This article could also be titled…. “If the Occupy movement wants an argument that will resonate, and work — this is an idea!”
America has had a kind heart
America historically has had a kind heart. In the past, when friends and neighbors were in need we have risen as one to help each other. We are a nation that was founded on the belief that with tolerance for opposing ideas, and being united in a common cause, we could rise from the oppression of our rulers in a foreign land and take control of our own destiny.Thomas Paine was enlisted to help unite the people in this view and he coined the phrase, “an island cannot rule a nation!”. While at the time of the American Revolution there was not 100% unity in the desire for separation—or even universal agreement that separation from England was a good and economically viable idea. In the end, our founding fathers strung together enough of an argument that if we remained true to the ideals established in our Declaration of Independence and if we crafted the proper covenants of governance as later codified in our Constitution of the United States and if we practiced tolerance for each others separate and distinct; needs, wants, desires, and religious beliefs we could not only survive but perhaps thrive; and in so doing become a model for a new method of common governance—a constitutional republic—a very separate and distinct system from a historical democracy.
As a nation, in effect we made a promise to ourselves to believe in our own future, to be vigilant in the preparation of our government for the succeeding generations, and to develop within the constraints of our new found republic rules and regulations to promote various individual freedoms — earned based on our own personal and collective responsibilities. In the era of the citizen politician, this system has worked remarkably well. However, as we are by our nature, human, and as such subject to our own failings, we have made mistakes. These mistakes, often in the form of ill-conceived and poorly framed decisions to solve the pressing problems of the various historic periods, have often changed our understandings, altered our perspective or removed the need to maintain our own personal responsibility for our life and our own decisions.
In the 1930’s we began a series of what at the time appeared innocuous decisions that fundamentally altered who we are and how we think of ourselves and Americans. It is my belief, that in each case the decisions were made for valid reasons. But in the nature of the deliberations at the time, we were faced with the age old dilemma: the conflict between practical pragmatism and ideological morality. As we began once again to find some prosperity, we have more and more consistently chosen the moral side of the equation. And who can really argue with such choices?
The rise of the full time professional political class
In the days of the citizen politician, when congressional and executive service to the country was part time, and in the end those that served gained little and gave much, decisions tended to become more tempered with pragmatism because the laws passed more directly and immediately affected our legislators just as they did the rest of the citizenry. As we moved through the 1930’s and 1940’s short term decisions to extend the period of congressional duty to more of a full time period set us on a path to the development of a full time legislative role and later to the establishment of the professional politician. As this role changed, not only did we end up with full time politicians, we ended up with what now is a legislature full of professional politicians—a Full Time Professional Political Class. A new level of American who’s class gives them exemption from many laws but more importantly that by gaining election into this elite class become, by and large, exempt from the pressures of life that affect the rest of the “normal” people. The prize of elected office is now exemption.
As I have discussed in earlier articles, the currency of this class is votes and the goods exchanged are now our own hard won assets, taken by the professional political class to equalize the injustices, both real and perceived of those not of the professional political class. Whether the flow is from the wealthy few to the “huddled masses” or from the masses back to the wealth few to stimulate programs to fund the huddled masses, in this zero sum game we are continuing to lose economically.
For the last seventy or eighty years these decisions have appeared to work, with little or few consequences. I have discussed a number of these points in prior articles and will not rehash these decisions here. I expect my readers are capable of doing their own research and forming their own opinions. What I will remind you of, is that as the underlying dynamic of our political system changed and this new class rose, often those short term legislative solution, affected to solve the immediate problems of any given period, became permanent sales pitches to sell these often short term programs as now permanent gains for the huddled masses in exchange for votes.
The Political Class is broken
Unfortunately though, today the professional political class, like the people they are supposed to serve, are stuck! Our political system is stalled! As a result, WE are stymied! That’s right, it seems we as a nation are at an impasse, spinning in circles and getting nowhere. Yes, it seems we are trying to pry open a door that just won’t open.
The evidence of this, of course, shows in the inability of Congress to come to resolution in order to solve things like universal health care crisis, the financial crisis, the economic crisis, the immigration crisis, the jobs crisis, the energy crisis, the stock market crisis—the list can go on and on…. Any solution is long overdue.
Though it can often appear that the powers-that-be in Washington are making an attempt to provide such solutions, the historical record of real fixes and real reform is just not there. That’s right, if WE read and listen to the daily news, WE realize that what Washington has on the table ultimately will not, and cannot, work.
Washington has had many opportunities for the past 80 years to design and pass legislation that would fix our problem, they just can’t get the job done. They can’t because we are asking them to fix something that is simply not in their purview to fix. WE seem to keep asking them to fix the problems created by our own lack of personal responsibility and accountability. We want the government to make it so that no matter what we do they must take care of us—make it all better.
I asked you a couple of paragraphs ago, “Who can really argue with such choices?”. From a moralistic standpoint who really wants to argue against providing care for all who need it? Or, who wants to argue in support of not helping people about to become homeless? No one, in either the huddled masses (both the 99% and the 1%) class or the professional political class (all the rest) wants to make these arguments! Despite the truth that no one is out to harm a fellow human being, isn’t it nice that we constantly beat this drum about how so-and-so wants to harm the other guy? In our hearts we know this is true but we allow these surrogates of others to beat this drum until some of us start to believe it. Who was it that said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it!”? Oh yea, it was attributed to Joseph Goebbels, although it is more likely a misquote of Adolf Hitler’s big lie passage in Mein Kampf. One of the big issues today is that our Professional Political Class will not, in fact they can not, make such an argument. The checks and balances that govern their existence prohibit them from making this argument. Their livelihoods are predicated on them NOT making such arguments. We have built a political system where they get compensated, quite handsomely, for promising to give us stuff for nothing-in effect lying to us.
Two minds but one heart
While I believe we all truly have one caring heart. I would submit, with no real evidence, that we as a species are of two sociological, perhaps genetic, minds on this issue. About one half of the species sides on the moral and the other half sides on the pragmatic. One side sees the argument as moral and cannot fathom any decision that would go along with sustaining the emotional pain of watching a neighbor fail. The other side sees the problem as a survival issue, economic or otherwise.
Today, no one disputes there are millions in need in America, and more so in the world as a whole. Seeing our governments inability to solve America’s problems is downright frustrating when you consider we are a nation that can mobilize in an instant to help people all over the world—like in Haiti or Sri Lanka—or how about the help we’ve given to various villages and communities in Bosnia, Bangladesh—or the impoverished countries in Africa. If we can do that then why can’t we take care of our own? Why can’t we help those who need, and most certainly deserve, to be treated with consideration and priority when it comes to physical and mental health and well being? While we should try to help the world, I for one would like to concentrate first on our own neighbors; as their suffering has a much more direct bearing on our own needs, wants and responsibilities. I also subscribe to the belief that if I give someone in need $1.00 they get $1.00. If I give it to the government the needy net about $0.35. These are not my numbers but the governments in various forms.
We need an Answer
We need an answer. But to get one, we need momentum. And, to create momentum, I believe that if each one of us did a part—if we mobilize, all of us, pushed in our own individual way—we might very well force the door to solutions open, even if we do so only a little at a time.
I guess you could say that my philosophy toward solving the healthcare issue, and most of the other issues we face as a nation, can best be summed up in the words of that ever-popular Michael Jackson hit, Man in the Mirror, in which he and his co-writers Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard, stated, “…I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways/no message could have been any clearer/ if you want to make the world a better place/take a look at yourself/and then make a change…” In other words, it starts with each of us taking responsibility for both ourselves and our neighbors and a closer look at what every one of us can do to effect change.
While I was at Ramsell, I started a non-profit called the WE Movement. In creating the WE Movement I believed that we could all do something, each of us to help Washington get the job done. While I was working on healthcare reform in Washington I learned a few things about how our professional political class try to make sausage. Having grown up in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, I know a thing or two about making sausage and Washington DC knows nothing about making sausage. I would submit to you that we would be much better of in the long run if we went back to the days of part time citizen politicians, many of whom could be real sausage makers and we would find that our government would be much improved. If not improved, at least our daily diet of bad news would taste a bit better!
Let’s talk about health care for a minute.
We have learned that we in the United States are a generous people—all of us, whether we are Republican, Democrat, Independent—conservative or progressive. We also have learned that the majority of us wish that all people could and should have access to the health care they need.
Sadly, we have also learned that the scope of healthcare we want everyone to have is simply unattainable—the economic cost for it well beyond what we can provide—or more importantly—what we are willing to allocate to pay for it. It is not an issue of taking money here to pay for it there. It is an economic issues in that the more we pay for care to workers the less competitive we become in the world stage.
I have come to be of the mind that there are two very important universal truths that have emerged from this recent health care bill proposal:
- We can’t afford what we want (and need) and,
- the prevailing atmosphere of “Us” vs. “Them” has been a recurring theme and extremely corrosive to the ideals we have set.
For example, the goal of Universal Healthcare was to include:
- Affordable coverage for 100% of all Americans
- A mandated minimum standard of care
- Access to all, regardless of illness, state of disease or pre-existing condition
- Reduction of the overall cost of care to all Americans
- The elimination of “care disparity”
- And assurance of coverage for the underserved
All good ideas; lofty goals, yes, but A) we can’t afford this “vision” package because the implementation and subsidy costs alone total $1.55 trillion, and only 155 million people are getting paychecks out of the 338 million Americans who need them, and B) under the suggested guidelines, the cost of care for individuals will rise between $1000 a year to $3000 a year.
Next, it seems we’re faced with an “Us” versus “them” mentality: For example, coverage for 96% of Americans is requested (although 94% were already covered before the proposed legislation). The actual goal was to provide coverage for the uninsured or under-insured. And, the 2% additionally insured breaks out like this:
- O.8 percent are between 18 and 29 years old
- 0.4 percent are elderly—those that previously were not enrolled in Medicare
- The dilemma is where this leaves the uninsured and under-insured
The problem is that the minimum mandates for care were watered down; changes were made geared to garner support from AMA, AARP, Unions, and others such as the Medicare Advantage program which was effectively curtailed to get AARP support. Also, the cost to the nation will rise significantly; the curve does not bend down under full utilization, however. And, also the ideal to eliminate disparity has resulted in restrictions of options for “them” that can afford it, not an increase in options for the “us” that cannot. In other words, it’s as though this bill has pitted two groups against one another rather than providing a plan that works for the good of the whole. The end result: we’re getting nowhere. As I said, we are stuck, stalled, stymied…the situation has created a sense of inertia precluding us from moving forward in any direction.
Here are some other statistics that need to be understood and made known:
- Medicare and Medicaid account for 1.3 trillion in health care spending this year
- Total health care spending in 2010 exceeded $2.8 trillion. Interestingly, some studies have shown that as much as 39% is lost to waste, defined as “duplication of services” and “unnecessary services.” Other studies tell us that as much as 20% is lost to fraud and abuse.
- Ultimately, estimates suggest that over $800-billion per year is lost due to waste, fraud, errors and inefficiencies.
So, you may be asking: What can we do about it?
I believe that a simple form of coordination of care and benefits across all available sources will save at least 10% of the total cost of healthcare, and by eliminating duplication of services we can provide increased capacity within the existing networks. Yes, it is possible, and what a way to begin to open that door! And it is not simply in healthcare where these benefits can be attained. It will work in virtually any area where those that have a re providing benefits to those that need.
It is staggering as we try to comprehend that $800-billion dollars in waste exists in the healthcare system across the United States today. What do you think is happening in other segments of government run programs?
Can you imagine what we could do with that amount of money if it were available for health care purposes—if we put this money to better use? And it’s not just the money that we can put to better use; it is the resources as well. If we eliminate duplicate visits and other services we will free up resources to treat the others who wait in lines.
This is just one way to begin to solve the problem—better appropriation of resources and the spending of funds that are currently available. I believe there are a number of other ways to begin to solve the health care plan dilemma and we must because, just like you, most of us are out of patience with those who wish to make the health care issue, and all the others, a political playground. I think we can all agree that we are fed up as we stand by and wait for a resolution to a problem that is really quite solvable.
WE need to eliminate the “them” versus “us” mentality. We need a platform for those who wish to help each other—to be able to quickly and easily find those in need. We need a method to filter the truly helpless from the clueless; or worse from the charlatans who simply want to get everything for nothing. Washington can play a key role, an appropriate role, in helping to develop such a system. A virtual place for people to post what they are willing to provide so they can be matched with those in need. This becomes a “them” and “us” –that culminates in a “WE” solution.
I believe there are many others just like us who are willing to participate, and help each other in the collective crises we face if we can be assured that the needy are appropriately vetted. Lets face it our government has a horrible track record in this regard. Their own data shows that Medicaid and Medicare provide only about 35 cents on every dollar to care and we know that there is between a 15 and 20% rate of fraud in the system. Regardless of the percentage due to inefficiency this is at least a 50% improvement just in duplication and reduction of systemic fraud which we know from history the government just can’t do. We need a public private partnership to provide the core system. Fortunately there are many choices. Social networking is not far from being able to provide an effective infrastructure. Companies like LinkedIn and Facebook, already have flexible platforms. MySpace not only has the platform but could rebuild their suffering brand by providing such a valuable option. Of course there is also Google +, offerings from Microsoft, and many others. It need not be just one provider. Why not something in each and every infrastructure?
Webster defines “them” as “a group of people other than the speaker or people addressed.”
Webster also defines “us” in a similar fashion: “another person or other people.”
Presently, the mood in Washington is one of pitting “us” against “them.”
But the word, and collective consciousness we must all adopt in order to find resolution to the health care crisis, is “WE.”
Webster defines “we” as “you and I and others;”
It is all inclusive and that’s exactly how we must all be thinking in order to solve this health care problem—with a “WE” mind-set. And, we need to tell Washington that this is where we stand as a nation.
For lack of a better analogy: If the Occupy Movement wants to find a message perhaps they need to become more about the WE and less about the 99% vs. the 1%. The truth is that this is not where the problem lies. It was basic grass-roots campaigns that grew rapidly in the 60’s when thousands took to the streets to put pressure on those in Washington who could not agree on how and when to end the Vietnam “war.” But this outcry spanned the classes and with a small exception did not pit one economic segment against the other as a way to curry favor in the majority. Clearly it has been shown that voices who cry out in unison with a unified, consistent, effective message combined with an obtainable goal shared in every city, township and state can be very effective. The speakers need also to be in every industry, economic strata, and profession—every company and corporation—and they need to gather and be heard. They cannot be disruptive nor divisive.
Our constitutional republic was set up so that our leaders would make the proper and just decisions for the good of the country as a whole. The framers know that if we were only a “democracy” that in the end the system would fail. That the mass of people would in the end vote more for laws that provide to their own benefit regardless of the overall bad effect to the nation. The point of the constitutional republic was to set up our representatives so that they would be able to make the best decisions with little consequence and the bad decision would provide no gain. In the past 80 years we have gone a long way to destroying that subtlety. Historically, the concepts of fairness and equality for all did not equate to unequal burden nor benefit for anyone. Today the entire concept of fairness and equality is conditionalized first on who has what.
WE need to take these messages to Washington. We need to make it clear to our elected leaders what we think the effective role truly is for government. To do that, we need to agree ourselves. Abraham Lincoln said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. Does anyone today doubt that we are a divided nation? Even within our political parties we are divided. I submit that it is no longer our politics that divide us; it is a much more simple philosophic divide. We seem to be a nation of thirds. One third morally driven (termed liberal), one third pragmatically driven (termed conservative), and one third combining the best (or worst—depending on your point of view) of both. Lincoln would likely be horrified.
When addressing the most fundamental rights—those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the authors of The Declaration of Independence started that document with the words “WE the people….” They went on to write: “…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…” I am not advocating its abolition. I am advocating we recoup our original national character.
I think we need to invite all of us— the collective WE—those young and old; well and ill; others within the healthcare and other business communities—to speak out—and to help the government find a way to solve these problems.
No one should be asking for money to do this. Existing infrastructures should be encouraged to build the support tools in their existing systems. Others should be determining what they can provide to tie into these support tools. The government should be encouraging us all to do this, to adopt this philosophy and to establish some standards and guidelines to facilitate the private sector to participate right along with our part time citizen politicians in constructing a viable solution that works. To date, we have people saying, “We are fed up.” We are in need of a healthcare, financial help, economic recovery, jobs etc. initiative that works for the good of the ‘governed’. And, “We are tired of the bickering in Washington.”
Occupy, or any other organizations, should all hope to collect a groundswell of support—one that makes a powerful collective statement and an impact on Washington, one that will cause those in charge to listen to alternatives as to how to approach and conquer these dilemmas and also as a means to utilize such virtual matching and help systems free of charge to serve others who are less fortunate.
In the words of Stevie Wonder, those who decided to unite as WE should be determined to “… keep on tryin’/till WE reach the highest ground.”
What do you think?” Do you know anyone who has something to offer? Do you know someone in need of something? Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a place to go match one with the other? Some place were the helpless can be identified, and the clueless and the fraudulent can be identified and filtered out. I am not proposing the Government take the role of the determinant of who and who is not eligible. I am proposing the government take the role of encouraging, promoting and defining the standards, that then allow private industry to combine their systems to help and put such determinations in the hands of the people offering the help. I don’t mean we should get rid of our safety nets; but we should change the cost structures to a more efficient system and get the government at least partially out of picking winners and losers. The collective WE can identify the helpless, and work in virtual teams-virtual villages, to help each and everyone in need. Virtually coordinating our efforts around the one person in need–placing them in the center of the world that is teaming up to help them. This is the solution. This virtual teaming approach will reduce, and perhaps in many cases, eliminate the waste due to duplication of efforts and could go a long way to identifying and reducing fraud and abuse.
In the end my message is–this is all up to WE. We can continue to delude ourselves that the government can provide this effectively and efficiently but 80 years of history says otherwise. So is it us–as in the US government as our collective surrogate, or WE–as in all of us as individuals, that is best suited to do this?
That decision is yours regardless, the only difference is whether or not we all accept the individual responsibility– the duty–to do it or we push it off to the collective others.