Thursday, September 27, 2007

SCHIP: Get Healthcare or Die Tryin'

Kelvin Martin was a notorious stick-up artist from the projects in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. Despite his small stature, he was only 5’3”, he was able to make a nice living for himself robbing drug dealers and rappers throughout the 1980s. Not surprisingly, he died an early and violent death. Kelvin Martin was known as 50 Cent, and his moniker lives on today as the adopted name of rapper Curtis Jackson.

Jackson took the name, “because it says everything I want it to say. I'm the same kind of person 50 Cent was. I provide for myself by any means.” Prior to his multi-million selling major label debut, 50 cent, the rapper, scored an underground hit with the track “How to Rob”. That song details 50’s plans to rob a litany of successful artists, and personifies the “by any means” attitude that has pervaded much of hip-hop culture:

Aiyyo the bottom line is I'ma crook with a deal
If my record don't sell I'ma rob and steal
You better recognize nigga I'm straight from the street
These industry niggaz startin to look like somethin to eat

Despite the rather ugly subject matter, the song actually seems crafted for comic effect and the backing track makes “How to Rob” seem less menacing than tongue-in-cheek:

Did you ever think that I'd flash the nine?
And walk off with your shit like it's mine?
I'ma keep stickin niggas until I'm livid
I'll rob Boys II Men like I'm Michael Bivins

Is it that our federal legislature has been listening to old 50 Cent mix tapes, or is just that street culture displays the inevitable trickle down effects of governing by redistribution? I tend to think the latter. So, while I should react with no great surprise, I cannot help but be slightly disturbed by SCHIP. I am fairly ambivalent about the program itself. I do not know enough to pass judgment. It is the idea of taxing smokers to pay for it that bothers me. If this is such a wonderful program, then why don’t we all pay more taxes to pay for it? I can leave the answer to that question to be answered by another question; the one posed by either 50 Cent.

Why pay for something myself, when somebody else already has it?

As David Broder writes it in The Washington Post:

The bill would be financed by a 61-cents-a-pack increase in cigarette taxes. If ever there was a crowd-pleaser of a bill, this is it.

I suppose I am sad because so many people see this as a good, and just, and moral thing to do. It is an interesting brand of morality that we are peddling these days. One can only imagine the following scene in which ‘little Jimmy’ comes home from school crying:

‘Little Jimmy’: Mommy I want x, and I don’t have x. I have to have it. I need x.
Mom: Well, ‘little Jimmy’, that’s easy. Just get together with a bunch of your friends at school; find someone who has x and isn’t very popular and take it from him.

In that context, it sounds rather perverse, but pass it in Congress and give it stamp of “democratic action”, call it the “will of the people”; then theft becomes appropriation; vice becomes virtue; and the vulgar predatory behavior that would seem to typify prison life becomes “social justice”.

1 comment:

Keith said...

From the libertarian perspective, you could argue that by smoking you are committing a type of forceful act or violence against other people. Or you could say that by damaging the air/environment, they are infringing on everyone's equal ownership of the air. So it's kind of like getting fined or sued for trespassing.

I don't really have an opinion on cigarette taxes- just playing devil's advocate.