Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Here I Go Again Asking Unpopular Questions

I don't always look before I leap. I don't always watch my mouth. I often say things I wish I could take back. I often email messages I should have read more carefully. Hence why I will never run for public office. I want to jump into this health care debate, but I am having reservations about do so. And here is why. I have no idea what it would take to provide an answer that would make sense and be fair to enough people.
If you polled (you know we're so fond of polls in this country. Apparently you can figure out any right answer just by taking a poll) the American people in general, you would get similar answers across the board on health care. What I don't understand is why no one with representative power is listening. Why spend the money on the poll if you're just gonna toss out all the responses? Maybe to make the American people stop paying attention long enough to get this bill passed and go home so you can start campaigning for 2010? Perhaps I'm too cynical. Last time I checked though, it's all politics all the time. Which is why a satisfactory answer to health care is not going to come any time soon.
I've come to the conclusion there is no way to run a true issue-based campaign anymore. For one thing you still can't win (on a grand scale) as a third party candidate--it's too expensive. And in order to find "consensus" you have to sell your soul to Satan. Believe me I'm all for our Republic. After all, town hall democracy only works in town halls. For a country this large and this complicated, you have to have a representative republic. It's the best way to diffuse power grabbing and to slow single interests that may not be in our best interests. That's why it takes so damn long to get any laws passed. This is a good thing, truly. However, the downside to our Republic is that we've high-jacked ourselves by special interests and two party politics. Most representative Republics are multi-partied in general... but back to health care. I guess I'll jump in the fray while I'm on a roll.
If we are truly TRULY interested in reforming health care, we have to decide what we are going to reform. Are we going to reform the way we practice medicine? Are we going to reform the way we reimburse expenses? Are we going to reform our insurance system? What exactly are we going to change? And of course, how are we going to pay for it? I think the problem with health care reform (and I've said this before) is that we are talking about health care as if it is a single problem. Health care is so multi-faceted it's no wonder the current bill is 1000 pages. Excessive yes, but not surprising. Here are some questions that might make the next bill a few pages shorter, and maybe a bit meatier:

1. How do we create a system of preventative care available to all citizens? I think this is the fundamental question that is up for debate when we are talking about providing universal health care. Meat and potatoes medicine. Well visits, vaccinations, health screenings, blood work, basic cold and flu. Insurance companies don't make any money of off this kind of medicine, but people without insurance don't have access to this type of medicine in a way that is affordable to them. Health departments and ERs and walk-in clinics pick up the slack and are OVERRUN with people without the money to pay for basic routine care. This is one area I think is imperative that we figure out.

2. How do we create a system pool that spreads the risk of all these health problems that doesn't cost a gazillion dollars? I don't think we can. I think a pay as we go system is ultimately the only way we're going to be able to go in the end. I'm in a minority with this opinion, but it's what I think. Pretty much you pay as you go in other countries who have socialized medicine now. The universal bit is the preventative, basic stuff. If you want treatment above and beyond you go to the States. Insurance is basically a scam on healthy people that disproportionately favors people with health issues, that is until they lose a job, or move, or can't pay the premium anymore. If we're going to commit to a system that helps everybody we're going to have to put limitations on what helping everybody means. And we don't like to do that in America--at least not on camera. The way we work it now is to allow insurance companies to perform criminal acts like hiking insurance premiums to levels that people can't pay, dropping people unnecessarily without warning, and enacting the pre-existing condition clause whenever the mood strikes them. I think these above-mentioned practices are worse than a pay as you go system. It leaves people in a lurch, without hope, and in debt beyond what they will ever be able to pay. If you get kicked off your insurance policy or you can't pay the premium anymore, can you get a refund on all those months you paid that you didn't use the system? Now that would be exciting. But that would be like expecting a social security check when you're 67.5 years old if you were born after 1960.

3. How are we going to pay for research? We love the research. We love the potential cures. We love the fact that so many ugly things have been wiped out or are now manageable with drugs. It's part of what we do in America. I'm all for it. Someday I may need it. But it costs money. LOTS of money. There isn't an R&D budget in the country that could satisfy an immunologist or a pathologist. That's what they do. They search for a better way. It doesn't come cheap. It's not because they demand huge salaries, it's because what they do is very expensive. Did you really think a cure for cancer would be cheap? Do you really think AIDS will go away if we throw enough money at it?

4. How do we pay for an aging population? This is a serious question that is only going to get more serious. We walk a fine line in this country when it comes to saving people and helping people live longer. Think of all the degenerative diseases out there can last half a lifetime for people. Alzheimer's comes to mind right out of the box. Think about how early we save preemies in this country--24 weeks now. Not only do we "save" the very old indefinitely, but we "save" the very young too. I write the word "save" in quotes because sometimes I wonder what kind of life we are saving people for. I would rather take a bullet than spend my remaining years in a hospital bed in a skilled nursing facility. And there is a reason a human baby takes 40 weeks to make. Please don't misunderstand me. I don't mean to be callous, uncaring, or insensitive. I would never do that on purpose. If it was my child or my parent I would want heroic measures taken if I thought there was any chance the measures would work. We've made such huge strides in modern medicine in the last 100, 50, 25, even 10 years that there is every reason in the world to try to save a person. Doctors are successful alot of the time. That's what makes medicine so hard and why I'm not a doctor. How do you make rational decisions about life and death? I tend to emote more than rationalize. I wouldn't be good at medicine. Medical decisions from routine to cutting edge costs lots and lots and lots of money. And we want to pay for everybody. Everybody. Everybody.

5. How are we going to pay for it? Please please please don't say rich people. I'm over that answer. Wealthy Americans already pay a disproportionate amount of the bill already. I'm not sure when America (the place people STILL to this day come to be all they can be and make a better life) decided that rich people are the devil. Not only is it oxymoronic, it's demoralizing and frankly unjust.
While I'm harping on tired old rhetoric, the lines about how criminal it is that the richest country in the world has people who are poor, who don't have this, that, and the other is growing thin and tiresome. Did anyone ever take a moment to think that not everyone wants to be saved? Has anyone ever tried to determine what poor means? Did anyone ever take a moment to think about whether or not it is the fiscal responsibility of the rest of us to take care of everybody?
Conservatives run into problems when they try to answer the question of fiscal responsibility. It isn't that their logic is wrong, they just can't sell the response. 1) No it is not every person's fiscal responsibility to take care of everyone else. But there are many people out there who are in serious need by no fault of their own. 2) It may not be our fiscal responsibility, but there is a pretty powerful argument that we have a moral obligation or personal conviction to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, or those in a spot of trouble, or who could use a hand up. Some people call that American patriotism. Some people call that Christianity in action. But then again, our President just spent a great part of his first 6 months convincing the world we aren't a Christian nation, so I'm not sure about that argument anymore. Last time I checked we didn't have an official religion or language, but I'm pretty sure we are a tolerant, Christian nation with a healthy dose of religions represented who worship in peace within the borders. I could be wrong.
The problem with the "who deserves help argument" is 1) the government does not discriminate between deserving and undeserving. If it did, no one would ever get a fair shake in the judicial system. Vigilante justice would prevail. Our founding fathers guarded against derailing a fair process by eliminating a deserving/undeserving argument as much as they could. 2) When money stays local, it's easier to discern the best use of funds to reach the most people. Now the government wants all that money and local sources of discernment are drying out. 3) Many of those we help cannot be put to the test because they are either children, victims of circumstance, or disabled. The part I can't figure out is how I am to help the people I am morally obligated to help when all the money I would use to help them goes to a morally reprehensible group of people located inside the beltway about 8 hours north of here under the guise of the IRS and some misguided notion that it is my patriotic duty to pay more because I make more.
So anyway, I hope Congress can figure all this out before the Summer recess. I'd hate for the momentum of insanity to be stopped by any serious questioning of voters. How on earth are we supposed to find serious, even-handed, long-lasting answers when we're rushing to pass a bill that no one has read!?!?!?! I tried to read it. I didn't make it all the way through. My husband thinks I've read more of it than most Congress members. He may be right, but Congress does have staffers to do that sort of thing for them. I urge you to contact your representatives and talk to the latest staffer about your questions on health care legislation. At least leave a message saying how you feel about it.
Meanwhile, I'm going to keep tossing up these random questions even though the firestorm of responses from some of my friends will reign down upon me. Somebody has to ask the unpopular questions right? It's not like I'm running for office. I couldn't ask these questions if I had serious designs on an elected office. What does that say about us as voters? If I were to campaign on the serious, untouchables of politics I couldn't get elected at all. Hmm, definitely a blog for another day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Celebrating Independence?

In honor of the 4th of July, I decided to write about my latest experiences with Independence. My boys are 5 and 2. These ages are in and of themselves difficult, trying, interesting times. The juxtaposition of these two ages is not only entertaining, but eye opening. I have forgotten much about how my 5 year old got to be 5 and I'm watching my 2 year old do all those 2 year old things for the first time (for him). It's so interesting!
Both of my boys can be clingy, whiny, all about the mamma boys from time to time, but mostly, they are fiercely independent little creatures with their own minds about how things should go. The difference between the two, is of course, that the 5 year old is much better at articulating how things should go and he's bigger so he can make things go his way more often. The 2 year old however, is not far behind.
Someday, my 5 year old will most likely be a hostage negotiator. I've never seen a child negotiate for what he wants like he does--with me, his father, his brother, his grandparents. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes it's frightening. Sometimes it's just plain annoying. Mostly I don't do negotiating unless it's something that doesn't pop up on the mom radar. Sometimes the order of what is done isn't so important as long as it's done. Sometimes, one more movie is okay with me. Sometimes I think he just likes to line it up in his head. My 5 year old is very methodical, highly anxious, and very focused. Maybe he'll be an air traffic controller.
The 2 year old, well, he's just so darn laid back he gets his way just by grinning that sweet smile and saying "cheese" for please. Those big old apple cheeks and dimples with that tow head of hair get me every time. He'll probably be a movie star or something. We should have named him Ham. "No" has been a favorite word for a while now. And when he's really really pissed about something he'll screw up those little eyes and turn his head and get all red in the face. WATCH OUT. He's also become quite the slugger. I'm waiting for the day he takes down big brother. Then it will be game on.
Anyway, about that independence thing. My boys buck authority about as good as any kids I know. I don't quite know what to do with that. Do I celebrate their desire to do it their own way? Should I be secretly glad that I can't lead them around by the nose? Is this muscle flexing a testosterone thing that they don't know how to deal with yet? I'm asking a serious question because the way I've been dealing with it isn't working. The sass is getting bigger and the spanking pretty much entices them to hit back--on each other. It's pretty stupid logic to whack your kid and say "don't hit your brother". But I'm telling you after about 3 minutes of a constant stream of whine and back talk, you just about have to tie my backhand down. I'm learning that forcing my hand is not the way I want to go about this. It doesn't provide me with any satisfaction because a) the lesson wasn't learned, and b) it's pretty obvious I'm not a good example of self-control.
So, HELP! All you mammas with kids who lived to be 6, let me know what worked for you. In the mean time, I'll continue doing my dance and praying for perseverance. If I don't keel over from my own anxiety attack, I'm throwing myself a party when the baby turns six.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why I love the 4th of July

Yes, it sounds like a sixth grade essay title doesn't it? Maybe I'll think of something snazzier as I write. I'm leaving in a couple of hours for North Carolina to celebrate the 4th of July. I love this holiday. It's just so dang American. I have to say I have always always made a point of celebrating the 4th. Perhaps because tradition in my family dictates it, or maybe just because I have a thing for fireworks. I don't know. As far back as I can remember we have always celebrated the 4th. And almost every year of my life, I've celebrated it at Badin Lake. Of course, that was before I got married and moved away. This year though, we're going to Badin. I'm pretty excited about it.
When I was younger, we'd spend the entire week before cleaning up for our friends or family to come. My mom would cook and peel and slice and stock until her hands were about to fall off. My sister and I would clean the boats with Fantastik and 409 until we turned black on our arms and legs. My dad would get under the pier and knock off the fish eggs and attempt to de-slime everything. We would go all over the lake borrowing life jackets so we would have enough for everybody.
By midmorning of the 4th we were ready! By lunch time our friends (or in the early years our extended family) would arrive. It was such a great time. I would drink about 8 or 9 Dr. peppers in about 24 hours--which thrilled me to the core, because I wasn't normally allowed to drink that much coke (or soda whatever y'all call it). We'd cut about 6 watermelons and eat them on the pier (my dad would come behind us and toss buckets of lake water on the dock to clean it off). We'd sneak out later and toss the rinds in the woods.
About dark when we were all exhausted, sunburned, tired, and well-fed, those of us left would jockey for the best seat on the boat and head out to the fireworks. Inevitably I was always the one who had to ride in the back and hold the light (it wouldn't work unless you held it a certain way with your mouth open). Spitting bugs and spitting mad, I would hold the light while we drove. It was always me, because I was the older kid, I would do what I was told, and my arms were the longest (never be the oldest, most obedient, and tallest girl in the group).
Now that I'm grown and I have my own kids. The last 10 or 12 years I've been accumulating newer 4th memories. There is the one I spent with my best friend in Boston. Fireworks and Pops on the River was an awesome experience, plus her family is something else. We had a great time. Then there is the one I spent at Patrick Henry Village near Heidelberg, Germany (a military base of sorts). I was determined to find a place to celebrate the 4th properly while abroad! Then there was the one in Iowa City. We covered our 1 month old (at the time) with mosquito netting and set out for the city ball fields for the fireworks. So I celebrated with Middle America once too! The last 3 years we've celebrated here in our small town by watching the town parade with friends and going to the Lion's Club barbeque at the town park. Then we return to the fairway on number 7 to watch fireworks at night. It's a big block party on the golf course complete with contraband beer, lawn chairs, bug spray, and really tired toddlers running around in glow-in-the-dark necklaces so we kind find them later.
Anyway, the 4th of July is one of my favorite sense memories. It's more of a collective memory over about 30 years worth of memories. I am excited to be going home (while I didn't grow up on Badin itself, I went there all summer all my life at home). I hope my boys will have as much fun as I did. I plan too! And if you're at Badin this weekend, y'all come.