Editor's note: Andy Hinds is a stay-at-home dad to twin girls. Before the kids were born, he made a living as a freelance carpenter and adjunct English professor. While watching his kids, he blogs at Beta Dad, tweets, and writes for DadCentric, Aiming Low, as well as several local print publications in his current hometown of San Diego. He voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and plans to do so again in 2012.
I watched both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention with great interest over the past couple of weeks. This is the first time I’ve been through an election cycle as a parent (we found out we were having twins on the day of Obama’s victory), and while it hasn’t changed my values in any significant way, examining my own beliefs through the prism of parenthood has brought them into sharper focus.
During the Democratic National Convention, a mom named Stacy Linh explained that if the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) were repealed, her daughter would not be able to get the medical care she needed to survive. The cost of the toddler’s care had already reached halfway to the insurance company’s lifetime coverage limit and would surpass it before she got through the next round of heart surgery that she would require. The Romney campaign, of course, has boasted that repealing Obamacare (which was modeled, ironically, after a system championed in Massachusetts by Romney himself) would be one of the most urgent priorities of his administration, were he elected.
Before I had children, I had serious objections to the manipulation of political issues through the use of kids. But now that I’m a dad, the implications that policies hold for children elicit a visceral effect. The valorization of self-reliance so key to the Republican ethos is much easier to swallow when they’re exhorting grown men and women to take responsibility for themselves. But when the victim of market-based health care is a defenseless child, it draws the whole self-reliance theme into question.
Because, although innocent children are the most sympathetic victims of the every-man-for-himself social structure the hard-right GOP envisions, they are not the only ones. Undocumented immigrants, the working poor, partners and children of non-state-sanctioned marriages: They and countless others will find themselves less secure than ever if Romney wins this election and pursues his party’s platform. The GOP has focused most of its rhetoric on the grave danger we face if we don’t fix our economy and pay down our national debt, which, according to them, can be done by cutting taxes on the wealthy and cutting benefits for the poor. They have put their faith in the business sector, as if all our complex social issues could be solved by a stronger consumer confidence index. Even if we assumed that Romney’s vague economic plan would work, though, as we waited for the magical elixir to take effect, families would suffer.
My friends who hew to the “government is the problem, not the solution” worldview often argue that taking care of the poor and otherwise vulnerable in our society should be left to churches and charitable organizations. The stories of the generosity and compassion Mitt Romney showed in his capacity as a Mormon bishop and a friend, touching as they were, were probably meant to emphasize that notion while portraying him as a great guy. But there are few churches or soup kitchens or generous friends that can pay for medical care.
It’s ludicrous to think that we should have to hold a fundraiser every time our neighbor who has lost her insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions needs to go to the hospital. Charity is wonderful, but if it’s not organized and regulated, it can’t possibly help everyone who needs it. That’s what government is supposed to do: Make sure everyone has access to their share of our vast resources.
I don’t think that government is the answer to every problem, anymore than business is the answer to every problem. There are some huge, seemingly intractable, problems with government. But that’s not a reason to dismantle it—it’s a reason to fix it. I have much less faith in corporations—who have no conscience and only profits as motivation—than government. No matter what you think of the job the government is doing, at least its ostensible purpose is to protect its citizens.
My vision of an ideal country follows the model of a family closer than the model of a business: We don’t fire people if they’re not doing well or fitting in. We help them as much as we can, even if we feel like they’re holding us back. And in my family, at least, we don’t abandon them, no matter how wayward or frustrating they are.