Over the weekend, several close relatives and I sat down to an all-too-rare family dinner. We discussed a wide range of subjects; from the typical, such as recent weather patterns, to those unique to our ancestors, like the Jewish diaspora. Eventually, our conversation turned to contemporary politics. Despite what I imagine virtually all who read my column on even a somewhat frequent basis would assume, I do not enjoy engaging in political discourse, particularly partisan politics, while in social settings. My feelings on this matter are solely attributed to the unfortunate fact that such a thing tends to become extraordinarily divisive, with many choosing not to listen to others’ respective points of view and developing strongly negative feelings based on their incredibly flawed perceptions of reality.
On this occasion, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the civil nature of the discussion and ultimately decided to join in. After a few words regarding America’s free trade policies, the topic of a Pensacola federal judge’s recent scrapping of the president’s health care reform package came up. All of us were supportive of his decision, but varied greatly in our takes on how to handle our country’s deformed medical insurance system.
One relative suggested that the minimum wage be increased so that those in turbulent economical situations would be able to afford a policy of their choice. Another was of the opinion that people who live in dire straits should be proactive about their health by making better choices about what they consume, thus not needing medical attention as often as they do presently. When the time came for me to throw my two cents into the proverbial well, I refuted the idea that raising the minimum wage would solve anything. In fact, I noted that it would only make the current recession far worse, as companies would be forced to terminate the jobs of millions in order to maintain their profit margins. I agreed with the idea that the financially depressed should adopt healthier lifestyles, but then spoke of the harsh reality which the majority of them face: buy a convenient, generously portioned dinner for under twenty dollars at McDonald’s for the almost always large family and still be able to pay the rent, or head over to Publix, purchase the ingredients necessary for an organic, wholesome supper with European-style serving sizes at quadruple the price. Then, to top it all off, get a nasty knock on the door from Mr. Landlord wondering why last month’s check is two weeks late.
The root causes of the problems with our nation’s health insurance system are not political, nor are they fiscal, they are sociological. Considering that virtually all who are uninsured or on government assistance got there through often generational poverty, America’s difficulties with her distribution of medical care will persist so long as the working (or increasingly, the non-working) poor comprise a large share of our population. Needless to say, poverty reduction cannot be achieved through ludicrous income redistribution schemes, nor can charities reasonably be expected to do all that is required. No, our country’s poor must be motivated to strive for something better in life. They must be taught that a dead-end job or the always brimming wallet of Big Brother are not the answers to their trials and tribulations. They must be, slowly but surely, introduced to capitalism, and the work ethic associated with it. Once this is done, America might actually make genuine progress in dealing with her perpetual health insurance crises.
Though this most certainly would not turn Camden into Candy Land, it would be a sold start. Can any of us honestly ask for more?
I did not think so.