Basic Human Rights

This morning before work I clicked on a link that took me to some commentary on NBC that went along with polling on the health care debate. I was not expecting it to be a video, but it was. (This was found on Chuck Todd’s twitter stream this morning.)

I largely ignored it until it came to the last guy who was white male skinny WASP type listed as a “Financial Analyst.” And what he said struck me. He’s not in favor of Health Care Reform because:

A. He doesn’t believe that health care is a basic human right.
B. It’s a “hand out” to “poor people” instead of a “hand up.”
C. Poor people can “go other places like to the Red Cross.”

Other than being incorrect on all three points, I was just floored by the comment that “basic health care is not a human right.” Where does this view come from? It’s not Christian (or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or…) It’s not liberal. It’s not even conservative. It’s just… selfishness for selfishness sake. From a purely conservative viewpoint, making health care a basic human right helps:

– People who are less afraid for their health work harder, create new business and generate more wealth;
– Families because healthy people stay together as a coherent unit and those with less financial strain hold together better;
– Communities because healthy people contribute more locally and are less of a strain on the local community’s economy including the local religious community;
– Local economies because fewer sick people move less sick around, more people go to work, productivity increases;
– Macro-economy because sick uninsured people are a drain on economic resources, spread disease, go to hospital emergency rooms anyway, push up prices all over the place, and reduce work.

We won’t even talk about the liberal viewpoint (everyone should have a right to see a doctor regardless of financial means) or religious viewpoint (Man should give up a little to help fellow Man to reduce suffering). From a purely conservative viewpoint of keeping up the status quo and generating wealth, calling basic health care as a “hand out” is bewildering. It seems to me that the “monied” class would want healthy people to generate them money!

Then I thought about that guy, the guy who played a pure classism card, who clearly believes that financial analysts who can afford $20K a year at a private University should be the only people allowed to see a doctor in the United States. Let’s say he’s — A. White, B. Male, and C. In the banking sector. Reading the statistics from the recession, the people getting laid off most are: A. White, B. Male, and C. In the banking sector. Should he lose his job, and should he not be able to find another one, should his COBRA (given to him by that socialist Teddy Kennedy) run out and he get sick, should we tell Mr. Douchebag that he shouldn’t get hand out and he should go to the Red Cross? My answer: Yes. And him. In particular.

I don’t know where to start with people like this except label them as douchebags. It’s okay to… what, if they can’t afford $100K or $200K in tuition then they should all die in the street? Die of tuberculosis? What precisely do they want?

The problem with the health care debate is that we’re letting these people a place at the table. I know it’s a democracy and everyone gets to have their voices heard but if we can’t even start at the point of basic human decency and agree that all human beings have a right to have a basic alleviation of suffering through simple modern medicine, then where do we go?

I’m not exactly thrilled with the sausage making in Congress and I don’t have huge amounts of hope for whatever legislation will end up being passed, but for God’s sake people. Look at yourself in a mirror.

  • Jeff

    A basic human right is really tough to define. Do we have a right not to be sick? Well, in the natural world people get sick, injured, die… do we have a right to expect anything different? However, I think the human right argument is the wrong way to approach it. What we really should be asking is “Do we, as an affluent and developed culture and country, have the *responsibility* to provide some level of basic care to those who are unable to provide for themselves.” My answer is an unequivocal yes. But then, as a paramedic, it would be difficult for me to morally justify watching someone go into cardiac arrest in front of me and I simply step over and ignore them instead of using my resources and skills to try to help them. The debate is being twisted… it isn’t some bum who won’t work and won’t take care of himself… it is our neighbor, our parents, our kids, and ourselves.

    • I will accept that it is the responsibility of an affluent and developed modern economy to provide a floor of very basic health care to all who happen to live within the borders of the country. Is it a basic human right? That’s a debatable point. Is it something that a real country should do? I believe absolutely so.

      I find people who want to deny basic health care because of pure classist reasons (‘you’re too poor to have a good job to provide you health care!”) to be the lowest level of human life.

  • Kim

    I can’t even begin to add anything to what you say here. I think I know people who agree with this jackass, but they don’t have the guts to talk about it where anyone can actually hear them.

    • (I have changed my theme AGAIN. But this doesn’t have the comments issue.)

      Lots of people disagreed with me vocally over on LJ about how health is not a right but a commodity. But there’s sort of a strange dualism going on here. It’s okay that we have a system of public schools to which everyone citizen not only has right to use but up to age 16 is /compelled/ to use, complete with teachers who are /compelled/ to teach. But we cannot have the same standard for basic health care.

      Maybe we’d be better off if we were a society of illiterate sick people?