Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Shared Sacrifice That I Can Understand

Last week in the President's speech on fiscal policy, he alluded to a shared sacrifice.  You know, something that we must all give up because we all understand you don't get something for nothing.  The President's vision:  "To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices.  But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in.  And as long as I’m President, we won’t."  Unfortunately, only some are sacrificing under the President's plan, and it sounds more like a transfer of wealth from those who have to those who don't. 

The circumstances the President and the country find themselves in are unfortunate.  But for the President, this is of his own doing, and I guess you can say that of the citizenry: we elected the guy.  Elected to make change, the President had his opportunity 2 years ago, but he seem to squander whatever good will the electorate would afford him in trillion dollar bailouts that got us nothing.  Now after throwing much money down the drain and with things little better and all likelihood worse because so much ammunition has been spent, the President speaks of shared sacrifice.  And it rings hallow because there is nothing shared and only some are making a sacrifice.

Ironically, I have long contended that the change Americans wanted back in 2008 was all about making a "shared sacrifice".  After 8 years of President Bush , I think Americans knew better.  Bush's idea of a shared sacrifice was  for Americans to continue driving their gas guzzling SUV's to the mall to keep shopping while soldiers were placed in harms way "protecting" our way of life.  I could understand the soldiers' sacrifice, but somehow my life was little impacted or little inconvenienced.  I guess I could have been asked to cut back on my energy consumption or pay more for my gas at the pump to pay for the war effort, but alas, no sacrifice.  Nothing.  Just keep buying - the economy needs you. 

Not only has this President squandered his opportunity, but his notion of a what a shared sacrifice is very much skewed.  The President's vision is all about taking from some so that others can have.  Yes, we are all sharing in the spoils of America, but only some are sacrificing.  The President says all the right things: "So this is our vision for America -– this is my vision for America -- a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and we provide rising opportunity for our children."  Sounds great but there is no shared sacrifice when you take from one to give to another.  

Honestly, I would have been more thrilled if the President stood at the podium and said: "If you live in America and have a cell phone with caller ID, text messaging  and a data plan and you don't have health insurance, you will need to make a choice: if you want health insurance, then you will need to give up your cell phone."  Granted this would have caused a revolt, but this is a shared sacrifice I can understand.  Everyone has a cell phone; they aren't a necessity, but most could not imagine living without one even if it means not having health insurance.  So if you want health insurance, then give up your cell phone; do it for your country. 

As preposterous as this may seem, this is real simple stuff.  We need priorities.  Healthcare or surfing Facebook on your smart phone?  If I could only afford one, I would go with healthcare, but I know that is not how the President and most Americans sees it.  He wants Americans to have their cake and to eat it too.  No worries let the one size fits all government take care of it.  Was he really serious when he said that government can wring out cost savings?  The President's speech was more of the same and showed an unwillingness to tackle the tough choices this country refuses to make. 

I have spent over 80% of my professional medical life caring for patients who do not have the means to pay for their medical care.  I have never treated a patiently differently because of their ability to pay, and I have never, ever seen any doctor do anything but the best for their patients.  Patient's will get the care they need - this is America after all.  We won't turn our back on those in need.  However, the time has come to make those tough choices.

Class warfare and redistribution of wealth is not a solution.  It is not shared sacrifice. It is perpetuation of the problem.  As long as our leaders continue to avoid the tough choices, our problems will persist.
And oh let me suggest one more solution.  The average family of four probably pays $250 a month for their wireless services.  This is $3000 a year.  $3000 a year may not cover healthcare costs and if it doesn't, so what?  Cut out something else.  How about cable TV?  No American idol or reality TV.  That surely would be a shared sacrifice!


hettygreen said...

Nice column this morning Guy. Thanks.

I have another suggestion (or three). Walk or ride a bike to work (or take public transit). Get rid of a car (or two) if you have more than one. Think of what you will save on interest, fuel, repair and upkeep expenses. Think of the healthier heart and set of lungs you will develop and cleaner air for you and your neighbor to breathe. Think of relieving the health care system of a potential future burden (you). Finally wean yourself off your credit cards. Keep one for emergencies and cut the rest up. Just say no to indentured servitude. There are many more ways to be a responsible citizen - hopefully it won't take systemic financial and moral bankruptcy for society to finally awaken to this.

Guy M. Lerner said...


thank you

not everyone can do all those things; that is fair

But we need prioritize as to what is important

Do we want to fight wars in the Middle East to preserve our dependence on oil or do we want to lessen that dependence? ETC

Dick said...

You make some good points, but what planet do you live on? You should try pricing health care. Good health care for a family of four, meaning only about a $20 copay per doctor visit, is about $2000 per month in NY. Health care involving a high-deductible plan, where you pay everything until you get to about $3000, is still at least $1000 per month.

The Farm said...

I believed in wealth distribution back in the 60's and 70's (and a progressive tax code - the backbone of our republic) when taxes were an investment of sorts that went to those willing to use the aid to better themselves via hard work and innovation.

"Back then" the group receiving the aid was ethnocentric and homogeneous. They accepted the money reluctantly and only as a stop gap measure to get back on their feet.

Today, America's immigrants and lower classes are part of a pot of tribalism with no heat at the burner who don't want to become part of this nation. They are not amalgamating, co-joining, but rather remaining as separate entities and cultures. There is no "America" to them, only classes of people they want to "get back at" and get "what they are owed." I believe it's in the DNA of the third world, in the immigrants who flood over our borders everyday from Africa and South America with attitudes of entitlement and deceit.

I say keep what we own, to hell with redistribution to people who don't look like me nor share my values or the values of my people.

It's not about taxes or redistribution but theft, pure and simple. Well that and white guilt. Sadly America will probably go by way of "Balkanization" soon, broken along racial and "tribal" lines.

Taxes are simply a way to fleece us before that inevitability happens.

If it's all the same to you, I'll keep what I have, thank you very much...

redfred said...

Reading "The Farms" comments really makes me sad about the state of America. We're all turning into greedy, self centered savages, looking to blame someone else for our problems as a nation. Be part of the solution The Farm, not just another scared, whiny racist, looking to blame anyone but your own generation for the problems the country faces. Don't spew hate be a real American.