A Dysfunction Masquerade

A Dysfunction Masquerade

An Iowa woman's justification of one of Obamacare's strangest requirements is actually a great way to see that something is wrong with the way we're governing our nation.

Congressman Rod Blum, in a townhall session in Iowa on May 8, 2017, said Congress should “... get rid of some of these crazy regulations that Obamacare puts in, such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance.”

Barbara Rank, an Iowan who attended the town hall, responded by writing a letter to the editor of the Telegraph Herald titled "Why should I pay indeed?":

Congressman Rod Blum in a Dubuque town hall (Monday) night asked, "Why should a 62-year-old man have to pay for maternity care?" I ask, why should I pay for a bridge I don't cross, a sidewalk I don't walk on, a library book I don't read? Why should I pay for a flower I won't smell, a park I won't visit, or art I can't appreciate? Why should I pay the salaries of politicians I didn't vote for, a tax cut that doesn't affect me, or a loophole I can't take advantage of? It's called democracy, a civil society, the greater good. That's what we pay for.

Her letter went viral. It prompted a Washington Post article, a Reddit post with over 8,000 comments, and lots of social media attention.

Rank's attitude found some support.  DailyKos even called it "a perfect summary of how insurance — and society — works". Maybe DailyKos was correct - but aren't insurance and society both rather dysfunctional right now?

It's obviously strange that Obamacare requires old men, old women, and small children to have the same maternity coverage as women of child-bearing age. Rank wants to justify this in noble terms: "democracy, a civil society, the greater good." But there's another reasonable perspective here that is very different. You could instead believe that being forced to pay for for bridges, sidewalks, library books, flowers, parks and art that you have absolutely no use for is economically counterproductive.  You could even believe it is morally wrong.  From that perspective, Rank was listing examples of dysfunction.  And from that perspective, these examples explain the economic stagnation and political anger we're seeing in our country.  After all, how much must you be compelled to pay before you are entitled to feel resentful?

There is no such thing as a "civil society" that forces peaceful citizens to do things against their will. Rank's "democracy" is more about bureaucracy. Her "civil society" is compulsory and dysfunctional. Her "greater good" does great harm to the democratic, civil society we all aspire to.  She didn't give us a list of reasons to support Obamacare - she gave us a list of reasons to completely re-think our approach to government.

Additional material

  • Rod Blum's full town hall meeting can be viewed on YouTube.
  • American men are required to have pregnancy insurance under Obamacare for a few practical reasons, including "risk pooling" (insurance lingo for "spreading the costs"), and mandating the same rates for persons with pre-existing conditions (all people must be treated identically).