Caring for each other

/ 5 September 2005

As Paul Krugman points out today, the failure of the Bush Administration in the midst of Katrina is not simply about incompetence, or political dithering, it’s the result of sustained contempt for governmental response. And as Bob Herbert points out, “The chorus of criticism from nearly all quarters demanding that the president do something tells me that the nation as a whole is so much better than this administration.”

For years now I've been listening to Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, warn eloquently of the high risk of bioterrorism events in the US. His warnings also always stress that one of the best responses to that risk is to develop a really excellent public health system.

Will we hear him? We haven't paid attention over the past four years, even since the events of September 11, 2001. But an excellent public health system would have been much more capable of handling the fallout from Katrina, too. Will we ever wake up and see that we need to care for each other, and that that care MUST include some widespread, systemic approaches?

Malcolm Gladwell has a compelling piece in this month's New Yorker that finally helps me understand the underlying resistance to national health care. It's not a matter of expense, it's a matter of whether you believe in the "moral hazard" approach to health insurance. Read his piece, it's important and more concise than anything I can excerpt here. But it came to mind this morning because I was reading Dennis Kucinich's statement on the floor of the House in relation to the supplemental appropriation bill for Katrina.

That bill is merely the smallest of the small stop-gap measures they could make. The continuing fallout from this catastrophe is going to go on and on. The rest of us need to step up to the plate -- not simply in the many wonderful small ways in which so many generous Americans are already bringing their time and treasure to bear -- but in coordinated, systemic ways that push our government to be what government can and must be about, caring for each other. We need to honor our abundance, the abundance which God has gifted us with, and share it with each other.