The most clear-eyed distillation of the health care debate to date is in today’s column by David Brooks. The sides are ultimately drawn along what you value, he writes. Do you prize health for all, or vitality for all?
Reform would make us a more decent society, but also a less vibrant one. It would ease the anxiety of millions at the cost of future growth. It would heal a wound in the social fabric while piling another expensive and untouchable promise on top of the many such promises we’ve already made. America would be a less youthful, ragged and unforgiving nation, and a more middle-aged, civilized and sedate one.
We all have to decide what we want at this moment in history, vitality or security. We can debate this or that provision, but where we come down will depend on that moral preference. Don’t get stupefied by technical details. This debate is about values.
As I’ve written before, I think the health of our individual citizens is the most important thing. I would never want a government program guaranteeing a flat-screen TV for all, or laundered shirts for all. But to me access to doctors for all is just as essential as roads, police, schools, and military. I don’t care how much a public plan costs — for me it is a fundamental public service.
Put in Brooks’s terms, this is because I value life, not money. Or in words more kind to the other side, I think health and decency are more important than a vibrant marketplace.
I think it’s pretty clear on which side of the fence Mr. Brooks falls, but it’s just so refreshing to have an important voice in the debate — a conservative New York Times columnist — spell the choices out so clearly.
What remains dismaying is the fact that those who stand to lose the most if the money/vitality philosophy is championed are the same oldsters rallying most vociferously against a program that helps the vulnerable. Let Grandpa die, says Grandpa. It doesn’t make sense.
But as Brooks so eloquently stated, this debate gets to the heart of the biggest questions we ask ourselves And when you cut to the bone, sometimes things get weird.
Update: Meet Americans who are now bankrupt just because they got sick.