Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion Politics

Making America sick again

“Gleaning” painting by Arthur Hughes. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

“Gleaning” painting by Arthur Hughes. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

(RNS) So 24 million more Americans will be without health insurance under the Republican Obamacare replacement bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Or 26 million, if you prefer the number from the Trump Administration’s Office of Management and Budget.

All right, the White House claims that the latter is just OMB estimating what the CBO would estimate, as if that means nothing. Not that OMB has come up with an estimate of its own.

The point is that after reducing the number of uninsured by 20 million, we are now poised to head back in the opposite direction, big league. So much for Candidate Trump’s promise that Trumpcare would cover more Americans than Obamacare.

At its core, the Affordable Care Act taxes the wealthy to enable lots of non-wealthy to acquire health insurance. What “repeal and replace” would do is untax the wealthy, and leave the rest of us with higher premiums to underwrite the emergency room visits of the growing number of uninsured.

In short, the Republican plan is to help the rich and stick it to the middle class. Is there any reason for religious Americans to support it?

Of course there is. The Calvinist stream in American public life, which arises from the Puritan settlement of New England, saw economic hardship as punishment for sinfulness. What English common law called “sturdy beggars” — aka welfare queens and other freeloaders — deserve nothing but to be put to work.

The rich, by contrast, are the favored of God.

In other words, GOP rhetoric about “government take-over” and “medical choice” is rooted in the belief those who cannot or will not pay for their own insurance deserve the consequences.

Of course, those of us who do not partake of the Puritan tradition are entitled to take a different position. Under the theocratic ordinances of ancient Israel, for example, farmers were obliged to care for the poor by leaving grapes on the vine and the margins of their fields unharvested.

That comes in Leviticus 19. The injunctions about those homosexual acts that evangelicals love to cite come in Leviticus 20.

What a difference a chapter makes.

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About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

10 Comments

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  • This whole issue is just symptomatic of the dysfunctions found in the US. Is there no one either in the Trump admin or Congress that has the ability to understand no only what is at stake, but what about the ACA that is working and not working. All our government does these day is use a sledge hammer when a scalpel is needed. People need health care, and they need to be able to afford it. The health connector and subsidies were doing just that for people so why get rid of it. There is also the issue that some plans were so abysmal that the policy they are paying for had such ridiculous deductibles one could seriously debate whether they are even insurance. So why can’t politicians address this issue and get insurance companies to end this. The mandate, while forcing people to get insurance, should not penalize people who for the most part either cannot still afford coverage, nor receive any assistance. HSA’s do nothing for people who cannot afford policies, nor is a tax credit helpful when you cannot afford the monthly premiums. Either regulate the medical industry, and pharmacology to reduce prices, or continue to see prices soar, and people unable to get care. Trump spoke of the lack of decent paying jobs, the need to get Americans working and ending work visas so that jobs can do to our own citizens. This would allow people to get jobs that have health insurance and wean people off the ACA. However, they would rather throw people off first than see a better jobs market fix the problems naturally. Why are our politicians so stupid, unable to understand the issues, and think by blowing up the ACA they are doing everyone a favor.

  • You were doing so well in addressing the issue in a sane and succinct fashion. Then you went off the rails. So far Trump has cared little and not even bothered to propose anything about creating well paying jobs. He has never held such workers with any regard as a businessman, he cares less as a politician.

    “ending work visas so that jobs can do to our own citizens.”

    To even qualify for work visas these days people require skills which are difficult to find from our own citizens. It is far less the stereotype of Silicon Valley plundering cheap Indian coders and more Toyota and LG investing in America and bringing necessary staff. Typically American workers lack language skills needed by foreign companies here. Math skills also tend to lacking as well.

    Efforts to reduce or make work visas harder to obtain have only resulted in making it easier to exploit foreign born white collar labor and attack foreign companies bringing jobs to the US. Protectionist measures always backfire when it comes to labor.

  • Seven years they had to come up with something to “repeal and replace.” This is what they came up with? Weak tea. It isn’t a replacement or a repeal; it changes a few things that will mostly tick off everyone.

  • I swear this is a practical joke on the part of the GOP.

    The ACA was something useful to rally voters against for election purposes. Conservatives being panicky types in general. But the act of actually replacing it was not something they were seriously contemplating.

    So they come up with the most outrageous bill to replace the ACA, guaranteed to annoy every Democrat and at least 10-25% of the Republicans. This way when it goes down in flames in the Senate, they can say “we tried, but failed. We are stuck with Obamacare. Blame the liberals.”

    Replacing Obamacare with anything short of single payer is wasting time.

  • I believe the healthcare crisis is unsolvable due to costs driven by inflation, advances in technology, torts, unhealthy lifestyles, and the inability to service the national debt. There are too many vested interests with opposing aims and motives. People are living longer, but many of them not more healthily. Regardless of legislative action this crisis isn’t going anywhere.

  • Mmmmm, good theory. Could be.
    The ACA was never intended to be unmodified forever. It was, and is, a starting place. It should, and will, be adapted over time.
    For decades Washington was unable to do ANYTHING about healthcare – the ACA was a compromise, and one that is far from perfect.
    Instead of demonizing it and insisting that it be thrown away, right thinking people should be figuring out ways to make it better.

  • As a lifelong Democrat, I was displeased at the haste with which the Obama administration and congressional Democrats rushed to create a new system of healthcare. Their haste led to many problems because they had not taken the time to think through the Affordable Care Act.

    The Republicans are making the same mistake. Instead of taking the time to correct the problems of the ACA, they have rushed in and are creating an even worse mess. It doesn’t matter what President
    Trump promised; he made many rash promises. The Congress is there to act as a restraint on rash promises and produce a health care system which really works for every American.

  • Funny thing is the ACA was largely a Republican conceived plan. An effort to preserve the defective private health insurance system and pharmaceutical industry price gouging. But when Obama used elements of the past Republican proposals suddenly democrat derangement syndrome kicked in.

    It’s not a matter if being rushed, far from it. Many of its elements were around for nearly two decades. It’s a matter of being compromised and undermined by interests trying to avoid it’s implementation.

    The Republicans are half @$$ing it here. Coming up with a plan which served the donor class and nobody else. It is not a matter of being rushed. It’s a matter of never having a coherent concept from the get go.

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