From what I have observed, unless they are talking about their beloved Second Amendment, Republicans have replaced the term “citizen” with “consumer”. This is painfully obvious in the health care debate, but it also runs through financial regulations, protection of the environment, again, just about everywhere with the notable exception of a citizens right to bear arms. Why they have not altered this to read “the right of the consumer to purchase a firearm” is a mystery to me, but I digress.
What is it about the word “citizen” that is abhorrent to so many Republicans? A dictionary I referenced defined citizen as an inhabitant of a city or town; especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman.
Ah, is that it? Citizens has rights? Citizens are entitled? Citizens have privileges? Such words run counter to the Republican adoration of the wealthy job creators, the self made men, the ruling class that they (and sadly too many Democrats) have hitched their wagons to.
I have listened to Republicans arguing against the forced mandate of health care insurance as “Forcing the consumer to purchase a product they do not want”. What is this “product”? If it’s a worthless piece of paper with huge deductibles, high premiums, and arcane policies, why of course, who would want to buy it, much less be “forced to buy it” as a “consumer”?
On the other hand, given the reality of the high cost, but life saving medical advancements of the past 100 years, what citizen would reject the right to these advancements in order to prolong or improve their life? We are not consumers of health care anymore than we are consumers of national security. As citizens we acknowledge that many of us will pay for the services that few of us may need, in the same way that we, as citizens join together to buy a Lockheed Martin F-35. Most of us will never, ever need this, but we know that some will and we, as a collective of citizens, accept that responsibility and demand the entitlement of protection if needed. We do this with police stations, public schools, fire departments, all as citizens.
In the repeal of banking regulations, by repealing the fiduciary rule Republicans was cheered as a repeal of “limited consumers’ choices in financial products,” with no mention of the word “citizen”.
As consumers, we build shopping malls and go to Disneyland. As consumers, we watch Dancing with the Stars and the Super Bowl. As citizens, we call our senator, our state rep, we vote on election day and we watch CNN.
A citizen has a right to health care. A consumer has the right to access to health care, but this does not guarantee actually health care anymore than my right to access to a new Ferrari means I can head over to Boch’s lot tomorrow and drive away in my new 488 GTB.
A citizen has the right to protection from financial fraud of other individuals and companies, protection provided by our government at no charge to every citizen. A consumer has the right to a free market and should that consumer enter into a less than beneficial outcome with a financial company, that individual has the right to shop elsewhere, tell his or her friends about that bad experience, “vote with their wallet” (as to many free marketers are fond of saying) take their beating, learn from it and move on. The market will protect the consumer.
A citizen has the right to clean air, water. A consumer has the right to purchase clean air, water.
A citizen has the right participate in free and fair elections. A consumer need not vote at the polls and will receive numerous reminders that elections are rigged, the results don’t matter, and that voting with their wallet is all they need to rely on.
I would suggest that as Democrats, moving forward, we fight this move towards stripping us of our citizenship and lowering us to the status of consumer. We need to emphasize that we stand for citizens.