The class of newly-elected members of Congress who won seats for the first time in the November 6 election are currently going through training to prep them for working on the Hill. Millions of people have been flocking to the social media accounts of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected progressive darling from New York, who has been demystifying through video and livestream what she calls “Congress Camp,” or new member orientation period. She posts about everything from getting her new highly-secured cellphone and tablet, to learning how to hire staff for her new offices, to getting to pick the new office itself. All of the things no one would ever think about needing to know if you become a new Congressperson, but there has to be a day where someone points out all the bathrooms and elevators at some point, right?
So sure, there are some things we’ll forgive our elected leaders for not knowing before they take office. But one of those things should probably not be, um, what constitutes a human right.
On Thursday, Republican Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky tweeted the following: “How long until someone runs on the platform of #FoodStampsForAll ?” he wrote. “If healthcare is a right, is food as well?”
Um. Yeah, my guy, it definitely is.
I was tempted to just make this post a copy-paste of Article 25 of the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads in part, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.” Because, yeah. That sort of clears that up, I would hope.
Massie, a libertarian politician who follows suit with his fellow Kentucky senator Rand Paul, is associated with the House Liberty Caucus, the small group of libertarian-leaning representatives who advocate for limited government, among other things. His tweet was quickly ratio’d, receiving over 16,000 responses—some in support of his anti-welfare sentiment, but also plenty pointing out the tone-deafness of a tweet that essentially reads like Massie would be chill with the government letting people starve rather than increase the social safety net.
But let’s unpack Massie’s argument a bit. He, like most libertarians, claims that the #HealthcareForAll movement championed by progressive lawmakers would raise healthcare costs while decreasing the quality of care and providers. They believe the free market should be allowed to do its thing and big government ought to keep its grubby mitts off people's medical experiences. Here, he’s attempting to draw an analogy between the supposedly-ludicrous aspiration of universal healthcare and the effort to ensure no citizen of the US goes hungry. And even if we set aside the issues of human and governmental decency, the analogy starts to fall apart when you consider the wild differences in the costs, demands, and accessibility of healthcare and food.
Article 19 of the UN’s declaration of human rights also states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression,” so Massie is, according to the social contract that tries to keeps the world from falling apart, within his right to hold those beliefs and share them in a public forum however he likes. But the rest of Twitter is also entitled to point out that, yes, as a matter of fact, they would support a candidate with a platform built on making sure everyone is guaranteed food. What a crazy idea, right?