If Republicans Want to Be Consistent They Shouldn’t Just Hate Government Insurance, They Should Hate All Insurance
The thing about brining a life into the world is that it makes you think a lot about death.
Since my son was born in February I’ve spent a significant amount of time dealing with drafting a will, and shopping for life insurance. The long and tedious process involved in the latter has given me a lot of time to think about insurance conceptually. How it works, why it costs what it costs and its underlying, and unintentional, tenets.
The arguments around the ACA, the AHCA and the Better Care Reconciliation Act recently released by Senate Republicans are usually framed in the context of the big government, tax and spend Democrats and their small government rivals, but the more I think about it the more I think it might go deeper than that. That in fact ALL insurance, private or public, runs counter to the fundamental principles of the modern Republican party.
I have private health insurance (through my employer), private car insurance and soon private life insurance. This is all stuff I pay for either directly or as part of a benefits package at work. The government is not involved in any way.
Presumably this is the kind of insurance Republicans like because it doesn’t require public subsidies or hand outs. I’m taking personal responsibilty and paying out of pocket to cover myself. This appeals to the rugged individualism and libertarian ideals of people like Rand Paul, but in truth there’s nothing individualistic about it. Despite being private, my insurance is still an awknowledgement that my financial and even physical security is ultimately dependent on others, with whom I share risk.
Just a quick, over-simplified, refresher course on how insurance works:
I pay $200 a month, you pay $200 a month and our friend Paul pays $200 a month for pet insurance. A year later my dog Drumpf develops a cancerous cyst on his liver that needs to be removed and treated, it’s going to cost $5,000 or more. Now if I had simply saved $200 every month I would have $2,400 which would not be nearly enough to pay for my beloved Drumpf’s treatment. As a result I would have to make a choice; either go into debt to pay for it or let Drumpf die. But I don't have to do that because I paid into our insurance plan, and that means I can use your money, and Paul’s money, which you don’t need because your dogs are healthy. So Drumpf gets the cyst removed, has a couple rounds of doggy chemo and returns to chasing rabbits in a field somewhere. Everyone’s happy right?
You would think so but no, everyone is not happy. You see our friend Paul is House Speaker Paul Ryan and he’s kind of pissed. He signed up for our pet insurance scheme so he can’t do much about it, but privately he’s not happy that all of his hard earned money went to pay for my dogs surgery and treatment, especially because he knows that I feed Drumpf from the table, which probably contributed to his illness. So now poor Paul Ryan has to stand by and watch while I reap all the benefits because I’m a bad dog owner.
Now I doubt Paul Ryan even has dogs. I have one and he’s a total leach, costs me $100 a month in food, I have to pick up his poop and all I get in return is licked on the face, and the ocassional warning that there’s someone at the front door. But you see my point, having insurance of any kind is about sharing risk, and this doesn’t feel very Republican to me. Republicans believe in the individual, and are loathe to awknowedge that their success or failure may be intertwined with the success and failure of others.
Paul Ryan has reached the lofty heights of Capitol Hill because Paul Ryan is smart and hard working. If you’re not as big a success as Paul Ryan then that’s because you’re lazy and/or stupid which is your own fault. It’s not about the construction company his family built on goverment contracts or the Social Security survivors benefit that his mother was able to sock away (presumably because she didn’t actually need it to live on) that sent him to college debt free, it’s all about Paul and what a special boy he is. He doesn’t owe anything to anyone.
It’s not an entirely unappealing (if sociopathic) way to go through life.
At the CDLP we believe in the radical concept that actually, whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together. Paul Ryan gets to prance around the halls of congress and introduce legislation in between cross-fit sessions because someone else mops the floor of the congressional gym or manufactures the paper on which his legislation is printed. If those people aren’t there then the system collapses and Paul Ryan is the speaker of a very different house, governing a very different country. We will admit that it’s possible that these people are not as smart (maybe) or hard working (unlikely) as Mr. Ryan, but that’s not really the point. They play their part, someone has to play their part or the whole thing comes crashing down, and as a result they have the right to certain things.
In our view those things are:
- A living wage
- Quality health insurance
- A dignified and secure retirement
- A quality public education that gives them the opportunity for upward mobility.
- Support during economic downturns.
Is that so much to ask? And please don’t think we’re picking on Paul Ryan.
Donald Trump gets to be President, and before that was able to be a somewhat successful real estate developer, and highly succesful reality TV star because someone laid brick at his buildings, kept the fridge full of Mountain Dew on the set of the Apprentice or attended to the garbage cans in the lobby of Trump Tower.
If those people, and the people like them, stopped doing their jobs America would cease to function, and we would all be much worse off. The kicker is that because we have chosen this crazy mixed up system they call Capitalism (remember the CDLP likes Capitalism! See point 3 of our preliminary platform) those people get a much, much, MUCH smaller piece of the pie. This means they have less to save for retirement and everything else.
Paul Ryan, whom we’re pretty sure carries a dogeared copy of The Fountainhead everywear and has at least one child named Roark (the CDLP has had enough of Ayn Rand, see point 6 of the aforementioned platform) believes these people are dragging geniuses with sub 7% body fat like him down. The CDLP believes they are in fact essential to the current and future success of our nation, and that referencing your own body fat in any context other than the NFL Draft Combine makes you a Grade A douchcanoe.
Choice is a word all politicians, Democrats and Republicans, love. They wan’t to give us choices, but life isn’t always about choices.
People don’t choose to be sick, break their leg, get laid off or run their car into a telephone pole and as a result we as a society can’t choose to ignore this essential fact.