Tuesday, April 3, 2012
I'd thought of it in the same terms, as defenders of the ACA in court seemed stumped by Scalia's question about broccoli: the government can conscript you, tell you to jump the f*ck out of a plane and put you in the brig if you don't. Seems like paying a hundred bucks a year penalty for not spending several thousand on insurance is pretty small ... broccolini.
But the better answer is that broccoli sales act the way capitalism works: if you don't buy it, it's a good thing for me, because as demand drops, the price goes down. Health insurance is the opposite. Your not buying it penalizes me.
So, whether or not the government could compel you to buy broccoli, there's no reason for it to do so. But, in the case of financial activity that represents one fifth of the economy, the government has a right -- an obligation -- to bring rationality to an out-of-kilter health care system in which it's decidedly not the case that "the market decides." After all, it has a constitutional duty to promote the general welfare.
Back beyond memory, when the Republican party included a non-zero number of thinkers, they realized this. That's exactly why they came up with the idea of a mandate to buy insurance. What, after all, is more conservative than telling people there's no more free ride? Or, for that matter, handing a few million customers to their corporate donors?
It tells you all you need to know about the current Republican party that they made a 180º shift as soon as that black guy moved into that white house: their ideas are meaningless, and as deeply rooted as moss. One could hope that, were they to take over all branches of government, when they'd no longer have a need to lie and do nothing but do nothing, they'd reconsider what constitutes good governance. Hope away: political stupidity and pandering has become a way of life for them, and I can no more forsee them returning to rationality than I'd predict enlarging polar ice caps absent reduction of carbon emissions.
The providing of health care -- which every other civilized country in the world considers fundamental to governance -- has become, like the age of the earth, believing in evolution and climate change, a matter of political leaning. Think of it: whether millions of women will have access to breast cancer screening, whether parents of children with birth defects or practically any childhood illness will have medical coverage for them, whether you'll be able to get insurance if you lose your job and have had prior illness, will depend on which party has control after November. For something so basic, so clearly of national importance, to be up for debate at all, much less split exactly along party lines -- unbelievable.
Like pretty much everything else about politics, ever since Newt Gingrich was Speaker and the purpose of Republican politics stopped being about creating common good, and became about power for its own sake. Destroying the other side for sport. While rationalizing highway robbery. Literally.
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