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.