All of us, I imagine, have at one time or another found ourselves yelling at the television. I turned on MSNBC this afternoon just in time to hear a bright, cheerful young thing explaining to Ali Velshi why it makes no sense to require men to buy life insurance that insures them for, among other things, maternity expenses. As she said with an enormous smile, “I am sorry to tell you this, Ali, but you are never going to get pregnant,” she was so manifestly pleased with her wit that she could scarcely contain herself. Let us set to one side the notion, apparently anathema to a good many conservatives, that we should care about the well-being of others [even if they are no longer fetuses]. I feel the need to explain just exactly why it is in the self-interest of unmarried men to pay something to ensure the healthy delivery of babies. If you know all of this a thousand times over, my apologies, but writing a blog post is a tad more satisfying than throwing fruit at a TV screen.
The life cycle is the central fact of human existence. Assuming that we are fortunate, we are born, we grow to maturity, we live, we grow old, and we die. These days in the United States that process takes, on average, a bit less than eight decades.
Now, to live, we need food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and – I am hesitant to acknowledge – cell phones. It is also nice for us to have movies to watch, music to listen to, restaurants to go to, and airplanes to ride in. Not absolutely essential, to be sure, but nice. A great many people imagine that they can ensure their supply of food, clothing, shelter, and the latest upgrade in cell phones by prudently engaging in systematic saving, setting aside a bit of their income each year in a pension plan of some sort so that when their earning days are over, they can live on what they have saved. But that is, I should like to point out, a very superficial and shortsighted view.
This is 2017. Let us suppose that I am a thirty year old unmarried man gainfully employed here in Chapel Hill, NC. My life plan has me retiring at 70 [I have one of those white collar jobs that does not wear the body down.] That means that in 2057 I will stop earning and start spending my pension.
Today, when I go to the grocery store for dinner, I will buy fresh fruits and vegetables [I am, let us suppose, a health nut.] These fruits and vegetables are grown by farmers in California, harvested by low paid undocumented workers, trucked East by unionized truckers, and sold to me by the staff of the local Whole Foods outlet. If I get sick, I will go to the Ambulatory Care Center [or ACC] at UNC Health Services and be looked after by a doctor and several attending nurses and medical students [it is a division of a teaching hospital.]
In 2057, who will grow, harvest, and truck East my fruits and vegetables? Who will treat me when I am sick, as I imagine I will be from time to time at age seventy? I will have the money to pay for them because I have for forty years prudently saved a little each year. But although I am putting away money, I am not, as though I were a squirrel, storing bread and yoghurt and shoes!
The people who provide all of those things for me now will not still be providing them for me in forty years. In forty years, those people will all pretty much be retired except for the medical students, who will be senior physicians. No, I will be fed and clothed and housed and amused and treated by a raft of people who are now babies or children, if indeed they have even been born yet.
Think about that for a moment. No matter how self-reliant I am, no matter how healthy a life I live, my survival in old age will depend completely on the labor of people who are being born now. Is it in my self-interest that those people be born healthy, grow to maturity healthily, get educated, and live productive lives? You are damned right it is.
Imagine I am rushed to the Emergency Room in 2057 with a heart attack, only to be told that the physician who was to attend me isn’t there because forty years ago her mother had inadequate pre-natal care and so she did not make it through the first year of life. Of course, if maternity care had been part of a health insurance plan that unmarried men like me contributed to, thus making it affordable, that little girl would now be a physician capable of saving my life.
THAT, YOU TWIT, IS WHY EVEN ALI VELSHI SHOULD CONTRIBUTE TO A MEDICAL INSURANCE PROGRAM THAT INSURES MATERNITY CARE.
There. That feels better.