What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?

‘Tis the season for health care reform overreacting, from Democrat Pelosi’s very silly & counterproductive “unAmerican” remark, to the unbeknownst-to-anyone-including-those-creating-the-bill “death panels” – aka having access to good & factual information from your doctor on handling end-of-life preparations – charged by Republicans and on which Republicans are now backpedaling as, yes, another overreaction.  This made more interesting by the fact that it was a Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson of GA, who introduced the bill’s end of life counseling option for Medicare… Oh, and by the way, my fellow Boomers, according to Medical News Today, one of the top 10 most common medical challenges for us as we age: Death & Dying, e.g. deciding how we want to live out the end of our lives and how we want to die….

What is not being discussed, and must be if we hope to reform anything, whether it’s our evermore dysfunctional health care system or a shaky marriage, is the “give” part of “give and take”…

And I’m not referring to Congress; I’m talking about…us.

It is an accepted fact that at times we must sacrifice for the greater good.  We Boomers’ parents did that big time to ensure a world free of fascist domination; foster parents make many sacrifices so they can care for others’ abused/neglected children; and, of course, our military men and women make huge sacrifices, as do their families, to keep us safe.  Americans often are willing to sacrifice a little – and sometimes a lot – to help others.

So I asked myself, “what am I willing to sacrifice when it comes to health care reform, so that others (many) who are suffering because their insurance dropped them for having a disease that is too costly, or are uninsured and as a result are not getting the healthcare some of them desperately need, will no longer have to live that way?”  Because that, to me, is what underpins much of the debate, fuels much of the fear, and ultimately decides the outcome: “you’re asking me to give up something for this, and I don’t wanna…”

It’s natural to think only of ourselves, what we have, and that we don’t want to chance losing something of our own so that others we don’t know can gain.  But, in retrospect:

  • it’s a good thing the Continental Congress ultimately fought that desire (for 2 years the vast majority of representatives wouldn’t even discuss the option of independence, in part because they knew it would be considered treason, but in greater part because they were afraid of losing their property and standing);
  • I’m very glad those who stormed the beach at Normandy didn’t feel that way, and;
  • I’m deeply grateful that those who ultimately lost their lives to gain basic civil rights for all, didn’t place their own self-interests above that of millions of fellow Americans subjugated to egregious forms of discrmination.

Now that I know that 10’s of millions of my fellow Americans, a number that keeps growing, have, over many years, experienced serious health ramifications because they have no coverage to get then well, this is a big enough problem to warrant serious consideration of my part in fixing it. 

I am thrilled that my 89 year old mother, and all of America’s elderly (and not so elderly…) have Medicare so at least here in America we don’t let our elderly go without all the care they need to have a quality life.  But that has only been since the 1960’s, prior to that, we did treat our elderly as we do our younger citizens now, and that’s nothing in which to take pride.

So, am I willing to pay a little more so that others can be healthy?  Am I willing to get a little less so someone with cancer will be covered after all?  Doctors, are you willing to make $3K instead of $4K a year* and perhaps drive a smaller BMW?  And, of course, we already know that the insurance companies are not willing to sacrifice anything but those who cost them too much, unless forced to do so…

A major objection from the most vocal of opponents, is based in this concern: “I like my insurance (whether private of Medicare) and don’t want it impacted at all!”  Is that reasonable or completely selfish?  Is it unreasonable to ask those who feel they are not impacted by the health care issue, to make some potential sacrifice so others may have even some of what they have (the operative word being potential, as for many it may never happen)?

My answer is, I am willing to pay a little more for the same coverage if that will help others – I am not willing to continue to pay more for less to benefit the insurance companies as \is happening right now.   I say that not completely selflessly (of course…): I know full well that I do already pay for the uninsured through the 33% hike I’ve seen in my premiums over just the last year.  If you think that’s not happening to you as an insured, just call your insurer and ask why premiums keep rising – they will readily admit that it is in part because they must try to recoup the rising costs of hospital medical care, for instance, associated with the mandate to care for the uninsured regardless of their ability to pay. 

Even those with good coverage know that at any time they can be denied care for a needed procedure, canceled, or as has happened regularly over the last many years even w/employer underwritten group health plans, pay ever more for less coverage.  This while insurance executives fly to their next stockholder meeting in their private planes with gold-rimmed dinnerware and hand & foot service (I’m not fabricating this – an ex-insurance exec told all recently to the St. Pete Times, and this was part of his story).

So, now I ask you: What are you willing to sacrifice for the greater good on this issue?  A little something can really go a long way.

*According to a 2008 survey of MD’s by Modern Physician, Physician’s salaries range from a low of $175K/yr (Internist), to a high of $600K (Radiologist): averaging $387K/yr.

Politician Infidelities: A Boomer Phenom?

As we learn that the Governor of S. Carolina and yet another member of Congress are outed and apologize for being libido-control challenged, I began to wonder; although this behavior is not singular to my generation, is it practiced in far greater numbers by Boomers vs. those who have gone before us?

The obvious connection between increased infidelities and Boomers is our generation’s embrace of “free love” in our youth, and our subsequent adherance to that ethic as demonstrated through our numerous sexual partners if not marriages.  This being a behavior not admired by our parents and those before them, it stands to reason that our generation takes “not keeping it in your pants” to a much higher level, and does so irregardless of leadership status.

But that still begs the question: do we do it more, or is it just reported more than it was decades ago?  We didn’t know then but know now about JFK & LBJ, they suspected but didn’t know about Eisenhower until after his death, and of course movie stars of the era were constant fodder as they are today.

Well, this Boomer expert weighs in on the former: in fact Boomers see less of a problem with sex outside of marriage, sex with or without marriage, and sex just for sex, than did any generation before us.  Couple that with our generation’s need for immediate gratification (also not embraced by former generations as do we) and our generation’s unfortunate tendency to lack impulse control (works together with immediate gratification), and it becomes newly-cleaned-mirror-clear that we will be more inclined toward infidelities than the generations before us.  

And, not just toward the infidelities themselves, but toward an indifference to the level of their wrongness.  We know it’s wrong…sort of…but because our generation puts far less value on faithfulness (unless it’s to the job), monogamy, and delayed gratification, we just don’t see it as that much of a problem unless we’re caught and it hurts our career (which too often it doesn’t as much as it needs to – because we are being judged by our fellow Boomers who feel the same way).

The good news is that this is bi-partisan!  This latest bad-behaviorist may have been a Republican (and seems to have been a lot lately), but hey, we Dems have the big daddy of diddling, Bill C.!  The bad news is it’s a terrible example to be setting for our grandchildren, it undermines our generational credibility, and it’s a very public admission of our blatant inability to accept the grown-up responsibility that comes with marriage.

There are many Boomers who do not act this way – some in positions of leadership, some not.  It is incumbant upon us to discontinue our silence, and in that our acquiesence to, such behavior particularly on the part of our elected officials.  They answer to us, and answer we must make them. 

To put it in an even clearer context: someone who exhibits all the problematic behaviors associated with infidelity (see paragraph #4 above) most likely cannot be trusted with other very important aspects of leadership like good judgement, putting the needs of others above themselves, and doing what’s right vs. what feels good at the moment.

Your thoughts?

Do We Owe Our Progeny an Apology?

According to some featured graduation speakers as reported by the Wall Street journal (& commented on by Rita Robinson of the Seattle Press -reprinted here), we most assuredly do:

“Is it necessary for baby boomers to apologize to younger generations for their excesses?

When I was reading The Boomer Blog, I found an article in The Wall Street Journal called “Boomers to This Year’s Grads: We Are Really, Really Sorry.”

These are among the quotes in the article:

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 60 years old, told the graduating class of Butler University last month that boomers have been ‘self-absorbed, self-indulgent and all too often just plain selfish.’

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, 55, told Grinnell College graduates in Iowa that his was ‘the grasshopper generation, eating through just about everything like hungry locusts.’

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, at 44 barely a boomer himself, told seniors at Colorado College that the national creed of one generation standing on the shoulders of the next was at risk ‘because our generation has not been faithful enough to our grandparents’ example.’

The article said the collective advice of the speakers for the class of 2009: Don’t be like us.

What do you think of these apologies?”

I’m glad to hear ’em – and my hope is we’ve just begun, at last, to recognize the damage we’ve done as a generation over the last 25 years, when we started with such promise.  Remember when we fought against “the man” and all his excesses, his polluting ways, his corporate greed, and his disdain for anything but his own bottom line?  So we changed the world for the better w/civil rights, environmental controls, and the uncovering of corporate shenanigans?  We were good!  Then we went bad….

Robin goes on to say that Gen Y/X experience their share of excesses, so it’s not just us…but gee, who raised them?  She states that there were/are those of our parents’ generation who have as well lived lives of excess….in contrast to ours, they were in the minority – and it was not a generational past-time to live beyond their means & consider themselves worthy only if they had more things, as it was ours.

Finally she says: “I know boomers who are environmentalists and live a simple lifestyle. Not all boomers practiced instant gratification.”  Yep… all three of them.

Then, there’s this from Harry Dent of the Miami based HSDent research firm as reported in the Newark Star Ledger, about how Boomers are the prime cause of this recession (as he predicted would be the case back in the ’80’s) – but this time for the opposite reason of the apology:

“Q: You said years ago that the spending habits of the Baby Boomers will eventually cause the economy to crash. Why?

A: This Baby Boomer generation is massive — the largest we’ve seen in a couple hundred years, probably since the American Revolution. They’ve been entering the work force, getting married, raising families, buying houses and earning more money since the early ’80s.

…We said 20 years ago, “Hey, there will be an end to this.” They’ll peak in their spending cycle after they buy houses, raise their kids, get them into college and all that good stuff.

Now, they’re just doing predictable things as they age. In other words, they’ll become savers, not spenders. They don’t need a bigger house. They don’t need more cars. The kids are gone. That’s what happening. They’re going to spend less and the economy’s going to get slower and slower.”

To Mr. Dent I say…”yeah…right…apparently you’ve not been keeping up with your fellow Boomers spending habits…”  We may down-size some things like our home space (although many are actually up-sizing as they “retire in place” and make room for children and/or parents to move in w/them), but we are not down-sizing our willingness to spend for things that keep us feeling good about ourselves. From ultra-expensive “cosmeceuticals” to high-end vacations, our penchant for instant gratification and determination to halt the aging process will well make up for any “savings” we embrace in other areas. 

And please prove me wrong, my fellow Boomers, but once this econonic crisis passes, and our portfolios make a come-back, too many of us will go back to our old ways.  We will be the first generation to leave less for our children (inheritance) than we spent on ourselves.

But all is not lost, says she who has so far filled this post with a quite curmudgeonly “bad Boomers!” diatribe.

I always have faith in my generation, it is faith in ourselves that I fear we lack.  We still don’t recognize the enormous power (for good or ill) we wield (lost track of that once we moved from our youth to becoming “the man” in adulthood), and the immense changes for the better of which we are capable if we put our collective will to it.

If we make driving small, fuel efficient cars the thing to do, they will sell like pork-barrel projects in Washington!  If we make it a priority to hold our legislators accountable for their behavior, we will have far better government leadership.  As the current corporate leadership, if we move from an emphasis on gluttony to one of benevolent leadership (as we demanded of those in this same position in our youth), we will change the face of corporate America.

So, Boomers, as has been the case for the past 40 years, the proverbial ball is in our court.  Will we use our collective might to fix what’s wrong today, and leave a legacy perhaps not equal to but near that of our parents’, or will be continue to ignore our power and by doing so remain destructive?

You tell me.