Sunday, May 15, 2011

Healthcare is not a right, but Lawrence O'Donnell is ridiculous

This self-righteous diatribe by Lawrence O'Donnell is a great example of what is wrong with the "progressive" mindset. The same type of unprincipled, shallow thinking is very common within conservative circles as well.

Here's the premise:

During a speech, Rand Paul states that if people have the right to healthcare, it implies that people have a right to the labor of hospital staff - doctors, nurses, even janitors. This means that some people can force other people to work for them against their will, which is slavery. He gives an example that if healthcare is considered a right, the police could beat his door down and force him to provide it.

Lawrence O'Donnell's shocked response can be summarized as follows:

Rand Paul is stupid. Ron Paul was a bad parent. Rand Paul has the "ugly, hysterically self-centered and vile audacity" to compare the right to healthcare with slavery. "Nothing more unhinged from reality and decency has been said in the United States Senate in our time. It is utterly unpardonable." Paul is a "demented libertarian" and his police analogy is "pure, unadulterated dementia." Also, "Paul could not pass a medical competency test for medical competency." Probably administered by the Federal Redundancy Department of Redundancy.

Eventually, O'Donnell actually tries to substantively refute Paul's points. Here's his argument:

1) Since 1968, 1/3 of the population has had a "right" to healthcare due to Medicaid and Medicare.

2) Since Medicare and Medicaid were introduced, doctor's salaries have gone up significantly, along with those of nurses, and even the janitors - who are unionized.

3) Skyrocketing wages for medical employees are what's leading to health costs rapidly exceeding inflation.

4) Paul is a doctor, and probably wealthy. How can he complain?

O'Donnell explicitly points out the skyrocketing medical costs occurring immediately after the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid - i.e. socialized medicine. He then points to those very costs as the reason healthcare costs have soared far faster than the rate of inflation. He even points to janitors having higher wages due to unions.

This is an important point worth emphasizing.

O'Donnell is blaming higher medical costs on higher physician and medical provider wages. He then blames the higher wages on Medicare and Medicaid.

He actually points to the two biggest socialized medicine programs in the United States to explain why healthcare costs have "skyrocketed" much faster than the rate of inflation. How can he not see the connection?

Second, Paul's point about slavery is, of course, correct. People cannot have a "right" to physical goods or actual services unless someone else has an obligation to provide them. If you are a doctor, and people have a right to medical services, you - or someone else- must provide them. But while O'Donnell thinks this statement is "unhinged from reality" and could not conceivably occur, people are forced to work against their will to provide health care for others all the time.

Granted, it is not usually doctors who are forced to work against their will. Those who do are usually not as wealthy. For example, high-school dropouts working at McDonalds (as well as liberal arts majors working at McDonalds) have money taken from their wages and given to doctors to pay for socialized medicine for older people. These older people are often much wealthier than the younger workers supporting them.

And for those who don't think police will knock down doors to pay for socialized medicine, try refusing to pay your taxes sometime.

Forcing someone to work against their will is slavery. The amount, or even existence, of compensation doesn't change this fact. That is why college basketball coaches cannot be forced to finish the terms of their contract. It violates the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition of involuntary servitude.

Healthcare is not a "right." On what could such a "right" be based? Is it a constitutional right? Of course not. It's nowhere in the U.S. Constitution. Is it a fundamental human right, such as life, the freedom of speech, or religion? Of course not. People cannot have "rights" that necessarily require the violation of the rights of other people.

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