An old friend of mine who currently espouses what I will call, in a temporary fit of generosity, libertarianism, posted this recently on Facebook. They are illustrative of what I call "extrapolated argument" - the kind of argument used most often by teenagers, e.g., when told they can't use the car tonight because it's snowing. "So what if you and Mom are sick and you need to be taken to the emergency room, does that mean I can't use the car to drive you there? What then, huh? Huh?"
I couldn't decide between a clever but snarky comment, a holier-than-thou statement like "I think we should just try to help," and ignoring the whole thing. I couldn't come up with a snappy comeback that pleased me, I really hate the Pollyanna approach, and unfortunately I don't have sense enough to just ignore it. So I thought I would address them here. At least, if they come up again, I'll have already figured out something to say. Besides, I needed a topic for Politics this week. Here goes:
1. Do you think that feminine hygiene products should be covered expenses under Obamacare (or employer healthplans as mandated by Obamacare?) Do you believe that a monthly menstrual cycle should be included under the broad definition of "women's reproductive health?" If not, why not?
Yes, the monthly menstrual cycle is included in a broad definition of "women's reproductive health." However, the feminine hygiene products referred to are, for the most part, available over the counter or on grocery store shelves and are inexpensive enough that a reasonable wage or other benefits should cover them. Contraceptives, on the other hand, are mostly available by prescription only, and can be expensive. IUD's are initially much more expensive, and require periodic check-ups. There are other issues having to do with menstruation that occasionally require a doctor's care. These issues should, of course, be covered.
2. Do you think that over-the-counter medications and diapers for kids should be covered expenses under Obamacare (or employer healthplans as mandated by Obamacare?) If not, why not?
Items like these that are available over the counter or on grocery store shelves are inexpensive enough that a reasonable wage or other benefits should cover them.
3. What does "healthcare is a human right" mean to you exactly? If I have neck strain due to my job sitting at a computer, and the only thing that eases that tension is a good deep-tissue massage, should that be a covered expense under Obamacare (or employer healthplan as mandated by Obamacare?) If not, why not?
Yes, but only if it is recommended by a physician. See question #6 for a more complete answer.
4. If healthcare is a human right, then it should reasonably follow that food is also a right, correct? If that is the case, specifically what sort of food am I entitled to eat, and specifically what kind of food should I receive from the government (taxpayers) without paying anything for it myself? Do I have a right to filet mignon? If not, why not? And who should make that decision?
Yes, I think food can be reasonably classified as a basic human right, seeing as how it is a basic human need and something that even primitive peoples were known to extend to all members of the community. We already have programs in existence that have worked relatively well to feed people who are out of work or who can't work for any number of reasons. An allowance based on current food prices seems reasonable. How any one individual chooses to spend that allowance is up to him/her. Filet mignon might take up more of the allowance than is wise, given the time allotted for it, but I see no reason to deny someone that choice should it seem like a good idea at the time.
5. If healthcare is a human right, then it should reasonably follow that shelter is also a right, correct? If that is the case, specifically what sort of shelter am I entitled to have, and specifically what kind of shelter should I receive from the government (taxpayers) without paying anything for it myself? Do I have a right to air conditioning, for example? If not, why not? And who should make that decision?
Yes, as with food, shelter is a basic human need and therefore a basic human right. The kind of shelter depends on where it is located. In the United States, running water and electricity are necessities. In places like Arizona, southern California, or Texas, air conditioning may be necessary to sustain life during certain times of the year. In Minnesota or Maine, the same would be true for adequate heat. We do not as yet have adequate means by which to ensure that our entire population is adequately housed, but I hope we can find a way to do so.
6. If your answers to #4 and #5 involve you using the word "basic" as part of your answer, please define what "basic" food and "basic" shelter is, exactly. In fact, please define what "basic" healthcare is, while you're at it.
Both "basics" involve what it takes, in our current culture, to maintain life and the ability to participate meaningfully in the community, including taking advantage of education and work opportunities. Basic healthcare is everything above the line that divides "optional" from "necessary." For example, in most instances, I wouldn't consider plastic surgery necessary, unless it was to repair serious injury or birth defect. At present, I would not include such things as acupuncture or chiropracty as "basics," but that may change over time and others may disagree with me. But preventive care, early detection, annual checkups, and tests that these checkups may call for - along with treatment for illness or injury - yes. Those are basics. I would also include "basic" dental care - at least checkups and treatment of immediate problems. Again, cosmetic care would not be basic.
7. How do you define the term "fair share" exactly?
As I wrote a couple of years ago, I don't know what's fair. But I do know that no one should be left without adequate means to take care of themselves and their loved ones. That means food and water, shelter, education, and equal access to and pay for all work for which they qualify. How do you pay your fair share? You give back according to what you have been given, in terms of infrastructure and institutions and competent employees and viable customers, without which you would have accomplished nothing.
8. If my "human right" to something requires the service of someone else, how exactly is it a human right?
Because ensuring your rights ensures that someone's rights as well.
9. Obama once said that at some point, you've made enough money. What amount of money do you believe should be the maximum someone should be allowed to make?
I don't believe there should be an allowable maximum. And, although I can't speak for him, I don't believe Mr. Obama believes that either. What I understood him to mean was that at some point higher taxes aren't going to make much of a difference in how the very wealthy live.
10. How do you define the term "living wage" exactly?
I find that the Wiki actually does a fine job of describing the living wage as I understand it. In the United States, a few basic needs would likely include a refrigerator, a car, a television, and a cell phone.
There. That's the best I can do right now. I've ignored, or tried to ignore, phrases like "entitled to eat," "without paying anything for it myself," and "the maximum someone should be allowed to make," because I read in them an assumption about both people in need and those better able to contribute to the general welfare, and addressing them would draw me into an argument I refuse to have. I have, instead, tried to answer the questions honestly with no attempt to sermonize or persuade.
Perhaps on another day, I will think up 10 questions for them. But that is, as I said, for another day.