Smoked Ham

by Jonathan Chait | March 13, 2010

Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard features this quote from Nancy Pelosi touting health care reform:

"Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance."

and launches an extended riff about how the Democrats want to subsidize sloth:

If liberal Boomers such as Nancy Pelosi insist on creating government incentives for a generation of people to be unemployed artists who nonetheless have their health care paid for by productive members of society, there will be fewer productive members of society.
If they insist on creating a generation unable to care for itself up to and past the ripe old age of 26 by incentivizing "children"—and I use to term loosely— to stay on parent's health insurance policies until they're turning the corner from Clearasil to Botox, there will be fewer educated, able-bodied people who ever learn to take care of themselves.

A couple points. First, Ham cut off Pelosi's remark mid-sentence in order to distort its meaning. Here is the entire sentence:

Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance or that people could start a business and be entrepreneurial and take risk, but not job loss because of a child with asthma or someone in the family is bipolar—you name it, any condition—is job locking.

The idea is not to subsidize people who want to go out on their own and be unpaid. It's to make it possible for people who want to work for themselves or start a business but can't because they need employer-sponsored health insurance. Creating a functional individual market with affordable rates for people with preexisting conditions would allow them to make career decisions based on economic criteria, not medical criteria. This issue has been a major concern for health care reformers for a long time. Ham appears utterly ignorant of the issue, which is sadly typical of an enormous percentage of conservative commentators. They don't know about the substance of health care policy and they don't care to learn.

Second, suppose Ham's interpretation of Pelosi's remarks was correct. Ham worries that Pelosi would make it too easy for people to be unemployed. They won't have much money, but they'll still be able to get medical treatment when they fall ill. All paid for by us hard working folks! Ham believes that significant people choose not to work, or would choose not to if health care were available, and that losing their access to medical treatment is an appropriate punishment for those who lack jobs. I don't wish people bad personal fortune, but I'm genuinely curious how she would think about this if she lost her job and contracted a serious medical condition.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/smoked-ham