Ross Douthat’s Politics Before Religion

Ross DouthatLet’s leave Ross Douthat’s Catholicism aside for the moment. In his most recent column he is skeptical, Obamacare Turns a Corner? He has noticed that now that is working pretty well, liberals are optimistic about Obamacare’s future. Not so fast, says Douthat. The law still depends upon young and healthy people doing the “right thing” by buying health insurance to subsidize the old and sick. He says that this is what happened in Massachusetts, but they are a bunch of liberal people who want to “do the right thing.”

Douthat could not be more wrong. By his logic, young healthy people working for large corporations would not take the health insurance they are offered. After all, their premiums are exactly the same premiums as the old sick people who work there. There is far less unfairness in Obamacare. Young and healthy people want health insurance for the same reason that good drivers want auto insurance. We all want to feel safe. And just as a good driver can have his car totaled by a bad driver, a young and healthy person can go into bankruptcy because some idiot accidentally shot him.

Conservatives are irrationally obsessed with the cost benefit analysis of insurance. It’s as if before Obamacare came along, they’d never heard of insurance. If everyone got out of insurance exactly what they put it, there would be no point to having insurance. Insurance is a way of buying peace of mind. It is a way of paying a little constantly to avoid the possibility of having to pay a lot later. And with health insurance, it’s a win-win. Either you get more from your insurance than you paid in, or you are healthy. That’s a hell of a deal!

Douthat’s article is just seething with conservative anger and the hope that Obamacare will destroy itself. He’s talking to liberals and warning them that the game isn’t over yet. But he isn’t doing it as someone who’s on the team. He’s Tanner from the end of The Bad News Bears, “Just wait until next year!” He doesn’t want to provide healthcare for 50 million uninsured people. That would go against his idea of the American Way.

But would it go against the Roman Catholic way? Douthat is not a cultural Christian. He takes his faith very seriously as we saw in Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, even if he was wrong about everything. So I find his clear distaste for Obamacare offensive. The healthcare law is, after all, a way to provide insurance to tens of millions of people with almost no social costs. But in as far as he can do it while retaining his pretense of being a “reasonable” conservative, he is cheering for its defeat.

A couple of months ago, Douthat wrote about Pope Francis. From his perspective, everything the new Pope is doing will be judged on the basis of whether it brings more people into the Church. In other words, to Douthat, it is all marketing and the Catholic Church is just a business. And that, I’m afraid is the edge of the water for Douthat’s Christianity. He’s not as bad as Stuart Varney, but his conservative politics come first. And he will tie up his religious beliefs in knots to justify whatever conservative policies he approves of.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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