Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mr. Romney Gets It Wrong – Everyone is Entitled to Food, Decent Housing and Health Care

No Just the Rich and Famous

The Dismal Political Economist has refrained from commenting on the recent flap over Mitt Romney’s comments that he doesn’t really care for the 47% who are the core Obama voters.  And Mitt thinks all of those 47% are income tax shirkers who unlike Mr. Romney don’t pay their fair share, a 13% income tax rate in Mitt's case.  Other commentators have been far more effective and literate in their observations of Mr. Romney's ugly words.

But no one seems to have defended the entitlements that Mr. Romney says do not exist.  According to Mr. Romney no one is entitled to housing, food or health care.

All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. 

Mr. Romney thinks he is making a point by deriding those who believe that every human being regardless of who they are or where they live have a basic entitlement of health care, food and housing.  But he is wrong.  That is a basic entitlement.

This has long been a part of American economic policy.  If a person is ill they can seek and receive treatment in a health care facility regardless of their ability to pay.  We don’t cast the sick onto the streets because they don’t have a Blue Cross card.  In fact, the Romney plan in Massachusetts specifically addressed this issue.  We don’t allow people to suffer mal-nutrition if we can find them and help them.  And the government has long been involved in supporting and subsidizing housing for low income families. 

None of this means that government should provide housing, health care and food free of charge to everyone.  Nobody believes that.  But government is one vehicle by which we can act all together to help those who do not have decent housing, enough food or access to health care.  And no, the recipients are not freeloaders who think they are entitled to these things free of charge, they are people whose circumstances are less fortunate than those born into a family of wealth and privilege, a family where the father is President of an auto company for example.  They are the disabled, the sick, the mentally ill, the old, the poor and the unemployed, men and women who work hard to better themselves but because of circumstances beyond their control they cannot do so without help.

The best example here is Mr. Romney own health care plan in Massachusetts.  There he recognized everyone is entitled to health care and that this does not mean government should provide health care for everyone.  So he enacted a program that required health insurance for everyone and provided help and assistance for those who could not afford the full cost.  The entitlement was upheld, but not the entitlement from government.  Rather government was part of but not all of the solution.

The reason that we use government as part of the assistance system is that most of us are possessed with a quality called human decency.  Apparently Mr. Romney did not get any, or more likely he had a lot but lost it when he became very wealthy,  and even with all his wealth he hasn’t gone out and bought some more.  And the absence of this trait, basic human compassion is the real revelation and tragedy of Mr. Romney in his highly publicized comments.

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