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08:07 am: Willful ignorance

The health care reform bill brought the bogus demonization of “socialized” programs by conservatives front and center. It bugs me when people whine about how we shouldn’t have “socialized” medicine – and it bugs me more when they claim that every dollar they have is a dollar they earned – and ain’t nobody gonna take it away from them.

Let’s take the myth of self sufficiency first. Buddhists usually start the debunking by pointing out that every human being is born helpless. For the first years of each of our lives – we were fed, clothed, and kept from dying. Even if you had the worst care-giver in the world – the fact that you are alive now is testament to the fact that you received unpaid support, probably from many people, over many years. Christians use a different story to get to the same place: When you can’t really take credit for even the basics of your existence, how can you get all high and mighty about what you deserve and don’t deserve?

Here’s a decent example of the thinking that I’m talking about: The classic 2002 Lucky Duckies editorial from the Wall Street Journal. One of my favorite bits comes shortly after they whine about the fact that “folks with adjusted gross incomes of $128,336 and higher [are] responsible for 56% of the tax take:”

This skewed reality is the result of a growing number of absolutely legal escape hatches. Consider what happens to those in the lowest bracket. Say a person earns $12,000. After subtracting the personal exemption, the standard deduction and assuming no tax credits, then applying the 10% rate of the lowest bracket, the person ends up paying a little less than 4% of income in taxes. It ain’t peanuts, but not enough to get his or her blood boiling with tax rage.

Gotta love a paper that has the audacity to bitch about how people well below the poverty line aren’t pulling their weight. Lucky ducky!

We have lots of “socialist” programs. We have socialized national defense (it doesn’t run for profit, does it?), socialized banking (do you like that Federal Reserve guarantee on your bank account?), socialized transportation (Do you like driving on roads?), socialized food production (subsidies for corn farmers, anyone?) and so on. As I think about it, most of these social programs seem to disproportionately benefit those with money. Roads are most useful if you have a car. Bank subsidies are most useful if you have money to put in the bank. Wars are most useful if you invest in defense contractors. That last is actually one of the most callous “jobs” programs ever – in my opinion. We can’t have a public works program, but we can ship you overseas to get blown up. That’s how awesome we are.

We need to start to call out greed and hypocrisy where we see it. We need to point and laugh when rich people point their fat fingers at the poor and say that people living on 10-fold less money ought to pony up and pay more taxes. This is the same pointing and laughing that will force lying hypocritical hate-mongers out of the republican party and out of the pulpits. If you start from “holier than thou,” then you better damn well be holy. There is to be no claim of moral superiority and understanding of the “sanctity of marriage,” either from adulterous governors or pedophile priests.

The health care bill that congress passed last month is far from perfect – but at least it’s *something* – and it starts from the right idea. In the richest and most powerful nation in the world – it is a moral failing that we fail to provide the basics of human existence for every human being within our borders. Every human being. The fact that someone was born in another country does not mean that I can ignore them as they starve.

Let’s be clear on the limits of my “socialism:”

* I’m not talking about a standalone single family house for every human being, I’m talking about “shelter.”
* I’m not talking about steak every day, I’m talking about “healthy, clean food.”
* And I’m not talking about unlimited medical care, but yes – “medical care.”

These are not rights of the poor, per se. There is no right to health care. It’s actually much harder than that: These are obligations that I think that we owe our fellow human beings by dint of having enough to spare. Yes, we must be smart about it. Yes, we must be careful that our aid does not create a generation of addicts and derelicts – but the WSJ crowd forgets is that is is our moral obligation to figure out how to do this.

Lucky duckies. Harumph.

Originally published at chris.dwan.org. You can comment here or there.

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