The Difference Between Difference And Divisive And The Divisiveness Of Difference
I believe it was Winston Churchill who noted that Americans will always do the right thing, but only after trying everything else first. Score one for the later, great Sir Winston. We get so embroiled in debate and stances, so embedded in positions: we argue and cling to our arguments even at the expense of all other values and even our lives. We’ve become a bunch of bickering fools.
Freedom of speech isn’t seen as an opportunity to discourse, but an opportunity vent spleen, capitalize on fear, grab the podium, the microphone, the attention and the money. We love to think that we’re the greatest nation on earth and standing ovations are always gratifying but somewhat tainted when you give it to yourself. We’re a depleted society; unproductive, ineffective and unwilling to take responsibility for our situation, preferring to cast aspersions and blame.
In our lives, when we hit a down time, financial woes, sadness or depression, one of the first,time honored rules on the road to recovery is “take responsibility for your state.” The word is “responsibility” and in our country, we quite literally abuse that word and idea. We use the word “responsibility” when we mean “blame.” What’s the difference? “Blame” is concerned with who caused the problem, “responsibility” is concerned with whose job it is to fix the problem.
Let’s examine the health care / health insurance debacle: it’s not a debate, it’s a debacle. The fear seems to be that we just can’t afford health insurance for every American and pursuing that would be financially catastrophic. The fact is, we’ve been paying for it for decades, but haven’t been doing it in an organized, systematic way. I’ll explain why I say this, but I can’t explain it within a thirty second commercial that’s designed to scare the hell out of you.
A few years ago I went to the emergency room and fortunately I do have health insurance. A short time after the visit and treatment (or mistreatment in this case) I received a statement from my health insurance company and for those of you who have health insurance and have received such statements, I’m sure what I’m going to say won’t surprise you. I’m rounding off the numbers to the nearest 100, and the hospital charges were slightly over $5,500 and the amount the insurance company paid was slightly over $700. The hospital, being a member of the health insurance network, accepted the $700 as payment in full and I paid a $25 co-pay.
What would I have to pay if I didn’t have insurance? You know the answer to that: I’d have to pay the full $5,500 hospital fee. If I had it, maybe I’d just pay if off and the hospital would make a windfall profit, doing a whopping $4,800 better then they’d do being paid by the insurance company. Maybe I’d have to pay it off over time in which case the hospital would still receive the same whopping fee with interest and the interest rate could make you whistle.
What if I couldn’t pay the bill? Would the hospital have to take the loss? No, they’d get paid anyway. Bad debt is tax deductible, so lets’ suppose the hospital pays 15% income tax after all adjustments, if the bad debt is $5,500 then 15% or $825, is taken right off of the hospital’s taxes. The hospital doesn’t get the money “in” but rather gets to knot needed to send it out. The Federal Government receives less tax revenue, the patient who used hospital serves, if he was broke before it’s worse now and he may have some nasty marks on the credit report.
Yes, we’re already paying for it; in terms of tax write-offs, in terms of people dying because they don’t have insurance, in terms of wasted time debating over details when we haven’t even created a well- defined goal, a direction we want to go.
I hear it all the time, “we can’t afford to have health insurance for everyone.” Well, can we apply the same concern to national defense? We can’t afford to protect ourselves from terror attacks? That doesn’t seem too smart, you have to be able to afford that, there’s no option, is there? So the question seems to be similar for me, do we have a viable option to health insurance for everyone or not? Can we afford to continue as we have been doing it, which is, in fact, costing us in lives and tax revenues.
We’re too deeply rooted in divisive rhetoric to examine what we want to happen; too busy engaging in arguments over concerns about how to get there when we don’t seem to know where we’re going. We’re not only avoiding meaningful dialogue, we’re sabotaging it. Meaningful discussions take time. It takes time to articulate thoughts and present them, it takes to clarify points of agreement and disagreement, it takes time to come up with alternative, refine them and move forward. Why is it being sabotaged? I believe because the time that I noted is longer than a 30 second commercial aimed at creating confusion and fear.
This isn’t a quest for solutions, it’s a mission for power. Try to scare more people over to our side of the line than they do, get elected, and do it all over again. We need to be reminded that good, intelligent, thoughtful people can see things differently and disagree. That’s normal and healthy. The game is divide, divide, divide. It’s manipulative, unproductive, callous and bitterly destructive. It’s depleting us, making us weaker, and if we don’t redirect ourselves, a catastrophe of epic proportions awaits. We’re so concerned about decisions, we’re overlooking the vast ignorance upon which decisions are made.
We can change this, and I imagine eventually we will: after we’ve tried everything else first.
What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a reply on this blog or send an email to email@example.com. Thanks, Prof. Dave