President Obama makes a point during last Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
Associated Press/Photo by Charles Dharapak
President Obama makes a point during last Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Who matters to the government?


As healthcare savior, President Barack Obama is like someone who knocks a dozen people off a pier into the water in his careless rush to reach and attempt to save a group precariously perched at the end of it. He congratulates himself for saving some of them, but not all, while those he plunged into distress bob in the water wondering what just happened.

Obama makes a habit of publicly highlighting success stories for the major legislative accomplishment of his presidency, the Affordable Care Act. These people matter to him. This person had a preexisting condition, but now she’s covered and she’s doing fine. This fellow is covered because the law allows him to remain on his parents’ policy until he is 26. The president told us in his State of the Union address, “More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage” (a vastly inflated figure that CNN reports is deceptively “squishy”). These folks had no coverage. Now they do. The success of these people is the measure of success. Obama called this “the real impact this law is having.”

But 5 million people who were just minding their own business have lost their coverage as a direct result of the same law. They now have to seek new coverage through Obama’s hopeless exchanges and entrust their personal data to a system that is transparent to every moderately persistent hacking identity thief. (One study shows that there are actually fewer people with health insurance now than there were in 2009 when Obama came to office.) But in the view of our government, these people don’t matter. Tom Coburn, the GOP senator from Oklahoma and himself a physician, has been bumped by law into the federal health insurance exchange along with everyone else in Congress and has lost coverage for his oncologist (though some question this). No matter. Millions of others have seen their premiums double or triple as a result of how Obamacare has affected the broader health insurance calculus. But they don’t matter either.

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When governments think their job is to equalize society—to bring about what they call “social justice”—it is ironic that some people always end up mattering more than others. As another great progressive leader once said, “One can’t expect to make an omelet without breaking eggs.” An activist government like this brings some down to lift others up. It not only picks winners, but also generates losers in the process. While this may be well intentioned, it inevitably becomes government in the service not of the people as a whole—the common good—but of particular politically supportive factions and constituencies. In other words, it becomes government in the service of itself and of those who share its interests. These governments don’t really believe we are all equal at all.

Everyone should matter to the government of a free and equal people. When our government takes “equality” to mean everyone having the same liberty to exercise their faculties and employ their means, everyone matters equally.

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.


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