The Republican Party posed this question in its weekly video and radio address, no doubt hoping it will resonate much like Ronald Reagan's effective question to voters in the 1980 presidential campaign, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"For Catholics, this question on health care ought to be the wrong one, given our faith's emphasis on the common good. This is made very clear in Daniel Callahan's excellent article in the Oct. 9 issue of Commonweal, "America's Blind Spot: Health Care & the Common Good."As Callahan writes, "Except for Catholics and a few others ... the common good as a moral value has little purchase in American life." Later in the article, he writes that "Advocates of reform must now cope with the growing fear among the 80 percent of Americans who have adequate health insurance that they may have to lose some benefits, or pay more form them, in order to extend coverage to the 20 percent who lack insurance. More than fear is operating here." And still more: "The striking feature of conservative health-care thinking is its radical individualism. The idea of a common good is entirely absent."The question "Will this improve your life?" takes clever advantage of Americans' lack of concern for the common good. It's a phrase that could well echo through the health care debate. Should the health care debate be framed in this way? It calls for a response from Catholic leaders and opinion-makers.
Paul Moses is the author, most recently, of The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia (NYU Press, 2023). He is a contributing writer. Twitter: @PaulBMoses.