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.

RE: "An Open Letter to Obama" by Lou Pritchett

This letter, originally written to the NYTimes by businessman & author Lou Pritchett, but not printed there, has been recently picked up by bloggers in search of material to keep their base “mobilized” and as a result, email-forwarders…which is how I learned of it. 

So…here is my take in the hope of providing some needed perspective, on Mr. Pritchett & his letter.

On Mr. Pritchett’s “living legend” status:

Lou Pritchett did write a very successful book, and has made a fortune as a result, but that doesn’t make him the “living legend” he is purported to be.  By all accounts by the giants of commerce, the true legend of American innovation and business management is Peter Drucker, known as the “father of modern management” – to support this:

“The world knows he was the greatest management thinker of the last century,” Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric Co. (GE ).

“(Drucker) was the creator and inventor of modern management,” said management guru Tom Peters. “In the early 1950s, nobody had a tool kit to manage these incredibly complex organizations that had gone out of control. Drucker was the first person to give us a handbook for that.”

Adds Intel Corp. (INTC ) co-founder Andrew S. Grove: “Like many philosophers, he spoke in plain language that resonated with ordinary managers. Consequently, simple statements from him have influenced untold numbers of daily actions; they did mine over decades.”

Now, on to Pritchett’s fears:

You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.

A simple search on Webcrawler brings up 3 pages in information on Obama the man, the Senator, the Pres, etc. – much more w/a basic Google search – and that doesn’t include two well published books he wrote about his life & beliefs, which no other modern President did prior to holding office – the only thing missing is an invitation to dinner…there is just as much, actually more, information about Obama as there is/has been for any other President, living or dead – so we all know no less, and in fact more, about Obama as we did other Presidents

You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.

Go to http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/money.asp for all the information you want on how he paid for everything;

You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American

The first 6 years of his life (considered to be the most formative by any psychological standard) were spent in Hawaii; he spent 4 years (from age 7-11) in Indonesia, and the rest back in Hawaii – Hawaii is still a State in our Union last I heard…in comparison, John Quincy Adams spent 8 years in France & Russia with his father, Barry Goldwater was born in an AZ territory that at the time was not part of the US, & John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone Y there has still been no resolution as to whether that makes him a “natural born citizen”.

You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.

Neither did Ronald Reagan…

You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don’t understand it at its core.

Neither did Clinton (who the military loved…),  Roosevelt (FD) Hoover, Coolidge, Harding, Wilson, Taft, Cleveland, VanBuren, JQAdams, and John Adams, the man without whom we would not have attained American Independence when we did.

You scare me because you lack humility and ‘class’, always blaming others.

I’m guessing, then, that your fellow corporate CEO’s/CFO’s etc., like the Enron & Countrywide guys, also scare you, as they became famous for passing the blame and some of the classiest are now in prison or dead…

You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.

John Adams was considered a radical extremist by his fellow representatives in the Continental Congress, for having the audacity to insist on American Independence…

You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the ‘blame America’ crowd and deliver this message abroad. 

Humility, which includes admitting mistakes as Obama has done, is difficult for most of us, but here’s a few folks you’ll recognize who believe doing so is not only right, but expected by our highest power:
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
(Matthew 23:12)
Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
(Proverbs 27:2)
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
(Matthew 5:5)
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
(Matthew 23:12)

You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector. 

In fact, the only Western European country that has a government dominating all commerce (socialism) is….none…Eastern European countries rely much more on the old socialist style left over from their communist days, but they too are quickly changing to a Western (starting in Western Europe) economic system, based in capitalism.  Having a government run healthcare system, as does England & Canada for instance, does not logically translate to all commerce being government run….

You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one. 

That’s funny!  Adding to the humor of this one is that many of those polled who are against any health care plan under government control are on…Medicare…a “socialist” government controlled health care plan…or happily took (or will take) advantage of the GI Bill that offered government stipends & “unemployment funds” – government run…

You scare me because you prefer ‘wind mills’ to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.. 

It surprises me that someone who is known for thinking progessively, changing the way corporate America operates and which even more ironically is about change management, is holding onto energy producing technologies developed in the late 19th Century.  Taking carbon from the ground, and ultimately placing it in the air, makes as much sense as smoking, or inhaling fumes from a burning building – this is why people can kill themselves by turning on the car in a closed space…and waiting… The virtue of these energy sources (oil/coal/shale) is none more than “it’s how we’ve always done it” which not only flies in the face of his corporate thinking, but shows an unfortunate desire to stick with “technology” founded during a time when they also used mercury and lead to “cure disease”…

You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world. 

When he wrote this, we were in the thoes of the worst financial/economic melt-down since the Great Depression as a result of unregulated corporate shell games founded in greed that left millions losing their homes and jobs… and this is telling coming from a man who is a member of the 1% of the population for whom that goose lays those eggs (according to the most frequently used gauge of income distribution, the Gini coefficient, the top 1% of Americans take in 22% of all income, that figure was 7% in 1976; between 1967 & 2007, the lowest earners’ income increased approxmately 25%; the highest earners’ increased approximately 43%; the middle class fared the worst with an increase of approximately 24%).

The problem is not captalism, but captialism run amok, which is what Obama has stated clearly he wants to fix – this does not constitute elimination of it.

You scare me because you have begun to use ‘extortion’ tactics against certain banks and corporations. 

See “capalist goose” above

You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.

Gee, didn’t we say this about the Republican party when they were in power…which is why they were ousted by a majority of the US electorate?

You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people. 

Not considering and not agreeing are two very different things…he clearly considers…unless you include in this group of intelligent people the “birthers” and the “tea-baggers” and then most of us tune out, too…  In fact opposing points of view are aired and considered regularly, which is why the HC reform package did not go through when Obama wanted it to, too much opposition from both the Republican & “Blue Dog” Democrat representatives, and if you follow the progress of the bill closely, you will see the numerous changes made to the bill as a result of listening to these opposing views

You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.

You know, the saying goes that Caridiologists think they’re God, Neurologists and Bankers KNOW they’re God; from the economic facts before us with which we “common folk” must now live, it was in fact Pritchett’s fellow Corporate folks, particularly bankers & insurance company execs, who thought of themselves as God-like, making broad and dangerous decisions for us all, the price for which we all now pay dearly with our homes and incomes

You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do. 

I guess Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, The Free Republic, and the Washington Times, to name the 4 most recognizable outlets of the 34 most read/heard outlets (e.g. there’s many more on local levels, such as WGUL in Tampa Bay) don’t count as media…?

You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O’Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view. 

Wait…I thought the news media gives him a free pass?  And last I saw/heard, all of these individuals were soundly viewed/heard daily on their respective shows; Obama has spent little if any time speaking about these folks.

You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing. 

There is no such thing, as Republicans learned the hard way, as “controlling” much legislatively, particularly for the President – our Founding Fathers saw to that.  And Obama has a long way to go to match let alone surpass truly controlling behaviors like we see when health insurance companies refuse treatments just when folks need them, or cancel policies because a person has gotten an expensive diagnosis.

Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years. 

Finally, given the flack he is receiving from the extreme right (see “non-existent conservative media sources” above) after just 8 months in office, if Obama wins a second term, Mr. Pritchett and folks who agree with him will know clearly that their notions are not sustainable, so will have no need to write something like this…again.

Lou Pritchett 
Terri Benincasa

The Bail out…is a cop out

Why, you say, do I say that the wall street bail out, in essence, won’t work?  Here’s an excerpt from an article on this topic found in Money Morning, that explains it well.  To read the full article, go to: http://www.moneymorning.com/ppc/senate_agg.html?gclid=CKPn18iok5YCFQhdswodiCp_FA and subscribe.

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: Why the Senate Bailout Bill Will Fail Taxpayers

 

In plain English, here’s what’s wrong with the proposed plan and what alternatives should be immediately vetted and constituted into a new plan.

The Treasury plan was originally predicated on buying $700 billion of collateralized residential mortgage-backed securities that banks could not unload. The idea was that the banks would get the money, which they could then turn around and lend to keep the credit markets open and credit flowing throughout the economy. In the meantime, the Treasury Department would sit on the securities until it is able to sell them, hopefully at a profit. The idea, from a theoretical standpoint,isn’t stupid. It is, however, impossible to implement to any degree that will result in its intended effect.

Here’s why:

  • There are more than $1 trillion worth of subprime collateralized mortgage-backed securities out there – and that’s just one type of problematic derivative security. The bottom line: $700 billion isn’t enough. Period.
  • The purchase plan is not limited to just residential mortgage-backed securities. Surprise! What else will Treasury buy?
  • Who’s going to fight off the lobbying groups out to influence the managers that the Treasury Department hires to direct money to their masters? Did we mention that $700 billion wasn’t enough?
  • The government plan is even more under-funded than people realize, for it doesn’t authorize the full $700 billion: Indeed, it starts with only $350 billion, leaving an even greater shortfall. Did we mention that $700 billion wasn’t enough?
  • Treasury is going to hire banking-industry managers to manage the process. Those managers are going to serve themselves – just as they served themselves to get us into the crisis.
  • There is no defined mechanism to determine what price the Treasury Department will pay for what it buys. For argument’s sake, even if Treasury were to only buy the problem securities its leadership speaks of in public – residential mortgage-backed securities – there are problems if it prices them too low: If that happens, some holders won’t sell them, taking the chance that if they hold them long enough they will be worth more than Treasury is willing to pay. How will those financial institutions regain liquidity if they won’t sell the securities needed to make this happen?
  • Since Treasury can’t buy all the problem securities, if it prices what it’s going to buy too low, all remaining holders will have to mark down their holdings and take more write-downs and losses. How will that create confidence and facilitate “liquidity”?
  • However, if the Treasury Department prices the securities too high, several problems quickly emerge: Hedge funds will rush to sell their current holdings, and may very well speculate by buying up more securities to sell them at a higher price (profit) to Treasury, meaning that the Treasury Department plan won’t necessarily be helping banks directly. What’s more, if those securities are priced too high, and the market for them continues to fall, taxpayers will eat the losses – a reality that likely will lead to an end to further program funding.

While the idea that taxpayers should get warrants and ownership in the entities that we buy securities from is theoretically a good idea, there are some issues. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest potential pitfalls:

  • Foreign banks aren’t going to be thrilled about that; yes, they are included in the list of whom the Treasury will buy from.
  • Are taxpayers going to be limited partners in hedge funds? What if those hedge funds implode?
  • The U.S. Treasury Department could end up in control of our banks. Considering how well they run the government’s fiscal house, is that what we want?
  • Who is going to decide when to sell any of government’s ownership interests, should they turn out to be profitable? Will we own these businesses forever?
  • Is government going to control private enterprise? Is this a ruse? Are we heading into an era under the stewardship of a socialist government?
  • There is no direct support for homeowners in the plan and no support mechanism for falling home prices. And yet, these twin evils are the root causes of what has happened.