The Political Church: Should the Church or the Government Do Welfare?

Church StateIt’s become popular to argue that the church should handle the welfare needs of the poor and the healthcare needs of the uninsured — rather than the government. I thought I’d check how realistic this might be.

According to USGovernmentSpending.com, total state and federal welfare spending has varied from 2.69% to 5.13% of GDP over the last 10 years. It’s a total of $750 billion for 2010 — which is signficantly higher than in prior years. There are about 112 million households in the US (average size of 2.2). About 47% attend church regularly.

If the church-attending households took on the entire state and federal welfare burden, it would cost them about $14,750 per Christian household per year. That’s a lot of money. Of course, the churches would be vastly more efficient than the government, but I have trouble seeing the churches carrying the entirety of this load. Put it this way: in a church of 220, giving would have to increase by $1,475,000 per year — above current giving!

The burden on society from uninsured health care isn’t as great. After all, the poorest among us are covered by Medicaid (taken into account in the welfare figures), and so the uninsured are largely those working at hourly jobs that don’t provide insurance and yet who aren’t poor enough for Medicaid.

The total costs on uncompensated health care (not paid by patients or insurance) per year is about $40 billion. (This is, of course, a highly controverted figure. But it’s plainly a huge number.) These are bills hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies can’t collect from their patients because the patient isn’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid (in most states, you have to be nearly penniless) and yet not wealthy enough to be able to pay the bills. In fact, uninsured medical bills are the most common reason for a person to take bankruptcy.

The cost of covering uncompensated health care would be about $760 per church-attending household — requiring a contribution increase for a church of 220 of $76,000 per year or about $1,500 per month.

There’s plenty of room to disagree with these figures. After all, the churches would be more efficient. And churches would have far greater flexibility to design programs to truly help people — but, then, if there are 12 denominations in town, could they even agree on how to organize such a huge welfare program?

Let’s be honest. We have trouble keeping roll in our classes. We don’t know how to do big time welfare — like building 100-unit affordable housing. And the hospitals that the churches run look a lot like private hospitals and government hospitals. It’s hard to tell how a church-run hospital differs from anyone else’s hospital other than the big cross on the side of the building.

But that big cross is important. One thing we lose by delegating our good works to the government is Jesus getting the glory. Another thing we miss is values. The government can’t tend to the spiritual health of the people it serves. It can’t give spiritual reasons to keep the baby or to not get pregnant in the first place. It can’t change the hearts of men and women so that they become good parents.

Hmmm …

But since the government is already paying the $750 billion welfare ticket for us, why aren’t we involved and teaching values anyway? If we can’t get motivated to help people when the dollar price is relatively low, what makes us think we’ll suddenly care just because it’s more expensive? That doesn’t make sense. I mean, either we love people or we don’t. And — on the whole — we don’t. Not really.

You see, I find it is just a little ridiculous to argue against a social program on the theory that the church ought to do it — when the church isn’t doing it. It’s more than a little hypocritical.

That doesn’t mean I’m in favor or against this social plan or that. I’m just against hypocrisy. Stop saying that the church ought to help rather than the government and go help. Then maybe the government won’t have to.

But even if the government jumps in and helps, well, it still can’t teach values. So why don’t we? Why aren’t we in the projects and neighborhoods helping people in need and showing the love of in Jesus in ways that draw them to their Lord? Why aren’t we helping broken families? And helping people who can’t pay their healthcare bills?

You see, the choice isn’t between the government helping or the church helping. It’s between you helping or you not helping.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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42 Responses to The Political Church: Should the Church or the Government Do Welfare?

  1. While this is truly a theoretical question, here it is:

    Would the church do it, if the government were not?

  2. laymond says:

    Besides Jay, that sort of care falls under the Deacons job. so elders, like youself, and pew-setters, like myself have no responsibility for such things. better get some really rich deacons :)

  3. alanrouse says:

    > You see, I find it is just a little ridiculous to argue against a social program on
    > the theory that the church ought to do it — when the church isn’t doing it. It’s
    > more than a little hypocritical.

    The premise is a false dichotomy: that either the government is obligated by God to provide universal health insurance (for example), or the church is obligated to do so. Neither is actually the case.

    The scriptures don't give the church the obligation to eliminate poverty in the world (nor even in the USA). Yes, Jesus fed thousands with a few loaves and fish. But even Jesus didn't eliminate poverty in his time. Instead, Christians are given the responsibility to take care of the poor we encounter. That is exactly what Jesus did.

    Neither do the scriptures give government the responsibility to provide universal health insurance to all its citizens. In fact, as far as I can tell from the scriptures, the role of secular government is to punish the wrongdoer. Not that the typical secular government cares much what the Bible says its role should be. But if we're going to argue whether Biblical imperatives call on the secular government to provide certain social programs, show me the scriptures that require it.

    Does that mean it's wrong for a government to provide health insurance to everyone? Not really. For me, the debate is about whether the net effect will be good or bad. Will it diminish the quality of health care by suppressing prices? Will it create shortages of health care? Will it bankrupt the country, resulting in much more suffering in the long run? Those are questions about what is wise, not what is right and what is wrong.

  4. gt says:

    There is a false assumption here that the government provides services to the poor such as housing, healthcare, food stamps etc out of concern for the poor. It's about power and control and creating voting blocs designed to keep politicians in power and the poor perpetually poor. Anyone who thinks otherewise is delusional. There is no moral equation to government assistance. It's vote for me and I'll provide for your needs. If the other guy wins he'll take it away.

  5. Zach Cox says:

    Can we please quit using the word "help" with respect to our government. Our government currently does anything but help. It robs, domesticates, kills and enslaves. There is no more desire to win the war on poverty than there is the war on drugs. If the government were serious about actually helping people instead of getting them hooked on the dole, we would seriously reconsider reallocating our funds. I wonder how hard it would be to provide health care for the uninsured if we weren't spending billions every year killing innocent Iraqi' and Afghans along with the billions we pay in interest to the private federal reserve cartel along with other foreign banks. This is the primary fault with creating the impression (as done in this post) that the government currently helps and might be able to scale it back a bit if Christians just stepped up.

  6. Zach Cox says:

    sorry gt I didn't see your post

  7. gt says:

    Amen Zach. Government takes your money away from you at the point of a gun and pours it down a rat hole under the pretense of helping. Have test scores in public schools improved despite billions of dollars pumped into them over the years? No. Since the Great Society years of the 60's have people been miraculously lifted out of poverty? No. Will universal, single payer health care improve the health of every man, woman and child in the US? No.

    And it's not meant to improve any of these things. The dumber you are the better in governments eyes. More sheeple to suck off the government teat and stay enslaved. Still living in Section 8 housing? Good for you! Keep voting for us and you'll always have a roof over your head.

    Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle [b] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day."

  8. laymond says:

    " Christians are given the responsibility to take care of the poor we encounter"

    Alan, in today's world just what does encounter mean?
    does that mean we have to look eyeball to eyeball before we should try to help, if we see a person in need and we turn our head before they see us , does that constitute an encounter? If we see on TV a disaster such as Haiti, is it OK for government to help? Just not people in our own country?

    all the questions you ask about the results of the "health care" bill, in my opinion were negative.
    Why not embrace all the good it does (for others) and worry about your concerns, when or if, it happens.
    What was it the bible said about worrying about things that haven't happened, what does it say about worrying about tomorrow .

  9. Mike Ward says:

    Jay,

    I've made a similar arguement in past. Put simply, if the entire country cannot handle the burden of the poor how can a subset, Christians, handle it?

    Of course, the argument is that Christians could do more with less, but that brings it back to my point in another thread: show me. No on is stopping Christians from going out helping to poor right now.

    In fact, Christians are. I don't understand why some seem to view us in competition with the government in the matter.

    If the governement is helping people we should rejoice that people have been helped.

    If the governement is not helping people then people who feel that the governement should leave the business of helping people to the churches should realize they've gotten what they want!

    As these threads go on, it becomes clearer that the opposition to government welfare is rooted in complex political idealogies, not in simple biblical truths.

    That's fine. I have my own political problems with the current welfare system, but we need to recognized what is biblical truth and what is politcal opinion.

    That Christians should help the poor is biblical truth.

    Whether or not the poor enjoy greater prosperity under libertarian or socialist systems is political opinion.

  10. Alan says:

    > That’s fine. I have my own political problems with the current welfare
    > system, but we need to recognized what is biblical truth and what is
    > politcal opinion.
    >
    > That Christians should help the poor is biblical truth.

    Mike, I haven't heard anyone here deny that Christians should help the poor. The debate is over whether, by paying taxes to the government, you have met that obligation.

  11. gt says:

    Laymond, the problem is that in order for the government to help the poor, help folks in Haiti, and provide health care is that they have to take money away from you and I by force in order to do it. The reason that the poor persist, there are problems with our healthcare system, and Haiti is a third world hell hole is GOVERNMENT!

    If you are comfortable with the confiscation of the fruits of your labor then so be it. I'm not. Name one thing the government does well.

  12. Tom says:

    Good article. I really can't believe some of the comments though. Some of you have clearly never been in a situation in which you needed government aid. My family has. I don't understand why it's being pointed out that the scriptures don't give the government authority to do …whatever. The scriptures don't dictate anything about what a man made government does or should do. These are just ridiculous statements by people who are clearly republican and want to push anti-democrat views on an article that is apolitical. Didn't God have Joseph collect taxes and food to store up and then redistribute to people when there was a famine? We have examples like this where government taxing and aid were condoned and were a-secular from the church. Why wouldn't any government want to try and keep its people happy if the ability is there?

    And I'm not saying I agree with that much of what they do, or the health care bill, but I am agreeing with laymound in saying we should look at the good that can come out of it.

  13. Mike Ward says:

    Alan, no one has denied that Christians should help the poor and more to the point I have not said that anyone has.

    I was simply providing concrete examples of biblical truth and political opinion. For the purpose of my illustration, I intentionally chose a biblical truth so simply and basic that it would not be disputed.

  14. gt says:

    There's a big difference is coming to me as an individual and asking for my help and using the police power of the federal government to do so with a gun to my head. By doing that Tom you say you have a right to a portion of my life. Do you?

    How about this? What if the government got out of the welfare business and empowered it's citiizens through tax credits and other means to encourage charitable giving? Americans have proved over and over they are the most generous people on earth. Unleash that generosity even more by getting out of the way.

  15. John Grant says:

    gt

    Let the government come after you for some reason, any reason, and see how well they can get anyone they choose.

    That, the government does very well!

  16. Mike Ward says:

    gt,

    That's an ugly post.

    Certainly, if you stop paying your taxes the government will come after you, and if they need them they will bring guns.

    But you treat Tom as if he is stealing from you because he has received aid from the government.

    Everyone receives something from the government, even you. Between you and Tom there's no way to say which of you has paid in more and which of you has received moreback. But really it doesn't matter. Neither of you has robbed the other.

  17. Tom says:

    I assure you I have paid way more into the system than I took out for a short while. And there have been times we tried less taxes and it turns out that the "trickle down" economy doesn't actually work because when people get more money their first inclination is to buy more stuff. I would also heartily disagree with the statement that Americans have ever proven they were the most generous. I would argue we're probably not even in the top 10. I think this is evident by the fact that we have more money per person than almost any other country in the world. If we were really the most generous I think we'd have shared a bit more of it.

    Sure, maybe we give our 10% or whatever which is more money than other countries give, but unlike the widow with the two mites(or poorer countries) we're giving just a fraction out of our abundance and then buying tvs, computers, cars, etc.

  18. laymond says:

    gt said "Name one thing the government does well."

    It probally would be much easier for you to name one thing, it does, that you could do better, but your thing is (not doing things or) objecting to things others do, there are many experts at that.

  19. Jerry Starling says:

    One big difference between churches helping the poor and the government doing it is the sense of entitlement. The "poor" (and most others as well) quickly take advantage of "entitlements," because… well, "I'm entitled." That's why I enrolled in Medicare and Social Security.

    Entitlement, though, is through government programs. When neighbors are helping me, my response is not that I am entitled; it is more likely to be gratitude – and I believe that more people will feel gratitude from local, neighborly, non-governmental assistance that ever feel gratitude because the government "entitled" them to certain "benefits."

    So, why don't we do more in our communities to help the truly poor? Probably because we ourselves are more political than we are spiritual.

    Jerry Starling, CommittedToTruth.WordPress.com

  20. gt says:

    So what would you suggest Laymond? You say I just want to gripe. But you don't know me do you? I have ideas on how to improve this country and how to reform government and am actively involved in doing so.

    I'm not sitting on my rear waiting for someone else to do it. I guess by your reasoning none of us should express an objection or concern, we should see how it plays out.

    I won't bore you with a list of things the private sector could do better, it would take a while. But come to think of it government does a number of things well and Zach alluded to them.

  21. gt says:

    Tom, I apoligize for coming across as harsh. My comments were not intended to be so.

  22. Tom says:

    No worries. That's just the nature of politics.

  23. laymond says:

    gt said"So what would you suggest Laymond? You say I just want to gripe. But you don’t know me do you?"

    I believe the bible tells us we are known by what we say. I might add, and do.

  24. Nick Gill says:

    Laymond, that's a mouthful coming from you, brother. People are known by how they comunicate, indeed!

  25. Alan says:

    Maybe this article brings together the two points of view we are discussing. Quote:

    We’ve long since remedied the lack of intellectual foundations in Christian thought. But it’s also been a long time since the watching world marveled at the lives lived by ordinary Christians. Perhaps the quest for intellectual respectability has robbed us of something else. In his biography of Aquinas, Chesterton tells a similar story:

    It was of [St. Dominic] that the tale was told … that the Pope pointed to his gorgeous Papal Palace and said, “Peter can no longer say ‘Silver and gold have I none;’” and the Spanish friar answered, “No, and neither can he now say, ‘Rise and walk.’”

    Somehow the church needs to become known for doing good. Personally I don't think that is accomplished by government programs. But sometimes we love our way of life too much to do the work ourselves.

  26. laymond says:

    Nick, it didn't originate with me, but I bet you don't have any trouble knowing just where I stand, do you?

    Mat 12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

  27. Mike Ward says:

    I see a lot of concern over the churches images in these threads but not a lot of concern for the poor themselves.

    If Christians truly love the poor the church will have a good image even if the church does not advertized all the good Christians are doing.

    But if churches do good out of a desire to impress the world but have no real love, the world will see through it and the church will have a poor reputation no matter how many people it helps.

  28. Mike Ward says:

    Another thought,

    The reputation of the church does not depend on the reputation of our heroes of faith. It depends on the reputation of rank and file Christians.

    Thousands of Christians may devote their lives to nothing but great sacrifice and service to God and mankind, but if the millions of Christians that other people work with, live next door to, and come in contact with on a daily basis do not have love people will say, "Christians are just a bunch of hypocrits".

  29. Adam says:

    To throw my 2 sense into the fray:

    Caring for the poor is primarily a SPIRITUAL undertaking. To pretend otherwise is to associate with the kingdoms, powers, and principalities of this world. ONLY the church can care for the poor. Everything else is illusion or delusion.

    It is through suffering that the church is shown as church. Let there be failure, weakness, pain, IN ORDER and THROUGH WHICH Christ's glory may be shown.

    The perfect act of caring for the poor, the weak, the exploited, the downtrodden – to place us, the church, in between the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, the exploiter and the exploited, the trampler and the trampled – the church to take the "killing blow" on itself, just as Jesus Christ already has FOR us.

    Through martyria, just as Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc, the church IS church, the exploiters are condemned, confused, and confounded, and the world will see the politics of Jesus Christ, the lover of our souls who lights us from within, shown briliiantly as a light upon a hill.

  30. Ric says:

    For a long while, I've been reading and holding my tongue, trying to think through all the rabble rousing, yelling, screaming, name calling, philosophy, theology, and other noise being thrown 'round by those on all sides of this debate. I think the real point is that someone has got to take care of the poor. There is enough work that the church, the government (federal, state and local), private companies, private charities, and international organizations can all do a part. The real questions is who is best for doing each part.

    Without going into the economic and philosophical debates of what form of government or economy is the best, let's be realistic for a minute. Churches are pretty good at operating food banks, homeless shelters, working with under-privileged children (tutoring and mentoring), but not so great at addressing bigger income issue problems such as healthcare and housing access. We, followers/worshipers/co-heirs of Christ/children of God/Christians, whatever label we want to put on, must live up to the label and do our part, both individually and collectively as churches. But we should not stand in the way of efforts to do what we just are not equipped to do.

    If we are loving people in Jesus name and out there serving the needs of those around us (keeping our "divine appointments"), we are lifting up Jesus and those around us will be drawn to him. This is regardless of what the government or private charities are doing.

    I think if we are honest, the real reason we oppose government operating programs for the poor is our own selfishness–we don't want to pay for it. By the same token, why haven't our churches and/or individual members stepped up to the plate to "give me a glass of water when I [am] thirsty", "feed me when I [am] hungry", "visit me when I [am] sick or in prison", "take care of the widows and orphans"– we are just too selfish!

    And if we want profess the name of Jesus as Lord in the manner he commands us to, the rocks will. So, who is to say that government run health care is not God working to accomplish what His children are not willing to do. As Romans says, government is ordained by Him.

  31. Ric says:

    Last, but not least, did anyone get Jay's ultimate point:

    "You see, the choice isn’t between the government helping or the church helping. It’s between you helping or you not helping."

    Before we throw stones at government welfare programs, we have to ask this question, daily.

  32. Alan says:

    > I think if we are honest, the real reason we oppose government operating
    > programs for the poor is our own selfishness–we don’t want to pay for it.

    It's usually not a great idea to try to guess the motives of people who disagree with you. You don't understand their point of view so you couldn't possibly understand the motive behind it.

    When we diminish the person who disagrees with us, it may feel like our argument has been strengthened. It has not.

  33. Nick Gill says:

    Nick, it didn’t originate with me, but I bet you don’t have any trouble knowing just where I stand, do you?
    Mat 12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

    Nope, laymond. none of us have any trouble knowing where you stand.

    I might hope, though, that you would remember those words the next time you complain about the negative treatment you think you receive in comment areas like this. People respond to what you express and how you express it.

  34. jodyb says:

    Adam and Jerry have pretty much summed up my thoughts on this matter. Thank you both.

  35. Anne says:

    Tom, you might want to reread Gen 41. Joseph didn't redistribute (which I am assuming you mean he gave out to the poor) but rather when the famine came he sold the grain.

  36. John says:

    Would the church actually help if a specific need were clearly communicated? Surely the Lord's church would do at least this good: http://www.michaelyon-online.com/a-whisper.htm

  37. Jay Guin says:

    Anne,

    That's an interesting point. As I recall, he made them sell their land to the throne and then leased it back to them. He invented feudalism — and a rationale for the pharaoh to levy a sharecrop tax on his people. Pharaohs from then on maintained huge stores of grain against famine — kind of a social insurance pact. http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Feudalism… Gen 47.

    Think about it. Everyone paid 20% of his grain to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh kept stores sufficient to cover their needs during times of famine. Sounds a lot like a government insurance program. It's hardly mandatory, but it's sure hard to argue that it's ungodly.

  38. Anne says:

    He didn't force them to sell the land, but they ran out of money to buy grain and therefore had to sell their land, livestock and eventually themselves in order to buy grain.
    Yes it does sound like a government insurance program –it eventually led to slavery.

  39. Jay Guin says:

    Anne,

    You're right that they sold themselves to Pharaoh, offering to enslave themselves, but we know from history the result was a feudal system. They didn't wind up as slaves in the sense in which we understand the term. Rather, it became a theory that justified taxes. http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/economy/index

    Of course, Pharaoh could conscript the people for forced labor and military service, but Solomon did that, too. Most governments claim the right to conscript their citizens this way.

  40. Gary Cummings says:

    My opinion is that we should pay our taxes, as taught by the NT, to the government to provide for the general welfare: the poor, disabled, and national healthcare for all citizens. Any law is coercive. No religion or church should be charged with this responsibility for several reasons:
    (1) It violates separation of church and state.
    (2) Churches would use these programs fp proselytize
    (3) Wiccans and others like Santeria, would have more public exposure.
    Most religions make enough to get by, build their edifices, and pay for their clergy (don't forget the billion or so to pay for sex abuse settlements!). So the church will not do it, and society must.

  41. Anne says:

    Jay, actually I was looking toward the slavery that the Israelites found themselves in roughly 300-400 years after this. And when the Pharoah owned you lock, stock and barrel I think that might be considered slavery.
    I find it interesting that Joseph didn't just give them the grain, after all they had helped grow the grain that he put into the storehouses, but no they were charged for the grain. Maybe we would have less dependency on the government if it took your house, your car, everything and made you work for the govt in return for assistance. God required even the poor in OT times to bring an offering for sacrifice. I think we have overlooked that in our churches today. Many do not give back to God and some give miserly but then they leave church and get into their nice cars and drive down to the restaurant to eat lunch and proclaim "I can't give because I'm too poor."
    We should help those who are hungry, but I do not see any basis as a nation to be paying for someone to go to the dr for a sore throat. Life and death services are a different matter, but even then I don't know why we as a nation have to do it. Look at St. Jude's Children's hospital–charitable donations are the heart and soul of that hospital. When the govt takes over what we as churches and just as human beings should be doing, being kind to one another and looking out for our brother, it takes something from us. The govt then becomes the god to many people. They do not have to develop a dependency or a faith in God to provide because the govt will do that. As parents sometimes we have to do painful discipline for our kids in the short run because we are looking at the long term goal. The govt with welfare and now with healthcare I believe will only hurt more people in the long run.
    I've seen some posts in this thread, including the one just above, that states since the church will not take care of the poor then society (because the church is the society so that means govt) must. That means that the churches won't or can't do it so the govt will do it better and take care of all the poor. If anyone has every dealt with a bureaucracy will tell you it ain't so.

  42. Jon says:

    Wow. What a discussion. So many interrelated issues, every one of which deserves much more consideration than simply a straw-man argument of "church vs. state."

    Health care's a big one for me, so I'll go with that.

    Health care points:
    "The church *ought* to do it"? The church *did* do it. The reason you see "Methodist", "Baptist," "Presbyterian" and other names on hospital systems is that Christians banded together to provide this service. Then to many Christians aligned themselves with government support.

    The idea that "churches" don't or can't do medical benevolence work is a slap in the face of my physician wife and her partners–all of whom are Christians, and all of whom take the uninsured. They prefer the uninsured to Medicaid recipients because of government restrictions on care and reimbursement rates. Plus, there's often less of an entitlement mentality that comes with the uninsured.

    Aside from private Christian doctors providing help, there are and have been networks of charity-based care around the country. Churches in our fellowship have a few. Federally-qualified health clinics have also provided services to the uninsured for a long time.

    My grandmother died of cancer a while ago. She didn't have insurance, and wasn't eligible for Medicare yet. MD Anderson took her anyway, gave her great care, and worked with my grandfather to reduce payments and work out a repayment schedule.

    I guess the downside of charity is that you have to ask for it.

    Before Medicare, doctors were simply expected to provide charity care for the elderly. Medicare started the fee for service mess that we see now, because the government provided practically unrestricted funds for service in the first couple of years. The doctors got addicted to the extra money. The industry got addicted to the extra money. The government got addicted to the extra power, even as it tried to stop the fiscal bleeding.

    There is a place for shared insurance, and even extending insurance to those who cannot afford it themselves. We can pay for it indirectly (through subsidies to hospitals) or directly (subsidies for insurance–single payer being one such option). This wouldn't be a major problem if it weren't for the fact that half of our health care money is being spent on 5 percent of the population. That's what happens when doctors, patients, and families could afford to spend unlimited amounts of someone else's money to perform heroic and futile acts, sometimes on the worthy and sometimes on the doomed or the incredibly foolish.

    And…a lot of the rest of the money is spent on people who refuse to listen to their doctors and take care of themselves. When do we decide to stop wasting money on the foolish? (Yes, there were limits on charity under the old and new covenants.)

    Oh, and the medical bankruptcy article omits quite a number of issues: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/

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