Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thank you SCOTUS!

I think the title says it all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


A letter in today's Boston Globe made the interesting claim that the health insurance mandate should not be viewed as a mandate but as a tax incentive. I found the argument persuasive, because we have used the tax code to support and even encourage certain behaviors. Homeownership, saving for retirement, getting married, and raising children are all encouraged by the tax code. Now we can add, if the Supreme Court doesn't rule it unconstitutional, having health insurance.

Critics of requiring or, as I see it, encouraging the buying of health insurance have made a distinction between this mandate and the requirement of havng car insurance. Their argument is that one can choose not to own a car, but the choice of not being alive is very different. I will grant them that, but I think that misses the clear parallel between the two requirements. States require car insurance to be sure that there is money to pay for injuries that occur in traffic accidents. The millionaire could argue that he has enough resources to pay for those himself and should not have to buy insurance, but that argument has been rejected by legislatures in adopting the mandate. The health insurance mandate exists for the same reason, to be sure there is money to pay for health care. In both cases the mandate aims to prevent costs being shifts to other persons, in the case of those injured by an uninsured driver, or to institutions, in the case of a person without health insurance receiving free hospital care.

I hope the Supreme Court doesn't strike down the mandate, but if it does, I suggest that we go back to Congress and get a tax incentive for having health insurance added to the tax code.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Religious Liberty

Our brothers in the Roman Catholic hierarchy have launched a campaign, Fortnight for Freedom, against the birth control mandate being imposed on religiously affiliated institutions that serve the public. Their argument is that, even though those institutions will not have to pay for the inclusion of birth control in the health insurance they provide their employees, they will still be paying for it indirectly, as, one must assume, will all the rest of us through our insurance premiums.

They are, of course, right, as there is no free lunch. Someone has to pay. However, that is the entangled nature of things in our society and economy. We cannot avoid paying for things we don't like, things that may well be contrary to our deeepest religious convictions. Pacifists pay taxes that support the military. Home schoolers pay taxes that support public schools. Texans who oppose the death penalty pay taxes that are used to execute people. There is no way to avoid this entanglement, as my mother learned when she refused to pay the portion of her federal income tax that went to the Pentagon.

The Bishops have also complained that agencies like Catholic Charities have had to stop providing adoption services because they would be required to provide them to gay and lesbian couples, in violation of the Church's teaching. The problem with that objection is simple: the adoption programs were financed with money from state governments. When you want to use government funds, you need to be willing to follow government rules.

I have some simple advice to the Bishops. If you don't like living in a secular republic where governments have to decide how best to provide for "the general Welfare," I know a small theocratic state in Italy where you might prefer to live. Or, if that doesn't suit, perhaps you might want to stop whining and grow up.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What Kind of Campaign?

Last Sunday I celebrated the 62nd anniversary of my baptism by presiding at the Eucharist at Trinity Church in Topsfield, Massachusetts. In her sermon, our rector, Jo Barrett, challenged us to think of how the Spirit is leading us - in our personal lives, in the parish, in the wider world. Jo's challenge got me thinking about how the Spirit might be leading us in this election year, not how I feel myself led as I decide how to vote, but how all of us are being led. What came to me, and maybe it was of the Spirit, is how much we need election campaigns with no demonizing of any of the candidates or those who support them. We need campaigns that focus on issues of public policy and the experience and character of the candidates.

I am not optimistic about our getting what we need, but, as always, I can hope.