When I look for signs of God, I follow the instructions Jesus gave us for finding him: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me" (Matthew 25: 35-36). The hypocrite will answer: "Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?" (Matthew 25: 44). "Then he will answer them: 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'"
Republicans have made much about the word "God" in the Democratic platform, the struggle over to retain it or omit it. Like the Pharisees, they stand ostentatiously in the front of the synagogue, congratulating themselves on their righteousness, giving thanks that they are not like other men (Luke 18: 12).
I have looked, and I cannot find God in the GOP platform. Consider health care. Obamacare is far from perfect. But it represents a welcome first step toward the reform of America's failing health care system. At the very least, the health insurance must be made into a regulated public utility. Absent such reform, the interests of insurance companies in maximizing profits will always be pitted against the needs of the insured for coverage. Obamacare takes a few small steps in this direction by lifting lifetime insurance caps and requiring coverage for pre-existing conditions. And as the story of Stacy Lihn, whose daughter was born with congenital heart defects made so poignantly clear at last Tuesday night's DNC, Obamacare is even now saving lives.
The Republican platform is dedicated to the repeal of even these modest reforms. To the angry GOPers who approved their platform, Obamacare was not about extending health-care coverage, indeed, it "was never really about healthcare," but a "disastrous" power grab, "an attack on our Constitution" in the name of a "euro-style bureaucracy."
And what would the Republicans replace Obamacare with? "We believe that taking care of one's health is an individual responsibility. Chronic diseases, many of them related to lifestyle, drive healthcare costs." That's it. Blame the victim. And what is the solution the GOP offers besides "don't get sick"? A "free-market based system" where all the power resides in the hands of the insurance industry. All the lip service in the world about "consumer choice" won't make it happen without a regulated insurance industry that reduces disparity in bargaining power. If God judges us on how we treat the sick, this platform stands condemned.
What about the elderly? Surely they count as "the least among us." Poverty among the elderly is growing, as The Huffington Post points out (See David Callahan, "Broke Boomers and the Coming Crisis of Elderly Poverty," June 19, 2012). The Republican platform's approach toward this looming humanitarian nightmare is utter cynicism. Nothing else adequately describes the Republican plan for the voucherization of Medicare.
The Republicans speak about "empowering" Medicare recipients by throwing them onto an open and unregulated insurance market with a few dollars in vouchers and a hearty slap on the back. What insurance company will want to do business with them? They have pre-existing conditions no insurance company will want to cover, and the Republican platform promises to repeal Obamacare's protection of pre-existing conditions. They may be cognitively impaired to a greater or lesser degree and unable to navigate this horrible system. They may be physically broken and in need of assistance. No allowance is made for them.
The voucher proposal is a mockery of sound public policy. This part of the Republican platform really reads like some cruel joke dreamed up by College Republican sophomores after a long weekend at some Koch brothers seminar. God? Where is God in this?
There are many other ways this platform fails the standard Jesus set out for how he will judge us on the last day. Consider the plight of workers. Incomes are declining in the United States. We are, from the standpoint of wage growth, in a period of wage deflation. Why? One compelling reason is the growing disparity in power between the individual employee and employer. In a world of many options, employers may transfer jobs, off-shore them, eliminate them, strip them of benefits, and thereby lay waste to whole cities and towns.
Organized labor has always stood as a barrier to these sorts of depredations. Unions never truly created an equal playing field, employers have always had the upper hand, but unions at least gave workers the hope of increasing wages and job stability. And with wages and stability, we have a chance at a working class able to marry, have children and raise the next generation. You want to defend the family? You should begin by defending wage security.
For more than a century, the Catholic magisterium has endorsed labor unions for precisely these reasons. The Republican platform makes war on this very idea. It calls for "the enactment of a National Right-to-Work law." Its demand for "worker freedom" is of a piece with the social darwinist individualism embodied in discredited Supreme Court decisions like Lochner v. New York.
No one should want to be associated with this platform on Judgment Day.
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