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Smart v. Stupid

The Obama imperative

Liberals and moderates have great incentives to vote this coming Tuesday. Whether your interest is women’s rights, health care, tax fairness, economic opportunity or a pro-entrepreneur environment, how you vote – and whether you vote – will determine how you live and whether you prosper for a decade or more to come.

It will also determine whether you move your family further toward prosperity, just as your parents did and their parents did. That doesn’t get talked about enough.

These are the stakes:

Everyone knows the obvious arguments for universal health care. Countries that have it have populations that live longer and live better. We all remember the 15 percent annual rises in health insurance costs before health reform, the record profits and how insurance companies would drop anyone who got sick. Perhaps you work in a small company that can’t get coverage because a coworker has a chronic illness. That’s about to change.

But here are two other things you ought to consider. Health insurance not only ensures your access to care, it ensures that your family fortune won’t be wiped out if you get sick. Family wealth is built generation after generation and the most likely predictor of whether your child will prosper is whether you have intergenerational wealth to pass along. Universal health insurance is also wealth insurance.

Our old system obliterated the intergenerational wealth of many families when someone got cancer or heart disease or some other serious illness. This was often true even if you had health coverage. Wealth that might have taken your family one hundred years to accumulate could be erased in a few months, leaving the next generation to start over – literally from scratch.

Further, our old health care system – the one Mitt Romney wants back – effectively killed entrepreneurship at the moment of conception. Someone with a great idea – the next big idea maybe – could only quit his or her job and start a new company if he or she didn’t have children. In our old system, their health care stayed behind with the job. By nature entrepreneurs are willing to risk anything. But “anything” seldom includes the health of their children.

We have the young and frisky entrepreneurs, but not nearly enough of the older and wiser kind – the kind more likely to have imagined the next big thing while witnessing the shortcomings of the last one. This puts our country at a significant disadvantage in competing with Europe, Japan and China. In those countries, anyone of any age can take a big risk, simply because they are not risking health when they do it. So they are eroding our edge in innovation.

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We also stand to lose family planning if you make the wrong choice on Election Day. But it won’t happen the way you think. No, it won’t be the religious blowhards at Chick-fil-A or Hobby Lobby. Sure, there will be some of that. But the way birth control coverage will disappear is that rising health insurance costs will force your well-meaning boss to choose between catastrophic coverage for someone’s cancer and birth control for you. He’ll make this Hobson’s choice, like any good boss would.

Of course, birth control really is a necessity; just ask anyone with a healthy sex life. Abstinence – as public policy or private practice – is an utter joke. It’s an idea (I’m sure) that was born of men who aren’t very adept at doing the deed. Maybe their wives are in. But bad lovin’ is not a basis for public policy.

So you will continue to pay out of pocket, sacrificing something else you really need. But what happens when there is no group negotiation of the cost? Birth control will become increasingly more expensive. The chance that your daughter will become pregnant at the wrong time will rise dramatically. The likelihood that your son will start adulthood having a baby mama – and a baby – will increase to near certainty.

But no matter what the circumstances your wife or daughter won’t be able to choose an abortion. Aborting a fetus is not a moral decision. But birthing an unwanted child surely is. With Romney, you won’t have the choice. A Romney administration will likely get two Supreme Court nominations and will surely use an anti-choice litmus test – just as Bush did and Reagan before him.

No family planning, no abortion and no health care. You might as well be living in Mali. So make sure you find the time to go to the polls. Your choice could not be clearer. Just make sure you make it at a polling place.

Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”

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TucsonSentinel.com publishes analysis and commentary from a variety of community members, experts, and interest groups as a catalyst for a healthy civic conversation; we welcome your comments. As an organization, we don't endorse candidates or back specific legislation. All opinions are those of the individual authors.