Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Apples, oranges and zebras, oh my!


By KATHLEEN PARKER

WASHINGTON—By now you've heard it plenty: The Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare," is like the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This creative bit of dot-connecting began with President Obama, and has been perpetuated by countless talk-show hosts and their guests.

By implication, to oppose Obamacare is tantamount to opposing civil rights, which, roughly translated in this country, means being racist. This may not be what Obama intended, but if not, it was accidental brilliance.

On "Hardball" this week, as Chris Matthews was cross-examining a guest about the constitutionality of the insurance mandate—the main issue before the Supreme Court --he asked whether she thought the Civil Rights Act was constitutional. After all, that piece of legislation (correctly) forced businesses to sell goods and services to people they otherwise might have chosen to deny access.

This would be a dandy argument if the two issues were remotely related. Yes, they are similar inasmuch as the federal government imposed laws on individuals related to personal decision-making. And yes, those decisions revolved around commerce. But zebras and dogs are also similar—they both have four legs and a tail—and yet we know they are not the same animal.

The health care mandate forces business and individuals to buy something against their will. The mandate facilitates access to health care the same way being pushed off a diving board facilitates swimming. It may prove effective—or not—but it shouldn't be confused with civil rights.

One may firmly believe that any government program aimed at improving health care for more people is defensible. At least some Americans apparently do, but not that many. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that Americans oppose the law by 52-41 percent. And 67 percent believe the Supreme Court should toss the law or at least the mandatory portion.

This is hardly a national endorsement of Obama's health plan. Nor, however, should it be construed as permission for Republicans to continue pretending that the American health care system doesn't require any government attention, as they did until Democrats seized the issue.

The problem of access to affordable health care is nothing to shrug about. By all means, let's work toward making an exceptionally good system better—but without the pandering shibboleth of health care reform as a civil rights issue. One dealt with discrimination on the basis of race and was a clear violation of human rights and, therefore, the spirit of the Constitution.

Guaranteeing access to purchase is far different than forcing purchase.

That some can't afford insurance or are denied coverage through unemployment surely can be addressed in other, more creative ways. Americans love the portability aspect of Obamacare, but this could have been accomplished without restructuring a huge swath of the economy based largely on projections and assumptions.

As a selfish human being, I want everyone to buy insurance. I also want nearly everyone to drop 20 pounds, exercise 45 minutes daily, abstain from drugs and cigarettes, drink no more than five ounces of red wine daily, get eight hours of sleep, eat a diet of mostly grains and vegetables and avoid all sugars.

This would do more to improve health and reduce the need for medical care than anything else on the planet. Shouldn't we start there? Doesn't it violate my civil rights to have to subsidize the consequences of other people's irresponsible choices and lack of discipline?

Ah, but no, government can't dictate what people consume or how much they exercise. Wanna bet? Stick around.

Critics of Obama's plan are not just ornery partisans. Legitimate concerns include: The law is too big, it creates another gargantuan bureaucracy that will have the flexibility and compassion of Siri, and it contains too many uncertainties and too many fill-in-the-blanks beyond the reach of elected officials.

Democrats pushed through the legislation without popular support on the bet that Americans would like it once they got used to it. We may or may not find out, depending on what the justices decide. But this much we do know: Civil rights activists who were beaten, bloodied and killed in the struggle to have a voice were nothing like the bureaucrats and politicians who insist that the Affordable Care Act is a comparable victory. The Civil Rights Act was a monument to freedom and human dignity. Healthcare reform is ... something else.

Well intentioned though it may be—and serviceable though it could become with proper tweaking—the Affordable Care Act is not about human freedom. It is, in fact, quite the opposite.

Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com. (c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



-->
 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2014 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.