Political deception and distraction are still wrong and destructive, even if done by the very powerful. They are still wrong, even if done by religious Republicans, even if done (too often) with the collaboration of Democrats. They are still evil, even if done out of ideological motives. This is not a Christian way to proceed.
… Social Security is a place holder. As long as it remains on the domestic agenda, it blocks consideration of the real domestic crisis President Bush doesn’t want to touch: the health care system.
… Medicare, the government’s health care program for the elderly, is heading toward bankruptcy faster than Social Security. Its future unfunded liabilities are seven times larger.
Medicaid, the government’s health care program for the poor, is also in trouble. Its costs are rising so fast the White House and congressional Republicans want to whack it by $10 billion over the next five years. But governors don’t want Medicaid cut.
Symptom No. 3 is the increasing number of Americans without health insurance.
Meanwhile, Americans who get health insurance through their employer are suffering sticker shock. That’s because companies are rapidly shifting the escalating costs onto their employees.
The last symptom is the huge financial burden on companies that can’t shift rising health care costs onto employees because of union contracts … Health care is the single most contentious labor-management issue today.
He briefly proposes some interesting ideas for treating our health-care crisis, then wraps up with this:
It’s the perfect time to respond to America’s health care crisis. With the middle class squeezed by soaring costs, big companies reeling and governors screaming, the political momentum is there.
But the Bush administration doesn’t want to tackle it … [and] … They know the nation can pay attention to only one big domestic crisis at a time. So they’re using the fake crisis of Social Security as a diversion. That’s a shame. The real crisis of health care demands the nation’s real attention.
It’s not just “a shame.” It’s shameful. I think we need to remind ourselves and all Christians in this great land over, and over, and over again that Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these brothers of mine, you have done it unto Me.” I assume that applies to what we have done to hurt as well as what we have done to help.
What are we doing, what are we about to do, to all these millions of ordinary people? It would be a different story if there was just disagreement on how to actually work on and solve these problems. But to deliberately misrepresent them or distract us from them is not acceptable behavior.
How does Jesus take that? Does the Holy One have any reaction at all?
Robert B. Reich, former U.S. secretary of Labor, is professor of social and economic policy at Brandeis and founder and regular writer for American Prospect. See his recent article there, “Changing the Subject: Social Security is not a crisis. What we need are answers to the oil and health-care crises.”