This Rush to Repeal Obamacare Is Immoral: We Need More Argument, More Time, and Certainly More Compromise

Turning away, for just a moment, from the miscellanea of our slow-seeming apocalypse, from Antarctic icebergs, North Korean nukes and Russian collusion, let's focus a little on what's more acutely important, on what touches most of us mostly. And that's on what Congress is trying to do with health care.Admit it, you don't know what the heck they're talking about. Neither do I.To be fair to President Donald Trump — for once, he was right: "It's an unbelievably complex subject." If we're honest, we'll admit we're little wiser on the subject than he. Never mind your friend who blurts our "single-payer!" like he's figured it out and you're stupid. Never mind the confident on either the hardened right or the hardened left. It's a mind-boggling issue, stressful in the same measure that it's important, so many of us worried because so many of us are confused.The statutory language of the bills under discussion read like cuneiform. Relying as most of us must on secondary literature, we've predictably huddled behind the barricades of conventional prejudices because, quite honestly, there is little else we can do. While more ethereal theorists like me talk about Hayek or the invisible hand of the market or some other first principle, the more mathematic and econometric jargonize their opinions with all their usual impressive obscurity. All of it clarifying nothing, of course, adding only to our anxiety because we so little trust those claiming to be experts as well as those who govern us.What of Sen. Ted Cruz's amendment, for instance, the market-driven quarantining of the sick? What about cuts to Medicaid? Why not also heavily cut Medicare and Social Security while we're at it? What about pre-existing conditions and the poor? What about rising costs? What about religious liberty and respecting conscience? All are loaded and difficult questions, each as consequential as they are complex.So how should a person begin to think about all this, basically and morally, as a human? If we're not economists or policy wonks or philosophers, how can we begin to think about what's at stake?To start, I think we should be willing genuinely to talk about it: not on Facebook or Twitter, behind the safety of our private screens, but face to face. Before we speak to politicians, we should speak to each other. And we should dare to make the conversation personal.That is, we should talk to each other about what health care looks like for each of us, sharing how we've been either helped our hurt by the Affordable Care Act or other programs. What do you stand to lose or gain by what Congress is contemplating? We should speak up and talk about it, not at large on social media but with our neighbors, with those closest to us.Which is why the rush to repeal the ACA at this stage is simply inhuman, plainly immoral politics. Everyone agrees that reform is necessary — but not this way. We need more argument, more time, and certainly more compromise. We need to look each other in the face more and hear more from each other. Perhaps we should demand that every member of Congress spend at least one full day, perhaps a week even, with a constituent who'll be affected by this legislation, somebody who'll lose their insurance or benefits. Perhaps we should do this, too.Because that's how compassion comes about, which leads to solidarity and at last to a politics above special interests. Part of the problem is that we always begin these debates in theoretical abstraction before considering concrete particulars, the personal particulars of human lives. We begin these debates thinking first either in terms of dollars or philosophies when we should begin our thinking the other way around. To think about health care well, to think about it morally, we need to think in a more human direction, from faces to names to needs and only then to dollars. Otherwise, our politics and policies are inhuman, however fiscally sensible or foolish they may be.And that always hurts people. People you know and love.Father Joshua J. Whitfield is the parochial vicar and director of faith formation and education at St. Rita Catholic Church in Dallas. Email:  Continue reading...

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