Any Valid Social Contract Requires Universal Health Care

Posted by – February 21, 2007

Any Valid Social Contract Requires Universal Health Care

That’s Not Socialism, It’s Judaism

My last blog post, Vigorously Insisting On A More Perfect Union: Fighting Cuts, Demanding Universal Health Care garnered a good response over at MySpace and here at blogspot where I always simulcast the blog.

The first response I got was this:

Universal health care is socialism. As of now, this isn’t a socialist state. You want free health care, move to a socialist society. Leave our free enterprise alone. I don’t want the same government who gave us the response to Hurricane Katrina determining whether or not I can get medicine. If you were wise, you wouldn’t want it either.

I’m intimately familiar with this kind of right-wing lunacy. I remember when notorious (and now-indicted) Republican leader Tom DeLay stood on the House steps and told the media that “forced taxation” and “redistribution of wealth” through social programs for the poor was “socialism” that must be defeated. This isn’t just some marginal view, it is the core philosophy of the Republican party and it animated their campaign for tax cuts. It also spent the past three decades slashing, undermining and removing social programs. Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, FEMA, the Dept. of Education: that’s all “socialism” to them, suspicious, the enemy, to be stopped. And when we elect people for years who are openly against government, who think government is part of the problem and not part of the solution, we shouldn’t be surprised they’ve presided over dilapidated, underfunded agencies who cannot respond to our needs. This undercutting of government in turn forms a self-feeding cycle of the people hating government more and more and electing more anti-government politicians. Being in Alabama, I am intimately familiar with this idiocy.

This is so wrong, and I have to write a blog in response. We can debate the broad issue of socialism another time; but I must insist that universal health care is NOT socialism any more than public roads and schools are socialist; it is simply a necessary baseline of any civilized society. The whole point of forming a society, a government, in the first place is to accomplish what we cannot do as individuals. Since we (hopefully) moved beyond the “survival of the fittest” jungle, we formed a collective, a social contract, that if we elect some among us to govern, if we agree to send money (and sometimes soldiers) to support this collective, we, in exchange, expect the government of, by, and for the people (that isn’t some foreign imposition but IS us. an expression of our desires) to provide for each other’s basic needs, basic justice, basic morality. We expect safety and security. We expect safe and well-paved roads. We expect basic education. We expect not to die of disease just because we can’t fork over enough protection money to the latest health care robber baron. In short, we expect the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is exactly the social contract Martin Luther King described in his famous I Have A Dream Speech:

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.'”

What I am telling you is that America has also given their disabled people a bad check, a check that has bounced literally due to “insufficient funds.” They are shoving us into back room wards or simply onto sidewalks unattended due to insufficient funds. They are leaving people without help with basic hygiene for days because “sorry, budget cuts this year.” Tax cuts for ExxonMobil were more important.

The private sector is not interested in giving people free health care, and charities don’t even attempt the billions that it would require. Like roads and schools, this is something individuals can’t do and look to government to provide. Those who would label universal health care socialism would likely also label universal education socialism, and almost all government socialist. They believe government should not tax you to distribute money elsewhere, the very point of having a government. So they have left our infrastructure in tatters, our bridges unsafe, our children uneducated, our disabled left in their own feces. This ideology declares war on the social contract; it seeks to melt the very glue that binds society together, and has been frighteningly successful.

To those who do not believe in government helping people, and have left our citizens to the jungle, I say your ways have proven destructive, please step aside and let those who believe in government begin to repair the damage.

Giving people the care they need is not socialism, it’s Judaism. It’s Christianity. It’s Buddhism. It’s Islam. It’s mandated by nearly every religious tradition and moral code, going back to the Code of Hammurabi: “to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land… so that the strong should not harm the weak.” There is separation of church and state, but there should never be separation of decency and state, especially in a democracy, where the sovereign IS the people, and the government an expression of their will.

It was Moses who said “If there be among you a needy man, one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates, in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thy hand from thy needy brother; but thou shalt surely open thy hand unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need in that which he wants” (Deut. 15:7-8) it wasn’t Karl Marx who said that.

Moses with the Tablets, by Rembrandt

And government should never be a foreign body walled off from the pain of its employers, the people. The government should provide for the basic decency that morality demands, or we better change governments!

I yearn for the day that everyone sees as I do that we must abandon this immoral system that lets sick people die if they aren’t rich, this system that is essentially as violent as “give us more money or die.”

And I will not back down. I’ll keep calling out and speaking truth to the powerful belligerents against the social contract and toppling every tyrant and latter-day Pharaoh.

I’m from the tradition of Moses, who wasn’t afraid to say “let my people go, motherf**ker!”