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Rights, Privileges and Needs

I heard Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa in a radio interview today and he spoke assertively and confidently about the objective on health care.  He said that the purpose of the current bill was to serve as a ‘beginning of health care reform’ and that the goal was to ‘cross a line of demarcation’ about health care, from considering ‘health care as a privilege in this country, to health care as a right.’ (may not be an exact quote — my ‘writing while driving skills are below average– but it’s very close).

This confirms the ideas that Andy McCarthy from NRO and others have written about the Republicans fighting a tactical battle against this bill, when the Democrats are fighting a strategic campaign for which they are unafraid to take heavy losses (well, at least some of them are–mostly the folks in the ‘safe seats.’).

So let’s examine the battle we’re in.  The Democrats are posing this as a battle between ‘privilege’ and ‘rights,’ and this argument seems to gain a lot of traction on the left — and it initially sounded attractive to many independents and moderates in the center.  To defeat this line of approach, we need to find ways to rattle the understanding that rights are NOT conferred by legislation, because they are easily then withdrawn the same way.

The Founders believed that power was vested with the people and that powers of the government were conferred to it through the consent of the governed.  Those limited powers form the basis of the Constitution, and the 9th Amendment underscores the idea that everything not explicitly described in the Constitution is reserved to the people and to the States. The Founders  did not believe rights were granted to the people by the government.

Our rights as citizens are described in the Constitution and The Bill of Rights. Our rights are identified there because the Constitution is only changed by a laborious process: passage by super majorities in both houses and ratified by no less than 37 states.  Rights are not spelled out in the Federal Code, or appropriations bills, to be doled out at the whim of a particular session of Congress.

The Democrats and the left want to extrapolate meaning from the Constitution and Bill or Rights so that it conveys the ‘right’ to health care to all citizens.  When asked where in the Constitution this right was found, all Speaker Pelosi could muster was a derisive “Are you serious?” in response…without citing where her authority came from.

This is where we need to attack and attack hard…if we can remind the folks in the middle that the history of our nation was based on power being conveyed to the government through the consent of the governed and on the idea that rights are possessed by the people, not granted by the government, we have a chance to right this travesty before it gets too far.

Senator Harkin is dead wrong when he speaks of the nation regarding health care as a ‘privilege,‘ and he should be called on this false premise.  We have a long history of charity-based health care that belies the notion that we don’t care about giving access to anyone who needs it.  Access to health care for emergencies is in fact guaranteed by law.  Access to the health care of your choice without regard to payment may be a desire — it may even be a need, and it is often provided through generosity,  but it is not a privilege.  It never has been, and never will be.

Access to competent health care at various levels of market price seems to be the real issue in the national debate that is coming to a loud and raucous crescendo here at year’s end.

In the same way that people are able to buy an automobile at a wide variety of prices, with slightly different features, medical care that meets most of needs of the largest number of people should be available in a health care ‘market’ which spans a large range of available prices.  But our health market is currently skewed to a range that most people find unaffordable. For those facing serious illness, often cost is just part of the problem– because of risk, shortages of expertise, or other resource constraints, there may be no reasonable access.

To solve the affordability problem, we have relied on health insurance to help.  Up until recently, spreading the cost over a larger pool of individuals, a large portion of which may need very few services, was an effective way to mitigate the risk to all.  As costs have gone up, this approach is finding limits to effectiveness, and costs of insurance are rising faster than our ability to finance them without causing shortages in other parts of our personal finances.

So we are being lured into an approach in which ‘the government’ will pay the largest portion of the cost, freeing us from worry.  Where will the government get the funds?  Ah, we’ll get money by taxing “the rich” and providing the money to ‘the working people of America’ who deserve this ‘right.’

There is an obvious problem with this approach.  Nothing is being done to solve the real problem — costs for medical care are going up faster than we can create wealth to defray them.  Soon enough, the ‘rich’ won’t even be able to support health care costs.  Then what happens to this ‘right?’  It will collapse, as surely as we saw the economy and health care systems of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.

The impact of that collapse will fall on our children and grandchildren.  This has never been the American way to solve problems.  As Thomas Paine said in 1776 “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”

We are always reminded by those on the left that we should do something for the environment or law enforcement because ‘it’s for the children,” and that strikes a responsive chord within us.  With this current debate on health care, stopping this over reaching, too-expensive, liberty-crushing program truly is ‘for the children,’ and yet the left is bound to push it through.  We should also attack them with this contradiction and force them to be on the defensive about the massive debt that everyone knows will be accumulated within a few years.

In short, we must attack this notion of ‘right’ and ‘privilege’ and focus everyone’s attention on the long term damage to the nation, and the individual damage to our own children and grandchildren.

As today’s news regarding Representative Griffith shows, there’s still time.  We must fight this to the end.

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