Saturday, August 22, 2009
I Get It Now.
Thank you to a local independent political hopeful who strongly believes in the capitalist system in theory and the Constitution in practice...I finally understand the basis of the health care reform debate and many other philosophical struggles that have seemed to be based in nothing but fear.
There is fear, of course. Only fear could make someone believe that yelling over others at town hall meetings or packing a gun is appropriate behavior for a discussion of the issues.
But for rational, thinking people who are opposed to what they call "big government", people like the gentleman I spoke with last night about this subject, the bottom line is clear: the government's role is constitutionally very limited and that's the way it ought to be.
"But shouldn't the government, in exchange for the taxes we pay, offer a basic level of service that not only protects us from attack but maintains our health so that we can pursue life, liberty etc?" I asked.
"No." He was emphatic. "I'm not trying to not be compassionate. I truly believe this. If you can't afford health insurance, that's too bad. I've paid into Social Security for twenty years. I get back what I put into it."
I didn't ask him how he feels about Medicare, which he is undoubtedly using. I didn't have to. He told me the worst thing that ever happened to this country was FDR.
"He began the role of government as caretaker. That's not in the Constitution."
"But isn't it what it ought to be?"
"If that's what you want, then change the Constitution. I'm all for that if that's what the people want. But until they do, no. Government is supposed to exist to defend us in time of war. That's about it."
He and I agree that the current political system doesn't work. And perhaps that common ground is what makes it possible for us to discuss this dispassionately. I don't think he's evil incarnate and he doesn't think I'm a tax and spend liberal. But we have a basic, fundamental difference of opinion.
"So what you're telling me," I concluded, "is that my vision of a government that provides basic services for its citizens in exchange for tax dollars..."
"...isn't the way it works here," he continued.
"But what if I think it should?"
"Then you should move to another country. That's socialism."
And I think he's got something there. Maybe the ideal America I envision isn't what it was intended to be. Period. Just because I was born here doesn't mean that the system of government I studied in school is one I agree with.
What an amazing thought. Somehow I assumed I belonged here.