The Hobby lobby case has some people up in arms. How dare private employers with religious beliefs object to a federal agency mandate that they provide coverage and cover costs associated with contraceptives that would affect a fertilized embryo?
Common religious beliefs hold that life begins at conception. This belief differs, it is claimed, from a medical community belief that a pregnancy begins, post fertilization and at implantation of the embryo into the uterine lining. I only know of one philosopher who has entertained the idea:
Je suis implanté donc je suis! I’m implanted therefore I am! - Michelle DesJardins: Philosophie d'un employé du secteur public 1787
In Hobby Lobby, the private employers didn’t object to providing health insurance but apparently were not comforted by the medical community definition of pregnancy or swayed by the remonstrances of DesJardin. The three closely held private for profit businesses didn’t object to 16 contraceptives that didn’t affect a fertilized embryo. They objected to four contraceptive measures that would affect the fertilized embryo as a matter of sincerely held religious beliefs. These four are reportedly expensive too, costing as much as $500. Imagine, advocates for public health clamoring for the most expensive means.
I find this curious. I wonder why anyone would need or want a contraceptive that is so expensive to be covered to begin with? It would seem obviously preferable to expect people to use much cheaper and readily available contraceptives, costing just $10 to $50 per month and therefore much less than a cigarette habit, weekends at the “Three Dollar Bar,” or a pool equipped health club membership, or a French Vanilla ice coffee every day. One might assume that any sane insurance plan aimed at remaining solvent and affordable would not cover the last minute measure that cost of hundreds of dollars because to do so would encourage reliance on the expensive last minute measure versus other cheaper methods requiring a little planning and routine. People do tend rely on the last ditch solution especially if the cost is subsidized or free because it was transferred to others.
More than health insurance
Of course, inevitably someone will argue that such bean counting is heartless, cruel and counterproductive. There are always the examples of the extreme circumstance, rape , incest, etc., but frankly, with $5000 deductibles for diseases and birth defects and what not, the sudden concern with a few hundred must be bolstered by a quasi-religious or political positions (gender turf?) that health insurance has to be more than health insurance when it comes to sexuality and gender issues.
That’s odd, because a lot of sexuality is essentially a hobby. We as taxpayers don’t subsidize hobbies. If someone claims tax deductions and credits and depreciation and shields income with an activity they claim is a business, but the activity never generates a “gain,” we, the people, as expressed through our IRS, may likely say the ungainful activity is a hobby, not a business intended to produce a “gain.” We will deny the tax shelter. The hobbyist is denied the tax treatment awarded one who genuinely spends money in the pursuit of “gain” Through our Federal tax code, we do provide all necessary credits and deductions and depreciation for activity aimed at producing gain. We want you to gain. If you gain, we all gain.
Children are gain
Babies and children, are gain. Oh sure, we live in a word where it works to say they are a burden, and certainly, there are children with more needs than others. Yet it’s sweetly ordinary that parents of high needs children, despite their dutifulness, still feel enriched in their mind and in their spirit. They are enriched by the love they feel and give even when the child they love has such needs that reciprocation is not to be had. Children are “gain.” And our tax code while not taxing them, thank goodness, respects them by allowing us to afford them as we allow a business to afford the pursuit of gain. We create them, we invest in them and maintain them, and they add value to our lives.
If you have a child, you can get a deduction on your income tax. You are a gain too. Even if you don’t itemize, or aren’t a business, you get a standard deduction to help with your costs of living. We are glad to have you aboard and earning a living too. If you are not earning enough of a living, you will even get an earned income credit (EITC). This increases with the number of children you have up to three. Sure, the EITC is an anti-poverty tool, but it also respects that you and your children have value to our society, you are a “gain.” Our tax code invests in gains, but not hobbies. We as a society treat gains and hobbies differently. Children are gains, hobbies don’t produce gains.
Religious faith, wisdom and self-interest agree that sexuality that produces a child is a serious matter. Society, I argue, may treat a child as a gain, but individuals may not want a child. Sexuality is an appetite related to an instinct to produce a child, but necessarily and rigidly so. As with hunger, the appetite for sexuality motivates us to pursue it. Since we must eat to live that is a necessity. Necessary expenditures in business in the pursuit of a gain are deductible. Individuals not in business still get a standard deduction or even an EITC.
As for sexual appetite, often times there is a specific intention to enjoy sex without creating a child. Where it not for the emotional and social ramifications of the intimacy, social mores and taboos involved with sexuality, it would be the greatest hobby of all. Most grown up responsible people carefully manage their hobby use of sexuality so as to manage drama, the expectations of others and to conserve physical financial and emotional and spiritual resources (see also, Marriage, Committed and Common Law Relationships, Facebook Friends) Dating and pursuit of sexuality cost each gender dearly. But are they “necessary expenses“ toward a gain that deserve favor and respect in tax and entitlements policy? We don’t treat them so. Perhaps the nexus between such activity and a likely gain is too speculative. Perhaps too many of us have had too many dates where we had no shot. At least I’ve heard as much to accept it as true.
Casual sex is no gain
There are no credits or deductions for dating or other sexual frolics, adventures, and detours. Such expenses are not clearly enough aimed at producing a gain. They are hobby expenses. Casual sex, dating, sexuality aimed at pleasure, and not at making a child, or even at supporting a marriage or partnership. Casual sex is like a business that really never makes money and is intended more for status, social visibility and the indulgence of some interest. Casual sex and ungainful pastimes are hobbies.
So if we don’t subsidize or support hobbies in the income tax code, why on earth would we burden an attempt to provide Americans with affordable insurance or perhaps, one day, a public guarantee of medical care, with the costs of a hobby? Consistency argues we would not. We don’t even consider food to be something we would insure, although the lack of it would affect health far more promptly and substantially than any absence of sexuality. Voluntary behaviors should be outside a system intended to provide essential and necessary protection.
Do what you want; I am not in any way opposing your sexuality. No judgment, it’s a free country and a free call in the 401 area code. But it’s best for everyone if everyone is accountable and paying for their activities. Nobody wants to pay for my casual food choices even thought I could argue I might one day have a health issue because or have a sort of “ baby bump” all my own in solidarity with mother’s everywhere.
Don't subsidize hobbies
If one wants to ski, it would be wise to include some accident insurance in the cost of the lift ticket. If one is employed, one should have workers compensation insurance, which employer paid premium should reflect the risks of the employer’s gainful activity. If one drives an automobile, one should provide adequate liability limits and have adequate medical payments coverage so that auto insurance covers the risk of the activity and your particular attributes and record with automobile operation will factor into the premium. The continuation of such insurances will make the public guarantee against defects and disease and general accidents affordable. Conversely, if we burden the public health or mandated insurance with preventing the consequence of every conceivable hobby, well, anyone with common sense will see the financial train wreck coming.
Glass unicorns, tattoos, and veggie burgers
Human nature is to procrastinate, take an edge, suffer avoidable harms, to require nine stitches because we didn’t bother with the single stitch in time. If that weren’t so, only a very few crime victims and exceptions to the medical rule would be the only group of people who could possibly have a concern with the Hobby Lobby decision. Everyone else interested in contraception would almost certainly use the other 16 methods that operate prior to an embryo being fertilized. We all have some spirituality; even if it only expressed in glass unicorns, tattoos, veggie burgers, or the way we make our salad. It’s hard to believe that we would make even a prospective vessel for a soul and destroy it when we could prevent the whole destroying a real human life, even if only a “small beginnings” with just a little bit of planning and a few bucks. Some people even forego procreative sex entirely unless they are going to make a child and that doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying themselves or finding other ways and means to curl their toes.
I think it’s fortunate that this case is called Hobby Lobby. It says, that if a federal agency has a compelling interest in burdening people in the practice of their religious beliefs, that the law or the federal agency should still do so in the least burdensome way, perhaps providing even those loathsome for- profit companies the same exceptions or exemptions the law and the agency offer to 120 million others. “Hobby Lobby” not only has a “ milkshake” poetry about it, Hobby Lobby should remind us that when it comes to public policy, we don’t subsidize or mandate subsidy for hobbies, not even casual sex unless you are a member of Congress, the United State Secret Service or where able to work your magic with a white house intern. No gain, no favored tax treatment. No Baby? No Child? No favored tax treatment or subsidy for hobbies or related dry cleaning bills. You got yourself a hobby there. You figure it out.
Mike Gardiner is an attorney based in Providence, former Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, and host of the Mic Gardiner Show, Tuesdays at 6 PM.
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