Friday, July 31, 2009

Did the pioneers worry about their right to affordable health care?

Lately I’ve been reflecting upon the American pioneers and what they would think of the current debate concerning government-run health care. Perhaps they should have lobbied Congress to build publicly funded hospitals in the wilderness so they could have had better access to medical care. Or, maybe they would have preferred personal body guards, paid for by taxpayers, to protect them from wild animals or from attack by bandits. And let’s not forget those pioneers who lost their crops to locusts, famine, or floods. They sure would have benefited nicely from a $7 or 8 billion bail-out package!

I guess what I’m saying is that much of the political debate on Capitol Hill these days illustrates that Americans have lost (or forsaken) the pioneer spirit that made this country great. Because we don’t have to contend with the difficulties and dangers that our forefathers faced just to survive from day to day, many of us have gotten used to thinking of the things we need—or even want—as rights, whether it’s health care, a college degree, or affordable housing.

For nearly 200 years of our nation’s history, most Americans did not consider those things to be their birthright. They embraced their freedom to pursue happiness without demanding that government provide it for them at taxpayers’ expense. Even during the civil rights movement, America’s oppressed minorities gladly fought for equal opportunity and equal protection under the law without demanding equal results.

In addition, prior to the middle of the 20th century, most Americans did not lobby their government to redistribute other people’s wealth, yet they were known as some of the most generous people on the planet. And Americans are still generous. According to Operation Kids, “In 2007, they gave more generously than they ever had before—to the tune of more than $3 billion dollars.

“[A report from Giving USA Foundation] indicated that while that number had fallen during the economically turbulent months of 2008, that figure still remained above $3 billion, a generous amount, given that Americans as a whole ‘lost 2 percent of their wealth last year.’”

At various times in my life, I have been without things that I needed, including health insurance and the ability to pay for health care. But I never for a moment believed that I was entitled to those things, even though life was sometimes difficult without them. I knew that if I demanded that the government provide for my physical or financial needs, it would be at someone else’s expense.

While serving as congressman in the 1830s, Davey Crocket, a true frontiersman, said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have.” It is my hope that the American people will take these words to heart when congress resumes in September to vote on the president’s health care bill.

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