Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Basic Human Rights Vs. Corporate Profits

While I understand the outrage about the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, I am not surprised by the decision, and neither should anybody else be surprised, either. Some of justices have a clear corporate agenda, and whenever it comes down to limiting or extending corporations' rights, they are probably going to extend them. I believe economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has the right idea: it is time for the people of the US to take a serious look at the constitution in order to clearly define that corporations are not people, and that spending money is not a form of speech. There are other serious problems that also need to be addressed, so perhaps it is time to go through the constitution and rewrite and modernize it. It is the surest way to guarantee everyone basic rights, which are becoming eroded as we sink further into oligarchy.

In the Constitution, there should be provisions that clearly define and guarantee basic human rights so that everyone has access to food, water, shelter, and healthcare. How can anyone enjoy the Declaration of Independence's "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" if s/he is struggling merely to exist? By ensuring these rights in the constitution, it will ensure that people will have access to meet their basic survival needs and will limit corporation and government interference with meeting those needs. Corporations will always find a way to make money, and it should not be more important than ensuring that everyone has their basic needs met. If people want luxuries, then they can find ways to make money to afford those luxuries, but these basic rights, including healthcare, are not luxuries, and should not be weighed against corporate profits, because in our current system, corporate profits seem to win out, every time.

I know the idea of universal healthcare is scary--mostly because of reactionary propaganda from corporate and private interests--but it is the right thing for everybody.  Everyone deserves access to healthcare, and no one should have to go into debt just to get the care that they need. Perhaps we can base our healthcare system more on the French system, which has been considered the number one healthcare system in the world by the World Health Organization since 2000. This peer-reviewed article by Dr.Victor G. Rodwin describes the French system as a "combin[ation] [of] universal coverage with a public–private mix of hospital and ambulatory care." The article goes on to state: "In France, the commitment to universal coverage is accepted by the principal political parties and justified on grounds of solidarity—the notion that there should be mutual aid and cooperation between the sick and the well, the active and the inactive, and that health insurance should be financed on the basis of ability to pay, not actuarial risk." In other words, the French don't leave their sick behind, they help them get the care that the need rather than just let them get sicker, or die. While the French system isn't perfect, it is better than the one that we have. It attempts to strike a balance between public need and private interests, which is what, ideally, a government institution should do.

Companies such as Hobby Lobby should not be able to dictate what healthcare coverage people can and cannot get. Corporate and business interests need to be limited, since their primary concern is not for their employees, or even for their customers, but instead it is for making a profit. As long as the people who own a stake in the company are making the amount of money that they feel they deserve, that's all that matters. That is not to say that corporations shouldn't exist, it just means that there should be more options and opportunities for people to survive outside of them. We can have a democracy, and capitalism, for that matter, and limit corporations--especially when they have an undue influence on how society functions at the detriment to a growing segment of the population. Not every facet of society needs to be for profit.

Changes that benefit society as a whole are not going to happen unless our social framework is restructured so that it supports social progress. The constitution was not intended as the be-all, end-all document for all of time, as is evidenced by the fact that you can make changes to it. Instead, it was intended as a model from which to base a workable social framework, and if that framework is no longer supporting everyone, it needs to be extended. Let us not continue to keep making the same mistakes: let's guarantee all rights for all people and not just a select minority who can afford it.

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