The Yin & Yang of Public Policy: Can We Achieve Balance?

On one hand, the news media often tells us that we are a country divided. Social media fuels this idea with countless stories of political and ideological intransigence despite mounting societal needs.

On the other hand, the news media also often tells us how much the general population agrees on certain topics. For example, although Congressional Republicans have been working for seven years to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) and return to the glory days of market-driven health insurance, polls show an increasing majority of Americans “believe the federal government has a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage.”

An Associated Press story published today reported that “Americans overwhelmingly want lawmakers of both parties to work out health-care changes, with only 13 percent supporting Republican moves to repeal ‘Obamacare’ absent a replacement.”

Affordable Care Act
An old meme from 2014 refers to the movie Elysium, where Matt Damon and others are doomed to live on Earth with no workplace safety, no health insurance and squalid conditions, while the rich live on a floating space station (Elysium) with luxuries including a machine that heals disease.

“Nearly everyone wants changes to the Obama law, while hardly anyone wants to see it abolished without a substitute in place,” according to the AP. If 80-90% of Americans think Republicans and Democrats should work together on healthcare insurance reform, why not do this? Why the complete disconnect between what the people want, what’s good for the health of the population, and what the Republicans in Congress are doing?

Are unbalanced public policies that favor the rich and big corporations over the needs of the public the reason our country is so divided? Think about it. “Think tanks,” special interest groups, and lobbyists control much of the legislation that goes through the Arizona Legislature (and most likely the Congress). In 2017, many of bills that we heard in the House were designed to benefit one corporation OR just handful of them OR to push an ideological agenda against the will of the people. If special interest groups are writing our laws, no wonder so many laws ignore the public good.

When Senate Republicans failed to pass their mean-spirited repeal and replace bill this week, President Trump chided them and ordered them to “just repeal it!” Really? Repeal with no clue? The Republican Party is poised to throw 20-30 million Americans’ lives into chaos by taking away their health care insurance– just to fulfill a campaign promise. Who does this serve? Obviously not the people. No one wants the return of pre-existing conditions, gender-based price discrimination, widespread medical bankruptcy, price disincentives for preventive screening, or health insurance plans that don’t cover much.

Recently, I have been inspired by Unitarian Universalist philosopher Rev. Rosemarie Carnarius‘ book “Envisioning a New World”. In it, she applies the Taoist concept of balancing the yin and yang to public policy.  The Arizona Daily Star recently published my guest opinion on balanced public policy: “In Politics, Individual Liberty Has Been Promoted Over Social Responsibility.” 

Carnarius proposes consciously balancing yin (responsibility) and yang (liberty) in public policy. If you look at school choice, gun control, banking, and the ACA repeal plans through the prism of liberty versus responsibility, it is obvious that individual liberty is being promoted over the social responsibility and the common good. Other policies like abortion restrictions, voter suppression, or jail for minor drug offenses go the other way; individual liberty is subservient.

The Star editorial focused primarily on health insurance reform, but I will be expanding on the balanced public policy theme in two nonpartisan lay sermons on “Balancing Responsibility and Liberty: the Yin and Yang of Public Policy” at Unitarian Universalist churches this month. Here are the Facebook events.

July 23: Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist Church, which is temporarily meeting at Green Fields Country Day School. Service starts at 10:30.

July 30: Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson on 22nd St. Service starts at 10:30.

If your group would like me to speak on this or other legislative topics, contact me through the Arizona House  or Facebook or send me a Facebook Messenger note.

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