Who is my neighbor? (reprise)

Senator Tom Coburn got into hot water with his odd town hall musings about President Obama’s intent “as an African-American male” “to create dependency because it worked so well for him.” In a delightful Freudian inversion, the Senator labeled President Obama’s political philosophy “goofy and wrong.”

I believe Senator Coburn is a good person, but his narrow social vision is quite misguided. If you want to see why, watch this two-year-old CNN clip, and then read here and here.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

5 thoughts on “Who is my neighbor? (reprise)”

  1. Here’s my problem with this post: in order to be absolutely sure that what Coburn said was racist, as it certainly appears, I’d have to dig up and read a transcript of the whole conversation.

    And I’m not seeing why he’s worth it. I can’t justify investing that kind of time, just to have another tiny sliver of understanding of how bleeped the GOP is about race.

  2. I think I’m with wufnik. At some point, even if you’re a republican politician, you have to intend the consequences of your actions.

  3. Sen. Coburn’s response is odd coming from a conservative, since it fails to account for what conservatism has had as one of its core assumptions about human nature: that no proposal for governing which depends on people changing their selfish ways can long prosper. Health care costs crush families and wipe out their life savings, but if only people would be better at caring for their neighbors in need, those problems would be overcome. Conservatism always took it for granted that people must be expected to be self-interested, and the task of the system of laws was to manage and channel that self-interest in productive ways. Not Sen. Coburn. He thinks that the solution to the problem of access to health care is increased virtue on the part of the people. This is a departure from Adam Smith that should be commented upon.

  4. In Coburn’s version of Sunday school, the parable of the Good Samaritan would be presented as Jesus’ lesson on the importance of *private* assistance for people in need. The priest and the Levite who “passed by on the other side” represent elitist librul gubmint agencies.

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