“I don’t have money,” Mason said, “to pay for other people’s health insurance.”
That may be the most insightful statement of the misguided conservative philosophy of self-interest I have ever heard. Senator, you already pay for other people’s health insurance. And assuming you have health insurance, other people pay for yours. That’s the way insurance works.
Very few people can afford to pay out of pocket for health care, so we pool our resources. No one pays in as much as they collect if and when they become seriously ill. We all underwrite one another. That’s why we need young, healthy people in the pool and why there is a health care mandate. And if people do not have health insurance, we pay for their care in the increased cost of our own health care and hospitalization.
The same is true of life insurance. Sure, you pay premiums, but when you cash out, it’s other people’s money that pays the death benefit. No one pays their own way in this world.
I first became aware of the emboldened and benighted selfishness of the conservative right when I served on the local School Committee back in the 1990s and heard people arguing that they should not have to pay for other people’s kids to go to school. Somehow the idea that you shouldn’t have to pay for anything that doesn’t directly benefit you swept through the conservative movement like a self-inflicted virus.
A decade on, I find it extremely tiresome to hear conservatives constantly complain about paying for health care, unemployment benefits and food stamps as though they were footing the entire bill themselves. They would have you believe that they not only pay their own way, but also have to support an entire family of illegal immigrants on welfare.
To begin with, no one pays their own way. We are all supported by other people’s money. And when it comes to taxes, the portion that goes to assist the poor is a pittance.
The American way of life is underwritten by the tax dollars we pool to support a civil society and the money we pay into a social safety network of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and military and public pensions. No one other than criminals would be able to make a living, were it not for our concerted effort to work for the common good.
Of course, conservatives don’t believe in the common good, which to me means they don’t believe in America. Only in the perverse logic of the right, for example, could a Nevada rancher who refuses to pay the same fees as other ranchers for grazing his cattle on public land be considered some kind of a folk hero. He’s a thief.