Okay, enough. Taking incendiary shots at the schmucks on the Right is sooo easy it's almost addictive. The tragic fact is, however, "brainless" can be an identifiable characteristic of far too many on the far Left side of the moon as well. And they're every bit as scary. These are not the folks who call in to the Ed Schultz radio program. Or that of Thom Hartmann. Or, Randi Rhodes. These are the folks who, on a dark, moonless night, are prone to just howl.
The originals to the essays I compose and forward are first posted at opednews.com; a progressive site that publishes articles by notables and the unknown, among which I consider myself as one. A few days, in reaction to some family medical experiences and an op-ed by Washington Post's conservative journalist George Will, "A growth lesson from China" ( click here), I penned "The call," which was renamed by the opednews editors and published as "Refusing The Call; Will selfish Seniors hand over the USA's future to China?"
Generally I can anticipate getting anywhere from one to seven or eight reader comments. "Refusing the call" has fetched an astounding 80 to date (10:51 AM, PST, February 8); far more than any other article, mine or others, regardless of author, professional or non-professional. As anyone might suppose, the overwhelming majority of folks who read an editorial, read it, then move along. Rare is the person who is so moved by it that he or she will take the time to write a comment. I've made no analysis concerning the number pro and the number con concerning "Refusing the call," but my quick back-of-the-envelope guess is that the comments are running about 90-95% con, with a majority of those running a fire-breathing dragon fever. A sampling; one called me a Nazi, another was an alliterative necklace of pejorative profundity (See, anyone can do it too.) that was devoid of anything other than a void. Yet others were only slightly less heatedly antagonistic.
My intention was to be provocative. And to that end, with the keen retitling assistance by Op-Ed News' editorial staff, I was unquestionably successful. But what I'd hoped to provoke was serious thought about an issue that is extraordinarily serious: How, as a country, we might prioritize our scarce financial resources and use them most effectively.
Despite what the GOP wants everyone to believe, Social Security is not at the abyss. Sometime within the next ten years or so (Timing made vague as a result of a now more than two-year long recession that has seen a dramatic plunge in Social Security payroll taxes.) receivables flowing into the system will equal the benefits flowing out. The SS pool of money, albeit ever dwindling, will not, however, completely dry up for decades. There is time to fix it.
That is not the case with Medicare. Medicare is teetering at the very edge. President Obama's 2010-2011 fiscal year budget has Medicare expenditures at nearly 13 percent of the total $3.8 trillion pie; the fourth largest slice behind Number One, Social Security, Defense at Number Two, and Unemployment/Welfare at Number Three. If Medicare expenditures were either holding steady or growing modestly there might not be the same cause for alarm. But medicare expenditures are holding neither steady nor growing modestly. They're soaring beyond control at a 30 percent per year rate. What that translates to is that, if not one more subscriber enters the system, within two and a half years, its projected costs will be nearly half a trillion dollars! In less than four years it'll be nearly a full trillion. But, beginning next year, in 2011, the first of the baby-boomers will be entering the system. And they represent the largest population bubble in world history. (Disclosure: January of this year I turned 64. But I'm entitled to VA medical care, and I'm not changing.)
George Will's article somewhat echoed what Obama has frequently observed: China's not waiting. Nor is India, nor South Korea, nor Japan, nor Indonesia, nor Germany, nor a great many other countries -- They're tossing every yuan, rupee, wan, yen, rupiah, and Euro as they can into education and infrastructure. The US isn't. The top four federal government outflows gobble more than two-thirds of every federal dollar, and not a dime is to either education or infrastructure.
It doesn't take that cliche'd rocket scientist to figure where things are headed, and who's doing the leading. Nor does it take that same NASA-type to grasp the fact that, unless this country begins to take much more seriously the need to educate our youth and rehabilitate our infrastructure, there simply will not be sufficient physicians to care for our seniors or adequate roads to get them to an emergency room either quickly or easily.
Ya can't use your seed corn to make tortillas this afternoon and expect to have corn on the cob next year. Or, more technically, though not much more, you cannot spend the same dollar twice.
Somewhere around his 80th birthday my father was the recipient of a corneal transplant. I've made it very clear that when I'm done using my body, whatever of my corpse is salvageable, for use by someone else . . . please, use it. That said, I'd be very upset to learn that any of those items went to an octogenarian, rather than someone much younger. The probability that they might help someone who might be adding to the bigger social pie for 30, 40, or many more years went instead to someone who is no longer adding, but is making withdrawals, and who the mortality tables estimate will only be able to use them for five or ten should be upsetting to everyone. That was a real life, honest example. Let's turn it around a few degrees. Say it's your child or teenager or 20-something who is lying prostrate at death's door, waiting for a heart transplant, just like your 80-year old grandfather or grandmother. And let's stipulate that both are sufficiently healthy to survive the surgery, and are good matches for a heart that becomes available. Who ya gonna say gets the heart, your child or your grandparent?
Last September my 58-year old sister was rushed to a Denver ER. She checked herself out a day later (The way things are today, it takes someone who's truly blind to the employment situation to cast judgment.) with five new stents and a bill her health insurance company had negotiated down to $55,000. $55,000. ONE DAY!
Somewhere around the winter of 2002 my 89-year-old, COPD-feeble father was rushed into emergency surgery at Dearborn's Henry Ford Hospital. Following the surgery he was upstairs in the hospital's ICU. A day later, not being the least improved, but comatose and unresponsive, his doctor told my sister (I have two) and mother that another surgery had a 50-50 chance of restoring him to the COPD level of health he was in before the first operation. The second surgery was as ineffective as the first. That same doctor then told the family that perhaps a third, also with 50-50 odds might be more effective. My dad died the day before that third operation was to take place.
No one in my family has the slightest guess what those few days and heavy duty medical attention cost. He had Medicare Part A, and his benefits as a retired Ford designer/engineer picked up 100% of Part B. This is just a guess, but I'm guessing it may have exceeded a couple hundred grand, adjusted for today's dollars.
Think: 89 years old, wracked with COPD. And everyone and their kids paid some portion of the tab. Either through elevated health insurance premiums or diminished budget allocations for alternate uses, everyone paid something. If you had had a vote, how would you have voted? A majority of those responding to my article dismissed entirely the idea of a vote as reprehensible. The overarching question I have is, how does pretending no issue exists contribute to solving the issue, which really does exist?
TRIAGE. Every emergency medical facility and every community emergency response team and every combat military unit in the world employs it: a hard-as-nails, good-as-is-humanly-possible guess that divvies up those requiring medical attention into three distinct groups; those who seem to be rather beyond medical care, those who can wait, and those who, if immediate attention is given, have better than even odds chance at survival. Those in the first group are set aside, to die at their own pace. Those in the second group are set aside, to wait for as long as waiting may be unavoidable. Those in the last group receive care right away. Saying who lives and who doesn't is tough. But it's an absolutely unavoidable every day exigency. Ya put the care and the dollars where they'll do the most good for the greatest number. Sorry. But that's the way it is. Adapt to it. Wishing things were otherwise is an unrealistic, completely foolish waste of time.