I understand the thought behind Obamacare. I am thankful that my wife and I will be able to afford healthcare under the plan, as our multiple part-time jobs don’t provide it. However, it would be unfair to take my personal situation, or any other, and extrapolate it into a blanket judgment of good or bad for the program. The economy of healthcare is far too complex to allow my personal emotions to come into any opinion on it. Objectivity, as painful and impossible as it is, remains the best goal for my thoughts on the subject.
Idealist, free-market capitalism really does resonate with me. I realize that I need to get off my behind and provide something that someone else needs. Otherwise, how can I expect to take food, shelter, shoes, and Internet from a society that works hard to provide them? It’s a matter of doing my part, working to the best of my innate and developed capacities, to make this life a little easier for someone else. I do this by transcribing class lectures for hard-of-hearing students in a university setting, and by teaching private music lessons to elementary-aged children. When I’m on, I’m on, and I work pretty hard at these things. I should. I could work harder, though.
I seem to have been gifted with some pretty strong innate capacities. I’ve also been given the environment in which I could develop those capacities to a pretty reasonable level. I’m thankful for the power that’s been given to me through my innate capacities and my environment. I also recognize that with that, as they said in Spiderman, great power comes with great responsibility. I have to work. I have to write, transcribe, and teach. I should always be on the front edge of what I can do and what I’m comfortable with. I can’t sit on these talents or bury them in the ground out of feelings of inadequacy. So teaching stretches me? I start from my perceived inadequacy. I start with the first moment of response to whatever my student brings in. It doesn’t matter that I don’t consider myself a teacher; my students and my paycheck consider me a teacher. I have to do the best I can.
But there is no one explanation for the measure of a person’s innate capacities, for the effect of environment on those capacities, or for why this person’s income does or doesn’t match up to his or her idea (or objective reality’s idea) of a livable wage. Though the idealist imagines equal paychecks for all, reality gives us people of vastly different capacities. Not everyone has innate or developed capacities to which the free market ascribes a livable wage. Should a person lacking in capacity be able to survive? Well, yes. But what is survival? More on that in a moment.
If there is no one explanation, there is no one answer to poverty. This is extraordinarily painful for me to admit. I want to get behind Obamacare. Emotionally, I’ve been behind it from the start. My heart bleeds liberal for the homeless people I see on the streets of Akron. I want them to get on their feet, and yes, I certainly want them to get the healthcare they need. Surely the conditions of homelessness put a person in far greater health danger than do the conditions of white-collar, Beamer-driving executivism.
However, my intellect is deeply concerned with the new law. Healthcare is expensive because it takes so many man-hours to research, develop, pass on, and practice. Adequate medical care is not a human right; it is made possible by the work of hundreds of thousands of people. Those people need food, shelter, shoes, and Internet, too. Healthcare simply must be paid for, or no high school graduate will consider going into it. If no one had ever gone into it, the possibility (not the right) of healthcare treatment would not exist in our society.
For one thing, Obamacare concerns me because those in greatest poverty won’t be covered by the plan, due either to the Federal Government’s misguided belief that all States would extend Medicare benefits to the lowest income levels, or to the Feds’ psychotic onus-pushing of the issue onto the States. You can see this alarming fact for yourself. This calculator reveals that an Ohio family of 2 with a combined annual income of $10,000 would pay a premium of $3,703 for healthcare—a staggering 37% of an annual income which is already probably not enough to cover basic essentials, even without the luxury of iPhones and cable TV. If we are going to redistribute wealth in this way, shouldn’t we make sure it covers those who are most in need of a handout? Shouldn’t we do it with style?
I keep asking how we got here. I don’t have an answer, but I see the threads connecting the points of this dark constellation. An alarmingly high standard of living inherited from the 20th century, coupled with our membership in a society developed enough to meet those expectations (if one can pay), has dreadfully clouded our view of what wealth is. As the bottom has fallen out of American value, my generation finds itself scrambling to find service-based jobs so we can pay for the entertainment services we use. The race to the technological top has become a race to the goods-based economic bottom, as young people seek prestige and pay in the technocracy. (The shortage of young workers going into blue-collar professions, which even the 21st century will still need, has been documented elsewhere. You can probably Google it.) I believe this problem will only increase with the stratification between the working classes and the technocracy. Someone has to make and sell the bread, but no one wants to, because it isn’t sexy, like designing the next iPhone is. Even the technocracy will need bread, barring some sort of virtual reality development giving wealthy consciousnesses the ability to detach from physical need—though I don’t doubt that we may see this, too, in the next ten years.
All of that to say that we expect too much value in return from the value that we as people provide to the economy. Remember, the economy is not a disembodied entity seeking to screw us; it is the man or woman sitting next to you, multiplied to the nth. The sum of humanity has needs, and the sum of able-bodied or able-minded humanity needs to work hard to create value—even if those more-able-bodied must work harder than those less-able-bodied. Remember that quote from Spiderman?
What insight does this give me on Obamacare? None. I can’t figure out if this is a good idea from a humanitarian perspective, or if it displays the dying throes of our 21st century economic beast. We will recover from this time, I think; but it may only be through some sort of value catastrophe even worse than 2008. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s what I see in the stratification between the technocracy and those who produce the nation’s life-supporting goods.