Most of those who know me also know that I don’t like the government being involved in our health care, for too many reasons than I can go into now. More than once I’ve asked, “Do you really want to trust your health to the same folks who are mangling public education?”
Important note: I support the public school system, much as I find fault with it. There are many teachers among our family and friends. Our own children attended the local schools for a number of years. We pay school taxes, and have voted in favor of most requested tax increases, including last year’s. Everyone in the family has put countless hours into (public) school volunteer work.
Another important note: I agree that our health care system is in a big mess, and big messes invite government interference whether we like it or not. Personal experience of family and friends has shown me that public health care can work very well (France, Switzerland) and very badly (UK, Canada). (I know there are readers of this blog who are happy with Canada’s health care, but I’m going by the experiences of those I know personally, which, alas, are negative.) I don’t like the way in which our government is approaching health care reform, but that’s not the point here.
The point is consistency.
In the battle over health care, the faction I will loosely designate as “pro-government-social-program” (PSGP) wins for consistency: The same people who are pushing national health insurance are ardent advocates of public education. Viewing education as a fundamental, essential right of every child, they make it not only available but compulsory, and not only for the poor but for everyone, and expect everyone to participate. They frequently oppose anything (private schools, home education, vouchers) that would allow students to opt out of monopoly government schooling.
Having concluded that the cost of a (possibly large) uneducated segment of the population is greater than the cost of providing “free” education to all, they are consistent in applying the same logic to health care.
I, on the other hand, am not consistent, and neither, it seems, are many with better conservative credentials than mine. How can I support public education for all and not health care? Why is it considered acceptable, even admirable, for everyone—including the rich—to take government assistance in the form of public education, but lower-class, even shameful to be on Medicaid, accept Food Stamps, or live in public housing? What makes education so much more important than health care, food, or housing?
And maybe the PGSP’s are not as consistent as I thought, because I don’t see them pushing for compulsory soup-kitchen and housing project attendance.
Although … when our kids were in school, the school breakfast/lunch program, which served a useful purpose for poor children who otherwise would not eat, was pushed on everyone. It wasn’t exactly mandatory, but the schools used plenty of promotions and advertisers’ tricks to get children to pressure their parents to send money for their lunches rather than pack them better food from home. In the case of breakfast, they actually kept the other students trapped on the school bus until the breakfast-eaters were finished. So who knows what's next in the minds of the PSGP's?
I don’t know where we’re going and what we’re in for with all this, and I don’t know how I’m going to rethink my attitude in regard to public education and/or health care. But it certainly was a revelation to discover my own inconsistency.