01 April 2010

A Matter of Liability

The part about all the uproar over the healthcare reform thing that troubles me is the confusion, the seeming surprise, that our government could possibly think they have any right to take control over such an institution. It's the same confusion and surprise that greeted new government regulation over Wall Street and the banking industry, much of which, by the way, has been thoroughly disregarded.

What part don't you get?

Is it not true that I might very well not be insured by my employer, choose not to maintain any kind of private policy (because there's no way in hell I could afford to), choose to smoke cigarettes (a fully informed decision in that I know full well the harm of which they're capable), get any number of afflictions as a direct result of that cancer, and then decide that I want to live badly enough and therefore pursue treatment enough that I readily accept any government assistance I can possibly get, and probably even feel like I deserve it? I'm not picking on smokers; it's just an example. I could use seatbelts, helmet laws, alcohol consumption (driving or not), ignored storm warnings, bad mortgages (given and received), mountain climbing, whatever.

Whose responsibility are we, if not our own? And if that is our claim, then why do we not live our lives as though we have signed a waiver releasing the government and the rest of society from any such responsibility? But we do not. We want it both ways. We want to reject interference, "meddling," by our ruling authorities until we need them. People sit in the path of the storm swearing up and down that they'll be just fine, aren't going anywhere, until the water gets past five or six feet, and then they're not only on the phone calling 911, but complaining because there's some delay (like 90-mph winds, or that same six feet of water, or all the other equally dismissive people in line to be saved ahead of them). People climb mountains in inclement weather, knowing the risks and the outright statistical likelihood that they will not live through the experience, and yet when they're a few hours late, a search party is launched, at the full expectation of everybody with any knowledge that the fool went up the mountain to begin with.
People (like me) hate being made to wear their seatbelts, because, really, whose business is it? Right? But if we have an accident, and we're ejected from the vehicle and seriously injured (assuming we live), do we tell the paramedics to just leave us there, that it's our own fault? Do we say, "I didn't want the government meddling in my life, and I knew what I was getting myself into. It just wouldn't be right to take the help now." I actually might say exactly that, but I also wear my seatbelt, even though I hate it, because I don't know that in that situation, I'd have that kind of resolve, that my principles would hold up after I'd caused myself multiple broken bones and internal injuries and was facing a certain and painful death in some roadside ditch. People continue to smoke, drink, and use drugs, at all ages, all income levels, insured or not.

Insurance costs continue to climb, we continue to smoke, and sue, and complain. We continue to blame others, refuse to fix the crisis ourselves, beg for help, and then reject the help when it's offered. We're like the families on "Super Nanny," at the beginning of the show, that immature and ignorant, that arrogant, and that helpless. And still, when Jo shows up, they usually spend the first quarter of the show arguing with her, saying they "caaaann't," trying to get around the rules they begged somebody to come set for them.

Why in the hell would you not be subject to regulation by somebody who gave you a loan? Why in the hell would whoever's funding your escapades not get in a say in whether or not you should continue having them in the same manner? When your parents are paying for all your needs, you're supposed to follow their rules. Why would it be different when the federal government is the parent, and, say, Merrill Lynch is the child? It's actually not any different at all.

This country was founded on the concept that certain "inalienable" rights are due every human being, and that it was, at least in part, the function of the federal government to guarantee these rights for us. Life, liberty, property. Life, in modern terms, equals healthcare, shelter, elderly care. This is what you demanded from the beginning. This is what you demand every time you're in a pinch. This is what you get as a very natural consequence for the irresponsible way you live.

What part don't you get?