Several people have asked me to blog my thoughts about the high-profile case that’s before the Supreme Court right now. I’m honestly not sure why, since my political views tend to be pretty bland and wishy-washy, but maybe that’s what the blogosphere needs. Maybe I can be the anti-Matt Walsh: angry with no one, and reasonable towards everyone.
I can at least give it my best shot.
So, here are my primary thoughts.
1. I’ve always supported Obamacare.
That hasn’t changed, and I don’t regret it. I’m not a huge fan of some of its provisions, and it’s not the legislation I would have written if they had put me in charge — but something needed to be done about our country’s broken healthcare system.
There were (and still are) people who would have told you that our healthcare system is the GREATEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD,™ but that claim was always provably ridiculous. We spend more on healthcare than any other developed country, and we’re less healthy and live shorter lives. On what planet does that make for the “best healthcare system in the world”? That’s like saying Windows Vista is the best operating system in the world because it hogs the most RAM and wastes the most of your time. It just ain’t so.
2. Healthcare reform is a moral issue.
I’m sorry, but it is. The Bible tells me to look out for my neighbor, and at the moment, millions of my neighbors can’t get the healthcare they need from the GREATEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD.™ I can respect that many of my more conservative friends aren’t fans of government regulation, but I’ll change my position as soon as they show me the Bible verse where Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, unless you have to get that damn gummint involved.”
Saving lives is always right.
3. Birth control is also a moral issue.
…but unfortunately, it’s a moral issue that swings both ways, which makes this call really tough for me.
In the first place, I believe the religious objection to birth control to be a genuine and a valid one. And for good or for ill, we have religious freedom in this country, so it makes sense to me that we shouldn’t force people to buy things that are against their religious beliefs.
But then, we collect taxes from nearly everybody, and then we use those taxes to murder civilians with drones — which, I mean, strikes me as a slightly bigger problem. (Not that that undoes the smaller problem, but still — something to think about.)
But in the second place, there are plenty of women who genuinely need certain types of birth control for their health — either to treat medical conditions or because pregnancy would be a life-threatening condition for them. So it would be demonstrably immoral to keep it out of their hands.
And we can ask them to start proving they need it medically, but…well, that seems like kind of an encroachment on their privacy. Which, at the very least, is kind of a douchey thing to do.
4. But this case isn’t actually about birth control.
It needs to be said that Hobby Lobby already has a healthcare plan in place that covers almost all forms of birth control.
There’s a small handful of forms they’re opposed to, and they’re opposed to them not because they’re birth control but because they can act as abortifacients — preventing a fertilized egg from implanting.
In other words, they’re not opposed to these drugs because they prevent pregnancy; they’re opposed to them because they may accidentally terminate a life — which seems like an arguably valid concern to me. (You might not think it is, but can you at least try to understand why someone else would?)
But then again, the Religious Right just can’t get enough guns, and those things accidentally kill people all the time.
The Left will often point out that embryos actually fail to implant naturally with a huge amount of frequency. But to me, that sounds a lot like saying that bears sometimes eat people, so we might as well start feeding people to bears.
5. But, that said, how far does the “religious exemption” thing go?
Does a business owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses have the right to refuse to cover blood transfusions? Does a business run by Scientologists have the right to refuse to cover psychological counseling? Somehow I doubt most people on the Religious Right would be excited about either one of those exemptions.
What if I decide to start my own religion that requires me to pay my employees only two cents an hour and whip them on their breaks? (Man, do you even know how many business owners would rush to join that religion? Someone write these ideas down.)
I’m only half-joking. If we’re going to give out religious exemptions to any and every business, we need to know exactly where the line is between legitimate religious practice and just gaming the system — and I’m not sure I’m prepared to deal with the consequences of drawing that line. Are you?
6. There’s something weird about the privacy argument.
Am I the only one who thinks there’s something bizarre about the argument, “My use of birth control is none of my employer’s business — therefore, my employer better shut up and buy me birth control”? If they’re the ones buying it, how exactly is it not their business? You’re literally making it their business. That’s like if you boss took you out for lunch, and then you got indignant when he wouldn’t buy you a fifth martini.
You could not sound more entitled right now, guys.
7. Of course, no one is actually being forced to buy birth control.
But of course, #6 above is a gross oversimplification, because literally nobody is actually asking Hobby Lobby to pay for birth control. There’s already been a compromise offered, where premiums from employees, instead of funds paid in by the business, will cover the treatments in question.
That sounds like a fair compromise to me, but of course no one asked me.
Hobby Lobby still objects, because — I guess — they’d still be the conduit through which their employees got birth control.
Do they really not see the dangerous precedent that sets, though? That’s basically one step away from telling your employees how they can and can’t spend their wages. Do we want to live in a world where that’s acceptable? What if you work for a Muslim, and he decides to pay you only in gift cards that can’t be used on alcohol or bacon?
I’m sure technology like that exists, and I die a little each time I contemplate having to go without alcohol and bacon.
8. Maybe the real problem here is that we expect employers to provide healthcare?
Maybe it’s time to think outside this paradigm a little, guys. I get that, historically, healthcare has been provided by employers. And when this started, in the 1950s, that sort-of made sense. Unions were powerful, the labor market was a seller’s market, and most jobs were for-life, which greatly incentivized employers to look out for the needs of their employees.
But that isn’t the case anymore. And we can argue about why that isn’t the case all day, but the reality remains that the interests of businesses and their employees are no longer aligned, which means this sort of relationship is bound to be strained. But instead of fixing it, we’re forcing it.
That’s how we do things in ‘Murica — instead of fixing or replacing broken systems, we prop them up because our systems are the GREATEST SYSTEMS IN THE WORLD,™ because we’re ‘Murica, the GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD,™ so they MUST BE. Obviously.
Look, for just one example, at post-secondary education. We want to make it accessible to all (a worthy goal, in my estimation), but we don’t want to shake things up, because we have the BEST SYSTEM IN THE WORLD,™ so we just pump money into the existing system in the form of student loans — leading the cost of education to skyrocket, and leaving everyone with a degree in crippling debt. Never mind that it would literally be cheaper and more effective to socialize the whole system — SOCIALISM IS EVIL,™ dammit.
Because socialism isn’t the BEST SYSTEM IN THE WORLD™.
I get that we’re perpetually stuck in a two-party gridlock, and only one of our parties (the clueless-but-well-meaning one) is interested in fixing things, and the other one (the fiddle-while-Rome-burns one) is only there to tear the system apart from the inside out, which is why I’m happy with any healthcare reform at all — but maybe, just maybe, we should look into socializing medicine so we don’t have to deal with idiotic debates like this.
That doesn’t have to mean the government provides, or even pays for, every medical service. There are about a million different ways to go about it, and all of them have the benefit of not chaining workers to employers who see them as entitled parasites instead of human beings who are breaking their backs to make them rich.
Here’s a suggestion: Since nearly every other developed country in the world has a more effective and more efficient healthcare system than we do, let’s look long and hard at those systems — and then take what works and leave what doesn’t.
9. Let’s all just calm down for a second.
All right, guys. While there are obviously a lot of people who feel strongly about this case, let’s not overstate its importance. There are only two possible outcomes:
- Hobby Lobby wins, and employees have to pay for their birth control out of their own paychecks.
- The Gummint wins…and employees have to pay for their birth control out of their own paychecks.
It’s really not that big a deal, y’all. It’s just a question of whether employees have slightly less take-home pay or get charged slightly more at Walgreens. Either way, no one is forced to pay for something they object to, and either way, no one is being barred from their birth control.
I realize we are talking about some semi-important precedents, but come on. Regardless of who wins, we’ll all still have really unsatisfying sex lives, and our money will still be used to fund the murder of innocent people. So just chill the heck out.
10. And hey, while we’re at it, can we at least try to have some empathy here?
I’m sorry, but this whole debate — like most debates in U.S. politics — has been really, really stupid. And it’s been really, really stupid because both sides are so determined to demonize each other.
Women who want birth control are not all super-sluts who want you to fund their libido. People opposed to (some forms of) birth control are not all sleazy busybodies who think about your sex life all day. (In reality, I’m the one who thinks about your sex life all day.) There are legitimate reasons to be on both sides, guys.
Thinking everyone who disagrees with you is evil or stupid is not only unhealthy for you, but it also does a huge disservice to your own goals, because you leave yourself unable to legitimately criticize their arguments.
I recently came across a post by a Facebook friend, where he asserted that Hobby Lobby wanted to “block their employees’ access to birth control,” called Hobby Lobby a bunch of slut-shaming busybodies, and then asserted that if they really wanted to practice their religion, they should have started a charity instead of a business.
I wasn’t terribly offended by this, because I don’t feel like I have much of a stake in the court case, but I tried to calmly point out that Hobby Lobby (1) is not actually blocking anyone from getting birth control, (2) actually covers most forms of birth control, (3) is only opposed to abortifacients, and (4) has been very public and clear about these positions. And also that they donate half of their pre-tax earnings to charitable causes. He came back with “NO THEY IS SLUT-SHAMERS WHO HATES THE WOMYNS I JUST KNOWS IT!!!!111”
I’m paraphrasing a little.
A tiny bit.
Anyway, he then proceeded to delete all my comments, on the grounds that I had “grossly mischaracterized” his position.
I don’t think I had (well, now I have, I guess), but I was dumbstruck by the irony there. If you can’t take other people’s word with regard to their own opinions and motivations — at least in the absence of evidence to the contrary — why, exactly, should they afford you the same courtesy?
This isn’t just about being fair to an opponent, either. If you don’t understand someone else’s argument, you can’t criticize it meaningfully. We saw this back when Rush Limbaugh decided to call Sandra Fluke a slut for testifying about birth control before Congress. Nearly all of her testimony was about birth control as a medical necessity, but he didn’t bother to find that out and just assumed that she was talking about what a prolific sex-haver she was. He ended up looking stupid, which isn’t unusual for Rush Limbaugh, but it also did a huge disservice to everyone on Hobby Lobby’s side by making them look like a bunch of scientifically illiterate misogynists.
And I don’t doubt that some of them are. But I sincerely doubt that all of them are.
And if you assume they are, there’s a word for you: bigoted. You’re no less bigoted than Rush “Everybodiez iz Slutz” Limbaugh.
I’m going to suggest a possibility here. Maybe people who disagree with you have come across information you haven’t. Maybe they’ve read different books. Maybe they’ve had different life experiences. Maybe, just maybe, their convictions are reasonably informed and sincerely held.
Maybe we should approach this conversation with a little bit of humility. Maybe we shouldn’t go in with guns blazing, assuming we’re the one person in the world standing up for human rights, or the one person in the world who has engaged in any research or critical thought.
Maybe we should actually exchange real ideas with each other, instead of huddling in our own corners, beating up on straw men.
But, of course, that will never happen.
Because that’s not how we do things in the GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.™
More stuff that I wrote* and millions of people read**
*had an unpaid intern plagiarize for me
**after I paid to get it on the NYT Bestseller list