Economics, Politics, and Conversation Based in Universal Health

The U.S. congress has now passed four massive financial stimulus/relief bills. From what I have seen, heard, and read my understanding is that a large portion of support from these bills (trillions of dollars) is going to large corporations and the wealthy, including big tax benefits. Whereas other segments of the population are receiving a relatively less. It may sound partisan how I stated this, but my guess is that most on the political spectrum wouldn’t disagree with the essential “facts.” My understanding of the ideology of those who wrote and favored those bills is the philosophy of “trickle-down” economics, which I believe started in the early 1980’s. Regardless of the philosophy we believe in, can we focus our political conversations on how to create health for all of us in the country, in the world, and in the Earth’s ecosystems?

The idea of trickle-down economics is that wealth generated from unfettered capitalism (minimizing regulation and taxation for business and maximizing short term profits) trickles down to benefit everyone in society and is therefore the best strategy for the well-being of the whole population. From this perspective it follows that in an economic crisis it would be best for the government to give as much economic support as possible to those at the top so that stability and wealth can flow down for the good of all. Apart from whatever role the human vulnerability to greed is playing, it also follows that those with the most wealth and power in this system will influence government to do what is supportive of this model and the benefits they receive.

Since the 1980’s, however, the level of income/wealth inequality has been growing between those in the top 10% (particularly those in the top 1% and .1%) and the rest of the population, leaving the great majority of society to increasingly struggle with degrees of financial stress and hardship and experience an overall decline in health and well-being. This statement probably also sounds partisan, but here too my sense is that the basic statistics themselves are not controversial.

It is of course very easy to become mired in disagreement, argument, and stalemate when talking with people of a different political orientation. So, what if we were to keep the focus of political conversations on health, wellness, and well-being for everyone? Can we question capitalism, consumerism, and those most benefitting from it, in a way that does not rail against differences in political ideology but instead focuses our attention on how to create a healthier society — health for the whole population of humanity and for the whole biosphere of the Earth?

The Coronavirus pandemic is helping us see and feel more clearly and deeply how much the health and well-being of the entire population of the country and the world is interconnected and interdependent, including with the health of the environment and ecosystems of the Earth. What would happen if we kept this the focus of conversation in politics, regardless how divergent our beliefs or what party we identify with? Deep down in our heart of hearts don’t we all feel our patriotism, meaning our bond of care for all of us in the country as fellow citizens? And deeper still, don’t we feel a connection to our larger shared humanity and vulnerability, being part of the same human family and tribe together on this planet? Can we not all sense, at some level, our kinship with Nature, that we are one with the web of life and ecology?

The language of human needs is crucial here, the ability to speak and listen from the perspective of shared needs for health, care, connection, and cooperation in the conversation. This language takes us into the realm of the universal and the whole, beyond only our own individual and separate selves. Beyond language, it is our human capacity for consciousness and a universal kind of love, the happiness and fulfillment that comes through compassionate giving and receiving with one another. We call this the human spirit, a spirit we share with all of life. What would happen if we steadfastly kept bringing the focus of the conversation (and our collective human intelligence) back to how to evolve capitalism, economics, democracy and government to support health and well-being for the whole of society and life on the planet, rather than on the accumulation of capital/money/possessions and unhealthy, unfulfilling consumption? We don’t have to get caught in conflicting beliefs. We can focus on a way of living that truly nourishes and fulfills us.

Leave a Comment