Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told an audience of high school students on Friday morning that access to health care, food, and shelter was a privilege — not a right.
Johnson shared his utterly unsurprising sentiment in response to a student who asked whether he considered health care a privilege or a right. Without flinching, he told the student, “I think it’s probably more of a privilege.”
Sure, okay, by now it’s quite apparent that the GOP leadership not only considers health care a privilege, but a benefit that only wealthy Americans can afford. Johnson’s elaboration of that thought, however, revealed the Republican Party’s Ayn Rand-inspired vision for an ideal America:
“Do you consider food a right? Do you consider clothing a right? Do you consider shelter a right? What we have as rights is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Past that point, we have the right to freedom. Past that point is a limited resource that we have to use our opportunities given to us to afford those things. Senator Rand Paul actually talked about this on the floor of the Senate, he’s a doctor. He said, ‘the minute you consider health care a right, well, who’s going to satisfy that right?Those people who have the skill to satisfy that right, what does that make them if they’re forced to provide you with that rightful product of service?’
I think it’s obviously a privilege to have food and shelter. What we need to do as public officials is try and have our economy healthy so that we have as much prosperity as possible so that we can actually increase the resources available for as high a quality and highly accessible health care as we possibly can.”
Johnson, who previously compared people with preexisting conditions to people who have crashed a car, has been a vocal advocate of repealing the Affordable Care Act regardless of its disastrous consequences. So while his comments are completely in line with everything he’s ever spewed about health care, he doesn’t seem to realize that access to basic needs like food and shelter are crucial components to the pursuit of happiness. Illogical doesn’t even begin to describe Johnson’s differentiation between “privileges” and “rights.”
Despite the Republican party’s profit-driven characterization of health care, a majority of Americans consider access to health care a right. A Pew Research Center from January indicated that 60% of Americans believe the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage — and the Democratic Party has, at least, recognized that as support for Senator Bernie Sanders “Medicare For All” bill has the backing of nearly a dozen senators.