh, and no one ever made a mistake about whether a person in a coma or is in an accident does or does not have insurance. Oops, sorry there.

    Dr. Phil

    ReplyDelete
  13. Chief, you hit it on the head this time. You know who pays for all the health care now, the insured bear the brunt through their insurance for the ones that are not covered by the government already, through medicare, medicaid, or whatever program there is that would cover them. That's why we need universal coverage. Too long have insurance companies demanded 30 to 40% profit just to handle the money that goes for you health care. Medicare runs for about 3%. Yet these same companies, in cahoots with the health care industry still run amok. It is truly time that we carry our brothers and sisters, no matter what the illness or disease. I'm an athiest, but I feel a love for all mankind that a Republican Christian cannot feel. They claim to follow Christ's teachings, but fail to follow them.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Tell your wife I asked her to give you a kiss and three fingers of fine Scotch.

    Awesome, man. You're just plain awesome.

    knittingbull

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have no words for this post- it is that amazing. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  16. All I can say is wow. What a powerful post. Almost made me cry. Background. I am a Canadain, and just got intrested in the US politics during the last Presidential election. It has been a real eye-opener. Oh, I should clarify that. I could not wrap my head around BUSH, and the whole war monger stuff. I got intrested in US politics when Pres. Obama was running. He, in my mind, was exactly what the US needed. Now, 2 plus years later, it is not to be. Oh, I do believe if Obama had the backing, what wonderful things could have been accomplised. Those darn Republicans. Yes, there was a time I did not think there was any diffrence between either party. But, as I found out, Oh yes there is!! To me it seems like there is a total hatred for the word 'socialism'. Heck, that is what I am for! I grew up supporting the NDP party in Canada. They were the ones that brought about the 'socialized' medicare in Canada. Just google 'Tommy Douglas'. A couple of years back when there was a write in contest of who was the best Canadian, he was the winner. Canadians would never give up their 'social' medicane. I do not pay anything for my medicare. (well, maybe thru taxes, but do not notice it.) As a FYI, a few years ago our son-in-law was in a car accident, was medi-vacted to a large city hospital, and spent 4 days in ICU before he died. Tramatic, yes, but there was no focus on the cost of his care. Not one cent had to be paid by the family. Are there no plitician 'block' in the US that can get something like this? Or, is it called 'Socialism". Nasty word to some, I would guess.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh Soory. Just read the post I did. Lost of spelling mistakes. My bad. Not reflective of Canadians! Just had a glass of wine. Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Excellent, thank you, Mr. Wright.
    nzforme: exactly.

    b

    ReplyDelete
  19. That is exactly how I view a society that works well. Working for the greater good is what makes us civilized. Libertarians make me angry because they enjoy the benefits of taxes, yet hate to pay their share. I appreciate the fact that our taxes pay for paramedics that can come to my house (quickly, because of roads paid for by taxes), help my daughter who is having a seizure, and take her to the hospital for treatment. I am sure a Libertarian would appreciate that as well. That is a safety net that Americans have come to depend on. Without the safety nets, everyone is on their own. Healthy countries have safety nets.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This shit just sends me into a cold fury. Probably having a lot to do with my brother's suicide and my medical problems but fury also for the poor saps who actually have it worse than me.

    Thank you Jim for cleaving through the knot of excuses.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This is powerful. Great post. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Yes. I AM my brother's keeper. Yes, I have the moral responsibility. I have a neighbor who, due to drug addiction, was going under. She had 3 kids. We gave her food, often when we had very little ourselves, because it didn't matter whether she was a addict or not - she and those kids needed to eat. Her situation did not end well, and she no longer lives near me...I don't know how to find her or how it turned out, but she and her kids did not go hungry on my watch. And that is all that matters. Period. Go live what you believe people. Which is what makes the people in this situation with Ron Paul so damn scary. They're living what they believe too, and consider it moral, never mind that it only bears lip service in name with true morality. They are not in league with Jesus, they're in league with the first man who said "Am I my brother's keeper." - Cain. Allowing someone to die when you can save them edges damn close to murder - split hairs all you want. So my taxes go to feed the poor and and the hungry and the lost in their own circumstances...oh, if only my taxes DID! Roads, yes. Firemen and other services, yes. Our military, and schools yes, and 1000 times yes, to feed the poor and help them whether or not they are worthy! NOT to line some politicians pocket with luxury or cover some boondoggle, or corporate driven lobby interest. The government that supposedly "serves" me does deserve a salary for their work, and I am glad to pay that...but not for them to get rich off my suffering. As for me - Haven't had insurance in almost 10 years (except for a brief period when my wife's job's insurance covered us both - and of course the company folded and she lost the position - where she works now doesn't offer insurance.Surprise, surprise.), and have had barely any employment during that time, either. I AM the individual Ron Paul and these people would let die. I am back in graduate school, hazarding my future on the concept that the debt I am running up in training for a new career will be offset by actually having work in that field. Its a total gamble. But I cannot sit here and do nothing. And I will always pay it forward, with my whole life. And it kills me inside that the system is rigged so that immoral individuals like Ron Paul can run for office, and hold the future of our children and grandchildren hostage to the miserable narrow vision they have of the world. Damn, I think you hit my "soapbox button". Thanks again, for clearly stating what needs to be said.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Your telling it like it is, Chief! Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  24. One common misconception I run into repeatedly is the idea that if you have a job, everything is cool.

    Apparently, to some people, a job automatically equals health insurance, plus enough money to live the way people think you should. If you have a job, you don't need to worry about your bills, 'cause you have enough money to pay them. If you have a job, of COURSE you have adequate health insurance. If you have a job, you have money for anything you want or need.

    A job is magic...did you know that?

    Maybe that's true, in that place where every story starts with "Once upon a time..."

    Unfortunately, in the reality I live in a job doesn't magically confer any of those things. My husband is a teacher, so we have the much-vaunted state employee benefit plan. By the time they take everything out (including almost 25% of his gross pay for health insurance), the amount actually deposited in our account is pitiful. I work full time, but for a very small company that doesn't provide any benefits at all (except that I love my job, and they are unbelievably understanding about my absences to take care of our special-needs son).

    Speaking of our son, don't even get me started on our insurance company and their strong desire not to cover his treatment, or to cover very little and leave us holding the bill. Of course, the other part of the fairy tale is that if you have health insurance your financial concerns are non-existent.

    The only people who get to believe that fairy tale are the people who've never lived the reality. That's a significantly small percentage of the population...but it also happens to be the same population with the loudest voice and the most money to put behind it.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thank you for the education. Seriously. A friend turned me on to your blog. I deeply appreciate you for sticking it out there and keeping [ignorant] me informed. I never was a Ron Paul fan, but this is beyond the pale. Going along to satisfy the mob is precisely why I do NOT vote for a large majority of candidates. Having the courage - the moral courage - to do the right thing by your fellow human being sometimes may mean eating a-- sandwiches.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Always on the mark. Thanks...

    ReplyDelete
  27. @ Jim

    While I've made the comment that I need to be able to look in a mirror some place on Facebook yesterday, in this context.

    This time it wasn't me, but nzforme, I just got here.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I agree 99.9%. There are Libertarians on the left too. Some call us Socialists.

    ReplyDelete
  29. What a perfect column. Thank you for writing it!
    In their attempts to paint the non-insured as "asking for it" the Libertarians and Republicans deny the reality that some people who want insurance cannot buy it because the insurance companies refuse to cover them, AT ANY COST.

    Which might be better than the insurance companies who take your premium dollars and then deny coverage after you get sick.

    As the parent of a twenty-something, who is a hard working, productive member of society, with a JOB, who cannot get insurance due to a pre-existing condition that developed through no fault of his own, I am angry at the rhetoric. (Phew, run on sentence, I know!)

    Luckily, he has a great wife who recently took a job with a university that has a great teaching hospital and they will insure him. But we went through years of hell worrying once he became ineligible to be covered under my husband's policy.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thank you.

    I'm an EMT with a Volunteer Company, and I can't count the number of times I have either made the billing paperwork vanish, or skipped it entirely, because the patient told me they couldn't afford to go to the hospital for their heart condition.

    An ambulance ride isn't much, and I sleep better at night.

    --EMT Hawk

    ReplyDelete
  31. Megan is right.

    Cath is right.

    John Kahler is right.

    NC Narrator is right.

    Excellent post, Jim.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Jim: I'll have to re-read this when I have more time and I may comment here or use it as an excuse to have something to write about at Giant Midgets. The short version would be that Paul's full response, lost in the hubbub, actually wasn't that callous but was naive and dated: he said that as a doctor he never turned anyone away and the hospitals and charities took people in; you call this weaseling, but I think it was (in fact) sincere and stupid. Problem (a) being that society no longer functions the way it did in 1920 or whenever Paul started practicing medicine and the roles of churches, charities and hospitals have regressed or evolved, depending; problem (b) being (as many have noted in criticizing Paul for what he actually said versus the despicable crowd reaction) that what he proposes is actually a factor in medical costs being out of control, since what actually happens in the real world is hospitals don't turn people away and third-party charities don't foot the bills, either, so the hospitals pass the costs on to other, insured patients, who then pass the costs back to the insureds. Also (c) there's a whole freedom of conscience issue when you're talking about the roles of religious charities in providing secular services to a diverse society, but that's almost a whole 'nother thing and not even the dumbest part of Paul's comment.

    That may be all I say about it or I may come back to it here or over at my place, depending on how the day goes.

    -----

    @nzforme:

    There's also this: I have this sort of tongue-in-cheek thing I call "welfare for the rest of us", by which I mean that there are some people who ought to be on the dole because, honestly, that's the best place for them. They don't have it together enough to push a mop, and if that's what you made them do, they'd probably find a way to mess it up (not deliberately, probably) and someone would get hurt. It's a little cruel to say this, I know. But you don't really want to trust them with anything important (or possibly, even, with anything unimportant), and you can't let them starve (unless you're a monster; and, not that it matters, but a lot of these folks really are basically good people you wouldn't want anything bad to happen to), so maybe it's sensible and better for everybody if we all chip in a nickel or two to give them a nice, happy, please-don't-touch-anything-stay-over-there life if we can; I certainly don't mind anteing up.

    To me, that's a part of the social safety net. It's not just taking care of people who can get back on their feet until they get back on their feet, and it's not just taking care of the helpless (e.g. children, the elderly, the infirm); there's also merit in taking care of the hapless, because it just works out better for everybody that way, and not just them.

    My two cents on that, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Once again you've said everything I've been wanting to say, but so much better than I ever could.

    I don't remember where I learned this, but long ago I read that the character of a man (read person or nation here, please) can be discerned by his treatment of children, the elderly and the unfortunate. By extension...what can be said of the character of the Tea Party as a whole, the GOP or the current crop of Republican candidates? A reminder to all the supposed Christians in their midst...Jesus said "Inasmuch as ye do it to the least of these, ye do it to me." So they'd be willing to let Jesus die simply because he had no insurance?

    He didn't say "to the deserving". He said "to the LEAST, the most undeserving, smallest, most vulnerable". What part of that is so hard to understand and to follow? Am I being too cynical if I think that maybe they only parade their Christian principles for convenience or to win an election?

    ReplyDelete
  34. Jim, thank you for writing this and lifting my spirits. I was feeling really depressed after listening to those individuals in the audienced who cheered to let the man die and in the previous debate when some individuals applauded about all the executions Perry had carried out. I was thinking what has happened to my Country? I truly was ready to give up on politics completely but your comments made me realize there are still good people out there who care about others.c You have made my day much brighter and restored my faith in my fellow country men. Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Great Zeus's ghost, this is terrific.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I don't know what else there is to be said than what others already have, but I'll add to the chorus, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  37. During the 80's and early 90's, philosophical contortionists tied themselves into knots debating attitudes about "innocent" AIDS patients vs. those nasty people who got what they deserved for putting things (needles and penises) where they don't belong. We seem to have gotten over that.

    When an ambulance rolls into an Emergency Room with a guy leaking stuff from a bunch of new holes the cops gave him, they don't spend a great deal of time debating what he does or doesn't deserve. (I'm sure the temptation is there, but I'm pretty sure that bit of drama only really plays out on Prime Time TV.)

    If the guy deserves to be dead, there are really other venues besides a hospital for that discussion. Questioning whether or not anybody deserves health care is pretty fucking heinous.
    -----------
    P.S. If these Tea Party assholes want to have a discussion about the level of health care that ought to be available to everyone, that might be a debate worth having. I'm not sure where the line ought to be drawn, but no, I don't think society ever had a responsibility to fly Christiaan Barnard in for every critical cardiac patient

    ReplyDelete
  38. Good morning Jim,

    Long time listener, first time caller. (Bad joke, I know)

    By Paul's own admission, Churches and charities are not enough. A former campaign chairman and close friend of Paul's died of pneumonia a couple years ago leaving a $400,000+ medical bill. Paul said they were able to raise $50,000. This is a presidential candidate we are talking here. $50,000 vs. $400,000 bill. Disconnect.

    The sad thing is if he would have had insurance (he was denied for pre-existing conditions)he probably would have gone to the doctor sooner and wouldn't have had full blown pneumonia.

    Your post and a line from Guns 'N Roses sums up libertarianism to me: "You can have anything you want but but you better not take it from me."

    ReplyDelete
  39. Read it again at a more-relaxed pace, Jim, and discovered I wouldn't have anything else to add past my first comment. Good work, man.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Ron Paul as the person asked the question of had the prime responsibility, but any one of those seven sanctimonious sh-theads should have broken in and given that audience an old fashioned fire and brim stone sermon.

    The chances of there not being an independent recorder on each camera feed in that hall are nil, it costs nothing. Everything is recorded these days. Those were all invited guests and I would bet it was assigned seating, first come first served in that group would not have been safe.

    I'm wondering when some bright young thing at CNN is going to put the two together and start publishing stills, with time code and names.

    I would have posted sooner, but was putting up Bread and Butter pickles against the winter. I'll be putting the recipe up with pictures later today or tomorrow here

    ReplyDelete
  41. Link didn't post http://blog.charcuteire.com/

    ReplyDelete
  42. Joseph S. Denny was a family friend who immigrated to this country from Poland circa WWII. Born Sept. 15, 1914, died in Orange County, CA Sept. 17, 2004, after a successful career as an aerospace engineer.

    We used to have spirited debates. Me, the Reagan Republican with Libertarian leanings. Him, the classical Liberal.

    In 1996, at age 82, he summed-up his entire philosophy and all his life-lessons into 10 rules for living. I still have them.

    Rule #5: Human life is precious.

    Rule #6: I am my brother's keeper.

    Rule #7: We are only as strong as the weakest among us.

    ReplyDelete
  43. The "let charities handle it" argument is a not a mistake, but a lie.

    They argue that we have a more than a trillion dollars per year in entitlements in the budget and then say let charities handle it. Charities are funded largely by tax payers. If these payers complain about the high percentage of income they pay in taxes, what makes Ron Paul think they will pay the same amount, only to charities, once their taxes are cut? That is the argument he is making, which is logically absurd.

    If people did not fund the entitlements through charitable donation, then obviously the services could not longer be provided. Sense he argues charities could cover it, he is arguing that the tax cuts people got would immediately be rerouted to charity, else the entitlements would be unfunded. It makes one wonder, why even change what we are currently doing? He obviously thinks it would be no real-world difference in anyone's lives.


    He is lying.

    ReplyDelete
  44. @Nick from O.C.--what are the rest of the rules? I love the ones that you posted so far.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Exceptional post, Jim! One of the most bizarre elements of health care for the insured versus the uninsured is that the uninsured generally are charged higher prices by providers than are the insurance companies of the insured - for the same medical care. Same goes for prescription medications. Insurance companies negotiate lower prices with providers and base their reimbursement on those negotiated rates. In simplest terms, the uninsured are de facto asked to subsidize medical care for the insured. How screwed is that?

    Having been uninsured for a while in between graduate school and job, I can attest that even finding a provider willing to see me without insurance (in the Bay Area in California) was difficult. Almost their first question was "do you have insurance" and when I said no, most refused to see me even though I offered to pay up front. This whole situation is a national disgrace.

    ReplyDelete
  46. This is absolutely the best one so far, Jim--even better than that "other" one that went totally viral. Excellent job, sir. Fanned, faved and shared.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Thanks. I guess Ron Paul inspires me.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Reading this at lunch, I realized I don't have enough time to add the insurance nightmares I deal with every day for our clients. I'll post a thoughtful reply tonight when I get home. There are so many angles and everyone angling to get out of helping anyone...even if it is their job!!

    ReplyDelete
  49. Asa a poor, uninsured gay man, THANK YOU!! If you EVER run for an office I can vote for, you have my vote!!

    ReplyDelete
  50. Let the charities do it... hmm.

    It seems that Christian charities had about 1,900 years to do it before western governments stepped in.

    Charities failed miserably because all they could really purchase with the pennies tossed to them by the elites were band-aids for their masters' consciences.

    As someone who has spent a large portion of his adult life as a development officer for non-profits, let me tell you the dirty little secret they teach you in fund-raising seminars: Fund-raising is never about the recipient. It's about the donor.

    You've got to give him "a warm fuzzy" feeling and that is accomplished best by making him feel he's a good person doing a good thing.

    It's about assuring him that he's a decent person in spite of all those corpses behind him, that he's not a hideous blood sucking monster. It's so his wife can sleep well at night because they've given money so that sweet little kid in the picture can go see Shamu next week - never mind that we laid dad off and shipped his job to the Phillipines.

    Not all my fund-raising gigs were like that, but some were. And most charities are staffed by good hearted, well meaning people. But charities will never succeed in solving social problems, because that is not their primary purpose. Their underlying social function is to make elite donors feel good about themselves. Trying to solve the problem is a side issue for the front-line staff.

    ReplyDelete
  51. That may be one of the best things I've ever read. You speak the truth.
    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  52. Short-term, sure, it feels good to announce that of course you would choose to save some hypothetical person who needed saving.

    Long-term, though... I would hope we're starting to be able to envision how the system is going to collapse if we continue to take more and more from the people who contribute to society in order to hand it to those who don't.

    In other words, the safety net can only hold so many before it breaks and drops everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Can I print this out and mail it to my parents? (I'm totally serious) Because this is damn well said.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Oh thank you! I've been trying (and failing) to make this point for years. I'm posting a link to my google+ page and I've added your blog to my links.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Thanks for the great read Jim. Loved it.

    ReplyDelete
  56. @Dollerhide, you'll note from the previous comments that for a lot of people, it's a bit more than "hypothetical."

    However, I don't disagree with your point, i.e. that the system can only be stretched so far, that the safety net can only hold so many before it snaps. In fact, I'll go further and say that, as a military man I don't disagree in principle with the general libertarian concept of personal responsibility (though as noted in the post, I don't think you can hang a functioning economy solely on that idea without law and regulation as a rather large number of libertarians seem to think). And I certainly agree that that system, such as it is, needs overhaul and redesign. You'll note that the post doesn't say that we don't need to fix things.

    But here's the thing, Dollerhide, we tried that - and instead of participating, conservatives and libertarians hysterically screamed "Death panels! Soylent Green! Socialism!" and became petulant obstructionists at every turn. Some have built entire careers from obstructionism (and yes, I realize that the left is also guilty of their own version of obstructionism - I'm old enough to have suffered through the reign of terror that was William Proxmire).

    And so, here we are.

    But wait, it gets better, because right now, instead of fixing systems that are working pretty well and require only minor tinkering, say like Social Security, we're back to hysteria and sound bites and the solution is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Socialism! Nazis! Obama is the Anti-christ! Liberals hate America! Ponzi Scheme! Woooo Woooo!

    I'd also note that when it comes to the church fueled charity Ron Paul thinks will fix everything: Well I listened to a news story today about a bunch of monks who have spent millions and the last 15 years making an Illuminated Bible. I have to wonder how many folks they could have fed and clothed and healed if they'd spent as much time doing what their prophet commanded them to do instead of making pretty pictures out of gold leaf. Of course, this is nothing new, the poor have also squatted in the mud beneath the great spires of the church. Note that I don't just blame the church, I have the same thoughts everytime I see an "Extreme Food Eating Contest" on TV.

    ________________________

    @deadcat. Of course.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Jim,

    Was going to quote my favourite parts of this before responding, but there were too many!

    Reminds me of the parable Republican Jesus told about this guy who was personally irresponsible and got beaten up when venturing on the wrong side of the tracks.

    He was severely injured and in need of help, but it was after all his own fault for venturing into a depressed neighbourhood without ensuring his own personal safety and/or rapid response unit. Civic and governmental leaders on the scene knew it wasn't their job to intervene because that would encourage feckless bleeding (unplanned exsanguination doesn't count as 'giving something back').

    So they left it up to private charity to deal with the schmo, which worked.* Job done.

    Trying to remember the question the Republican candidate asked Republican Jesus to start the story. Oh yes: 'how can I ensure only people I'd be happy hanging around with can be called my neighbour?'


    *even if it was run by furriners, but they let that slide for once.

    ReplyDelete
  58. @Dollerhide at 9:58AM:
    I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I'm going to grant that you may be uninformed instead of one of the Libertarian "I've got mine- fuck you!" crowd. So, let's educate you to bring you up to speed.

    The claim that covering everyone would be too expensive is a lie. Let's assume you really believe this claim and are not knowingly lying. The reality is that the USA spends twice as much per person on health costs as the next most expensive developed (Western industrialized) country. The reality is that the USA is somewhere near the bottom of the same set of countries in health results. Our life expectancy, rate of infant mortality, rates of disease, and rates of death are pretty bad when compared with other countries in an absolute sense, and even worse when put into cost vs. benefit terms.

    The claim that we need multiple private insurance companies is a lie. Our redundant insurance system puts in multiple layers of inefficiency and overhead cost, making it much more expensive than any other system. Even countries with thriving private health insurers and private doctors under a "socialized" system pay less than half of what we do. We could cover more (or all) people in the USA for roughly half to 3/4 of current medical expenses if we gave up our fetish for a private system and switched to a single-payer plan. It would also allow us to put a cap on the rate of increase of medical expenses (10% annual medical inflation vs. 3% inflation overall).

    The claim that malpractice is a major cost is a lie. Malpractice insurance rates are the same in states with malpractice caps as in neighboring states with no caps. Costs to doctors and patients did not go down after the caps were passed.

    The claim that it would be too expensive to provide medical care to everyone is a lie. Emergency rooms have to take everyone- and this is the most expensive care in the hospital. Preventive care is much much cheaper.

    The claim that pharmaceutical companies would move out or fail or research & development would die if we capped their costs is a big lie. They make plenty of money in countries that limit drug costs. Big Pharma spends much more on advertising, free samples, and sales pitches to doctors than they do on R&D. They spend almost as much on executive bonuses and administration as they do on R&D, so they have plenty of room to cut costs. Even so, about 3/4 of the top 50 blockbuster drugs were developed at the National Institutes of Health and at academic institutions. (Oh noes, socialized research! It works.) So much for the critical nature of Big Pharma R&D. They don't need to worry about their profits, however, because the GOP put into law that Medicare is not allowed to negotiate drug prices. Insurance companies negotiate drug prices. So does the Veteran's Administration and other government agencies, but Medicare Part D isn't even allowed to use those reduced prices. Amazing how that works. More later on that- reaching word limit on posts.

    "bejamied" - How CWO Jim W. dresses to write his blogs. (Yeah, I'm risking total banning just for word verification humor, but it was so worth it.)

    ReplyDelete
  59. @Dollerhide at 9:58AM: (part 2 of 2, if Jim hasn't hunted me down)

    Yes, our medical care is excellent, IF you can afford it, but more and more people can not. There are almost 50 million uninsured in the USA. Even if you have insurance, you spend more time on paperwork than you do in seeing the doctor. I've been fighting my insurance company for the last 4 months because they keep denying _all_ claims for my son (6 so far), even to see his primary care physician. They are saying he has other insurance, but he doesn't. Insurance companies have whole legal departments making sure you get the least amount of medical care, i.e. maximizing their profits. (Premiums - Medical Care = Profits) That's about as simple as it gets.

    So why are politicians defending a broken system? The Tea Partiers, Republicans, and Libertarians have been fighting tooth and nail to keep the worst system... Insurance and pharmaceutical companies make major profits, and major campaign contributions, so they've bought protection. And the guy who put Medicare Part D no-drug-price-negotiation into law (Tauzin, R-La.) later went to work as the head of the PhRMA pharmaceutical industry lobby for a couple of million a year... but I'm sure that's just a big coincidence.

    So, Dollerhide, now that you have some facts instead of agitprop, where do you stand? I'm betting on some variation of "I've got mine- fuck you." but I'm willing to be surprised.
    regards,
    Jerry A.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Excellent post. I had to share it.
    M from MD

    ReplyDelete
  61. Sing it, brother Jim! Amen!

    We've paid for our son's medical insurance since he turned 19. He's 25 now. He's been steadily employed since he was 18, often working 6-7 days a week at two jobs just to barely survive. There is no way he can afford health insurance because even working as much as he does, he can't even afford any extras beyond the most basic for food, shelter, and utilities. Our daughter has worked since she was 15-years-old, and even with a college degree and working more than full-time, paying for her healthcare insurance out of her pocket is really difficult and it may be only a matter of time before she has to give it up. That's the economy our children entered.

    Regence-BlueCross has been taking in over $3000.00 a year from us for our son's health insurance for six years, and we waste our money on it even though he rarely uses it (being young and healthy overall) because if something really bad befalls him, we would be bankrupted trying to save him.

    BlueCross/Regence-BlueCross is non-profit, but is sitting on billions of dollars more than is legally required for their backup stash. Despite its rolling in dough, and our son's minimal use of his insurance, they've raised the price regularly and without explanation. For-profit insurance companies do the same and also are making billions in profit even as they are jacking up prices to make "Obama Care" look bad to the public.

    The assumption that people who need help are undeserving in some way is abhorrent.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Jim, I certainly agree that we share responsibility for one another. When we fail to care for one another, it is not simply a moral failure on our part, rather it is a problem of understanding, of myopia, a lack of insight into the nature of reality. The commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself", more than just a moral injunction, has ontological significance which serves as the basis for morality. My 'self' and my neighbor share an inter-beingness. We are members of one another. I share, to some relative degree, the effects of whatever happens to my neighbor. Violence committed against one, is violence against all.

    Your basic premise (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?) is based on what Walter Wink has described as "The Myth of Redemptive Violence". "Government" is that entity that claims to have a monopoly on the use of violence. It's power operates in the mode of domination and control. Using the power of government to solve social problems creates an inverse effect to what was intended. This should be obvious when we look at the results of the government's "Wars" against Poverty, Drugs, and Terrorists.

    There is much to be valued in your comments. But your solution has been tried and found wanting - as has Ron Paul's Libertarian-ism. All that I can see that you've accomplished by your writing efforts is to add to the destructive polarization of our society. Rather than continuing to divide the world into "those who are right because they think like me" and "those who are wrong because they don't", how about beginning again, trusting that others are sincere in their desire to create a better world and that everyone's perspective is not totally distorted?

    ReplyDelete
  63. PantaRhea,

    How exactly does one go about calling evil, evil (and good, good) without dividing people in some way?

    Jim hasn't offered any kind of solution here, he's just called people out on their crap: a necessary prelude to creating a less crappy reality. And his post here isn't right because it's Jim that holds the opinion; it's because it's true.

    People - including me - hate being called out on their crap. Still doesn't mean it doesn't need doing.

    ReplyDelete
  64. I wondered how long that was going to take. I figured roughly 60 comments based on previous experience, and there it is, right on cue.

    Rather than continuing to divide the world into "those who are right because they think like me" and "those who are wrong because they don't", how about beginning again, trusting that others are sincere in their desire to create a better world and that everyone's perspective is not totally distorted?

    Sure, PantaRhea, it's a deal. You go first. What I "accomplish" or don't with my life is my business. My goals are my own, you don't get a vote.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Jim:

    A couple months ago I was admitted to a hospital and was held there for eight days while they were trying to sort out what was wrong. Now nearing my mid-eighties, I have a history exceeding 50 years of buying medical insurance and for the past 45 years have paid into Medicare too. During my whole life I have used medical services rarely and even paid for most office visits out of pocket, thinking I was saving my medical insurance plans only for major medical problems. And my recent stay was a major medical problem

    Now two months later the bills are coming in. Because of my age, Medicare is my major provider and they have set amounts for each procedure followed up by my supplemental medical payments that took care of much of the remainder. But there is also a portion of the bill that is covered by neither and the bills just haven’t arrived yet. Since the total cost is lingering somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 thousand dollars about 8-10% still seems to be outstanding so I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    Since my insurance payments over all these years far exceed the total cost of my recent stay I don’t feel that I should be apprehensive about the cost and I am perfectly willing to make up the shortfall out of personal savings. It’s just one of these premiums for having lived too damn long.

    I consider myself to be very fortunate and wish that everyone could have the same level of medical attention that I’ve had during the past couple months. But I have to admit that I’m staggered by the cost and it causes a brain freeze when I try to think about how people without the sort of resources I have cover their medical bills. There has to be a better way to do this.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Jim:

    A couple months ago I was admitted to a hospital and was held there for eight days while they were trying to sort out what was wrong. Now nearing my mid-eighties, I have a history exceeding 50 years of buying medical insurance and for the past 45 years have paid into Medicare too. During my whole life I have used medical services rarely and even paid for most office visits out of pocket, thinking I was saving my medical insurance plans only for major medical problems. And my recent stay was a major medical problem

    Now two months later the bills are coming in. Because of my age, Medicare is my major provider and they have set amounts for each procedure followed up by my supplemental medical payments that took care of much of the remainder. But there is also a portion of the bill that is covered by neither and the bills just haven’t arrived yet. Since the total cost is lingering somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 thousand dollars about 8-10% still seems to be outstanding so I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    Since my insurance payments over all these years far exceed the total cost of my recent stay I don’t feel that I should be apprehensive about the cost and I am perfectly willing to make up the shortfall out of personal savings. It’s just one of these premiums for having lived too damn long.

    I consider myself to be very fortunate and wish that everyone could have the same level of medical attention that I’ve had during the past couple months. But I have to admit that I’m staggered by the cost and it causes a brain freeze when I try to think about how people without the sort of resources I have cover their medical bills. There has to be a better way to do this.

    ReplyDelete
  67. The fundamental truth is that these people, these right-wing Libertarian and teabagger types, aren't human beings, because they lack the most fundamental of human attributes: compassion. They may pretend to be human. They may even have the external attributes of human beings. But what they are, actually, are lizard people from planet Sociopath. Like all lizard people, they don't see a person when they view someone who is not also a lizard person. They see meat. They see red meat. And they will do whatever it takes, engage in whatever viciousness it takes, no matter at what cost to themselves, to torture and torment those who they view as prey.

    The question I have is, how did all these lizard people get here without anybody noticing their spaceships arriving from Planet Sociopath? Must have been long, long time ago, and it's only just now that they're coming out and letting their true nature be known...

    - Badtux the "They *can't* be human, can they?" Penguin

    ReplyDelete
  68. Will you PLEASE run for President??? You have to be one of THE MOST succinct, down-to-earth writers who blows all the smoke away. There is no room for anyone to hide.

    ReplyDelete
  69. @PantaRhea: the basic flaw in your premise is that in a democracy or republic, the people and the government are (at least in principle) the same entity. If government has a monopoly on violence, it's only because the People cede that power to it in exchange for order, tranquility and the general welfare.

    In practice, of course, things get thornier and one can have a lengthy debate over the degree to which a particular democracy is in fact an oligarchy, plutocracy, kleptocracy, etc., or is otherwise dysfunctional. But one of the problems with American libertarians is that they start with a fundamental mistrust of a government that is comprised of themselves--indeed, in the case of Representative Ron Paul, who is attempting to become President Ron Paul, the mistrust of government must be called either self-loathing or (more plausibly) rank hypocrisy.

    To be fair, you yourself say Paul's libertarianism has been found wanting. Still, your post more-or-less starts from this untenable position regarding most modern, Western governments. If we start from the Enlightenment principle that legitimate governments exist with the consent of the governed, one must conclude that a government's supposed monopoly on force is the result of either (1) consent or (2) illegitimacy. In the former case, the problem with failed policies like the War On Drugs isn't a consequence of government doing what it's been authorized to do, but rather a consequence of government doing what it's been authorized to do badly--and therefore a failure of the governed to take the necessary steps to fix their government. In the latter case, one is presumably (a) advocating revolution (whether violent or relatively peaceful) to overthrow a tyranny and (b) will still be facing the proper use of the powers delegated to the government once a legitimate government is created (unless one is pushing for anarchy, in which case one is almost certainly stupid, insane, and/or childish).

    ReplyDelete
  70. Oh, also, PantaRhea: your claim that "Using the power of government to solve social problems creates an inverse effect to what was intended" is obvious from citing three notoriously failed or dysfunctional policies is anything but obvious. You have a rhetorical flourish intended to mobilize public action against a moving target ("Poverty") which has resulted in a mix of successful and failed social programs; a similar rhetorical flourish that has addressed a public health problem as a criminalization issue (drugs) with some procedural success but a slew of unintended consequences (many of them worse than the original problems); and a truly stupid rhetorical flourish inspired by the first two that in many respects combines the worst things about the other two (terror is a moving target--what constitutes "terrorism" and when--and criminal law issues are being treated as military issues and military issues treated as criminal law concerns with little rationality and a great deal of emotionality). Meanwhile, governmental use of "force" has produced cleaner air and water; workplace safety regulations, improved equality of access to education for women and minorities; social safety nets by way of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security (programs whose provisions of services have largely been positive, though the solvency of each is a real or--in the case of Social Security--imagined issue), and other obvious, measurable, discernible improvements to a society over its polluted, corrupt, segregated, turn-of-the-20th-Century earlier self. The obvious fact is that a number of governmental projects, such as initiatives in environmental and labor law, have been so successful that we've forgotten that our great-grandparents may very well have had to work sixty to seventy-two hours a week in a poisoned cave (literally or figuratively) that might collapse and/or burn at any time, and for no reward but low wages and poor health. Come to think of it, I think our host had some fine things to say about that particular subject a week-and-a-half ago. Anyway, just so you know: your "obvious", isn't.

    ReplyDelete
  71. What troubles me is how hard I try being true to my soul, a peaceful loving individual, Libertarians and Republicans present arguments supporting their stance on issues I become raged and ever so much closer to going postal on one of these unsuspecting selfish bastards!!.

    ReplyDelete
  72. I'm for single payer health care. It would be the sensible thing to do, and it may happen someday in the U.S. "Medicare for All" is the slogan, and it could be done.

    One could say, and our Founding Fathers did say something much like: Governments derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed, and their purpose is to promote the general welfare.

    On the other hand, in the world of how things actually happen, there's a continuum, not a clear-cut dichotomy, between criminal conspiracies and legitimate authority. As Krishna said, humans have both divine and demonic tendencies. Institutional safeguards can be drawn up, but laws and regulations don't enforce themselves. A couple years ago I visited Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, and during the guided tour we, the tourists, were asked if we had any questions. I didn't ask one. But if I went there again, I might ask: "The Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war. When was the last time it did so?"

    My point being that George W. Bush was in practice right - the Constitution is just a piece of paper. And the common good is just empty words if not backed up by action.

    May the Creative Forces of the Universe stand beside us (metaphorically speaking) and guide us through the Night with the Light from Above.

    ReplyDelete
  73. I'm for single payer health care. It would be the sensible thing to do, and it may happen someday in the U.S. "Medicare for All" is the slogan, and it could be done.

    One could say, and our Founding Fathers did say something much like: Governments derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed, and their purpose is to promote the general welfare.

    On the other hand, in the world of how things actually happen, there's a continuum, not a clear-cut dichotomy, between criminal conspiracies and legitimate authority. As Krishna said, humans have both divine and demonic tendencies. Institutional safeguards can be drawn up, but laws and regulations don't enforce themselves. A couple years ago I visited Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, and during the guided tour we, the tourists, were asked if we had any questions. I didn't ask one. But if I went there again, I might ask: "The Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war. When was the last time it did so?"

    My point being that George W. Bush was in practice right - the Constitution is just a piece of paper. And the common good is just empty words if not backed up by action.

    May the Creative Forces of the Universe stand beside us (metaphorically speaking) and guide us through the Night with the Light from Above.

    ReplyDelete
  74. On the same day I read about the Ron Paul/audience response to this health insurance question and read infuriating NYTimes comments related to Somalian famine victims (i.e. “those people” had too many babies and/or didn’t manage their soil correctly so why should we help them).

    Presumably these are very similar responses from two different sides of the political spectrum. Both have this veneer of “what’s fair” but they don’t look into the larger issues related to the victim’s choice (could the 30 year old choose to purchase insurance, could the Somalian woman really choose not to have sex and/or have the child, could Somalian farmers choose to remedy widespread resource degradation). In the end both are morally bankrupt.

    Anyhow, you have a new reader - I especially liked this: "The morality of your action is not determined by the worthiness of others."

    ReplyDelete
  75. @sibusisodan,

    I agree. Calling some people evil and others good is an excellent way to divide people. I'm not so sure that creating division is a goal with positive value.

    Do you think something could be "true" even though you don't believe it is true?

    ReplyDelete
  76. !@PantaRhea So you're sayin' that the folks who planned and executed The Holocaust shouldn't be called evil? What about the KKK goons who murdered four little girls in Birmingham on September 15, 1963, you're saying we shouldn't call them evil? What *should* we call Americans who demand the death of their fellow Americans? "Nice"?

    Words have meaning. And I say that if you demand the death of your fellow Americans for the crime of not being "worthy" in *any* sense (whether race, socio-economic status, mental health, or even just being stupid), there isn't a word that has the correct meaning *OTHER* than the word "evil". If you got a better word, fork it over. But I ain't seein' one.

    - Badtux the "Calling evil what it is" Penguin

    ReplyDelete
  77. PantaRhea, can't decide if you're deliberately misunderstanding my post? Division as an end in itself is not desirable. I didn't imply that. Neither did Jim.

    But if you're in a situation where division already exists, describing the situation - as Jim does - can't exacerbate things, if done honestly. A turd doesn't smell worse simply because I call it a turd.

    You seem to imply that one shouldn't tell the truth (as one perceives it, I'll grant you that) because it forments division and division is bad.

    This is arse about face. Truth-telling does not create division. It reveals divisions that are already implicit. In that way it's helpful & necessary.

    You'll have to engage with the central thrust of the argument rather than gently misunderstanding around the edges if you want to explore this further.

    ReplyDelete
  78. @BadTux: I'm kind'a trying to eliminate "should" language from my thoughts and speech, so, no,(in answer to your question) I'm NOT sayin' that the folks who planned and "executed The Holocaust shouldn't be called evil

    I describe "evil" as an act or an event that, all things considered, would have been better if another possibility had been actualized instead. "Folks" consist of a series of events, some of which, after seeing the effects, we might describe as "evil".

    ReplyDelete
  79. @PantaRhea , you still didn't answer my question. What word do I use to describe people who call for the death of my fellow Americans, if "evil" is not the appropriate word to use?

    ReplyDelete
  80. You said:

    "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."

    That is not what Ron Paul said. He said we never turned anyone away from the hospital. That means people who come in with coughs and cannot sleep, people who come in to have splinters removed, people who come in with ankle sprains and nose bleeds - all are treated, and at enormous expense for noncritical or even serious conditions.

    David

    ReplyDelete
  81. Anonymous, actually the incremental costs of treating a splinter at the ER are minimal. The facilities have to be there for real emergencies. The doctors have to be there for real emergencies. That's 95% of the costs of the ER right there -- the facilities and the doctors -- and they're going to be there whether the dude with the splinter comes through the ER doors or not. Note that the nurses do triage to keep the splinter dood from interfering with real emergencies, he's going to be seen when the doctors and facilities are otherwise not being utilized, not when there's real emergencies to handle.

    In short, the problem with ER care is not the *cost* of ER care, it's the fact that it's *poor quality* care since there's no followup (e.g., an ER doctor may give you three prescriptions, but if you can't afford to fill them, you'll stay sick). Saying we need to kill our fellow Americans if they don't have health insurance because the cost of emergency care is so outrageous ignores the fact that ER care is actually amazingly cost-effective on an incremental cost basis, the incremental costs basically being just normal medical supplies that hospitals get in bulk for cheap.

    - Badtux the Healthcare Economics Penguin
    (Yes, I did a series of healthcare economics posts that touched on this issue back in 2009, with actual numbers showing that ER care wasn't what was causing the run-up of healthcare costs, but hey, what use are actual numbers when we have deeply-held prejudices to uphold, right?)

    ReplyDelete
  82. I'd like to audition as your superhero sidekick. I'd be the bumbling doofus who comes in and cleans up after you kick a bunch of righteous ass, happily humming "what shall we do with the drunken sailor?" while sweeping up Chuck Noris teeth from the floor . . .

    ReplyDelete
  83. Anonymous, first, what Tux said - and I'll add that if you have a splinter or a cold you're not actually seeing the ER doctor, you're probably seeing the Nurse Practitioner or a Physician's Assistant.

    Second, further down in the text, Anonymous, I also said, "Implied" and even further down I said "These people are arguing semantics." Which is what you're doing.

    The Uninsured and poor people use the Emergency Room for non-emergency primary care because that's very, very often the only thing available to them. The ER cannot turn them away, by law, but every other medical facility legally can and often does, even if they have cash.

    Taking this option, the only option, away from poor people is exactly what Ron Paul was talking about. And the reason for it, was to increase the amount of money in the pockets of people just like Ron Paul, i.e. the ones he wants to vote him into the White House - otherwise, well, otherwise the entire question is moot, isn't it?

    As I said, you're arguing semantics, but no matter how you slice it, it's still baloney.

    Americans bitch about the cost of the uninsured, but give the uninsured no options except the one that costs the taxpayer the absolute most money.

    We tried to fix that situation a while back, you might have heard it. You can thank Libertarian Tea Party types like Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin, to name few, for the fact that the situation remains unchanged and you get to pay the maximum amount for the uninsured. The poor remain poor, the uninsured remain uninsured, and your costs remain high. Congratulations on that obstructionism, well done.

    ReplyDelete
  84. @Dollarhide 9:58:

    Yeah, it feels good. I can afford it; I'll find a way.

    ReplyDelete
  85. Oh, Jim, I love you. This post was so good, I came up with an idea for a new art piece from reading it. (I'm doing sarcastic jewelry/metalwork for politicians that piss me off.) Just about finished with the "Trophy Necklace for Sarah Palin", which features a bunch of wolf legs & is a commentary on aerial hunting. Once I finish up my anti-rape series, I'm moving on to "Offering Bowl for a Lobbyist", which will bear a striking resemblance to the Capitol dome. Still working out aspects of the Ron Paul piece but so far, my amazing Prof is digging it. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  86. The hypocritical Ayn Rand secured Social Security and Medicare payments, when she needed it, under her husbands surname "O’Connor." Ron Paul is mistaken by many as the entertaining pot smoking grandpa, when in fact libertarianism is the most dangerous of conservative philosophies.

    ReplyDelete
  87. If you ever get back to West Michigan I'd really like to shake you hand. Reading your blog makes me proud to be a caring, thinking, American. Yes, I am a liberal in a sea of ultra-conservative Calvinists here, but it's nice to read what I've so longed to try to say myself when it comes to some of the hyprocrise's that abound in the ultra-right.

    ReplyDelete
  88. @Eric: the basic flaw in your premise is that in a democracy or republic, the people and the government are (at least in principle) the same entity.

    "The People" is an abstraction and doesn't exist as an entity. Therefore, "The People", since it is not an actuality, does not produce an effect, it has no power, and cannot cede power.

    However, I understand your point. In what is popularly called a democracy, the system used here in the United States, "authority" (the legitimate use of power) is ceded to a few in a political process consisting of a tyranny of the majority of decision-makers.

    It would be very difficult to engage in a friendly rational discussion with someone who has already decided beforehand, that the position that comes closest to the one that he might understand, would automatically be labeled as "stupid", "insane", and/or "childish".

    ReplyDelete
  89. @sibusisodan: But if you're in a situation where division already exists, describing the situation - as Jim does - can't exacerbate things, if done honestly.
    Can you not see the difference between labeling your perceived opponents (weren't we taught in grade school not to call names?), and describing a situation?

    ReplyDelete
  90. @PantaRhea, you still have not answered my question. How should I describe people who want to see fellow Americans die, if not the word "evil"? Or are you saying that I should not describe these people because describing the nature of people is "divisive"?

    As for the whole "tyranny of the majority" nonsense, the majority by definition cannot be a tyranny. One thing that annoys me about Libertarians is that the only way their philosophy could ever be put into practice would be via a tyranny of the minority forcing their views upon the majority at gunpoint, because the majority *like* their Social Security and Medicare. Yet they pretend they stand for "freedom" -- while denying the fact that the only freedom they propose, is the freedom of those with guns to dictate the terms of society to the majority. A situation which the rest of us typically call tyranny, but Libertarians apparently use Orwell's Newspeak dictionary to say "tyranny is freedom".

    Hmm, perhaps I should ask you what dictionary you're using -- is it MiniTru's latest?

    - Badtux the Snarky Penguin

    ReplyDelete
  91. @BadTux: you still didn't answer my question. What word do I use to describe people who call for the death of my fellow Americans, if "evil" is not the appropriate word to use?

    Why do you assume that ANY word should be used to label others? Perhaps you didn't understand my answer... "People" are not things or objects. I would describe the calling for the death of a fellow human being (whether an American or not)in almost all situations, an evil act.

    ReplyDelete
  92. @BadTux: You assume that "people" have a nature. I don't. If the linear society of experiences commonly labeled as a "person" has no essence or nature, but is wholly a social construction, created in what a neuroscientist might describe as a process of "selfing", why would we provide this non-existing "nature" with a description?

    ReplyDelete
  93. "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it." -- George Orwell, 1984

    Yet someone wonders why I question the motives of those who try to prevent use of a word to describe a class of people like, say, the four Klansmen who killed those four little black girls in Birmingham? If it becomes literally unthinkable to label such people as what they are, then it becomes literally unthinkable to conceive a strategy to deal with their fundamental nature.

    I'm not going to get into an epistemological pissing contest here, just going to state that labeling people according to their fundamental nature is as necessary as labeling, say, fruits and vegetables, according to their fundamental nature. Nobody gets insulted when I state that lemons are sour, correct? Am I going to bring down the wrath of the Lemon Protection Front, blasting me for defaming the fundamental nature of lemons? Hmm...

    - Badtux the "Cui bono?" Penguin

    ReplyDelete
  94. @BadTux: I wrote that I am trying to eliminate "should" language from my speech and thoughts. You make it more difficult when you ask questions about what I think you "should" or "shouldn't" do. Old habits die hard for me. :)

    ReplyDelete
  95. Remember in the post where I said, "These people are arguing semantics? PantaRhea is exactly what I was talking about.

    PantaRhea, I've run out of patience with your continued word games. You want to discuss woulda shoulda coulda, you go do that on your own blog. Either get to the point, if you have one, or cease and desist. I've put up with you this long because,unlike the other trolls you've been reasonably polite. However, I have now reached my limit with your bullshit. This will be your only warning.

    ReplyDelete
  96. I am not a Ron Paul fan. Just a fan of full disclosure. The exchange was as follows:

    "Wolf Blitzer propose this scenario to candidate Ron Paul:

    “A young healthy male decides to opt out of health care (“I'm young and healthy why waste the money”) and later has an accident. He ends up requiring long term medical care, but has no insurance and nothing close to covering the cost in his bank account.”

    Wolf put the question to Ron Paul: “who should pay for his care at this point?”

    Paul responded with a weak argument that proposed the young man seek out the aid of charitable organizations or the help of his church.


    Wolf Blitzer showing a rare display of guts pressed the question by asking; “would you allow him to die?” At that point the Tea Party audience responded with a very loud and resounding, Yes! Ron Paul said no but never really answered the question."

    ReplyDelete
  97. Jim,
    I certainly have no desire to argue (debate) about anything. I did find value (as I wrote) in your comments and opinion concerning the answer given by Ron Paul to a very good question. You've invited comments on your thoughts and I accepted the invitation. My other posts have been in answer to questions put directly to me. I haven't "argued semantics". I've simply attempted to explain my worldview when asked, which seems to be based on a much different ontological understanding of reality than yours and, it seems, the majority of your readers. Surely you agree that there is a need to be more humble and less arrogant about the assumed truth of our perspectives? And doesn't our willingness to love others lead us to a willingness to attempt to understand the worldview of others... and to substitute understanding for condemnation of those who think differently than we do? And, here I'm not trying to argue about the meaning of words, but in my use of the terms, "understanding" other perspectives is not the same as "agreeing".

    ReplyDelete
  98. It's like you just can't help yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  99. There is a mean-spiritedness to the right wing that transcends political disagreements.

    ReplyDelete
  100. @beachdog67: I see a mean-spiritedness as not simply an attribute of the left or right, but as something culturally inherited from Christianity. Having a different belief system is equated with sin and is viewed as a moral problem rather than a benign difference in perspectives. That's one reason why I try to eliminate "should" language (which has moral connotations)from my speech and thought. Because it is part of our cultural language, it's not an easy thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
  101. When I person uses swear words in typing out an argument, it cold be because he has many unresolved issues making him unbalanced in some judgments. I think Jim really missed it with his interpretation on Pauls response. Paul, not always articulate, state that before medicare the private sector took care of people and the example he gave was when he worked at a hospital where no one was turned away. The alternative is today no one is turned away, the govt picks up the tap and the results are worse than in Puals day. So whats the solution?
    The debate continues but I'll side with the private sector 99% of the time. Its not perfect the that's where the the you find a greater percentage of moral people who will be accountable to one antoehr.

    ReplyDelete
  102. The private sector is where you'll find a greater percentage of moral people who are accountable to one another?

    Seriously?


    Let's give Anonymous a big round of applause, Folks, it's not often we get a visit by somebody from the land of flying bunnies who fart sunshine and rainbows.


    Oh, and my unresolved issues are part of my charm, Anonymous. Now, be a pal and fuck right off back to whatever trailer park you drifted in from.

    ReplyDelete
  103. Between the guy who debates the epistemology of reality and the guy who thinks the private sector folks who brought us "liar loans", antifreeze-laced toothpaste, and salmonella-laced turkey are "moral people" , it's like you got an invasion from an alternate universe here, Jim. One wonders what color the unicorns are in their universe, and whether cotton candy grows on trees there.

    I must say you've been amazingly patient though. My banhammer would have gone *BAM* long ago, I'm just not as patient with deranged lunatics as I used to be. Reality simply *IS*, and folks who don't "get" that... well. Reality has a practice of biting them on the butt sooner or later. So it goes.

    ReplyDelete
  104. Well I was enjoying your comments, Tux.

    But I'm tired of playing Whack-A-Mole. It's getting to be a full time job dealing with the crazies and the trolls and the illiterate Tea Party types and the goofy word guy.

    Then there's the hate mail, that's fun. Libertarians are a just a little fanatical, you'd think I insulted their Jesus.

    ________________________

    On that note, I'm going to close commenting on this post for the night.

    I may or may not re-open commenting tomorrow depending on how I'm feeling. Night.

    ReplyDelete