by Scoobie Davis
The Contradictions of the Right
The funding matrix behind Ms. Schiavo’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, and their lawyers illustrates the contradictory agenda of conservatism. Much of the money to finance the Schiavo litigation and public relations has been provided by foundations associated with the Philanthropy Roundtable, an innocuous-sounding outfit that serves as a central committee for major conservative donors.
The Roundtable foundations, which boast names like Mellon Scaife and Smith Richardson, simultaneously pays for the traditionalist “culture of life” litigators and for libertarian groups that promote draconian cutbacks and the withdrawal of government services from the poor. In the bright future that they’re bringing us, medical care for those who cannot pay their own way— including Terri Schiavo—will presumably be provided from direct-mail lists and church-collection plates. Don’t tell them there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Ironically, the right-wing policies promoted by the Philanthropy Roundtable and its pet politicians would have doomed Ms. Schiavo long ago. They constantly claim that the most important cost in medicine today is the prevalence of tort lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. The costs of Ms. Schiavo’s hospitalization and care have been subsidized for well over a decade by the proceeds of her husband’s successful suit against the doctors who failed to diagnose her bulimia (which stopped her heart and destroyed most of her brain).
With nearly all of that money already spent, Ms. Schiavo now depends on Medicaid to support her hospice care. In many other cases like hers, patients must rely on Medicare. Had the right-wing extremists in Congress prevailed in their zeal to slash or abolish those programs during the past 10 years, not much would have been left to pay for her or others like her—not to mention every other precious life that needs but cannot afford life-saving medical care.
In this demagogic moment, conservatism pretends to moral seriousness without confronting the real problems of life, death and financial constraint raised by the Schiavo case. The President and the Congress passed the decision back to the courts so that they could blame the judiciary. The right-wing ideologues tell us that we must protect every life, while demanding that we lower taxes, cut medical programs and deny care to the poor.