Krugman gets it right here:
We offer free education, and don’t worry about middle-class families getting benefits they don’t need, because that’s the only way to ensure that every child gets an education — and giving every child a fair chance is the American way. And we should guarantee health care to every child, for the same reason.
The great majority of Americans believe that everyone is entitled to a chance to make the most of his or her life. Even conservatives usually claim to believe that. For example, N. Gregory Mankiw, the former chairman of the Bush Council of Economic Advisers, contrasts the position of liberals, who he says believe in equality of outcomes, with that of conservatives, who he says believe that the goal of policy should be “to give everyone the same shot and not be surprised or concerned when outcomes differ wildly.”
But a child who doesn’t receive adequate health care, like a child who doesn’t receive an adequate education, doesn’t have the same shot — he or she doesn’t have the same chances in life as children who get both these things.
I have students in my class, here in Fort Smith -- these are 18 and 19 year old students, 22 year old students, 25 year old students -- who can't see the board, who haven't been to a dentist in years, who can't go to a doctor in the winter when they get sick, who can't even afford the Wal-Mart eye-guys, because they haven't got insurance, because it takes every cent of their tiny paychecks to pay their tuition and fill their gas tanks. Do you think they're doing as well on their algebra exams as someone who can see the board? Do you think they're doing as well with their praxis exams as someone whose teeth aren't rotting away?
Do you think this matters? Well, who do you think is going to be teaching your fifth graders in six years? Or mixing your prescriptions, for that matter?
We need universal healthcare because it just makes sense. Why anyone would think we don't, that's what mystifies me, at this point.