Last night I heard Tom Brokaw on Charlie Rose say something that got me thinking. On the issue of health care, he said, "Its a right and a responsibility. In a wealthy industrial nation, we should be able to provide health care for everyone; but, you have a responsibility to your fellow citizen not to smoke, not to get obese, not to have bad habits that costs us all when it comes to health care."
I believe this should be at the core of progressive politics. We should understand that as citizens we have a right to those things that are required, such as health care, housing, employment, etc. However, we also have the responsibility as citizens to not take advantage of the system. In short, we should be working together toward common goals in ensuring that our fellow citizens are not on the streets, hungry, and without basic health care.
Yes, it's about opportunity; and opportunities have been declining. Costs are rising, wages are not keeping up. A man can work himself night and day and still not be able to afford to make sure his children can go to the doctor without fearing financial ruin from medical bills.
In the long run, when one section of society goes without and are in need, the costs spill over to the rest of us anyway. These people end up on our street corners, begging to work for food. While there may be some who do take advantage of the system, I believe that is a risk we must take to ensure those who are reaching for the opportunities to work and succeed are able to.
In the musical, 1776, the conservative John Dickinson is written to have said, "Don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor." I wonder how many view the world in this way, and begrudge the efforts of those who are asking for sacrifice for the good of the whole from those who are better able to bear the load, when they themselves may require the sacrifice of those who are able.