03/13/2014 05:33 EDT | Updated 05/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Republicans Ruin Health Care By Ignoring Jesus (And Canada)


If Republicans really want a Christian nation, they should start acting like it.

Canadian Dr. Danielle Martin testified before the the U.S. Senate health subcommittee on Tuesday and learned just how uncharitable some GOP senators can be.

Martin, along with health care professionals from Taiwan, Denmark and France, were invited to Washington D.C. to offer lessons on single-payer systems. They quickly learned that the right in America has already decided that public health care is the work of the devil.

In a clip that has gone about as viral as a Senate subcommittee hearing can, Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina smugly questions Martin about long Canadian wait times.

Martin's vigorous defence of Canadian care has made her an instant hero in a nation notorious for taking any opportunity to outshine its neighbour. But the exchange says a lot more about how callous America has become than it does about Canada's inferiority complex.

At one point during the hearing, Sally Pipes, an expert from a conservative think tank, said that "Canadian people are very, very nice people, they're not impatient like Americans ... Americans do not want to wait."

Her quip drew laughter, but she's right. When it comes to social welfare, Canadians are nicer than many Americans. We don't like wait times either, but we're willing to accept some discomfort in order to ensure the less fortunate in our society receive the same care as everyone else.

Tea Party politicians love to remind Americans that their country is a Christian nation; they say religious values should guide policy. But when it comes to health care and education, religious Republicans forget the most important lesson Jesus ever taught: to love one another.

Millions of mostly-conservative Americans believe that if you're poor it's your own fault. Rather than showing compassion for the impoverished, as Jesus does in the Bible, they lambaste the less fortunate for being lazy. But as my colleague Angelina Chapin recently pointed out, when you're poor "you worry about boots, not pulling up the straps."

It's hard to escape poverty without help. No wonder there is now less social mobility in the U.S. than in Canada.

But many Americans still think they're living in the land of opportunity. Born on third base, they claim to have hit a triple.

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This failure to love thy neighbour isn't just hurting America on health care. Schools south of the border are funded by local property taxes, which means that if you live in a rich neighbourhood your kids are likely to go to an excellent school. Live in a poor area and you're out of luck.

America has clung to this hard-hearted arrangement because many in the middle and upper class don't want to pay to send lazy poor people to school.

In Canada, provincial governments allocate money to school boards based on the number of students. Often other factors, such as the number of aboriginal students, are taken into account. We understand that a well-funded public school system is essential to fostering a healthy society.

But while Canada uses education to promote equality, the U.S. government continues to use it to perpetuate racial segregation.

Many of America's poorest neighbourhoods are primarily African American. How will these citizens pull themselves up by their bootstraps when they receive inferior education?

But health care remains the most shocking example of how un-Christian the American government can be.

There is little doubt that the country's wealthiest people receive the best health care on Earth. But everyone else struggles to pay skyrocketing insurance costs. Tens of millions go without care altogether.

The result? America has worse health outcomes and lower life expectancy than nations that spend significantly less money on a per-capita basis. It has the most expensive system in the world, but because it's based in selfishness, it simply doesn't work. Kindness, it turns out, can be pretty efficient.

Even America's politicians are starting to see this. The fact that Obamacare became law is proof. And as the economic and social benefits of near-universal care become clear, the country may begin to come around to a more Canadian point of view.

The system in Canada isn't perfect. Wait times are a real issue and government needs to do more to adopt best practices from other nations. But the fact that there isn't a large contingent of Canadians opposed to helping the less fortunate means we'll never end up with a disaster like we see south of the border.

The Tea Partiers who see Canadians as socialists bent on imposing atheist death panels should take a look in the mirror. They're the ones who haven't paid attention to the Bible.

It's long past time for them to take their own advice and make America a more Christian nation.

Follow Michael Bolen on Twitter


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