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Your Welfare Ain't on the Rich Man's Mind: Healthcare, Childcare, and a A Living Wage

In America, we pride ourselves on being a beacon of democracy with the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, without access to affordable healthcare, quality childcare, and a living wage, these freedoms become hollow promises. The vast majority of families need two incomes to be able to afford to buy a home. In a family with a single parent, that means two jobs for one person. Who is taking care of the kids? A single parent cannot afford to pay for daycare and work full time. Without a college degree or some kind of skill that earns more than minimum wage, it isn't likely in rural areas that you will get healthcare from your employer. It's pretty depressing to just think about.

This generation is facing the prospect that they will never be homeowners and that the social safety net will be a necessity rather than a failsafe. So, what is the role of Government in a modern democracy?

I think we can all agree that Government exists to promote the general welfare, and that the general welfare has traditionally meant:

· national defense and public safety

· protecting our natural resources

· establishing and maintaining infrastructure (roads, bridges, waterways)

· clean air, water and food supply

The rest we have generally left to the marketplace. Wages, goods, and services are determined by supply and demand. It’s just that simple, right? Well the Devil is in the details. Markets fluctuate and that means that prices vary depending on what is in demand and what is not.

BUT, what if healthcare is always in demand? If demand always out paces supply, then the price of healthcare is always rising. What if market wages are being suppressed by large industries who can determine what a worker is worth? Think Walmart and Lowes. What if big industry can influence law makers to do away with Unions and collective bargaining, artificially influencing wages and benefits?

What if, in a democracy, everyone is equal; it’s just that some are more equal than others?

Is that the democracy that we envisioned 250+ years ago? I am going to answer NO, but maybe not for the reason that you might think. I think we have confused the word “equal” with ‘equitable”. The promise of a democracy as we envisioned it, was that everyone would have an equal chance to make their best life. Sure, some people are inherently physically stronger, or more academically gifted, or even taller, shorter, fatter or prettier; but access to opportunity is what we all want, the opportunity to take your skill set and make the best life you can.

So, as our democracy matures and the marketplace reveals its institutional biases, I am going to argue that the general welfare includes access to quality affordable healthcare for every citizen. I am going to argue that a living wage is essential to the pursuit of happiness, and that unless and until we lose our biological imperative to procreate, quality affordable childcare is part of an equitable opportunity for all working citizens and in the best interest of the general welfare. That is the role of Government in a modern democracy: equity and access to opportunity.


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