Posts Tagged ‘Moral obligations to poor’

I get that different political perspectives yield different solutions to problems.  I get that in general the Democratic party defaults to a government funded and organized solution to national problems while the Republican party prefers market based and/or local solutions to national problems.  I also understand that a lot of what happens in Washington D.C. is political theater meant to keep selected political bases loyal to their respective elected official/congressman/party.  I get that bitter partisanship has been a normal part of the American political landscape since the founding of the country.  I understand the flaws in our political system that lead to gerrymandered safe districts and a House of Representatives that is always running for reelection, therefore spending more time raising money for, and planning the next campaign, instead of governing.  I understand all of that.

But I am a rabbi.  I speak to people of all sorts, of all political leanings.  Most of them claim a religious affiliation, claiming to have a moral system inspired by that affiliation.  Whether they are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, most of the people I talk to say their works are somehow tied to their faith.  So there is a lot I just do not understand, most of it having to do with the current government shutdown and its connection to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

For starters, I do not understand how anyone claiming any kind of religious faith can be opposed to extending access to health care for the poor – especially the working poor.  I do not understand how professed believing Jews cannot see providing health care as an obligation to do tikkun olam, “repair of the world,” or simply the directive in Leviticus 19 to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  I just don’t get that.  I do not get how any professed Christian does not read the Gospels and come away feeling some measure of the deep concern for the poor expressed by Jesus.  Jesus hardly speaks about homosexuality and almost every chapter contains parables or teachings about obligations to the poor.  But to hear the Bible as expounded by so many Republican Christians, you would think the opposite is true.  I just do not understand that.

I do not understand how the insurance exchanges set up by the ACA are a government takeover of the health care system and an intrusion into the doctor/patient relationship.  The government website is a directory to available private insurance plans in your state.  It does not tell you which one to buy.  Neither does it issue the policy.  It merely takes your application and connects it with the company of your choice – kind of like a high tech personal shopper.  It is like the security guard in a shopping mall who gives you directions to a store you cannot find.  The security guard is NOT telling you in what store you must shop or barring you from entering the mall in the first place.  I just do not understand why some people do not understand that.

I do not understand how the states with the largest populations of uninsured poor (e.g. Texas and Florida) are the ones most adamantly against the provision of health insurance to the poor.  I do not understand these states’ refusal to set up insurance exchanges to help the most disadvantaged consumers shop for private health insurance.  I do not understand why they do not accept the expansion of federally provided Medicaid funds to cover the poorest of the poor.  I especially do not understand this when economic experts on health care (e.g. in Houston, Texas) show that such Medicaid would end up saving local tax dollars currently being spent on publically supported health providers – even after the state becomes responsible for 10% of the expanded Medicaid costs (Time Magazine 10/14/13).  I do not understand how anyone who purports to a) care about the disadvantaged and b) cares about fiscal responsibility does not support these programs.  I do not understand how representatives from these states could call themselves religious.

I do not understand how Republican leaders can lay the shut down of the government at the feet of anyone but themselves.  The issue they trumpeted was opposition to Obamacare.  It is clear to me after listening for months to Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and a plethora of Tea Party affiliated House members, that if the President and Senate did not defund Obamacare, they would carry out a shutdown of the government.  I do not understand why they think I am not paying attention to their words of the last several months.  Their intent has been clear.  I do not understand why they think I am stupid.

Even more, I do not understand why these same Republican leaders claim to be speaking for the American people, or even a majority of the American people.  Americans are roughly split on the ACA.  A Rasmussen poll from Monday, October 7 (Rasmussen is hardly a liberal institution) shows a shifting trend in favor of the ACA – 45% having a favorable view of the law while 49% view it unfavorably.  What these polls fail to show is how many of the unfavorables reflect a desire for a single payer system as opposed to any health care reform at all.  Other polls show that despite the split views on Obamacare, by a huge margin Americans do not want the functioning of the government or the ability of our government to pay its debt, tied to defunding the ACA.

I know the political answer is that these representatives are from districts that are “safe seats.”  I know that they were elected because they agree with or pander to the most conservative segments of their homogenous districts.  I know that most of these representatives are relative political neophytes – which is why there were elected.  But I do not understand how the responsibilities of being part of a national government have not broadened their views.  I do not understand their failure to see an America outside of their home town and I do not understand their failure to feel some responsibility for all the people, not just their voters.

But most of all, I do not understand the blindness.  I do not understand blindness to the working poor who need Head Start Centers to care for their children while they fill jobs that provide a meager subsistence.  I do not understand their blindness to the well-documented increasing gap between the wealthiest and the poorest, or the erosion of a true middle class.  I do not understand the obsession with classifying people as “takers,” who are merely trying to survive.  I do not understand their blindness to this reality:  for most, the American dream is just an American illusion.  And I do not understand how all of us are allowing the destruction of even that illusion.

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