Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Why Doesn't the Religious Right Support Universal Health Care?

A friend of mine recently met a retired nurse in her sixties. She has diabetes along with a host of other medical problems. She's one of the ones that Democrats talk about when they tell us stories of people having to choose between buying medicine and buying food. She can't get all the medicine her doctor believes she needs because Medicare doesn't cover it, and she can only eat vegetables for the first week or two of the month, because she simply can't afford more. This is not a lazy woman. She worked for decades as a nurse and can no longer work due to her health problems.

We're the richest country in the world.

Democrats have been pushing for universal health care for decades, but have been stymied by Republicans who think the money would be better spent with more tax cuts for multi-millionaires. If not universal health care, how about just more health care? Why do we let children go uninsured?

Which side of this debate would Jesus have been on?


Shlomo said...

American Christianity is more a reflection of the Old Testament fire and brimstone than the egalitarian, socialistic views of either the Talmud or the New Testament. So these Americans will scream and yell about personal responsibility, and although that is true, people don't operate in a vacuum or a magickal kingdom where if they just work hard enough they can have anything they want. There are forces outside of one's labor and effort that effect the value of that effort.

People who have 'made it' almost always look down upon those that haven't because they, like many others, think their fortunes were the product of their hard work, not realizing that what made their effort valuable was the value society placed on the effort.

There is also this philosophical and nationalistic air of 'individualism' that Americans like to wear which is nothing more than a mask to cover their own greed and selfishness. They don't want to contribute one dime to help others and resent paying taxes for any reason. This is linked to the 'personal responsibility' excuse.

Many upper class Americans forget that it wasn't hard work that took their ancestors out of the coal mines or the small farms into the penthouse suite. It was society collectively providing the means through social conscience and unionized effort that made labor valuable enough to increase the standard of living.

Health Care is part of that 'value'. One can argue as to whether or not it should be a 'right', but one cannot argue as to the 'value' of having it.

Kol Tuv

asher said...

We've all heard these stories of people who have to sacrifice to get health care. However, with Medicare and Medicaid, SSI and welfare available you never hear of someone dying for lack of medical attention. Emergency rooms must take everyone who shows up regardless of their ability to pay or any insurance. My wife is a nurse practicioner who works at a "clinic" part of hospital. Not one person who shows up there has any private insurance and she's busy 5 days a week. Now who is picking up the slack? My good friends at Aetna just upped my monthly premiums by 25% per month which is about 20 times more than inflation is running.

Throwing money at the problem has never worked. In the Great Society of Pres. Johnson, billions were spent. Year later Reagan (no genius) said "On the war on poverty, poverty won."

To make things even more strange, think about this: the exact same number of men die of prostate cancer each year as women who die of breast cancer. Have you ever seen a march, run or rally for prostate cancer.....where is the red ribbon for prostate cancer?
Every Father's Day there is a walk for prostate cancer...ever hear of it? Didn't think so. Something about priorities.

More people die each year from the common cold than die from AIDs. Which disease gets the billions of research?

Why are we sending billions to Africa to help them with their Aids problem? Can anyone on the planet not know what causes AIDS and how easily it can be prevented?

Then again, most of Europe has socialized medicine. They haven't come up with a single medication in decades and you've never heard of anyone flying to France for a bypass operation. In Canada you can get an abortion paid for by the state but the waiting time is about 9 months.

There is more to this than just thinking giving folks money will solve a problem. I mean, look how well that worked with the credit cards given out to the folks in New Orleans.

The thing that truly needs to be looked into is the cost of drugs. It costs millions to develop a single drug. However, once it's approved it is sold at a price hundreds of times more than it costs to produce. Drug company "reps" are giving huge expense accounts to court doctors, nurses and hospitals. They give free seminars pushing their drug, and the giveaways are famous. Where is the investigation into this waste?

And on that note....

Laura said...

The religious right picks and chooses what messages it focuses on in the Bible for political reasons and nothing more. They could focus on "Turn the other cheek", "do unto others", etc, etc. - the teachings of Jesus. But they don't. They focus on Revelations, the OT, and all the rules & regulations without the underlying messages.

It's all theatre. They pick whatever helps them get their political goals advanced. The reason they don't support universal health care is because they're in bed with the political and corporate interests that run this country - and because in this country, any socialist premise is still dismissed as unpatriotic, and anti-religious because of the remnants of the cold war. It's all about politics, not Jesus.

If it were about Jesus, sites like wouldn't exist.

Laura said...

Asher said "you never hear of someone dying for lack of medical attention."

Is that our goal - to keep people just healthy enough to survive? If that's the case then your argument is fine. I don't believe that should be our goal. With all the medicines available to improve quality of life - those should not be available only to the rich. Poor people don't die of arthritis and ulcers, but they sure could have a better quality of life if they could afford medication for it.

Sadie Lou said...

Why do we let children go uninsured?

I don't know about state to state but in California, there is no excuse for children not being insured and not having enough to eat. We have excellent benefits for low income families. I took advantage of MediCal and WIC (WIC is women and infant care). WIC gave us FREE milk, cheese, cereal, beans, peanut butter and juice.
Did I say it was free?
Public schools pass out a flyer on the first day of school for a program called Health Families. The program is so affordable, the school will cover the cost if the family can't afford it. Also, there's a program at my kids' school called Express Lane. That's where low income or poverty level children can get Hot Lunch for free and they can also get toothpaste and toothbrushes from the school nurse with a coupon for a free exam with a local dentist.

I tell you these things not to argue with you, JA because I am all for health coverage but to give you hope. Things are being done.

Sadie Lou said...

People who have 'made it' almost always look down upon those that haven't because they, like many others, think their fortunes were the product of their hard work, not realizing that what made their effort valuable was the value society placed on the effort.

Like Paris Hilton?

Jewish Atheist said...

Sadie Lou,

That's great about California. You didn't answer my question about the religious right, though. Why aren't they behind more universal health care?

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Re Jesus:
There is no question, he would have supported universal health care. Jesus was always on the side of the poor, and frequently critical of the wealthy and powerful.

His healing ministry is presented in the Gospels as a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy,
The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor … (cf. Luke 4).

According to Acts, the first Christians sold their property and pooled their resources to enable the Church to take care of the poor.

Re the religious right:
The diagnosis is very simple. They have confused the values of their society with the values of their religion. They can't distinguish between the two, so they advocate capitalism and rugged individualism as fervently as if such values were part of the Gospel.

July Al said...

As much as I disagree with so much of what Jesus did and taught, I have to concede that his reputed willingness to heal illnesses and feed the hungry are worthy of respect.

Much of my distaste for modern Christianity comes from their utter loathing of such good works, and their focus on salvation to the exclusion of all else.

Shlomo said...

Re: Throwing money at the problem

This is the typical response to anything that requires additional resources to accomplish. It, along with the claim that “big government is bad”, is one of those phrases that the free-marketeers and corporatists throw up every time someone suggests improving thet state of education and health care when the plan threatens their profit margins. There is no evidence to suggest that throwing money would not solve the problem, since the problem, in case no one has noticed yet, is lack of money!

Would this same person claim that spending for national defence and security is ‘throwing money’? How about ‘throwing money’ to fix roads? Funny thing about money is that it does get things done, and done right when it allocated properly. All we do in life is ‘throw money’ and it solves many problems (some of which it created.)

We are already ‘throwing’ more money than any other nation into health care. The problem is not what is being thrown, but to where it is being thrown.

Read the blog!

Random said...

"Which side of this debate would Jesus have been on?"

It's clear enough. Although he expected his followers to be loyal to the state (render unto Caesar, and all that) there is nowhere in his teachings where it can be interpeted that the job of looking after the poor is the state's responsibility. It's very clearly a matter of private charitable endeavour - his followers are constantly encouraged to lead, to give, to set an example - nowhere are they told to hand over responsibility to somebody else or to force others to help unwillingly.

And contrary to what Al says, it is I believe a matter of record that charitable giving per head in the USA is much higher than in any comparable country (as indeed is Church attendance - it does not seem unreasonable to suggest the two may be linked).

And as for "Much of my distaste for modern Christianity comes from their utter loathing of such good works" - I'll give you a challenge. Go into the poorest parts of pretty much any major city and look at who's actually out on the streets feeding the poor or helping the homeless - I suspect you'll find rather more representatives of the Salvation Army than you will of The Council for Secular Humanism.

Random said...


Throwing money at a bureaucratic organisation first and foremost buys you more bureaucracy, regardless of the purpose of the organisation. A case in point if you will - Britain has a National Health Service which is as universal as anybody could desire. Since the Labour Party came into power in 1997, funding on it has virtually doubled in real terms. This increase in money has paid for about 10,000 new doctors and nurses - and 50,000 bureaucrats to administer them (the NHS is so bloated that it is sometimes described as the third largest employer in the world - the first two being the Chinese army and Indian State Railways). Are you seriously saying this is the best way to help the poor?

Shlomo said...


Everything requires management. It can be done the wrong way, or the right way. Our goal is not to create a for profit healthc care system that runs on the cheapest price available and hires the lowest bidder, with most of the money going to private corporations. We have that now. Parts of it work, parts of it don't.

Top heavy socialism is no better in effect than top heavy capitalism, where a larger portion of resources is redirected AWAY from the goal. Politics would also have to be separated from the hiring processes.

You make a good critique and some excellent points, and those must be considered.

Kol Tuv

Shlomo said...


My other answer is more practical. In the USA, a physician in a busy practice requires at least 10 people as support staff, nurse, physician assistant, receptionist, and maybe even more. The nature of medical practice requires more people than just the doctor.


Laura said...

Random said :Although he expected his followers to be loyal to the state (render unto Caesar, and all that) there is nowhere in his teachings where it can be interpeted that the job of looking after the poor is the state's responsibility.

You make an interesting point. But I also have to point out that the context of the Bible and our current form of nation states are two different political structures. Jesus couldn't have argued for the state to take care of the poor because there, in effect, was no state. There were independently run territories that all paid allegience to Rome. Because there was no centralized government structure besides taxes and military, there was no way for the state to take on this responsibility anyway. Also the Jews couldn't depend on the state to provide them with much of anything, so he wouldn't have relied on the state. However, in our nation-state - where in theory everyone is supposed to have an equal shot - how can we apply the Biblical situation to our current one? It's totally different. In a nation where the State is responsible for the well being of all its citizens (in theory) I think he would have had a different outlook.

context people. context.

Esther said...

I'n no expert on these things, but it seems to me that health insurance costs are so out of control that they are beginning to hinder private companies from creating jobs. The cost of benefits has become so high that companies are tending to create low-quality, part-time jobs without benefits. Perhaps someone more versed in this topic could provide statistics to show that this trend has been occurring over the past decade. This would seem to run counter to economic goals of the government, which is to create an environment that is condusive to high quality private sector job creation. If we had a single payer system in this country, think about how much money private companies could save in employee health benefits? Wouldn't it make American workers more competitive in the world economy? It seems to be a win-win situation for everyone but the insurance industry.

Shlomo said...


That is very true. Companies such as KMart began doing that in the late 80s and WalMart is well known for it.

Japanese automakers are building plants in Canada rather than the US. Know why? Health Care costs. Nations with Socialized medicine (or a variation thereof) attract businesses seeking to limit their own overhead.

The real culprits are the insurance companies. They get greedier and greedier and there is no one willing to reign them in. Back in the day, insurance company profits came from the investment of you premium dollar. Today, with lower rates of retrun and higher expectations, the greedy bastards raise premuims and cut services to make up the difference.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

The issue we're discussing is health care. Are you suggesting that private charities should provide hip replacements and dialysis services to the poor?

Jesus was a proponent of social justice. Do you think he would have stood by, silently, while only the rich had access to the best physicians and medical clinics?

Laura is right: if Jesus were alive in our society, it's obvious that he would have favoured universal health care.

Random said...


You can indeed think that if you wish. The fact remains however that it's a view that has no support in scripture - Jesus quite clearly talks about voluntary charitable support, and nowhere does he teach that you have a right to force other people to help the poor (which, lets be clear, is precisely what a government imposed universal scheme would amount to).

Q, no it's not obvious. If you truly believe I'm wrong, can you cite the appropriate teaching? Many thanks.

R10B said...

JA, In the heading of this thread you ask why the religious right opposes UHC but in the body you talk Dem./Repub. The two are not equivalent in connotation. Though it might be safe to say the majority of the religious right stands under the Repub umbrella, but many other interests are under there as well and I propose that those interests (mainly the rich and pro-corporation elements) are what's truly blocking UHC, not the religious right. This might be tangential to your what-would-jesus-do point, which itself is a worthwhile question, but I think we need to understand a basic truth; The GOP uses the religous right when occasion warrants (for the lemming vote) otherwise, they ignore them like a senile uncle.

Jewish Atheist said...

But why doesn't the RR make a fuss about UHC?

R10B said...

The Heritage Foundation says,

" examination of health care in both Canada and Britain reveals that moving American medicine in this direction would be a terrible mistake...Both systems are characterized by long lines for treatment, substandard technology, frustrated doctors and patients, and--most important--government rationing of care."

That's the RR line.

Now, if you believed that, wouldn't you, regardless of your faith, be hesitant to jump on the UHC bandwagon?

You may also be in agreement with the Presbyterian USA Church:

"The challenge and the goal of our nation ought to be access to quality health care for everyone within its borders. We believe that it is the moral responsibility of the state to ensure that all its peoples enjoy access to quality health care."

I'll admit it. I'm torn. I can see why, not just the RR, but the citizenry in general can't gather the necessary steam to get something happening on UHC.

Chaim said...

In case anyone is still reading --

Random states that "Jesus quite clearly talks about voluntary charitable support, and nowhere does he teach that you have a right to force other people to help the poor." This ignores a couple of things. First, at the time Jesus taught (and today), the Torah required Jews to make loans to their indigent fellow-Jews. Second, I believe, subject to correction, that much of the meat generated by the Temple sacrifices helped feed the poor, so the mandatory sacrifices in part constituted "forced" help for the poor. Third, I'm too lazy to check whether the Talmudic rule that every Jewish town have a tzedaka ("charity") fund is quoted in the name of a rabbi predating Jesus, but even if it isn't, it's likely such funds existed in Jesus's time. Tzedaka means "righteousness" and in Jewish law is not optional with the giver. In self-governing Jewish communities those who failed to pay their share were subject to sanctions. I don't know the New Testament well enough to know whether there are allusions to this obligation or whether the early Christian communities followed the Jewish example after the break from Judaism. I think if you studied first-century Judaism you'd realize that Jesus didn't address community support for the poor and every Jew's obligation to help fund it because there was no reason for Jesus to do so.