The emergency room as the safety net

Commoners in need should obtain help and support at the caprice of those affluent enough to get a tax deduction for money given to legally-recognized charities, and the commoners should be thankful.
— What conservatives really mean by “charities should be responsible for providing health care to those who can’t afford it”.
US laws, those who lead, and those who wish to lead, often reinforce the widespread belief in other countries that US society is exceptional in multiple ways for being thoughtless and uncaring.

About a year after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq we find Tommy Thompson displaying a disconnection from reality shared by many right-wing conservative ideologues:
“Even if you don’t have health insurance,” said Thompson, who toured medical facilities in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Tikrit on Saturday and Sunday, “you are still taken care of in America. That certainly could be defined as universal coverage. Every American’s health care is far superior to what the health care is in Iraq.”
— Iraq Notebook, “Universal care is right for Iraq, Thompson says”, The Seattle Times (3 March 2004) [My emphasis]
[Tommy Thompson was then Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and a year after he resigned in 2005 Thompson became president of Logistics Health Incorporated, a private-sector health-care company]
Having health care that is superior to that of a devastated Iraq is not difficult, and so what is point of the comparison? Well, his boss agreed:
… I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.
— George W Bush, Speech, Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland, Ohio, 10 July 2007
A similar out-of-touch assertion was made more recently:
I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it.
— Mitt Romney, Interview, “The Starting Point”, CNN, 1 February 2012
Of course there are other cruder views of life:
The safety net is one of the biggest cultural problems we've got! We had better be worried about it just like we had better get angry over Obamacare.
— Rush Limbaugh, “Mitt Makes Himself a Target Again”, Rush Limbaugh Show, 1 February 2012
And the Newt Gingrich contribution to the discussion was that he wanted "to replace a safety net with a trampoline” – as if they were interchangeable. You know instantly that really, to reduce accidents and improve safety, trampolines need some form of extra safety device (and it does not take “funny” videos to prove it). To change the metaphor, you can springboard into a belly-flop.
So what’s the point? Every day people put off care, even die, because they cannot get care, and every day people do not get enough to eat and go to bed hungry (if they have a bed). Limbaugh is angry that there is a safety net (poor as it is), because – for people needing the safety net --  he thinks “the safety net is contributing to the destruction of their humanity and their futures!”
Ron Paul thinks that “There was a time in the ’50s and early ’60s, people were not lying out in the street not getting medical care. Charities and hospitals stepped up.” In the 1950s and early 1960s, whites in the USA benefitted from segregation and racial discrimination. Whether they supported the unfair treatment of “coloreds” or not, or whether they lived in states with discriminatory laws or not, average living standards of white people were better in the USA because of the depressed living standards of non-whites.
Paul was practising medicine in a state (Texas) in which the whites lived in a social bubble subsidized by subjugation of non-whites, and the whites lived far better because of that subjugation – segregation was a social safety net for whites. Though how he would like us to remember the past is so important to his case about health care, Paul is inconsistent in his memory. For example, when talking about segregation in the ’50s and early ’60s, Paul says “That's ancient history. That's over and done with.” We might consider this statement as an instance of convenient amnesia about an institution that improved his life, or a misunderstanding of the economics of segregation and how it benefitted whites.
The topic at more at length:
Chris Matthews: Let me ask you this. I once went to Laundromat when I was at a peace corps training in Baker, Louisiana. A Laundromat had this sign on in glaze: “Whites only on the Laundromat”, just to use the Laundromat machines. This was a local shop saying no blacks allowed. You say that should be legal.
Ron Paul: That’s ancient history, that’s over and done with.
Chris Matthews: Because it being outlawed.
Ron Paul: Segregation on buses and all was done by laws, so it was the culture. That’s over and done with, Chris. Why do you want to go back to ancient days and ancient history? It’s past. It’s past, and nobody’s advocating it.
— Chris Matthews, “Interview with Ron Paul”, Hardball, MSNBC, 3 May 2011 [My emphasis]
[Matthews served in the US Peace Corps from 1968 to 1970.This transcript appears on a site (www.RonPaul.com) that supports Ron Paul (a “Fan Site”) – the fans thought the debate was a win for Paul.]
Not much Paulian consistency there.

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