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Framing Questions and Making Choices

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Message Mary Pitt

The politicians, though they profess to ignore them, are greatly influenced by the national concensus polls. There have long been comments that the polls can say anything you want them to depending on the wording of the questions. It seems that may be all too true, because those questions do not include a real choice in the answer.

Of course, everybody resents the amounts of Social Security contributions which are taken out of their paychecks before they get them and, of course, nobody really enjoys paying taxes. However, if given a choice, these same people may find an entirely different answer to be appropriate. This was brought home to me recently while I was chatting with the young vice-president of our local bank. I believe I am safe in saying that he is a Republican because a Democrat is a rare find in these environs.

In discussing the liabilities with which I am struggling as the result of my husband's death eight months ago, I stated that people are not aware of the amounts of medical bills that are not covered by Medicare. This led into a discussion of the costs of medical care in general. Then I simply asked him if he would be willing to pay a higher tax rate and be able to stop paying the exhorbitant premiums for medical coverage which still require the payment of cash from one's pocket. After a very short period of thought, he gave an answer which would astonish any of our representatives in government. A Republican constituent who would approve a single-payer universal health plan!

President Bush keeps telling us that Americans should be allowed to "make choices" and is very proud that he gave the senior citizens the privilege of deciding which insurance companies we would allow the national treasury to enrich by taking our money on a monthly basis as well as the government subsidy for which to pay only a portion of our prescription medical expenses.

In order to do this, we have to talk to several insurance providers and choose which ones may offer us the better deal. In some cases, you must purchase your meds only from approved pharmacies. If your choices are limited due to location and availability of transportation, then you must continiue your search until you find one that will allow you to patronize the one in your area. Then you must go back to your physician to determine which medicines may be safely replaced with generic and which require the brand name product necessitating the payment of a higher deductible. Of course, there is also a co-payment for the price of an office visit to do so due to the patterning of Social Security after the practices of the insurance companies.

In every instance for the last six years, every time we are told we are given a choice, we find our choices limited by secret back-room deals between the White House and the big corporations. The next election, (and there are those who do not expect that to even happen), we may have an opportunity to change that situation, depending on who the Democratic leadership decides will be their candidate, and even that is not to be our choice.

Senator Clinton and all the Republican candidates cannot seem to grasp the idea of "Medicare For All," proposing instead to pass mandatory insurance so that, again, our "choice" will be limited to which insurance company CEO will be enriched by our participation.

Senator Biden wants us all to have "the same medical care that Congress has" without specifying how that plan could be enlarged to include the populace. Only former Senator Mike Gravel and Rep. Dennis Kucinich are willing to announce that they would support universal single-payer health care financed by tax contributions.

However, in a Congress that is averse to interfering with private enterprise, it appears unlikely that any meaningful health care reform will be on the horizon. The question rarely surfaces on any of the debates or television interviews. It may be that those who are conducting the questioning do not realize the importance of the problem in the lives of working Americans or it may simply be that the questions are ruled out by the respective candidates who simply do not want to be queried about it.

But the questions will not be swept under the rug and forgotten in the furor over Iraq and the economy about which they prefer to argue. But so long as Americans may become ill and may find that medical bills are devastating, and so long as people look to their government for the help that they need, the matter will not go away.

The same situation exists in discussions about Social Security. The cries of the young and inexperienced are long and loud as they insist they they can plan their own retirement without government intervention, and besides, that's waaaay down the road!  However, when one suggests the possibility that they just might lose their shirts in the stock market and have to rely on their children for the necessities of life in their dotage, they suddenly feel a wave of insecurity.

We have become a nation of immediate gratification. We want it all and we want it NOW. We have become trained by the media and the advertisers that greed and selfishness are the norm and tomorrow can take care of itself. The burdens of maturity are held at bay as long as possible while we clutch our puny possessions to our breasts and scream, "Mine! Mine! Mine!"

Unless and until we can have a frank and candid conversation with our representatives to Washington regarding a calm and sensible approach to the domestic needs of our nation, instead of substituting the desires of the big multi-national corporations to keep us in bondage to them, there is little hope of continuing our existence as a democratic republic.

For that reason, we must choose carefully not only the candidates whom we support but the actions which we can expect them to take once in office. These so-called debates with the one-line sound-bite responses just will not provide us with the information we need in order to exercise our franchise. The future of our nation, ourselves, and our children depend on our choosing wisely.

It's truly dangerous out there!


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This writer is eighty years old and has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own workung-class family. She spends her "Sunset Years" in writing and struggling with The (more...)
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