Down the Trump Care Hole

The examples of outright callous meanness and utter disregard for human decency that have been exhibited by the Humpty Trumpty administration are legion. Just consider a budget that eliminates Meals On Wheels and free after school lunches for poor children. That pulls the plug on the NEA and NPR. That ignores science and the future of our children with a 32% cut to the EPA because “we don’t believe in climate change and we’re not going to waste any money on it.” That cuts the State Department budget by 30%, mainly in foreign aid, including relief to millions starving in Africa. Meanwhile, the military budget sees a very hefty increase, even though American military might already dwarfs the all nations on the planet, combined. 

But TrumpCare offers an especially cynical stab at the less fortunate, right here in the U.S.A. And since it originates from Paul Ryan and his like-minded party, it reflects the kind of disdain for anyone not rich that so completely characterizes the party of Trump. He absolutely endorses the legislation, btw, even though it flies in the face of every promise he made w.r.t health care during the campaign.

Here’s what I consider the major flaw that lies at the heart of the darkness that is TrumpCare. Rather than scaling things so that richer people take on more, TrumpCare offers a single-size tax credit, regardless of the income of the recipient. I believe it’s $4000. The person gets the tax credit, and in some sort of distorted Objectivism, then negotiates his or her own health care. No mandate, you don’t have to actually get a plan.

Understanding health plans is complicated, as any one who has negotiated for one will attest. Throwing the entire population into the deep end of this pool means that only the well-off and the well-educated will swim successfully. Maybe that’s what Paul Ryan has in mind, as he re-reads Atlas Shrugged for the umpteenth time, and sneers at those who don’t meet his expectations. A healthy pruning of the gene pool never bothered a true believer in the “philosophy” of Ayn Rand. Let the wolves have the slow and the aged.

Now, put aside for a moment the aspects that have  (rightfully so) been castigated by opponents of the GOP “plan”. Namely, that low income and the elderly are going to take it on the chin, paying as much as 2-300% more for whatever health care they can get. Medicaid (for the needy) gets slashed way back. These are awful situations, and they will most severely affect (in many cases) the very people who were fooled into voting for the Trickster.

But here’s another hidden cost, one that will devolve directly onto the taxpayer. There is no mandate to purchase insurance. The one thing that makes health insurance work is having a large pool of fairly healthy people (read “young”) paying premiums, and this off-sets the costs of the elderly and seriously ill. But with no mandate, there’s no reason to buy a plan. So, instead of having lots of insured people to average out the cost, we’ll inevitably have very many young and, shall we say, not particularly forward-looking, people opting NOT to be insured. The result? An overall decrease in health, and lots of people showing up in emergency rooms, since they have no doctor (or insurance). The hospitals can’t refuse them, so the costs ultimately come back to the taxpayers.

The only solution that will ever make sense (economic and ethical) is universal single payer health care. Medicare for every American, and if the well-to-do want more, fine. Their choice. But if we only guarantee that that the wealthy are adequately covered, we have made a moral choice that reduces us to that of scavengers.

But wait… that happened when they decided to cut Meals On Wheels.

© 2017 Chuck Puckett

Ignoring the Vengeful God

Many Christians insist that the teachings of Jesus require accepting the entirety of the Older Testament (ie, the Torah, Wisdom literature, the prophets, etc) in order to properly appreciate his new wisdom. Now, it is impossible to understand what Jesus taught without an awareness of the world (and religious underpinning) in which he lived. But it seems to me that in order to derive the available benefits, one need only read what Jesus said and ignore any supposed prior context.

Yes, I am of course aware of his “jot & tittle” comment, but basically every substantial commandment or suggestion that originated directly from Jesus flies in the face of the vengeful maniac who presided over the Older Testament. Buddhism is not Hinduism, though it has its roots there. Christianity is not Orthodox Judaism, though it grew out of it. Jesus, like Gautama Buddha, was an ethical and religious genius who was able to formulate a radically new morality while living in the midst of a millenia-old world view. Love thy neighbor. Turn the cheek. As ye care for the prisoners, so ye care for me.

I don’t need to reconcile Jehovah and Jesus. I’ve read most of the Older Testament. Taking that dark and vengeful “god” literally would be to willfully partake in the insanity his words and actions imply. The main takeaway, the truly positive idea, that came from Abraham and Moses (mainly the latter) is monotheism, and even that concept may have originated with the heretic Egyptian Akhenaten, a sort of “one-termer” pharaoh who, during his reign, forced the Egyptians to solely worship Aten, the sun. Oh, and I guess the codification of the Ten Pretty Obvious Commandments was another sort of breakthrough, though even those had their origins in previous Mesopotamian cultures. But then you have to also deal the 100 or so “minor” commandments in Exodus, not to mention the endless city ordinances in Leviticus.

No, I don’t care to reconcile YHWH with the red text in the New Testament. I have no problem whatsoever in reconciling Jesus and God, since there is no ontological reconciliation necessary: they are two completely separate entities. The latter, under the rubric of “I AM”, and depicted in the first several books of the Bible, is of course an embarrassing myth, but perhaps the best an unsophisticated tribe of nomads in 1000 BC (or so) could come up with. Like I said, their major theological leap was monotheism.

And what I mean about “YHWH as myth” is strictly the Older Testament depiction; I do not want to suggest that I deny a Creator, only that YHWH is a very flawed example. Every ancient description of The Creator/ Sustainer suffers from the mythological trappings of the specific cultures in which they occur. And all of those descriptions therefore obscure whatever transcendence must obtain to such an entity (if “entity” can be used to imply what is meant, which is problematic).

The genius moment that happened in the far mists of the past was when some human mind(s) made the leap to conclude that there was a beginning, and that something caused it. To anthropomorphize that cause, and imbue it with the powers of storm and lightning and fire and earthquakes, the most powerful forces imaginable, was the most natural next step. And certainly these attributes accrued to the chief god of the pantheons of all ancient religions.

And then someone (Moses?) made the reductionist conclusion that, given that power, a pantheon isn’t required: just make YHWH the sole mover, responsible for everything. Unfortunately, they maintained the anthropomorphism. And also unfortunately, that concept of monotheism never leapt from within the confines of the Hebrew tribes (I AM a god for your people; don’t pray to other peoples’ gods). Even Jesus  mainly constrained his teachings to Judah and Israel. It took Paul to combine Jesus’ message with various aspects of Greek philosophy and Mediterranean “god-men”, and thus liberate Chrsitianity unto the Gentiles. But Jesus and Paul were men, which is one up the reality ladder from myth.

I maintain my conviction that Jesus was in many ways a theological genius, meaning that he was able to create Brand New Ideas. Most creative people just sort of reorganize whatever exists. It’s the Newtons and the Einsteins and the Buddhas and the Jesuses who make the gigantic leaps ahead, conceptual leaps so huge they almost seem like they came out of nowhere.

© 2017 Chuck Puckett