Thoughts on Poverty and Conservatism

I couple weeks ago I ran across a post on Victor Reppert’s (author of C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason) excellent blog: Dangerous Idea, where he was discussing his thoughts on why Christians seem to oppose ideas like universal health care. Victor is a great philosopher and writer, but I felt some of the points he was raising about conservative views and the poverty issue could use a bit of clarity. I have quoted his original post below followed by my response which was an attempt to clarify some of the points that he brought forward. I apologize for the lengthy nature, but I hope that you find this discussion informative.

One of the clearest teachings of Scripture concerns poverty. For every verse on homosexuality there are about 10 that deal with caring about the poor, and that’s a conservative estimate. So why are so many Christians opposed to programs like universal health coverage, which are designed to help the less fortunate in our society? I think there are three theses which can be used to defend this kind of position.

1) The poor deserve it, since they’re so lazy. (Hardly biblical, to say the least).

2) If government lets big business run its course, the benefits will trickle down to the least fortunate. (On this I agree with Ross Perot. Trickle down didn’t trickle).

3) Private charity does it better, more efficiently than government programs. (I’d like to see real hard evidence that private charity picked up the slack when many of the mentally ill were put back on the street during the Reagan administration.)

On my view, none of these propositions is true.

Here, Victor, you certainly bring up an interesting subject for discussion. Personally, I hold clarity to be of far higher value than agreement or perhaps simply, ‘making points’ (Note that here, I am not directing accusatory terms towards you for simply ‘making points’ because you aren’t – rather, I am just making a general statement about the higher value of clarity.). I can see you presenting three common conservative ideas that you disagree with, but which I myself, a conservative, also disagree with – (two, at least in the form they are represented here).

Therefore, I would humbly make an attempt to clarify some aspects of the three reasonings against conservative positions that you have stated. My reason is that I think the real grounding of conservative thought about poverty to be greatly obscured and misconceived. While there are aspects of your 3 aforementioned ideas that may have a bit of truth to them – I think there to be a much deeper foundation that we must establish first.

Also, I think that a little knowledge about my own position here is important. I previously held the exact thoughts about the poverty issue that you presently do. I was also, at one time, very much democratic in my political and social thinking, but have since moved over to a much different line of reasoning, the conservative positions.

Here are my thoughts:

Firstly, I think that in a way you are very correct in stating that Christians appear to focus much more on the issues of homosexuality, rather than poverty. Where this is true – I find it to be despicable and of great detriment towards the much greater hunger and cause for Christ in this nation and the world. However, I think that this idea that Christians, in general, value condemnation of homosexuality of higher worth than taking actions to help the poor to be a stereotype and an idea that is not representative of the actual majority view of Christians (or conservative Christians in particular which I imagine you are mainly discussing here). I think that this is the modus operandi of our secular media who love to portray Christians in a poor light (no pun intended)- emphasizing more controversial spokesmen (calling Pat Robertson…) and ludicrous fringe thought (e.g. God allowed 9/11 because of homosexuality), rather than representing the true weight of Christian thought about topics.

For instance, where I live in the North West (perhaps things are different elsewhere?!?), I attend a fairly conservative Baptist church. Nobody I know holds beliefs and political positions as simplistic and irrational as the radical sound-bite sort of thing the media represents Christians with. It frustrates me beyond mentioning that the only thing you ever hear from conservative Christians seems to come from either James Dobson or Pat Robertson. While they may, at one time or another, hold a position I agree with – they simply do not speak for the majority of conservative Christians.

Now, In sharp contrast to the choice negative issues and people that the media love to vomit into our households nightly – consider how much good for the poor that Christianity is doing silently in America and around the world. (I say silently because these stories do not bleed, nor are they outrageous or inflammatory, and finally – they do not help further the media’s negative and strange way they look at Christians as a whole: A phenomenon I like to call – Christians in the Mist. As in, “Tonight we take an look at what those strange Christians are doing now, tonight Nova presents: Christians in the Mist”. As if Christians where some strange feral animals that the rest of the ‘normal people’ in the world cannot hope to comprehend.)

Take for instance great organizations like World Vision, Medical Teams International, Compassion International, just to list three. These are huge Christian based organizations that help thousands and thousands of poor people all over the world every single day. Do you ever hear their work presented as representative of Christianity? No. And what better to represent the voice of Christianity than an organization of thousands of Christians? But our media gives them the cold shoulder in favor of just a handful of “Christian leaders” thoughts on homosexuality.

Unfortunately, these inflammatory people and statements are the only ones that anyone hears, including Christians. And they hear them again, and again, and again, and again… Sadly, you hear it enough – and you start to believe it. This leads to the idea that Christians, in general, mainly care about homosexuality and abortion – and that’s it. Perhaps you are starting to see why I find this idea to be a popular, but false representation of what Christians really believe.

Now, you ask, “So why are so many Christians opposed to programs like universal health coverage, which are designed to help the less fortunate in our society?” You then go on to present the three ideas. Please bear with me as I once again humbly attempt to lay some foundation and perhaps answer your question – or at the very least, help you to understand what I think the reasons to be:

The root of this questions has much more to do with conservative beliefs about the roll of government in society rather than it does directly with health care for the poor. This will be illustrated as I explain my thought on the three points you raised.

Your first point, I think, is odd. It seems like you are merging a conservative position on welfare, with a position on health care. I think you would find it difficult to locate anyone who cites laziness as a reason to withhold health care (I could be wrong though…). The issue of laziness applies when you are discussing programs that supply welfare to people who refuse to work – rather than providing them with the tools and resources to earn their own living, etc. Either way, I find it hard to believe that many Christians actually hold a belief that somehow people don’t deserve health care based on their status. Clearly, this position, if held in that manner – though I find that unfeasible – would be wickedness.

Point two is a bit closer to a reason that you may hear, though once again, I think that the foundation of this argument has much more to do with economics and not really much to do with health care. It is another common misconception that Conservatives have some vested interest in ‘Big Business’. The reason for the widespread nature of this belief has to do with Conservatives opposition to high corporate taxation. There are many good reasons to back this position, but then again – we wouldn’t really be discussing a position on health care, rather economics. (If you wish me to explain these economic positions as far as I understand them – I would be more than happy!). I’ll most cover this idea more discussing the final point.

Finally: point number three. Now we’re talking! This last point is the conservative reason for opposing universal healthcare (at least, mostly). In fact, allow me to repeat the point: Private charity does it better, more efficiently than government programs. It’s not just private charity – it’s private anything. The foundation of the idea here is lengthy. The problem involves the prospect of an industry taken over by a monopoly. In this case – the monopoly would be the government. Now, there are some scary realities to a government monopoly. First – no competition. Profit competition is a good thing for consumers of health care. This forces a care provider to provide a better service and better prices in order to earn your dollar. The government, on the other hand, is the only entity that has the power to force you to pay for their service – no matter what they provide. This is done through taxation. Private business also has a bottom line. If they are foolish with their money, or they do something scandalous and loose business – they go bankrupt. Government simply asks for more money.

I have written extensively about some of these ideas on my blog: (Conservatives oppose high taxes because they are rich) and please pardon my cynicism on this next link – I was fired up that day… (Shared Prosperity should replace ‘on-your-own society).

So I guess in a short summary – conservative Christians are all for helping the poor. Their opposition to government/universal health care has much more to do with economics and a belief in the powers that come from a competitive free market – not in some disdain for the poor, or love affair with big business (more media spin). If government does anything at all – they should encourage more competition for health care companies, more protection for health care providers from crippling litigation and lawsuits, and most of all – government should give citizens and private organizations massive incentive to help the poor. Charity lies within the realm of personal action – not government policy.


2 Responses to “Thoughts on Poverty and Conservatism”

  1. jacksmith Says:

    The #1 cause of injury, disability, and DEATH in America is, Health Care. More people die now from contact with the American Medical Health Care system than from any other cause of death. More than from Cancer, Heart disease, or Stroke. More than any other country in the world. Many times more than any other people in the world. This fact is a catastrophic indictment of the entire US Health Care System.

    Driven by greed. And a rush to profit. Thousands of Americans are killed, and injured daily in America. By compromised health care. Cutting corners. Over, and under treatments. And poisonings with all manor of toxic, poisonous pharmaceuticals. Especially the children. America only makes up 2-4% of the world population. But Americans buy, and consume 50% of all pharmaceuticals world wide.

    But the tide has turned. I can see it. Hear it. And feel it. The message is getting out. And taking hold about the fact that we have a very serious, and major health care crisis going on in America. Hurting everyone. Especially our precious little children. Rich, and poor alike. And most all Americans seem to understand now that “HR 676 Not For Profit Single Payer Universal National Health Care For All (Medicare For All)” is the way to go. Like all the other developed countries have done. I have seen numbers as high as 90% of Americans want government managed health care Now. Medicare for all. Like other developed countries have. And like older Americans have now.


    It’s NOW TIME to bring out the BIG GUNS!! The BIG GUNS!! are you. The American people. And anyone else that wants to help. From now until HR 676 is passed into law. I want every person to reach out and touch their fellow Americans every day if you can. I want you to take a phone book. And call at least one of your fellow Americans every day. And ask them to pickup the sword of HR 676 Single Payer Not For Profit Universal Health Care For All (Medicare For All).

    Call more than one each day if you can. And ask them to do the same as you are doing if they can. And also to put maximum pressure on their politicians to get HR 676 done. And to make sure their politicians support HR 676. Accept no substitute. HR 676 is a no-brainer. It’s the best way to go on health care. It’s the only moral, and ethical way to go. That is why every other developed country has done it. Most did it years ago.

    I know that many of you have been doing a fabulous job of spreading the word by talking it up with family, friends, and co-workers. And putting pressure on the politicians to get HR 676 done ASAP. The phone calls to your fellow Americans will increase the pressure. And grow the movement at an astonishing, and exponential rate. And I know many of you have been wanting to do something more to help. The phone calls to your fellow Americans is something you can do every day to help.

    Trust me. It will be something to see. But you have to keep the focus, and pressure on getting HR 676 passed pronto. They will try to distract you. With all manor of other crises, and catastrophes. And other plans. Don’t be distracted. HR 676 Single Payer Not For Profit Universal Health Care is the #1 concern of the American people. Thousands of Americans are dieing daily now. And you or your loved ones could be next.

    There is no good reason HR 676 cannot be passed into law well before the coming elections. Do not tolerate delays. If it is not passed before the coming elections. All America will know which politicians are on the side of the American people. And which are not when they vote. Well before the elections.

    Everyone can do this. Most of you are well informed about HR 676. This truly is one of those no-brainers. Be considerate of your fellow Americans when you call. But be comfortable about calling. These are your fellow Americans. Some will be receptive. And some will not be. Some maybe rude, and mean. Just thank them, and move on to the next. Most will be with you. And if you get a call from one of your fellow Americans about HR 676. Let them know you are already on board. And thank them for calling. Build them up. And keep them strong. They are fighting for all of us.

    I will try to make a second post with just a few of the reasons everyone with 2 working brain cells agrees HR 676 is the best way to go. But you can also look them up for your-self. And read some of the positive informed post on many of the message boards too.

    Lastly, I am sick and tired of hearing how the candidates, and politicians health care plans are going to protect, and preserve the private for profit health insurance companies that have been killing, and ripping off the American people. And now the politicians want to mandate (require) that every American has to support the private for profit insurance company’s that have been killing, and ripping you off. Or you will be fined, and PENALIZED. Thats right. PENALIZED. Ridiculous! The politicians really think you are all detached idiots. CASH COWS! To lead to the slaughter. Don’t put up with that.

    So get on it America. Get those phones going. Chat it up! Save some lives. You want all of America talking about HR 676 becoming law, Now! Before more die needlessly. Make it happen. And to my fellow cyber warriors. You have been doing great! I see it! Keep it up. 1 of 2 post…

    Below are a few reasons why “HR 676 Single Payer Not For Profit Universal Health Care For All (Medicare For All) is a no-brainer. And some reasons why private for profit health insurance is a stupid idea, and injuring, and killing you and your loved ones.

    Medicare cost 2-3% to administer. Private insurance cost 30% to administer.

    Under HR 676 everyone would be covered from birth to death. No co-pays. No-deductible. No out of pocket cost. Plus Dental. And Vision. For less cost than we pay now under private health insurance.

    With private insurance. You have 47 million Americans with no insurance.

    And 89 million Americans that had no insurance part of the time from 2006-2007.

    And over a 100 million that are under insured.

    18-30 thousand Americans that die each year from lack of health care.

    Health Care bills as the #1 cause of personal bankruptcy. And loss of homes.

    Under HR 676 health care is moral, and ethical.

    Private for profit insurance is immoral. And unethical.

    Profit is the primary motive of the private insurance companies.

    They make profit by charging needy, vulnerable, sick Americans as much as they can charge them.

    Then they make more profit by denying them care when they most need it. And are most vulnerable and unable to fight back. When they are sick. Or trying to recover from major illness.

    Yep! I know you are getting angry. I’m sorry. But I have to continue.

    Under HR 676: we will save 300 billion dollars in administrative cost each year.

    With private insurance: we spent more per capita on health care than any other country in the world. Over twice as much as most other developed country’s. Yet we have 47 million with no health care.

    We rank at the bottom in quality of health care #37.

    Americans have a shorter life expectancy than people from all other developed countries. We rank # 42 in life expectancy. Down from #1.

    For the first time in American history. The life expectancy of American children is less than that of their parents. American children are dieing at a record rate. And are in terrible health generally.

    People from other country’s enjoy a much higher level of general health than the best privately insured Americans.

    Americans are also shrinking. We used to be the tallest people in the world. Now we are down to # 10.

    People from other country’s never have to worry about going bankrupt, or loosing their homes over medical bills if they get sick.

    Maybe you should go take a break for a while before I go on. I know this must be upsetting. But this is just a small part of the sad truth about private health insurance that HR 676 can fix.

    Under HR 676: Health care will be based on need. Not on profit. And high standards, and quality will be enforced, and patients protected by the Government through a dedicated civil service. With the power, and resources to rain in abuses of patient care. Like they do with Medicare now.

    With private insurance: Medical care is base on ability to pay. And profit. Tens of thousands of patient are killed, and millions are injure, crippled, and mutilated each year under private for profit health care, and insurance.

    By insurance companies denying needed care to increase their profits.

    By hospitals cutting corners. And using the cheapest least experienced personnel, equipment, and standards they can get away with.

    By doctors that over treat, and under treat. Who injure, mutilate, and kill patients with unnecessary test, procedures, surgery, and invasive diagnostic test for profit. Who poison, kill, and injure millions of Americans with all manor of unnecessary pharmaceuticals for profit. Men, Women, Children, and babies.

    Americans makeup 2-4 % of the world population. But Americans buy, and consume 50% of all pharmaceuticals world wide. This is a monstrous evil. And immorality.

    And lastly, by politicians that take blood money from all these despicable groups and turn blind eye’s to this slaughter of the American people. And the slaughter of their own loved ones. And them-self.

    Well I could go on. And on. But I think this is enough to get you started making your daily phone calls to your fellow Americans to support HR 676. And to help them understand how important it is that each of them join the fight. And bring the MAXIMUM pressure to bear on all individuals, parties, and especially your politicians, and Representatives. To get HR 676 passed into law immediately.

    This is an emergency. America is in a crisis. More Americans have died from this health care crisis than have died in all the wars in US history. Do your best. Millions of Americans lives are counting on each of you. Including your own life. Remember, you are Americans. You know how to fight for your country when you have too. The whole world is in your blood. I’m with you.

    All the best… 2 of 2

  2. The #1 cause of injury, disability, and DEATH in America is, Health Care. « What The Crap? - Says:

    […] other day I put up this post about some thoughts I had posted elsewhere concerning conservative ideas on health care and […]

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