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June 21, 2012

Responsibility v. Irresponsibility

Patricia A. Kelly

Responsibility is the core issue between the true right and the true left. Shall the person who works very hard to create a home for his two children, and to raise them with all the benefits he can provide, be required to support the 26-year-old welfare mother of eight…


…or the biker dude who rides without his helmet, and ends with a Glasgow Coma Score of 9?


Responsibility, personal vs. governmental vs. societal, may be the core issue in determining how we create government.


A male acquaintance, who pays long-saved cash for medical procedures, says to the government, “Just leave me alone. I’ll take care of myself, my family and contribute in my community. If I can’t provide something for myself, I’ll do without it.”


The March 2012 issue of National Nurse features an article about a 58-year-old woman who delayed her mammogram for three years when she was 49 because she didn’t have health insurance. She eventually mentioned this to a school nurse, as she was worried since both of her parents had died from cancer, and learned that a free breast cancer screening program was available.


After finding a large lump in her breast, she went for that mammogram and discovered advanced cancer, which was treated under a special breast cancer program in her state and under Medicaid. She asserts that government is about helping each other, and believes we all should be insured under Medicare.


She’s a little angry that she didn’t have coverage because she thinks she would have found the cancer earlier if she had.


Both of these people have lived outside the mainstream, one might say, not following the usual plan of finding work that includes medical benefits, and then shifting over to Medicare, a Medicare supplement, personal retirement funds and Social Security at retirement.


The male acquaintance worked for himself, wore inexpensive clothing, lived largely on wild game, bought hardly anything and saved his money. After giving up his career as a barber, he took jobs as they came, developed his own ranch-based business, and continued his frugal lifestyle.


The woman, a college graduate who majored in art history, states she was never able to find consistent, lucrative work with health benefits. One reason she mentions was that she suffered from depression, a very crippling condition, in her early adult years.


She says she worked hard at different things, but was never able to earn more than $24,000 per year. In the past seven years, she completed a second college degree in Spanish, and now owes $32,000 in student loans, further complicating her financial situation.


One can look at these two people and their choices from different views, finding innumerable questions, and drawing many different conclusions.


What if the independent, frugal man had suffered from depression, or had developed some crippling health condition? Was he irresponsible, leaving himself open to the possibility of requiring government assistance?


And the woman, whom one can only wish remission and recovery, what was she thinking all those years without health insurance? Did she and her husband just think they didn’t need to provide for themselves, or that their health luck would hold? Did inadequately treated depression, or the low self esteem often associated with it, diminish her ability to meet her own needs and take advantage of the help that was already available to her?


Is the hard working parent morally required to deny his two children their Christmas bicycles because of the woman’s needs, or those of the eight unsupported children, or the tax increase required to fund healthcare for all members of society?


Must the people who make their own good decisions live by collective decisions meant to provide security for those who don’t?


Are the haves, or the working people who follow the mainstream values of society, required to provide for everyone else, even if they don’t agree with their life choices?


My very liberal associates assert that there will always be money, and that the Christmas bicycle choice will never be required.  I disagree. There’s no such thing as free.


These are tough, tough questions. Hard times can fall upon any of us at any time. Creating a liberal government that rewards irresponsibility would most certainly remove the incentive for achievement.


If no one achieved, who would pay the bills?


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