Millions watching the recent Republican presidential candidate debates were horrified when the tea party audience shouted "yeah" and cheered at the suggestion that a sick man with no health insurance should be allowed to die.
The awful scene followed candidate Ron Paul's answer to a hypothetical question about what he would do in a situation where a healthy man who chose not to be insured, then got sick and couldn't afford the medical care he needed to save his life.
Paul's response that life is about making choices and that the man could have chosen to purchase a major medical plan was actually even more callous than the crude cheering that came from the assembled teabaggers.
The first point that has to be made is that the basic problem with our health care system is not that it forces healthy people who can afford to buy health insurance to choose between paying for that insurance when they don't need it and having the extra cash to spend so they can enjoy their good health.
The basic problem that exists regarding health insurance is that millions who have the insurance they want, by virtue of their jobs or by choosing to pay for it on their own, are losing that insurance. The basic problem for millions of others is that they cannot afford to pay for any health insurance.
In Dr. Ron Paul's and GOP frontrunner Rick Perry's Texas a quarter of the population has no coverage at all because we live in a society that forces a majority who want decent health care to choose between paying for insurance or feeding and clothing themselves and their families.
We live in a society that says "tough luck" if you lose your job and the health insurance that goes along with it.
The GOP candidates all say they are for rugged individualism and self reliance., rather than government handouts and welfare. In realty, the Republican candidate debates are showing that their approach to almost everything is welfare for the rich but "self reliance" for the working-class majority and the poor.
When it comes to health care, that Republican approach actually ignores the needs of almost everyone in society, whether they be rich, poor or in-between.
One medical catastrophe destroys not just one human being but can destroy his or her whole family or even an entire community. When you multiply medical catastrophes they can devastate an entire town or city. An epidemic can threaten entire countries. Viruses don't discriminate, they give everyone an equal opportunity to get sick or die.
Most people around the world reject dealing with medical issues in the way Ron Paul, the rest of the GOP candidates and the tea party audience would have us deal with them.
Human experience shows that the health of each individual also requires dealing with health care in a way that allows everyone to become healthy. Pretending health care for all is nothing more than letting each one of us make our own choices, particularly when we can't afford the available choices, is nothing short of lunacy.
Yet this lunacy is what we hear from the mainstream candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.
And, don't rest easy because of recent polls showing the tea party losing support. As long as big money and power politics are behind the insanity we've seen on the Republican debate stages, everyone's health is in danger. Protecting our health will require a massive mobilization for the 2012 elections to make sure common sense, not lunacy, prevails.