Righteous Indignation: Half of America is Poor

"Homeless and Cold" Image via Wylio
"Homeless and Cold" in New York City's Lincoln Square, 2010. Image via Wylio

There are times when a story in the news just makes one stop with a righteous indignation.The news I heard today that one in two Americans is now classified as poor makes me angry.

This means half of the people living the richest nation in the world are poor. Is this the American exceptionalism we want?

I am angry because this is a not necessary. I am angry that so many people are suffering, while our elected officials are playing games, unable or unwilling to do what is necessary to promote the general welfare of the nation.

Irrational Discourse

At press time, it was not yet clear whether or how much the negotiations on the federal debt ceiling would hurt Medicare. But one thing is certain: Intense debate will continue about how to control Medicare costs, and it will include heated rhetoric about "rationing" health care.  But where a normal definition of "rationing" would be "the equitable distribution of scarce resources," the health-care system in the United States is the polar opposite: It inequitably distributes abundant resources. And the people who raise the loudest accusations are actually promoting an increase in this unjust kind of rationing.

The U.S spends twice as much as other developed countries on health care, while leaving 50 million people without any coverage, resulting in the premature death of 45,000 people a year. Tens of millions more people are sicker because they don't get the care they need; many people suffer under crushing medical debt.

Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican budget proposals in April, some form of which we may be debating until next year's election and beyond, would extend that bleak picture to the 43 million Americans who rely on Medicare. Ryan's plan would double out-of-pocket costs to seniors over the coming decade -- while enriching private insurance companies. The House Republican budget plan also sought to ration care by capping federal spending on the 69 million seniors and family members who rely on Medicaid and by ending the 2010 health-care reform law's expansion of health coverage to 32 million uninsured people.

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Let Us Be Clear: The Debt Ceiling Crisis is Purely Artificial

We have come to an impasse in the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling because of several conceptual errors in our public discourse. These errors were most glaring in the remarks recently delivered by Speaker of the House John Boehner in his response to President Obama. The largest conceptual error is the idea that the government of a constitutional representative democracy is different from the people. Boehner said, "You know I've always believed the bigger the government, the smaller the people."

What does this mean? The government is composed of the people, and if people are paying attention and voting according to their own interests, the government ought to work toward the happiness of the people. The problem is that too many Americans have bought into this conceptual error that the government is some kind of leviathan, a monster that exists to take away their liberties. This is nonsense. A correction of another conceptual error in Boehner's presentation makes my point.