Streams

Different Moralities, Different 'Hopes and Dreams'?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The crowd reacts Wednesday night to President Obama's efforts towards national healing in Tucson, Ariza. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

We asked about our common "hopes and dreams," and we got some inspired answers. We also got some pushback. Today, we follow up on this conversation with a look at the limits of our shared political values and the roots of where we diverge.

So, we're trying another exercise: Tell us what you think the top priorities for American government and politics should be, and why you believe that. For example, as Paul Krugman wrote about in The New York Times, tell us if you think Obama's health care plan is a moral imperative or if you find it morally offensive. Is a moral common ground possible?

The Brian Lehrer Show started this conversation this morning with two callers—one a  Libertarian, the other a liberal—who came at the question from different sides, but seemed to find some common ground in what the overarching goal of a government health care policy should be.

Alex, who self-identified as liberal, believed that providing health care to as many citizens as possible is a moral imperative.

If you allow poverty or sickness to develop and carry on unchecked, you basically create a situation where those who are not sick or threatened by health problems to be at risk from the people who are...That's why it's important, as a society grows in numbers, that you have to make sure that the health of a society is being taken care of. It's somewhat draconian for a government to have to enforce something like that, but if you don't have government involved in that, then you run the risk of the sickness growing to a point where you threaten those who are not.

The "draconian" enforcement Alex mentioned was a reference to the individual insurance mandate, which starting in 2014 requires every American citizen to either purchase health insurance from a private company or pay a fine to the government for not having coverage. It was of the major sticking points in the health care debate, and the mandate also became a source of friction in this conversation.

Colin, the self-identified Libertarian, was in total agreement that it's in the best interest of society to care for the sick, and said that he would support government policy if it resulted in more people having better, affordable health coverage. Unfortunately, he lamented, that's not what the health care law does.

The solution Obama and the previous Congress chose to adopt is wrong, but I absolutely agree that it's important to take care of the less fortunate. When I see this health care bill, I see crony capitalism, where the big health insurance lobby, and the hospital industry, and the doctors' lobby have gotten in bed with the government to mandate what's best for them rather than what's best for us. I don't see a mandate as being necessary for us to take care of the less fortunate.

The question seems to become, how can government shape or reorganize society for its benefit, without compelling individuals to spend their money in ways they don't want to? Even with the best intentions at heart, Colin said, the health care mandate is the top of a very slippery slope.

What bothers me about the government telling me to spend money on health insurance policy, it's like, where can they tell me to spend money next? To me, I view that as a gross breach of their powers of interstate commerce. If they wanted true interstate commerce, they should allow me to buy and carry health insurance plans across state lines...What happens next year? Chevy is in trouble so every American needs to buy a Chevy or incur a tax penalty, because interstate commerce gives them the power to do so?

Alex had reservations about the individual mandate as well, and expressed his preference for universal coverage or a public option provided by the government. Like Colin, he thought this provision of the health care law was flawed, but he was more forgiving because it signaled to him a step in the right direction.

Throughout the conversation, it was the nuts and bolts of policy that sparked controversy: the idea that everyone should have health care, and that the government can be a facilitator in this respect, was a given; how that happens is what's at issue. Did that make our callers any more optimistic about our chances for getting past such divisive, bitter squabbles? If we all want to get to the same place, can we at least stay calm and look at the map together?

Alex remained pessimistic. He talked about the "all or nothing" attitude in American politics and policy debates, and how that needs to give way to conversation, compromise, and the search for common ground. As many others have said in the wake of the Tucson tragedy, it's a change that needs to start at home.

I don't really see us getting away from an "all or nothing" approach anytime in the near future...Right now, our government is very much split, but it's also our society. Folks really believe it's us or them, and that has to change before our government can change. Otherwise, you're going to have the difference between people claiming their decisions are leadership, and others that are claiming it's tyranny.

Did anything Colin or Alex said strike a chord with you? Continue the conversation in the comments below.

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Comments [67]

Jeff from from Somerset NJ

When Alex put forward the fact that our government currently mandated that drivers are obligated to buy car insurance, Colin responded that driving is a privilege and people can therefore opt not to drive. "G" from NY began to address this line of thought. The reason the government made car insurance mandatory was because if a person involved in an accident had no insurance, then the person not at fault got paid through insurance and then the insurance company had to pay legal fees to go after the uninsured person. This resulted in very high insurance rates for the people who did pay car insurance similar to the high health insurance rates paid by people who have health insurance to cover the costs of health insurance used by the uninsured currently. There are fines currently for people caught being uninsured. Mandated insurance and "no fault" seem to be working well. Everyone who drives pays in or are fined. Being OK with this car insurance system but not OK with having it applied to health care leads down a very strange road. Colin said people can choose not to drive if they do not want to purchase car insurance. Does that mean that people who choose not to purchase health insurance or who cannot afford it or who get turned down should agree never to use public health care facilities such as hospitals? So someone who needs a hospital stay should be turned away? An ambulance supported by public funds should not respond or care for a person who has "chosen" not to buy health insurance. That would be the exact analogy and is the extension of what Colin proposes. Very simple: a person who chooses not to buy car insurance cannot drive. A person who chooses not to buy health insurance cannot be given care. As Alex suggested, I don't think anyone wants to be walking next to someone vomiting blood on the street because they cannot get health care. Our system now will take those people into the emergency room and into the hospital and we all pay the bill. Our health insurance rates are sky high due, in part, to covering the uninsured. So why not require everyone to buy into the system to spread out the costs. Really the Public Option or single payer like Medicare for all would be a much better and more efficient system.
Second, t was suggested on the air that the political vitriol and divisiveness started when Clinton was elected. Someone commented here suggested that they thought it went back to the Reagan years. In modern times I think we saw a huge escalation in divisiveness during the Nixon years when "law and order" were code words for resisting civil rights demonstrators and Spiro Agnew railed against the "east coast liberal elites" and there were "dirty tricks" and "enemies list" as well as covert activities against American citizens. The proteges of Lee Atwater came into their own in the 90's and into the last decade raising the lies and rhetoric to new heights once again.

Jan. 14 2011 08:06 PM
murray from Verona NJ

why do you suppose there has been no public comment (that i am aware of) on the Tucson tragedy from Senator McCain? FYI, I am a Republican and voted for him, but will never forgive him for giving us Sarah Palin.

Jan. 14 2011 03:57 PM
bernie from bklyn

@Edward from jersey-
yes, precisely. thanks repeating what i know i wrote.

Jan. 14 2011 02:43 PM
Estelle from Austin

In other words, universal health care doesn't necessarily have anything to do with "taking care of the less fortunate." I'm not "less fortunate."

Jan. 14 2011 01:28 PM
Estelle from Austin

I don't see the health care revamp as a moral issue. I see it as a practical and a fiscal issue.

I was willing to pay for health insurance, am perfectly healthy, and got turned down.

You can't require insurance companies to accept everyone if everyone doesn't participate. New York state has such a situation, and a health insurance policy for my family would have cost $2,500/month. Who can afford that??? I moved to Texas, where the same product was $750. But they wouldn't let me buy it.

I am self-employed, and see this an assault on my freedom as an American entrepreneur.

Plus, I see it as an outrage that people with insurance, and people that pay taxes, should have to pay for my ER visits because I got turned down for health insurance!

Jan. 14 2011 01:09 PM
stephen from stony brook

@Allan from Wayne, NJ.

Recall that the definition of libertarianism is 'socially liberal, fiscally conservative'. Intellectual clods like Rand Paul get almost everything wrong (as in factually incorrect) and are a gross discredit to Libertarianism.

It appears clear that a hybrid of free-market solutions + a single-payer option would be best. If, at a minimum, Congress were to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act, you would see a drastic drop in insurance rates, because insurance companies could diversify their risk over large swaths of subscribers nationwide. Furthermore, the Single Payer would effectively be acting as a clearing house and could buy and sell the policies with the private markets, were the stipulations of Obamacare were kept: no recision; the Sunshine clause; allowing young adults (<26) to stay on policies - THERE'S your statistical downshift in risk!

The mistake that both Dems and Reps are making is that they are not treating this like just another free market. Young adults are THE BEST thing that could have been included, were the policies treated as a market: their risk is very close to zero and numbers·risk = a substantial offset to the high-risk cohorts!

Jan. 14 2011 01:02 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn

Hi, Brian, I think the whole health care debate is ridiculous. If the US is a wealthy nation (and I believe it is), why can’t all its citizens have the chance to go to the doctor when they get sick? Why all this talk about mandates and everything else? If you get sick, you don’t want to get sicker or die because of lack of medical care. Health care should be as natural as breathing. Eugenia Renskoff

Jan. 14 2011 01:02 PM
stephen from stony brook

@Allan from Wayne, NJ.

Recall that the definition of libertarianism is 'socially liberal, fiscally conservative'. Intellectual clods like Rand Paul get almost everything wrong (as in factually incorrect) and are a gross discredit to Libertarianism.

It appears clear that a hybrid of free-market solutions + a single-payer option would be best. If, at a minimum, Congress were to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act, you would see a drastic drop in insurance rates, because insurance companies could diversify their risk over large swaths of subscribers nationwide. Furthermore, the Single Payer would effectively be acting as a clearing house and could buy and sell the policies with the private markets, were the stipulations of Obamacare were kept: no recision; the Sunshine clause; allowing young adults (<26) to stay on policies - THERE'S your statistical downshift in risk!

The mistake that both Dems and Reps are making is that they are not treating this like just another free market. Young adults are THE BEST thing that could have been included, were the policies treated as a market: their risk is very close to zero and numbers·risk = a substantial offset to the high-risk cohorts!

Jan. 14 2011 01:02 PM
stephen from stony brook

@Allan from Wayne, NJ.

Recall that the definition of libertarianism is 'socially liberal, fiscally conservative'. Intellectual clods like Rand Paul get almost everything wrong (as in factually incorrect) and are a gross discredit to Libertarianism.

It appears clear that a hybrid of free-market solutions + a single-payer option would be best. If, at a minimum, Congress were to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act, you would see a drastic drop in insurance rates, because insurance companies could diversify their risk over large swaths of subscribers nationwide. Furthermore, the Single Payer would effectively be acting as a clearing house and could buy and sell the policies with the private markets, were the stipulations of Obamacare were kept: no recision; the Sunshine clause; allowing young adults (<26) to stay on policies - THERE'S your statistical downshift in risk!

The mistake that both Dems and Reps are making is that they are not treating this like just another free market. Young adults are THE BEST thing that could have been included, were the policies treated as a market: their risk is very close to zero and numbers·risk = a substantial offset to the high-risk cohorts!

Jan. 14 2011 01:01 PM
Allan from Wayne, New Jersey

Libertarians do not seem to appreciate this basic fact: that the purpose of most legislation is to protect victims of certain undesireable actions or situations; it is not to change the minds or attitudes of those who cause those actions or situations.
For example, the purpose of the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960's was to protect the rights and physical safety of African Americans, primarily in the Southern states, not to enforce attitudes of tolerance or brotherly love among the white Southerners. The often repeated statement "you can't legislate morality" is at the same time true but irrelevant in this discussion.
Now with the issue of mandatory subscription to health insurance, the purpose of this law is to protect the poor or otherwise under insured against what would happen if citizens would be free to not participate: the health insurance rates would go go sky high, making it extremely difficult for the currently uninsured to afford insurance.
Libertarians say that they don't want the government telling them how to spend their own money. That's understandable, but our society is full of ways that the government requires us to do things we might not like - for example universal primary and secondary education; every state requires that children be educated; you can send your child to a parochial or private school, or you can home school them, but you must provide for their education. Governments have all sorts of traffic regulations - stop lights, no left turns certain places, speed limits, and auto insurance. Yes, you can decline to be a driver, but in modern society this is not a viable option for most people.

Jan. 14 2011 12:18 PM
Edward from NJ

@bernie from bklyn, if people don't buy insurance, they'll pay a penalty and that should go to offset the cost of their emergency room visits. Dominick was making the same point you were regarding the cost of the uninsured on the system through emergency room visits. In his view, this cost provides a compelling state interest to mandate the purchase of private insurance.

You differ, in that you object to the for-profit nature of the insurance industry. From your earlier post, I presume that you wouldn't have a problem with people being compelled into a government program or some sort of quasi-state non-profit. I get it -- you don't like insurance companies, and you don't like that they make profits. I tend to agree that we would be better served through a non-profit or state run model, but that has nothing to do with the legality of a mandate.

Jan. 14 2011 12:08 PM
mp from NYC

yes these days we hear a famous remark from JFK : " ...to ask what one can do for his/her country" ...this question should be asked of Wall Street more than anyone else these days; the sacrifice is being asked of many who were impoverished by the latest crisis; and have nothing more to give if they were left jobless for year or more; and those who caused the crisis assume no responsibility they say
"people took loans they could not pay back" really? one can only wonder;

Jan. 14 2011 11:51 AM
bernie from bklyn

Edward frm jersey-
what is ti a jersey thing? NO, we do not agree and i read his whole post. the gov't DOES NOT have a right to mandate the purchase of insurance from private insurance just because taxpayers foot the bill for emergency room visits. my point to him (and you) is that the present system is broken and costs us taxpayers too much, a mandate won't work....many people will never get insurance even if it's mandated and then what happens when they go to the emergency room?

Jan. 14 2011 11:31 AM
Matthew Kroening from Greenpoint

The callers closing comments in this debate say it all. They both claim to ultimately want the same thing: sunshine, happiness and health care for those who need it, but while the liberal admits imperfection and puts trust and faith in progressive concrete action, the libertarian refusing compromise offers zero solutions and sagaciously wishes the needy a compassionate good luck.

Jan. 14 2011 11:28 AM
LF

Health care costs have been inflated by the for profit insurance industry. Young people do not know about the 50s and 60s when good healthcare was easy to come by and one could pay for a doctor out of one's own pocket because the fees were relatively low!
A family member recently had to go to a physical therapist for a serious arm injury. The billing showed that the PT was paid $11. per 45 minute session and had to wait for payment from the insurer for over 8 weeks. How is that professional? How does that foster good practice by the provider? Insurers are making money hand over fist on the morality, decency and professional pride of practitioners when insurers are in fact behaving immorally. Since when does any religious or philosophical tract conclude that this form of usury and greed is moral or ethical?

Jan. 14 2011 11:25 AM
Carol from Willow

I think framing the question of universal health care as a moral outrage or imperative is an unnecessarily harsh choice. Universal health care is a fundamental human need and one our advanced society and economy are fully able to provide -- as nearly every other advanced society does. For me the moral outrage is that health care in the U.S.is a luxury commodity, provided on a for-profit basis: those who can afford it will have it, those who can't go without. We provide other essential services and health care should be no different. I personally would support a small VAT or other consumption tax (which is less regressive than a flat tax) or modest income tax surcharge to build a universal insurance fund for public option...everybody contributes, everybody has access.
Thank you,
Carol

Jan. 14 2011 11:12 AM
stephen from stony brook

Greetings:

I'm a Libertarian, so I'm on "both" sides. This may be morally requisite, but it's feasible if our otherwise completely useless Congress addressed the following three (of many issues, but we must be brief here):

1) Tort reform (eg. how much is a human life worth?). Assign a reasonable, cleverly constructed financial schedule so insurance actuaries can calculate for wrongful-death suits.

2) 1$ spent to cover an uninsured person >> $ spent as single-payer insurance. The reason is simple - hospitals claim these as losses and find several sources to cover them, post-facto. This process is grossly inefficient.

3) Repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which EXEMPTS insurance companies from interstate anti-trust. This is easily the most important one. Example (one of many: CA, MI, NY, IL, etc.): in the state of HI, one company controls 97% of the insurance market.

This said, I have exactly 0% confidence that Congress will do anything substantive whatsoever - and WE will keep paying for their national healthcare.

Jan. 14 2011 11:10 AM
Lou Panico from Linden NJ

The just completed discussion/debate by the callers Brian had on this morning is exactly the kind of rational, reasonable, respectful debate that this country needs but is totally incapable of accomplishing. As this past election cycle has proven, lying, smearing, shouting down an opponent, along with a healthy dose of character assassination will get you elected.

Compare the discussion on Brian's show with a typical Governor Christie town hall meeting where it is not an unusual occurrence to have people removed by the police or have the governor scream at a questioner he disagrees with.

I'm afraid that what we heard this morning is the exception and what you see at a Christie town hall meeting is what we can expect in this political environment.

Jan. 14 2011 11:08 AM
Brownell from Manhattan

I agree that health care is a die-to-protect-it issue, but "Obamacare" is far short of what it should be. I favored the health insurance mandate as long as the public option was included, but without the public option, it may be constitutionally dubious. There is no justification for the mandate that benefits consumers - there's just the admission that giving the health insurers the mandate was a condition for their support, which they reneged after the public option was dropped.

The other point about the health care program is that the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress have not aggressively addressed the "job killer" canard. Even a cursory look at the economy proves that health care creates jobs. Just as the savings in the program outweigh the costs (if the forecast is correct, which - without the public option - I doubt), the jobs to be added outweigh any employer concerns about providing health benefits. Democrats need to defend the program against Republicans' false talking points, but should be open to fixing some of the shortcomings, hopefully before the faults harm the program badly enough to discredit the whole thing.

Jan. 14 2011 11:07 AM
Donna

I love the caliber of discussion on this blog today....Wow, G from NY, you really hit the nail on the head. Let them carry through completely on the argument!

Jan. 14 2011 11:01 AM
mp from NYC

In respect to jobs; jobs are not being created and people are working harder and longer than ever; Media is putting a lot of empty talk about "creation of the job";
in fact very few jobs are being created ... In regard to healthcare; it should not be treated as market; it is wrong, this society is making top dollars on people being sick
does this make sense?? and we are among the sickest nations ; My husband recently had an ulcer perforation operation --the bill was around 38K --LIJ hospital network --insane expense covered by insurance; doctors are over charging for the services and the cost is being passed to people; doctors charge for services they did ot deliver as well; those advocating against health care system have good insurance and/or make over 200K a year, they do not care for anybody else but themselves; it is a shame , We need health care coverage for all but we need a reasonable approach; as long as doctors Insurance Companies and Pharmaceuticals are maximizing profits --patients do not matter; US health care system is a mess just like many aspects of its Wall Street driven economy. We live in a cruel plutocracy not democracy.

Jan. 14 2011 10:59 AM
LF from NY

Re healthcare: For some reason people do not focus on the fact that corporate health insurers are not interested in health but PROFIT. Anyone who has had a serious injury/sickness or needed to use their health insurance for any necessary length of time would know that most insurers limit payments and good healthcare levels.Their "reviews" are bogus. Is this what people want? I dont think anyone has voted for a corporate world that makes money by depriving or "rationing" the care for their health. Re government oversight: The govt provides fantastic healthcare for
legislators.. Rationing health by class[ political, wealthy] is medieval, immoral.

Jan. 14 2011 10:58 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The problem is that the medica costs are too high. Whether it's government health care or private, the society can't afford it. If there were lots of young, healthy people paying into the system, it would work, but these people have been aborted.

Jan. 14 2011 10:55 AM
matthew from Harlem

As a society we have already decided that it is a moral imperitive to take care of everyone. It is called the emergency room. There is no left or right in this issue. If we decide as a country that we are unwilling to pay for these expenses then so be it. But I for one will not vote for any politician who encourages this.

Jan. 14 2011 10:52 AM
G from ny

Its fine to say that there should not be a mandate to purchase health insurance. But would those who do not want a mandate also favor hospitals not accepting patients without insurance or who cannot pay out of pocket for the care they are consuming? After all, if an individual chooses not to have health care coverage, then others should not be obligated to pay for their health care once they are sick or injured. If you follow their logic of every "man" for themselves, then hospitals/doctors should also be free to choose those they treat. Of course, I am being facetious, but I would like those who make this argument carry it through.

Jan. 14 2011 10:51 AM

Talk about "moral outrage," I'm outraged by the fact that I am required by federal tax laws to pay for health care, not for myself, but for representatives and senators, who I am sure can well afford to pay for their own insurance.

Jan. 14 2011 10:50 AM
Ed Resor from Mamhattan

PLEASE KEEP JOHN PRENDERGAST ON THE SHOW TODAY OR MONDAY.

I believe the moral imperative for health care is similar to that for public education, social security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We owe it to our fellow citizens. At the same time we will all benefit from stronger fellow citizens and from working together through our government to take of each other's basic needs.

Furthermore, Obama's health care program is the only thing that Congress will approve to begin to deal with U.S. Health Care costs that will bankrupt the federal and state governments and U.S. Manufacturers if we don't start doing something now.

Jan. 14 2011 10:48 AM
Ken from Little Neck

Bravo to both contributors in this discussion. You don't often hear a productive, civil discussion on such a controversial issue, so this was a very refreshing change of pace.

Jan. 14 2011 10:47 AM
Edward from NJ

@bernie from bklyn, you and Dominick from New Jersey actually agree -- if you read his whole post rather than just the first two sentences.

Jan. 14 2011 10:46 AM
JR from Bronx

I teach elementary, middle and high school aged kids how to use active listening skills, reach win/win resolutions to conflict and come to consensus in order to take effect collaborative action.

How refreshing to hear these skills being used to mediate a thoughtful discussion -- great work by all participants! Really, how can clear and honest thinking, reasonable rules of discourse and human interaction be a partisan issue?

Everyone would think it was a good idea for kids to talk to each other with respect and using agreed upon rules of discourse (rather than beating each other up, for example) but our public officials don't have any responsibility to do this?

Jan. 14 2011 10:43 AM
bernie from bklyn

dominick from jersey- do you realize how absurd you sound? as you claim, anyone can go to the emergency room for emergency health care and the taxpayers foot the bill. so you want to continue that state of affairs? from a purely fiscal standpoint, that is absurd! you're talking about costing the taxpayer 100 times more than if we had a sensible universal health-care system where all could go to the doctor, take affordable medicines and most importantly- take part in preventative care. that is so important. people go to the emergency room when it is unbearable and by then they need so much more expensive care and that costs you,dominick from jersey, so much more. listen to what your saying and think about the big picture, please.

Jan. 14 2011 10:42 AM
Donna

This is exactly right! This is a philosophical issue that is a decision we make as a society. We have already said that we do not want people lying in the street and they are treated at emergency rooms with or without insurance! That is healthcare for all....but, that is a broken, inefficient system that no one ever talks about!

Jan. 14 2011 10:41 AM

Didn't know where else to put this: please correct your comment about Tom Udall. He is the senator from New Mexico; his cousin Mark is the senator from Colorado.

Jan. 14 2011 10:39 AM
Dominick from New Jersey

Everyone has health care in this country - if they don't have health insurance, they just go to the emergency room when they need care. And that care is paid for by the taxpayer. That's why our government has a right to require health insurance - as long as taxpayers have to foot the bill when someone without insurance goes to get care, the government, elected by those taxpayers, has a right to compel insurance.

Jan. 14 2011 10:35 AM
Jamie from Manhattan

Of course it is a moral imperative for any society to care for the members of that society - we celebrate this idea all the time, most recently in the case of citizen action in the Giffords shooting . Generally, this is not a left or right question. The left or right question is how we deal with this idea. The healthcare bill sensibly tries to control the cost of that assumption - and has it's roots in conservative ideas about fiscal issues. It may be that a more "conservative" voter would prefer that spending controls on healthcare were tighter, or would take a different approach - but the underlying principal is not the issue.

Jan. 14 2011 10:35 AM
To dan kaplan from Chelsea

That's abusurd! Everyone knows rich people have fewer children than poor people. And poor countries like Rwanda have (had) exploding populations whereas rich countries like Germany are facing a serious birth rate decline. Health insurance has zero effect on the "gene pool."

Jan. 14 2011 10:34 AM
Anne Burlock Lawver from New York City, NY

How did the national conversation change from "we must do something to create more jobs" to banging again at the health care reform laws? Many Republicans railed against the Democratic majority saying Democrats weren't doing enough to create more jobs. But now that Republicans have majority in the House, what are they doing: trying to tear down work already done! I don't hear the Republican members talking about what they are doing to create jobs! Why are they focusing on tearing down instead of creating?!

Jan. 14 2011 10:34 AM
Christy from Greenpoint

Here's the thing, As a freelancer, if I wanted an HMO from Aetna, it would cost me $1,200. That is more than most people's rent in my wage bracket, I'm not poor.

Jan. 14 2011 10:34 AM
Henrietta

Dems and Republicans sitting next to each other is a great idea since they currently function not such much as opposing teams as opposing gangs! As with the Sharks and the Jets, it may take tragedy for them to see there is common ground. Sitting next to each other can only serve to encourage this. How could it hurt?

Jan. 14 2011 10:33 AM
luckyparker from Westchester County, NY

Not sure we should be framing this as moral so much as humane.
A national healthcare system may not be perfect, but it would definitely be more humane, and this is harder to argue against.
Further, why do people not realize that we are already paying for people who do not have healthcare in many ways - higher E.R. costs, unvaccinated kids (who can infect other kids, whose immunity may not be fully developed, even if they've been immunized, etc.)
Even changing our living habits by driving less, reducing traffic, eating better foods, etc. will lower healthcare costs in the long run, by reducing asthma rates, cancer rates, etc.
Time to look at the big big picture.

Jan. 14 2011 10:33 AM
Judith from Brooklyn

Don't people realize that they pay for people who don't have health insurance in the form of higher taxes to support expensive emergency services and acute illnesses that could have been avoided with preventative care?

Jan. 14 2011 10:33 AM
dan kaplan from Chelsea

The thing Krugman omits from his Op-Ed in today's NY Times is that many of the social Darwinists on the right believe that by increasing social welfare programs, like Healthcare, it will encourage or allow for, what they consider the indigent and weakest of our population to continue to propagate and therefore dilute the American gene pool, thereby making us weaker and only continuing the growth of welfare recipients. It's their more passive form of Eugenics.

Jan. 14 2011 10:32 AM
Bryan from Brooklyn, NY

Udall's right. We should make them sit together during the State of the Union! While we're at it, make them sit boy/girl/boy/girl. If they're going to act like 3rd graders, we should treat them that way.

And while we're at it, can they please hold all their applause until the end?

Jan. 14 2011 10:32 AM
dan kaplan from Chelsea

The thing Krugman omits from his Op-Ed in today's NY Times is that many of the social Darwinists on the right believe that by increasing social welfare programs, like Healthcare, it will encourage or allow for, what they consider the indigent and weakest of our population to continue to propagate and therefore dilute the American gene pool, thereby making us weaker and only continuing the growth of welfare recipients. It's their more passive form of Eugenics.

Jan. 14 2011 10:30 AM
Betty from East Harlem

Isn't it the Christian-Judao imperative to help those who can't help themselves. Why are we so torn about helping people. Also Brian, do not refer to the health care reform as Obama Care; you are buying into right's negative inference.

Jan. 14 2011 10:30 AM
John A. from Westchester

For years I have been fighting having the opinion that Republicans are fear-mongering, regulation-clubbing, bomb dropping, waterboarding thugs. Congratulations, by labeling their side as 'the Outraged' one, you set my quest back another few weeks.

Jan. 14 2011 10:29 AM
Bernie's right about drug prices from Westchester

There won't be open competition between drug companies under ObamaCare. It's true that we'll end up paying inflated drug prices, and they'll take away our right to chose cheaper generic drugs over expensive name-brand drugs in a lot of cases.

Jan. 14 2011 10:29 AM
Donna

Healthcare is a long overdue debate in this country that we obviously cannot handle. I don't understand - we all pay for healthcare in this country already and it is a broken system. We have decided as a soceity that people without healthcare will be treated in emergency rooms at the expense of all of us - so what is the argument here? I guess the argument is do we fix the system or do we let the people just lie in the street that don't have insurance? I will await an answer from the "I love Jesus" crowd!

Jan. 14 2011 10:29 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Saying "Universal Healthcare" is a moral imperative as opposed to an economic one is why progressives are losing the narrative for reform.

Well said Barry. Hospitals, by law have to treat uninsured people, plus the government spends billions on the health for the poor and elderly with medicare and medicaid - yet some politicians cynically pretend that's not the case.

Yes Bernie - government has no business forcing its citizens to buy a private product simply by reason of their existence. Bring back the public option.

Jan. 14 2011 10:27 AM
Whitney

I understand that a common, wonderful characteristic of many Americans is the sense that if you work hard and earn an honest dollar, you should be rewarded with the right to choose the way that you live your life. Unfortunately, much of that earned dollar has a great deal to do with luck: being lucky with the parents or advisors in your life, lucky that you have the physical and mental capability to provide for yourself, lucky in the school that you were able to go to.

There are a huge percentage of people in America that are not as lucky as myself or many of your listeners. Those people should not be denied the access to good quality healthcare. Medicaid only covers people who earn an average of $900/month. That fails to care for many people that fall in the gap. I will be the first one to cringe about the abuse of Medicaid and Welfare, but I just cannot justify leaving so many people behind.

Jan. 14 2011 10:27 AM
Edward from NJ

Call it Obamacare. Own it. And enjoy it when everyone loves it 20 years from now, and it's still called Obamacare.

Jan. 14 2011 10:24 AM
Colette from Brooklyn Heights

Once again, our conversation is falsely framed in a "left/right" dichotomy when in actuality "obamacare" is a centrist (corporate) solution. When is the voice of the *true* left going to be heard?!? What will it take???

Jan. 14 2011 10:24 AM
Hugh Sansom

I take it John Heilemann is in his early 30s. If he had any awareness of history, he would know the vicious language that characterizes contemporary American politics began in the Reagan years. Alan Simpson happily called liberals 'comsymps' repeatedly in the 80s. Reagan worked overtime to demonize liberals. William F. Buckley did much the same, albeit with more 'respectable' language.

Jan. 14 2011 10:23 AM

I've been unemployed, and therefore uninsured, for over two years. If I were shot the way Gifford was, I'd have less than a split-second to decide whether to go to hospital and live rest of my life to pay off the medical debt, or die and owe nothing to anyone.

Now tell me, where's the morality in this scenario (read: my life)?

Perhaps if we stopped talking about healthcare from within the frame of the dollar sign we'd be able to address the crux of the matter: No one should be too poor to afford his/her health.

Jan. 14 2011 10:22 AM
Ernest Mehler

Dear Brian,

we love your show, and listen to it every morning without fail. We have noticed that you continue to refer to the new health care law as "Obamacare" which is meant to denigrate. As far as we recall, the actual name of the new law is "The affordable care act" .

Thanks

Ernie and Dorothy Mehler

Jan. 14 2011 10:22 AM
Edward from NJ

I would be in the "moral imperative" camp. My question for people on the other side would be: Is it acceptable, in our country, for people to lose their homes and life savings because they got sick? I don't think so. I think a lot of the people in "moral outrage" territory would tend to agree that it's unacceptable. While I can see free-market-solutions taking care of some of the problems with American health care, I don't see how they can address truly catastrophic situations.

Jan. 14 2011 10:21 AM
ericf

are these things mutally exclusive?

can we see universal health care as moral imperitive and yet find particular methods for providing it morally offensive?

(personally, i'm not sure if universal health care is a moral imperitive, but in practical terms, we'd probably all be better off if we treated it that way whether or not it really is.)

Jan. 14 2011 10:21 AM
bernie from bklyn

just one example of the immorality of our present state and when full-on obamacare kicks in- the price of drugs is fixed and will stay fixed under obamacare. this HAS to be changed. politicians know this has to be changed but they can't vote for it because they are always worried about being re-elected and they need big pharma $ to do it.
there is no bidding on drugs at present and there won't be w/ obamacare. so the taxpayers are and will pay ridiculously inflated prices for drugs and no one does anything about it. just offensive and ridiculous.

Jan. 14 2011 10:21 AM
B from New York

"Obamacare"???

Really Brian, how can you even PRETEND to present yourself as a fair arbiter when you repeatedly use a derogatory term for healthcare reform COINED by right-wing hate mongers to FRAME the conversation?

It really is quite apparent that health insurance companies are corporate sponsors of WNYC.

Jan. 14 2011 10:20 AM
sp from Bronx

Actually, these are not mutually exclusive ideas.What we need is a single-payer system, like every civilized nation on earth. It is outrageous that anyone should be shoveled into the insatiable maw of the insurance companies, without the possibility of even a public option. What we did not need was another corporate welfare scheme, like banks and auto companies, forcing the poor and middle class to subsidize big insurance. (Can multi-million dollar donations from the industry have anything to do with this, or am I too cynical?) We are in the midst of a recession bordering on depression, and these supposed "reforms" will force those of us just getting by to spend a substantial percentage of our incomes on what the government mandates, even if we can barely pay rent and food bills. Marginal businesses (of which there are more and more--see unemployment rate and closed storefronts) will either have to cut employees or cut wages. The only winners are the soon-to-be subsidized insurance companies, who will be laughing all the way to the already-subsidized banks.

Jan. 14 2011 10:19 AM
Michael Vignapiano from Nyc

take away all of our government officials tax payer health care and any additional "cares" and let them spend their money as they choose for these things

Jan. 14 2011 10:19 AM

My question is: for those who think that the health care plan is immoral, do you oppose Medicare? Why should only seniors have mandatory health care? Would you support a single payer health plan, paid for through taxes, rather than through mandates for individuals to purchase health insurance? How do you propose to deal with individuals who are uninsurable: e.g. people with chronic, incurable but treatable conditions such as
Type I diabetes? Or people with a history of cancer?

Jan. 14 2011 10:19 AM
superf88

I'm so glad you are taking this angle -- conversing with some so called conservative neighbors, who were outraged by the idea of Universal Health care -- yet cannot afford health care for themselves -- was the moment I realized how truly, confoundingly divided this nation really is politically.

My other moment of truth was Bush's ability to raise an all volunteer army specifically to fight in Iraq, a war even Bush would characterize as a war of choice rather than defense.

Jan. 14 2011 10:17 AM
James Carson from Williamsburg


As an attorney, I know it's difficult under
the Constitution to compel citizens to
buy something. You can make car
insurance a prerequisite for driving on
public streets, but it's hard to make
health insurance a prerequisite for just
living. Personally, I wish every American
had decent health care, but making it
mandatory cuts against the grain of our
legal tradtition.

Jan. 14 2011 10:16 AM
Ken from Little Neck

I agree with Bernie, at least to some extent. Universal health care is a moral imperative - but that's hardly what the health care law does. Handing a few more million people to for profit health care companies, while helpful to them, does not solve our health care crisis.

Jan. 14 2011 10:15 AM
Barry from Barry

We all do pay for non-insured people when they get sick or injured. Health care reform makes both moral and fiscal sense.

Jan. 14 2011 10:14 AM
bernie from bklyn

it is immoral to force the citizens of this country to buy insurance from private insurance companies.
it's a conceptual problem- private insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies are created to make profit from the illness of the american people. the logic just doesn't work if this country cares about it's citizens. this should not be acceptable in this country and is immoral. it HAS to be a non-profit situation if all of the citizens will benefit. there has to be a public option to even the playing field.
and until the citizens united decision is overturned this immorality will reign supreme indefinitely. big insureance and big pharma will buy the politicians and the people will suffer, as always.

Jan. 14 2011 10:08 AM

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