Columns / Discourse / September 30, 2009

A call to action

When I sat down to write this column, it started to come out as another boring, pretentious, and self-absorbed political commentary, which litter high school and college newspapers everywhere. You know what I’m talking about. My own high school’s opinion page often covered important issues, but the writers of those columns said nothing new and their arguments were entirely predictable.

But, now, I think I’ll risk being pompous in order to speak about an issue of grave national concern, one that has dominated the national media in recent months: health care.

So, I’ve torn up my list of ‘talking points’ because I bet most of you—by virtue of actually reading this—already know the basics of the debate. And, if I were to take a wild guess, I’d say that a good portion of Knox students understand that, at the very least, some type of change must occur soon. We may disagree on the methods and structure of the way to go about reform, but I’m confident most understand something’s amiss with the system.

With that said, I’d like to introduce another take on the situation directed primarily towards those who believe the system is generally good just the way it is now. Even some Democrats believe that only small, incremental changes need to be made. They are wrong.

Those who maintain that the system needs no reform are guilty not only of ignorance but also outright discrimination—discrimination towards the poor, the disadvantaged, the very people put down (and held down) by a corrupt system that hoards the wealth in the upper-stratum of society.

I believe that the problems with health-care are rooted in a larger, deeper issue, one that most Americans fear to speak of. Broken are the capitalist, neoliberal economic and political systems under which we operate. This relatively new, wildly volatile global economy relegates some—well, most—people to the confines of poverty. They are there not because they lack ambition but rather because the system operates such that they have no opportunities to improve their situation.

A government-run, single-payer health care system is the first step towards providing for the masses that can’t provide for themselves. Some may call this socialism, even communism. They say it’s unjust to have to give their own hard-earned dollars to an ostensibly idle, worthless class of people.

To those people, I say this: Yes, it is a step towards socialism and the place you now occupy in society was not achieved solely through individual effort. Most likely, you were not born poor; therefore, you’ve had millions of opportunities that those “idle” classes have not had.

I’m no fan of communism, and I wouldn’t even call myself a socialist. I understand that inequality will always exist in the world; however, I believe that those with resources have the responsibility to help the poor maintain, at the very least, a subsistent standard-of-living. Adequate health care is essential to that low level of existence.

So, please, the next time you causally pop in for a doctor’s visit, run to the HyVee pharmacy, or get yet another cavity filled, remember that an ever-increasing number of people in the United States can’t even dream of being able to afford those necessities. Also, remember that by denying the need for anything less than a large-scale, government-run overhaul of the health care system, you’re denying those people the basic right to live.

Who’s to say that you, or I, or anyone has that power?

Joshua Gunter
Joshua Gunter was the liberal half of "Debating Columnists" during fall 2012 and winter 2013. He graduated in winter 2013 with a degree in art history and currently works as an account researcher for the Brunswick Group in New York City. At Knox, he also served as co-editor-in-chief of Catch magazine.

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