As I was getting in bed the other night I got one of those warm, funny feelings where I thought, “Damn, I’m lucky. I have a house, a car, a job, a great relationship….”. I had heard on the radio about a doctor that was building hospitals for poor people. He had some amazing insights about compassion. In this wealth-frenzied world it seems like the norm that people are concerned only for their own self-interest at the expense of all else. Here was a guy that was working his ass off every day to help people who desparately needed help. It made me feel sad for all the rich people in the world who still, with all their blessings, are trying to accumulate more wealth. I’ve written about that elsewhere. But as I was getting into bed that night I thought, damn, I’m lucky. I’m not rich by any American usage of the word, but compared to so many in the world, I am wealthy beyond all dreaming. It makes me feel bad that so many suffer so much when I have so much.
But here’s the thing: I want my government to help solve this. I think our government has a mandate to educate people, help them when they are sick and provide to them the opportunity to work towards better lives. Note that I am not saying that government has to wipe people’s butts. People still have to work for it. It’s the opportunity that government has to provide, not the outcome. I really, truly think that a capitalist society with a compassionate government can provide this. I think this nightmare of poverty and healthcare crisis is a direct result of our government not doing its job well. We are far too focused on the military. We are far too supportive of big business and the rich. Paul Wellstone said it best — the rich are surely capable of taking care of their interests. They don’t need the federal government looking after their interests. (That’s not how Paul said it.) The doctor I heard on the radio said: it’s simple: public dollars — public good. That’s what our government is for. We can hope that charities do it or hope that those with plenty do it. Or we can demand that our government does it. Believe me, we all benefit as human beings and as citizens when everyone has the chance to get in a clean, warm bed in their own house and feel lucky to be alive. Let’s do this.
4 thoughts on “Luck”
1. The middle class do not bear the real tax burden in this country. On the whole, they do not even pay for the government services they incurr. The rich pay for the poor, rich, and too darn much of the middle class as well.
2. Once again, I have never advocated taxing the poor. The few places where I have articulated any specifics about proposed tax policy have deliberately excluded the poor from taxation. My beef is with the middle class.
3. Most huge companies are not that well run. Enron and Tyco come to mind. Most larger companies suffer from the same problems as government, but usually on a lesser scale. Lack of accountability, lack of direction and lack of an understanding of the relvant issues by the very people who make the decisions.
Companies live in la-la land, but are brought back to reality on some level by the profit motive. I could go into a long rant about the BS that passes for GAAP accounting, but I will spare you that for the sake of brevity. Anyway, government does not even have the idea of a profit motive to guide it. For these teasons and more, I would say that large corporations are not some group super-efficient financial machines. They are misguided beaurocracies much like the federal and state governments. They just have some guidance and direction via a profit motive.
I agree 100% that it is about smart choices and soving these problems as inexpensively as possible. But…
1. Taxation is not theft. Taxing the poor is not effective. The middle class bear the burden in this country, more so than the rich anway. The price of admition in this country, in my opinion, is that those that benefit the most should pay the most and not bitch about it.
This is not to mention the fact that I think the rich 25% that you keep talking about would be *richer* if we had a country that took care of the poor and sick. Right now we wait until it costs 10 times more before we do anything.
2. Why is it that when we see so many huge companies being successful and well-run we can’t imagine our government beinng successful and well-run? Why is big business so great and big government so bad? I believe the government can solve the healthcare problem. Furthermore I believe private industry, if left on its own, will never solve the healthcare problem. Absolutely, for sure, we could implement a single-payer system that kept the incentive for excellence in the healthcare industry while elminating the non-value-adding insurance middlemen that take such a large percent of the money.
I enjoyed your post, but have some different views.
1. Public dollars/public good sounds fine until you realize that its a matter of the top 25% of taxpayers paying for everyone else. Its wealth redistribution from a smaller group to a larger one. In some people’s mind, thats called theft.
2. I agree its good when people help others and I also try to do my part. That being said, I still think people have the right to choose if they wish to help or not. Their money should not be taken involuntarily and given to someone else that you or I think is more deserving. Thats just wrong.
3. Yes we should fund education and, more importantly, come up with better a incentive structure for educators to provide the sorts of finished products needed by our economy.
4. Yes we should focus more on healthcare, but its not a linear thing where more cash equals better results. We have to be smarter and more nimble in our thinking. The beaurocratic and institutional ways of thinking we see in government and large corporations can only take us so far. Thats why I do not think a larger government presence in healthcare is the most efficient way to direct funds towards the problem. We need to focus more on preventative medicine and disease management. This means educating people about the consequences of their diet. Heart disease, strokes, cancer, respiratory illness, liver and kidney disease, and many more can all be reduced by making more intelligent lifestyle choices. Also, when people get a disease such as diabetes, they can live so much longer, more happily and incurr much less in medical costs if they maintain a proper diet, check their blood sugar levels and take their insulin according to their doctor’s instructions. Let me give you an example to prove my point. Approximately 18 million people have diabetes in the USA (according to ADA #s). Of these, only about 2/3 are diagnosed with the disease. That means one out of 3 is getting no treatment. Of the ones who have been diagnosed, I can tell you that in my area 50% are noncompliant. If you know anything about what diabetes can do when its unchecked then you know the potential cost savings from earlier diagnosis and compliance will run into the tens of billions of dollars.
If a person does not watch it, their chance of heart attacks and strokes goes up by more than 100%. They are also facing things such as kidney failure, nerve damanage that can eventually lead to amputation, blindness and a host of other things. Now think about the cost of caring for a stroke patient, an amputee, a blind person or someone on dialisis (mispelled). Imagine the aggregate costs being run up by the roughly 11 million people who are either undiagnosed or noncompliant with their treatment program. Think how much can be saved by just being a little smarter in the ways we care for people on this one disease.
My point is to say that our discussion should be about a heck of a lot more than how much we should involuntarily take from the rich in the form of “progressive” taxes. It should also be about smarter choies and more efficient methods of dealing with problems. At least thats my opinion.