Tags: nra | medicare | single payer | healthcare | mass shootings

Why the NRA Should Support Medicare for All

Image: Why the NRA Should Support Medicare for All
Balloons and flowers are left beside the Route 91 festival venue after a gunman killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 200 others when he opened fire from the Mandalay Hotel (background and showing broken shooters window) on a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 3, 2017. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017 03:22 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The recent outrage in Las Vegas killed 58 people, wounded hundreds, and traumatized thousands, inflicting tremendous financial and emotional costs on the victims.

The New York Times describes one victim, now a quadriplegic. "three weeks after the shooting, strapped into a wheelchair at a rehabilitation clinic, toughing it out with a physical therapist and straining to drink from a sippy cup as her toddler grandchildren looked on."

Just imagine this woman's anguish, multiplied by that of the many other people seriously injured in recent attacks. As the Times noted, "The journey — as the survivors of so many other American mass shooting will say — is one full of chronic pain, fights with insurance, ruined marriages, lost jobs, anguished parents and children...."

The reference to "fights with insurance" reminds us that many Americans are not insured and many more are not well-insured. Even well-insured quadriplegics will face horrible financial burdens.

Recordings of the Las Vegas shootings were played on TV news. We could all hear the incredible number of shots fired every second over a period of minutes. The weapons were obviously not ones employed by hunters or people protecting themselves and their homes. Sale, purchase, and possession of such weapons could be outlawed without depriving Americans of a meaningful right to bear arms. But even after this disgusting event and many other mass shootings, even modest restrictions have gotten nowhere in Congress.

Outlawing such weapons would not prevent all mass shootings, let alone the daily smaller-scale shootings inflicting many more total injuries. And there are other weapons besides guns including knives and motor vehicles. But "it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness," and at least outlawing guns that fire hundreds of shots every minute would reduce how many people can be shot in brief periods of time.

Cost-benefit analysis is generally a good idea. But it can produce gross irresponsibility if people take actions benefiting themselves but costing themselves little, while ignoring huge "externalized" costs inflicted on other people. The people killed and injured in Las Vegas are externalized costs of the extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment advocated by the gun industry and the National Rifle Association, and of their lobbying.

This problem could theoretically be reduced or eliminated by legal measures forcing those seeking a benefit to bear its costs, a strategy economists call "internalizing the externalities."

For example, a massive class action lawsuit could demand that the NRA and its corporate allies support, for the rest of their lives, those whose lives have been ruined by their lobbying. Unfortunately a class action against the gun industry would probably go nowhere. In 2005 Congress, thanks in part to NRA lobbying, enacted the so-called Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, giving the industry broad immunity from lawsuits. So a lawsuit focusing on the NRA might be the only possibility. Such a lawsuit also might not get anywhere, given obvious defense arguments based on the NRA's First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and to petition the government. But it might be worth a try.

Even if the gun industry and NRA cannot be legally required to pay for taking care of the people injured by guns, they clearly have a moral obligation to do something about the problems their actions have made possible. To this end, they should use their lobbying and public relations skills to convince Congress to replace Obamacare with a single-payer insurance system. An improved Medicare-for-all, would, among other things, take care of gun victims while spreading the cost across all taxpayers.

Financing care for victims of mass killings through the tax system might be fairer than making the NRA and the gun industry pay for it all by themselves. All they did was lobby Congress, buy up politicians with campaign contributions, and manipulate public opinion. Ultimate responsibility rests with the public for buying their arguments and supporting them at the ballot box.

The NRA argues that broad rights to own guns benefit the general public. If something benefits the general public, it is only right that the general public pay for the costs of that benefit rather than making individual gunshot victims absorb all of the costs themselves. Medicare-for-all would indeed help internalize the externalities here.

Arbitrarily selected shooting victims should not be reduced to Go Fund Me appeals and bake sales.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published 1981 and his most recent book is "The Case of the Racist Choir Conductor: Struggling With America's Original Sin." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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If something benefits the general public, it is only right that the general public pay for the costs of that benefit rather than making individual gunshot victims absorb all of the costs themselves.
nra, medicare, single payer, healthcare, mass shootings
Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017 03:22 PM
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