Saturday, March 16, 2013

Political Narcissism

Matt Yglesias:
I'm glad that Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio has reconsidered his view on gay marriage upon realization that his son is gay, but I also find this particular window into moderation—memorably dubbed Miss America conservatism by Mark Schmitt—to be the most annoying form.

Remember when Sarah Palin was running for vice president on a platform of tax cuts and reduced spending? But there was one form of domestic social spending she liked to champion? Spending on disabled children? Because she had a disabled child personally? Yet somehow her personal experience with disability didn't lead her to any conclusions about the millions of mothers simply struggling to raise children in conditions of general poverty. Rob Portman doesn't have a son with a pre-existing medical condition who's locked out of the health insurance market. Rob Portman doesn't have a son engaged in peasant agriculture whose livelihood may be wiped out by climate change. Rob Portman doesn't have a son who'll be malnourished if SNAP benefits are cut. So Rob Portman doesn't care.
Compassion is the most important virtue. To be a good person means, at base, caring about others. This doesn't necessarily mean supporting every conceivable spending program; we do have finite resources, and we have to make choices, and a strong economy does benefit everyone, and some government programs are pretty terrible. But it means thinking hard about what we can do to help people who need it. Republican obstruction of every attempt to get health insurance to people without it is particularly galling, since this is a problem that every other wealthy country has solved, while spending less money on medicine than we do. To not care whether your poor neighbors can get medical treatment, or whether they are forced into bankruptcy by medical bills, is, as far as I am concerned, a serious character flaw.

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