Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is Barack Obama our Moral Compass?

On August 19th President Obama attempted to bolster the case for his failing Health Care Bill by telling a crowd of religious leaders that we are morally obligated to support the Bill. Despite the obvious irony of proclaiming that his opponents “bear false witness” on the issues and concerns in the House Bill (see my previous posts for the truth about the Health Care Bill), the linking of favorable morality with passage of the Bill is especially disturbing. Furthermore, I wonder if leaving 17 Million Americans uninsured after the Bill’s acceptance (as per CBO estimates) is therefore immoral. If so, the Bill would render Obama’s moral imperative impaired. By his own qualification, the Bill must therefore be immoral and unethical.

Nonetheless, let’s delve into the concept of morality in politics – an oxymoron by any standard. Unfortunately, perhaps inevitably, our Federal Government has become deeply intertwined with moral and ethical issues. The wanton murder of millions of helpless, innocent unborn children is arguably the most notable. Politicians have also argued for and against our involvement in military conflicts on moral and ethics bases. Yet the moral imperative attached to social welfare programs is particularly vexing. In these instances we see the greatest blur between political ideology and ethos. The liberals contend that big government (their raison d’etre) is necessary to “provide” for the needy. The conservatives believe that a small government is necessary and paramount to enabling the success of the needy, and charity is best left to private individuals.

Considering our country’s Judeo-Christian origins, its majority Judeo-Christian composition, and the Judeo-Christian audience on August 19th I will review the argument from a Judeo-Christian context:

We must first agree that if we are going to make moral arguments there must be a basis upon which to judge morality. If we succumb to the progressive’s temptation towards subjective morality any argument is fallacious because such a moral “code” is subject to constant change. Specifically, subjective morality lacks a basis; it cannot answer the very fundamental question: what is moral? Its proponents often counter that what feels “right” is moral, but to whom must it feel “right”? Does morality only apply to our own self-conscience? In other words, does everyone have their own moral code and what is right by that code must therefore be universally accepted as moral? By that standard, how can we consciously enforce any law, for even the most heinous sociopath would merely be obeying his own moral code? The common counter-argument is that morality is determined by a democratic majority. Yet this response still lacks an absolute – it will forever change. How can something in 2010 be moral when the majority voted it immoral in 2000? Furthermore, what defines the democratic majority? Is it literally everyone within a political boundary, or just those with the right to vote within that political boundary, or those that turn out to vote within the boundary? Why a political boundary and not a geopolitical context? Which boundary do we use? In the event of a tie vote, who decides the outcome? In summary, there is no conceivable way to determine morality, or ethics, on a subjective basis.

Therefore, we must use an objective source of morality; in the Judeo-Christian context, that source is the Bible. Opponents argue that the Bible is subject to interpretation and many of the laws in the Bible are not enforced today anyway. While true in part, the Bible provides an absolute, objective moral framework – whether we actively practice the absolute does not deride its authority. There is, after all, an absolute Truth no matter how inconvenient to our modern society.

Using the Bible as our moral guide, we notice there is no reference in the Bible to the imperative of governments to provide for the needy (send me the book, chapter, verse if you find it). However, the Bible is replete with examples and commands for individuals and churches to take care of the needy. It’s, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” (Mathew 25:40) not “Whatever the political body you pay your taxes to does for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Paying taxes is compulsory and we are in no way guaranteed that our money goes towards aiding the needy; therefore, mandatory taxation hardly fits the moral imperative to take care of the needy.

Knowing that we are personally obligated by our objective moral code to care for the needy allows us to point the finger right back at President Obama. He is a millionaire, yet for how many people has he personally provided health care? He even admitted he didn’t pay for his grandmother’s hip replacement. Nancy Pelosi is worth $58 Million, but whose medical bills has she paid? If we decided to cast out logic and reason and resign ourselves to the notion that government sponsored health care is the moral high ground, then how do we rationalize the money lost in collecting taxes (both IRS expenses and individual/corporate expenses to prepare and file), administrative expenses, overhead, and misdistribution of resources? Would not the loss of those funds to the bureaucratic machine be immoral?

Proponents of the Health Care Bill would argue that private insurers are also subject to profits and overhead costs – which would also be immoral by my criteria. Note, however, that I am not suggesting health insurance is the moral imperative; rather, the imperative is providing for the needy. This can be done without health insurance and without the government. Non-profit health clinics are one means, and donating to those in need (or those clinics) is another. The USA is one of the most benevolent nations on Earth but there is an inverse correlation between our tax rates and our philanthropy; therefore, taxes are a detriment to morality.

Anything that further separates the needy from the ability to get health care would also be immoral. Considering the CBO analysis says the current Health Care Bill would increase health care costs, the Bill is thus immoral. In fact, the moral hazard in the doctor-patient-insurance relationship is largely to blame for the rising prices because, without price sensitivity, there is no market force to properly influence prices. In addition, nothing in the Health Care Bill would correct this problem; it would worsen under the Bill’s provisions. Furthermore, the government rationing (yes, it is actually in the Bill, read my post on "Rebutting the Misinformation Misinformation…") would further deny needy people health care – it would even exacerbate the unmet health care needs problem.

Yesterday, my wife, playing the devil's advocate, asked me who is supposed to provide health care for those who cannot afford it because obviously their needs are not currently being met. While it may sound harsh at first blush, the solution is not to create a massive government program to provide health care insurance. The longer, but moral and effective, solution is to actually solve the cost issues. Once basic care is affordable there is sufficient capacity for benevolence to care for the treatment of advanced diseases. Those with private health insurance would also benefit from low costs and maintain their security against unexpected illness through their existing insurance. While it affords the appearance of solving the uninsurance problem, a government run health care system still leaves millions uninsured and rations more care away from more people then if we do nothing.

In conclusion, the Health Care Bill is itself immoral. The moral high road would be to solve the problems in the Health Care system while also encouraging private donations through tax incentives (unlike the President’s current proposal to disincentivize donations). Providing health insurance to the needy is not the moral imperative – reducing costs and personal charity are.

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