In the town meetings being conducted across America, citizens are asking the members of Congress who are promoting the proposed health care reform if they are willing to sign themselves and their families into the system they are espousing for the rest of us. The answer is a loud and uniform "No!"
Members of Congress have developed a set of talking points to defend this refusal. The talking points include the following argument, taken from the August 10th online edition of the Baltimore Sun: "…there’s nothing curious at all about the fact that members of Congress wouldn’t be required to sign up for the public health insurance plan. Nobody else would be, so why should they?"
On the surface, this sounds reasonable.
Nobody else is mandating a health care system that will literally affect life and death decisions for millions of Americans. Nobody else can reach into the wallets of American citizens to force them to pay for the mandates being imposed. Nobody else is deciding who will get care under what conditions and at what cost.
It is absolutely hypocritical for any member of Congress to pretend that when it comes to health care he or she can simultaneously have the authority to impose mandates for others and the freedom to avoid the very rules they are mandating.
Most people who have private health insurance receive it from their employers. They receive the kind of insurance their employer chooses to provide. Employees do not dictate the terms of their insurance coverage to their employers – they accept what is offered, or they seek other employment.
Members of Congress have an employer – the American taxpayer. If America’s taxpaying citizens decide to offer them the same insurance that they want to mandate, then they should have to accept it. Or seek other employment.
Some members are now saying that they would "consider" enrolling themselves or their families in the public option. Can anyone imagine an employee telling his employer that while he might consider taking the health care program being offered by that employer, he is under no obligation to accept the offer?
Non-acceptance would be okay if the employee goes out and buys, with her own funds, the private insurance that she prefers. But such is not the case here. Members of Congress are not only asserting their total freedom to reject the insurance their employer, the American taxpayer, is offering, but fully expecting that we taxpayers pay for the higher-quality alternative they prefer.
The real message being expressed through their position extends far beyond health care. Their talking points are an open illustration of their absolute belief that they are in a class above the rest of us. We fought a revolution because we did not believe that there should be a ruling class. In their arrogant assertion of two sets of rules, one for the citizen and one for the elected official, the members of the U.S. Congress are telling us that they not only believe in the existence of an American ruling class, but that they constitute its membership.