Having written at some length about my visit to the emergency room and published my friend Bob's conservative take on the situation, I'm allowing myself a couple of quick last thoughts on the matter. They were prompted in part by a fine and passionate response to Bob from my friend, Kirsten, now published as a comment to the post that published his thoughts; in part by a telephone conversation with another friend, Marsha, who raised some points that had been on my own mind.
First, Bob makes the assumption that everyone else paid for my (admittedly expensive!) treatment. "Who do you think pays for the medical services?" he writes: "We do!" Well, not quite so fast, Bob. Remember that I have been paying my dues to Kaiser for three decades now--and believe me, that' has been quite a chunk out of my monthly budget. I have also been paying payroll and income taxes to the federal government, in order that I may be assured of those medical services when I need them. So when you think of it, I have in fact paid a good deal of my share up front. I have no way of accounting for myself, dollar for dollar, but that's what Kirsten's comment is about: being accountable not only for ourselves, but for each other in this complex world.
Some of the same thing, as Marsha astutely pointed out, applies to the "nanny state." Most Americans are not the moochers that Romney denigrated, nor are they--to use the term with which you disparage them--the "takers." The vast majority of Americans work hard; some of those who come here, out of desperation, as illegals, work even harder. I have nothing but respect for the workers who come north to provide the labor we so badly need. For the most part they, too, along with American workers and the vast American middle class, contribute to the nation's revenues with payroll and income taxes. They give as much, if not more than they take. And I'm not just talking dollars.
What's referred to disparagingly as the nanny state is in fact a (not perfectly!) functioning system that allows us to live (not perfectly!) together in a country that should still strive, in this complex age, to live up to its ideals of equality and justice for all.
Thanks to all for maintaining the civility of this dialogue; and to Marsha and Kirsten for contributing their insights!