Saturday, January 09, 2010

in praise of the public option

Reflect with me for a moment on the qualities of life that are at the very core: food, health, education. In most civil societies there is a sense that these are not privileges for the few, but rights for all. Governments often intervene in these spheres of life: they subsidize farmers (or agribusinesses), construct hospitals and eradicate diseases, build schools and support the training of educators. The church (and much missionary work) often occurs in these spheres of life; I have traveled in a number of countries where there was no consensus about these core qualities as rights, or, instead, a lack of resources to make them possible. The lack of resources might be the result of a sharp division between the rich and the poor (in which everything is privatized), or the absence of the rich (who actually reside in other countries, having gained their wealth and departed).

Most of us would agree that food, health and education are core qualities of life; if we have access to these qualities (and we might add shelter to the list, but for the sake of simplicity let's stay with the three), we know that we are blessed by God, or we take them for granted, or see them as the fruit of our labors. When we see others who do not have access to food, health and education, we might intervene personally, as an act of compassion, or politically, as an act of justice. Both interventions are important; they are not mutually exclusive, and one does not need to be the enemy of the other.

I do not naturally fuse my identity as a Christian (a follower of Jesus, and yes not always consistent in this) with my identity as a citizen of the U.S. At times, however, there is a confluence, and for me this comes, in my experience, in what i would call the public option. We have had a public option for food: we have subsidized the labors of farmers, and many have access to cheap food. We had had a public option to health: we have subsidized the education of physicians and nurses, and built public hospitals. We have had a public option for education: there is a right, even an obligation for parents to send their children, for a certain number of years, to school.

That "public options" have existed has been a great blessing in my life. My mother was a school teacher for her entire adult life. I attended public schools and a state university as an undergraduate. I am unsure that I would have had an access to education were these opportunities not present, although it is possible. Most of my relatives attended public schools and universities, even if they can be quite critical of the government. I do not blame them. I simply note that we have been the beneficiaries of a public option. Our older daughter went to an excellent public undergraduate school (UNC). I could go on...Our daughters were born in public hospitals. There were excellent private hospitals located in these same communities; one, a teaching hospital, is also the beneficiary of substantial grants that come from the government, again, for the purpose of improving the quality of health.

I write simply and yes personally for a singular purpose: if you find yourself in a conversation and the "public option" is cited as an impending evil, pause for a moment and consider the ways your own life, or the lives of persons in your family have benefitted from public interventions in the core qualities of life. As our country moves forward, we will certainly be a more just and compassionate people if we enlarge our responses to these basic human needs. There is certainly a role for the church in these areas, but not to the exclusion of a partnership with all citizens, in the pursuit of a common good.


Blogger Paul Burke said...

The MIDDLE CLASS should NOT be paying for this - more money needs to STAY in OUR paychecks so we can save, invest or spend to help bring the economy back. If these political weaklings tax our employee based healthcare to pay for this bill - that means a tax on the Middle Class and I will be furious.

Allegations of price-fixing, bid-rigging, exclusive sales contracts, local price cutting to freeze out competitors, and the dividing up of markets need to be fully explored through subpoenas and depositions (a law suit by all 50 States and joined by the Feds) so we can get rid of our dysfunctional corporate health care system that's choking the economy to death.

Federal workers and retirees can select plans at a cost range from $100 dollars a month for the cheapest individual coverage to $500 dollars for the most expensive family plan. That plan should be available to EVERYONE.

I’m voting “MY” pocket book - I want lower premiums and less money taken out of my paycheck - if they want to help spur on the economy they will make sure this happens for the majority.

The bottom line is that 90% of the wealth concentrated in 1% of the population is no way to run a country, but a heck of a way to establish a royalty ruling class. Yacht sales can not sustain 350 million people.

I'm for the public option, competition and a level playing field or break up the big insurers like we did AT&T.

A slavish focus on profit margin might be good for the individual or a business, but it is one helluva lousy way to "govern" a Country. The GOP being a wholly owned subsidiary of Corporate America has a hard time with that concept.

Paul Burke
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8:48 AM  

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