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The Voice of New Rochelle: The Bitter Taste of Tea

Libertarian Ron Paul, nothing if not honest, finally said what Tea Partiers knew but didn’t admit, moderates feared but didn’t believe and liberals believed but couldn’t prove. At least now there are clearer choices about what kind of country we could be.

One of the most memorable scenes in the iconic film The Godfather involves the meeting at the Genco Olive Oil Company, when the Don, played by Marlon Brando, admonishes Sonny, his hot-headed son, by saying, “Never tell anyone outside the family what you’re thinking again.” The Don was wise, and Sonny’s impudence almost got his father killed.  

In the case of Ron Paul’s answer to a Wolf Blitzer health-care question during a recent presidential debate, the Texas congressman may have killed the chances of hard-right Republicans to take the White House in 2012.  

That is, unless the country really wants to redefine itself as an “every man for himself” dog-eat-dog society. If, indeed, that is the will of the people, then it is what it is. At least, now, the issue can be faced with clarity and less pretense. 

During the Republican debate last week, CNN’s Blitzer asked Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man whose chose not to purchase heath insurance found himself suddenly in need of six months of intensive care.

Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about—taking your own risks." When Blitzer pushed further, asking if the man should be left to die, many in the Republican audience cheerfully screamed, “Yeah.” 

And so there it was for all to see and admire. For good or ill, the toothpaste of where the far right stands on health care is out of the tube, never to be returned. Sonny was hot for the drug business and got his dad shot; Congressman Paul is hot for letting only the strong survive. 

And so the question is this: Is that the kind of country you want? 

It is fair to say that the government wastes money and does not do too many things well. It is also fair to say that the libertarian streak in all of us disdains the government telling us what to eat, drink, think or speak, or what other personal risks to take. 

In this vain, we are all Tea Partiers. In each of these activities, though, there is a calculation and risk analysis inherent in our freedom to choose, that has little effect on other people and that involves little or no moral judgment on what kind of society we are. 

On the other hand, condemning someone to death when the ability to save his or her life is within our means is another matter altogether. 

Last week, did those passersby leave the burning car on the motorcyclist who wore no helmet and choose a risky mode of transportation because he made a bad choice? Of course not. It would be morally reprehensible to those folks as individuals and us as a society. Why, then, would we let the man who bought no insurance perish? 

The conundrum gets worse. Let’s say we realize that the man must be saved. On still another hand should everyone else have to pay his bill?  After all, the uninsured, both illegal immigrants and the working, are causing hospitals to close and taxes to rise. 

Something has to be done. How we do it will define what and who we are as a people. Thanks to Ron Paul’s Sonny Corleone moment, we know what the far right would like us to be.

Tharms September 22, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Great writing! Too bad the facts are so horribly misrepresented.
Rachael Payne September 22, 2011 at 02:14 PM
Those who say the facts have been misrepresented here are only showing their own ignorance of the facts. Those of us who did watch the debate on CNN heard cheering and jeers from far more than 3 or 4 people when it was suggested that the man without insurance should be left to die. The whole incident was ugly; tea partiers aren't doing themselves any favors.
Rick September 22, 2011 at 05:36 PM
This exchange illustrates the simplistic arguments of our times. We seem content that the solution is either government mandated health insurance or letting a man die because he has no insurance. "Last week, did those passersby leave the burning car on the motorcyclist who wore no helmet and choose a risky mode of transportation because he made a bad choice? Of course not." Was it government that flipped the car over? Was government even involved? Just as these selfless people cared for someone in need, we have many ways in which we have voluntarily tended to those in need, either through deed or with money. Jon Huntsman Sr (not the candidate for President, but his father) built the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He used his wealth to give back to society, to combat a disease he personally wanted to beat, as he lost both parents to cancer. St. Jude's hospital was built and continues to operate largely (and possibly exclusively) with private funds. To my knowledge, both organizations have no insurance requirement for patients to be treated. Likewise with Shriner's hospitals. Both MD and MS have private organizations that raise money for research as well as support those afflicted by these diseases. America has a history of taking care of our own - not always everyone, and not always as well as possible, but certainly just as well a government would do and usually better - without government mandates.
Rachael Payne September 22, 2011 at 05:53 PM
"Private America" also has a history of poisoning citizens and polluting our air and water. Individuals like John Hunstman Senior are the exception, not the rule, and don't even compare to helping the population as much as programs like Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security have helped over the past decades. I don't think everything needs to be run by government, but the argument that private charity will take care of the needy is out of touch and has been proven false in past decades.
Marjorie Morales September 22, 2011 at 09:13 PM
@Rick- America has no history of taking care of their own, you are in a fantasy with the Tea Party and GOP. All these people care about is feathering their own nests and to hell with everyone else. They have practically came out and said so repeatedly. Attacking the poor with attempts to cut Medicaid, attacking the elderly with attempts to cut Medicare and Social Security, blocking environmental protection, creating a crisis with the debt ceiling debacle and holding the gov't for ransom and declining to pay their fair share of taxes. These are people you can't trust from here to the front door ! Because you mention a few hospitals who treat without payment requirement does not mean that applies all over the country and your statement about not everyone gets the benefit is unacceptable. What if it was you or your wife or your children who were not treated. You would think very differently then.Apparently you have lived a very sheltered life and have not needed to see the poverty around you. Or perhaps you don care. Either way your argument is poor.

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