safety net

Economic Triage: Euthanizing Hope and Promise in the U.S.

Our nation's forefathers started us off with good intentions.

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We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

            -- Preamble of the United States' Constitution

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Emphasis mine.

That's not to say that they envisioned a "welfare state" -- an accusation oft tossed into the mix by radical right-wing conservatives. The line "promote the general welfare" does, however, denote the support and importance of the "health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being"1 of the people, the states and the nation itself. The mythos that later came to embody the "domestic Tranquility" and principles of liberty and justice in a free democratic Republic was bolstered with the words from a plaque at the base of one of our most notable national symbols, the Statue of Liberty:

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"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

            -- Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, 1883

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What a grand dream of freedom, of democracy, of goodwill and equal opportunity...

How horrified our founding fathers might be now, to read of the way our system has been twisted and corrupted so that the poor and the sick are effectively shut-out from the benefits that modern-day medicine can provide, like the child who was taken off a liver doner list through an example of the cold, hard nature of economic triage2 as reported recently in the Miami Herald: