Give back your handouts

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There is a near-constant refrain I hear from friends, fellow students and political pundits in the ongoing debate in health care and it goes something like this: “I believe in personal responsibility, and I don’t think that it’s right that some poor person or illegal immigrant should get a handout from the government for doing nothing and/or breaking the law.”

Or some such variation — the point is that they argue (loosely interpreted) that public health care systems amount to giving people something they don’t deserve.

I find it hard to make sense of this, and the best way I can think to express my confusion and dismay is to ask those who make these statements to give taxpayers back their money.

Did you drive to school today? Then you got a handout. After all, public funds paid for the road you drove on, the DMV where you got your license, the police that keep you from speeding and the parking lot where you are currently parked. I don’t know what anyone did to merit the privilege of driving except simply exist.

Did you receive financial aid in the form of a state or federal grant? Handout! Would you be willing to give back your aid on principle, simply because it was a handout? If you are not willing, and you are also opposed to a public health care option, perhaps you should start rethinking one or the other position for the sake of being morally consistent.

Did you drink some soda today? Then you received a handout from the federal coffers that subsidized the corn, which was then processed into the syrup that makes your bubbly beverage ever so sweet. Small, but a handout nonetheless.

Seriously, I could go on for days listing things that we all get from local or national government that we just don’t “deserve” if you take seriously the ill-conceived and vulgar notion so often mislabeled as “personal responsibility;” it really amounts to the notion that poor people are lesser beings than rich people and hence deserve proportionately less.

“But we paid taxes for all those things!” I can already hear in response.  Well, no “we” as students didn’t. By and large, we pay either no or very little taxes, considering we make next to nothing flipping burgers and scrubbing toilets to pay for school and top ramen. Only those far richer than we can even imagine right now “deserve” to drive on the roads, use the busses, the school facilities, the parking lots, the sewers, the street lamps and everything else that makes our lives as students and citizens possible. 

Health care is no different. With a public option, we all pay for it eventually, and those indigent and poverty-stricken families or individuals who can’t pay would deserve their “socialized” medicine just as much as they deserve the soccer stadiums, libraries, universities, historical markers, stop signs and high schools we all get, courtesy o’ Big Brother (and against which no one seems to be making “personal responsibility” arguments), not to mention the OVER-FOUR-HUNDRED-BILLION-DOLLARS worth of tanks, jet fighters, long-range ballistic missiles, nuclear warheads, CIA agents and combat boots that (supposedly) keep us safe and chock-full of liberty.

I’m going out with a zinger, folks: something about “socialized” medicine just seems to make sense when you consider that WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY, PEOPLE!