Paul Ryan's 'Jesus Costanza' Moment (Or: You're On Your Own)

There is an episode of the classic Seinfeld sitcom called “The Opposite” where the lovable loser, George Costanza, decides that if he just did the opposite of what he has always done, his life would turn around. Sure enough, he behaves completely contrary to his character, woos a beautiful woman, and lands a job with the New York Yankees.

Since that time, I’ve come to use Constanza as a verb, meaning to do the opposite of one’s character. For example, “Defying all expectations, Donald Trump stood before the joint session of Congress and Constanza’ed for an entire speech.” Or perhaps, “Knowing the cameras were rolling, Donald Trump pulled a Constanza and shook Miss Universe’s hand, instead.”

Later, in internet debates over religion, I coined the term Jesus Constanza. That’s the deity it seems some alleged Christians worship. Not Jesus Christ and definitely not the Anti-Christ, but Jesus Christ if he decided to pull a Costanza. Not proactively evil, per se, but reactively selfish.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God?” Have you seen Joel Osteen’s house? Definitely worshiping Jesus Costanza.

Sure, sure, blessed <em>are</em> the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But do they have a JumboTron?
Sure, sure, blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But do they have a JumboTron?

That brings us to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. He says he’s a Catholic worshipper of Jesus Christ. But after listening to him explain repealing and replacing Obamacare, there’s no doubt. He’s definitely worshipping Jesus Costanza.

"The fatal conceit of Obamacare is that we’re just gonna make everybody buy our health insurance at the federal government level. Young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for the older, sicker people. So the young, healthy person’s going to be made to buy healthcare, and they’re gonna pay for the person, you know, who gets breast cancer in her 40s, or gets heart disease in his 50s," Ryan said.

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them?” Well, I don’t want anybody paying for my health insurance, preaches Jesus Costanza.

“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give?” But nobody freely receives health care in this country, so I don’t have to freely give it, preaches Jesus Costanza.

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me?” Whaddaya mean? I can’t get breast cancer! I’m a young healthy dude who rocks P-90-X, preaches Jesus Costanza.

Speaker Ryan is just two clenched fists away from joining the cast of Pink Floyd: The Wall.
Speaker Ryan is just two clenched fists away from joining the cast of Pink Floyd: The Wall.

While we're at it, Jesus Costanza teaches, since I'm a great driver and you suck at driving, why should I be paying for car insurance? Hey, wait a minute, I don't have kids, why am I paying taxes for schools? And why do my taxes pay to regulate stock markets, I don't trade securities. I don't own a home, why do my taxes cover fire departments? If you don't want your house to burn down, by your own fire insurance!

In one quote, Paul Ryan succinctly lays out the modern Republican Jesus Costanza agenda. You're on your own. You shouldn't help other people, help only yourself. You're not sick and old, screw those people. And if you do get sick and old, you'll have worked hard and made more money, because we freed you up from taking care of the sick and old, then you took all that extra money and saved and invested it and got rich, so you won't have to worry about being sick and old. Y'know, like us! And if you do end up poor, sick, and old, well, you deserved it. You can't very well expect young healthy people to pick up your tab, you ingrateful old leech!

Progressives, do you really want universal health care? Then we gotta stop calling it universal health care, Medicare for All, Public Option, Single Payer and call it what it truly is: Civilized Healthcare.

Those countries in green are the ones where the term “medical bankruptcy” has no meaning.
Those countries in green are the ones where the term “medical bankruptcy” has no meaning.

I read a post on Tumblr that brought this idea of Civilized Healthcare into focus. It explained how, in America, many people with chronic, non-life-threatening conditions, like epilepsy, wear a medical ID bracelet that instructs Good Samaritans not to call 911 for an ambulance if they are found having a seizure. The post described how, in America, people have to weigh the severity of their emergency against the potential $1,000 to $5,000 bill for an ambulance ride. It cheekily suggested that in America, you’re better off calling an Uber to the hospital than an ambulance.

Replies to the post explained how in their country, they might get billed less than $200 for a non-emergency ambulance ride, but anything involving bleeding, breaks, or loss of consciousness would be covered by the government.

This hit me hard. I grew up poor. Seeing a doctor was a luxury reserved for bleeds, breaks, and loss of consciousness only. Regular physicals? Check-ups? Ha, that’s for people with money and insurance. To this day, at age 49, my most recent medical visits were calling an ambulance a few years ago because I was passing a kidney stone and thought I was dying and getting a colonoscopy only after my younger brother was suddenly diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer.

I’m an atheist, so Speaker Ryan’s worship of Jesus Christ or Jesus Costanza seems equally silly to me. But if I have to endure being the most reviled religious minority in this allegedly Christian Nation, it would be nice if Christians like Ryan listened more to the Christ. However, since the only group more likely to be voted against than atheists is socialists, it seems like most American Christians are worshipping the Costanza.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS