Friday, June 22, 2007

Dennis Richardson Swings and Misses on Health Care

As we've noted a couple of times, GOP House member Dennis Richardson likes to pontificate almost blog-style in his weekly newsletters. In the June 15th missive Richardson concerned himself with HJR 19, which seeks to enshrine the right to health care into Oregon's Constitution. Here's a snippet:
[I]n my opinion, although Oregon has already traded the "limited government" enjoyed by our forefathers, for the post New Deal era of social-welfare programs passed by Congress and State Legislatures, HJR 18 will result in a new and historic, Constitutionally-mandated "fundamental" right to State-funded health careā€¦in other words, Constitutional Socialism..

HJR 18 is new ground. If Oregon is going to blaze the trail to Constitutional Socialism by providing government guaranteed solutions and "essential safeguards to human life" for health care, what about other and even more fundamental human needs? IF the people are going to be asked to mandate the State to provide health care, should the people also be asked to mandate other "fundamental rights," such as for food and clothing and shelter?

Consider the logic. What benefit is health care if a person is malnourished, inadequately clothed or homeless? Should not a caring society that requires government mandated universal health care also address other, more basic needs for human survival?
Funny you should mention that, Dennis. Your implication appears to be that nobody would suggest with a straight face that Oregonians might approve of guaranteed health care, shelter and food. (Clothing? WTF?) However, just today Steve Novick's campaign has forwarded a tremendously insightful piece from Rick Perlstein of the Nation, suggesting that the electorate is far more progressively tuned than either the media or the GOP would have you believe:
Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007, a massive twenty-year roundup of public opinion from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, tells the story. Is it the responsibility of government to care for those who can't take care of themselves? In 1994, the year conservative Republicans captured Congress, 57 percent of those polled thought so. Now, says Pew, it's 69 percent. (Even 58 percent of Republicans agree. Would that some of them were in Congress.) The proportion of Americans who believe government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep is 69 percent, too--the highest since 1991. Even 69 percent of self-identified Republicans--and 75 percent of small-business owners!--favor raising the minimum wage by more than $2.

The Pew study was not just asking about do-good, something-for-nothing abstractions. It asked about trade-offs. A majority, 54 percent, think "government should help the needy even if it means greater debt" (it was only 41 percent in 1994). Two-thirds want the government to guarantee health insurance for all citizens. Even among those who otherwise say they would prefer a smaller government, it's 57 percent--the same as the percentage of Americans making more than $75,000 a year who believe "labor unions are necessary to protect the working person." [emphs me]
Let's repeat so it sinks in: at least 2/3 of Americans believe that the government should guarantee health care, food and shelter for all citizens. And a majority are willing to go into debt to accomplish those things.

I urge you to read the whole article; it goes into much greater detail about the conflict between American values and the Democratic Party's inability to champion those values, despite their obvious popularity. And I believe Steve's point in sending folks the link is to suggest that he not only recognizes those values, but believes in them and will stand up for them regardless of what the consultariat tells him. And that's why we endorse him for Senate.

And maybe, just maybe, instead of asking Dennis Richardson why he thinks this is a bad bill for Oregon, we should be asking why the Democratic majority is afraid to take it a step further and enshrine food and shelter as guaranteed commodities for all Oregonians as well. But considering he and 26 of his party colleagues wouldn't even vote for the chance to see what Oregonians think about the idea, this week's Tone Deaf Award goes to Richardson and the state GOP. Wake up and smell the progressivism!

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