A couple of days ago, a friend sent me an email about recent remarks made by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. Deal wants Congress to repeal the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986. That’s the law–approved and signed by President Reagan–that requires hospitals to treat anyone in an emergency, regardless of citizenship or ability to pay.
In other words, if you are shot, giving birth, having a heart attack–whatever–and you make it to the nearest emergency room, they have to stabilize you before they determine whether you can pay and if not, send you elsewhere. They can’t just turn you away to drop the baby on the pavement or die from the heart attack.
I spend a lot of electronic “ink” wondering what’s wrong with people like Governor Deal. Why are they so adamantly opposed to expansion of Medicaid, increased access to health insurance, or a modest raise in the minimum wage? I could understand it if they were arguing about the best way to provide healthcare or alleviate poverty, if they were offering alternatives, but they clearly aren’t–they are opposed to the goals themselves. And that’s what I’ve had so much trouble understanding.
However, I think I may have figured it out. These people live in a zero-sum reality.
In the zero-sum worldview, every social good exists in a fixed amount. If you get X, I lose X or its equivalent.
Thankfully, the real world doesn’t work that way. In countries with single-payer systems, for example, healthcare costs less, and everyone benefits. Studies have also confirmed that raising the minimum wage puts more money in the economy, and actually increases employment (counter-intuitive as that may seem.)
It must be exhausting to live in a zero-sum reality, where you must constantly on guard to protect your personal fiefdom. I know I need to cultivate some compassion for the denizens of that world, but it’s hard to feel sympathy for mean-spirited people.
On the other hand, maybe there’s a fixed amount of human-kindness, and they didn’t get any?