The impending Senate passage of a health reform bill hopefully (further congressional wrangling lies ahead) marks the beginning of a new era of respect for humanity and ethics in America (here's the rundown of the bill). Sadly, however, unified Republican opposition indicates that the GOP is determined to maintain its status quo as the lap dog of big corporations. (Not that Democrats haven't caved to corporate masters on some points.)
This most recent hurdle surmounted in the ongoing health care debate takes place against the backdrop of a larger question: What does the current health care debate reveal about modern America?
Here's a brief review of my earlier blogs regarding free market health care: As a nation, we (now) willingly allow the free market health insurance industry to kill 40,000 or more people a year by denying coverage or claims; force hundreds of thousands of insurance customers into medical bankruptcy; and destroy lives and families at will. And we allow these things for what reason? In order that more of the nation's wealth will be redistributed to multi-millionaire insurance industry executives, according to a former insurance industry insider. Doctors are also well aware of the evils of today's skewed free market health care system.
In short, the status quo is that of greed and disregard for human life (i.e., your insurance company is concerned only with your money, not your life).
And sadly, many Christians (including many self-described pro-lifers) so worship capitalism that they defend our current free market health care system that kills Americans, destroys families, and robs the poor in order to give more money to big corporations and wealthy executives.
So who owns America? If health care reform ultimately fails, or if only the most modest of steps forward are achieved in the next few months, big corporations may yet be allowed to continue hoarding even more of our nation's wealth. The richest 1% of citizens own about 40% of the nation's wealth, while the bottom 40% of American's citizens in terms of wealth, own .2% of the nation's wealth. (Click here to see a listing of studies on wealth distribution in America.) This disparity has resulted in America being near the bottom of the list in terms of "income inequality and poverty" among large nations. Furthermore, American wealth distribution has degenerated to such a degree that we are now on par with the Third World (undeveloped) nations in terms of the amount of national wealth controlled by a few rich citizens.
Is America, now mired in Third World status in terms of wealth distribution, destined, for the foreseeable future, to be owned by a handful of big corporations and wealthy individuals who in effect are feudal lords? Will our free market system continue to value greed over life, perhaps to an ever-greater degree?
The end result of the current health care debate may well answer these questions. America's corporate feudal lords of the health insurance industry variety do not want the citizenry to view well-being and life as a human right, for should we ever, as a nation, arrive at such a conclusion with conviction, the trajectory of power and freedom just might restored to the citizens.
In at least one city in America (Vallejo, California), human life is valued more than corporate profits. One can only hope that this revolutionary idea will spread to other locales, should national health care reform fail.
As Adam Smith noted in his Wealth of Nations: "Servants, labourers, and workmen of different kinds, make up the far greater part of every political society. But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged." - Bk. 1, Ch.8, Par. 36
There was a time in American history when Baptists - outcasts, impoverished, and considered religious heretics - fought for equal treatment of all citizens in matters of religion. They insisted upon pluralism, religious liberty, and separation of church and state. Perhaps there are a few Christians - Baptist or otherwise - who will not rest until twenty-first century Americans realize the fuller dream of human equality expressed in well-being and life as more important than greed. We do have a 20th century example: Baptist Tommy Douglas, recognized by his fellow citizens as the greatest Canadian of All Time because of his creation of Canada's public health care system, understood this most basic of moral principles.
The primacy of life and well-being, after all, is a core conviction not only of democracy, but also of the founder of the Christian faith, the One whose birth - and the hope and joy it represents - we celebrate this Christmas season. My prayer this holiday season is that all who claim the name of Christ will embrace His call to life, rather than find no room for Him in hearts devoted to corporate America.