A few weeks ago I listened to a story on NPR about the family of severely disabled girl who was turning eighteen and facing severe reductions in her Medicare. The girl required full time medical care, which came from either the parents or an in-home nurse. There was a lot of pressure on the parents to put their daughter into a home for disabled adults, an idea they were against because of the poor care she would receive. The parents brought up the subject of whether or not the public ought to care for a person who, at least in the traditional sense of the word, has nothing to “contribute” to society. The parents tried, in vain in my opinion, to make the case that their daughter did have value to society, a topic some emailer seized on the next day stating that he had no responsibility for someone who can’t contribute. In my humble opinion both the parents and the emailer completely missed the boat.
This girl doesn’t contribute to society, but she does define us as a society. Imagine a scenario wherein one hundred pregnant women were put into a room where a doctor walks in and states “I’ve studied each of you and I can tell you that ninety eight of you will have healthy babies, one of you will have a mildly disabled child and one of you will have a severely disabled child. My combined fee for providing care for the two children is one hundred thousand dollars. These are the facts you decided how to best handle it.” I think that the room would be split about eighty/twenty with the eighty being a community oriented group and the twenty being a screw you group.
The community group would propose that everyone kick in a thousand dollars for a total of one hundred grand, thus ensuring that the two disabled children will get the care they need. The other twenty percent will say screw you, I’ll go ahead and take my chances. In my humble opinion the community group has the more worthwhile solution: everybody kicks in a little in order to care for the community as a whole. The screw yous would argue that they are forced to pay for something that their family doesn’t need, while the community people would counter that they are paying for something that that their society needs. Do we stand alone or do we stand together.
The disabled child has value outside of her immediate family not because she can go out and handle a shovel or enter data into a computer, but because she defines who we are as a society. Are we a community or are we a collection of screw you individuals. The screw you mentality falls apart when one of that group ends up with the disabled child; suddenly they want to change their vote. Kind of like when Limbaugh found himself addicted to hillbilly heroin or when Wall Street bankers stuffed money in their pockets just before coming to the American people – the very same people they’d been screwing for a decade – hat in hand.
When you look at American history you see an attitude shift right around nineteen forty. I believe that WWII changed the American psyche from one of “grab all you can get” to “we’re all in this together.” It was this shift in world view that fueled something that America had never before seen: a prosperous middle class. Today The United States of America faces a very difficult challenge wherein a minority of screw yous are presenting themselves as a majority. The community group, led my President Obama, has done a very poor job of making their case, it’s time he/we step up and show the voters just what kind of crappy world these Ayn Rand reading screw yous are trying to create.