February 10, 2009
Altruism: the most profitable gig in AmericaBy Matt Spivey
There are three major professions in America that have a reputation for being the most helpful, hard working, and compassionate for its clients. These professions require a higher level of education and/or knowledge than other jobs and are usually compensated accordingly. These professions tend to be some of the most scrutinized jobs in America, but also tend to be the most respected.
The majority of the public has become convinced that these professions are not only necessary, which they are, but that these professions need to be publicly funded, which they do not. These professions are not only prestigious, but also a problem. And the altruistic reputations these occupations promote should be viewed with extreme skepticism.
Politicians, teachers, and healthcare providers seem to always be in the middle of economic controversy. Our government takes a large portion of our salaries, yet many want us to give more. Teachers do just fine as middle-class employees, yet most will say they are underpaid. Doctors and hospital administrators could be wealthy on their own, but charge more to compensate for insurance adjustments, Medicaid benefits, and malpractice liability.
The problem is not the money these workers earn -- most of us believe in getting what you can get. Rather, it is the presentation of a prideful purpose. Politicians are always passionate about being "public servants" for their citizens, teachers are always in it "for the kids," and healthcare providers are always concerned with "treating the sick" and "bringing comfort to the infirmed."
Are these employees worth what they earn? Yes, usually. Do these workers help our American system function in a safer and fairer manner? Absolutely. Of course we need politicians representing our legal interests, we need teachers helping our children, and we need doctors curing our illnesses.
But if politicians only cared about public service, they would work for minimum wage, or even nothing at all. If teachers only cared about the kids as much as they say, strikes and unionization would vanish. And if healthcare providers only cared about helping people, an overwhelming number of free or cash-only clinics would pop up across the nation.
But rarely are these jobs solely about compassionate motives. Words, in many cases, aren't matching actions. And these occupations certainly don't need our money in the quantities that our new "stimulus" package intends.
Our nation's major concern in the last few months, at least I thought, was unemployment and the need for new job creation. However, the new package proposed by President Obama and his Democrat supporters in Congress hopes to send billions in funds to industries that are not exactly having dire unemployment issues. Even the liberal Huffington Post admits that the fields of education, healthcare, and government were among the very few in which job creation went up at the end of 2008.
So the truth is out that this package is not simply about job creation. Therefore, the bill must be about getting the economy going by provided incentives in business production and consumer spending...right?
Unfortunately, our altruistic professions appear again as unwarranted financial recipients, as the Committee on Appropriations report shows that the new "stimulus" package includes a variety of "un-stimulating" spending.
$41 billion in grants to local school districts
$79 billion in fiscal relief to prevent cuts in state aid
$21 billion in school modernization
$39 billion in subsidies to health insurance for unemployed (Medicaid)
$87 billion more for help to states with Medicaid
$20 billion for modernizing health-information technology systems
$4.1 billion for preventative care
That's nearly $300 billion targeted for two industries that have minimal influence on job creation or improving our sluggish stock market. I had no idea that sick people and third graders were such heavy spenders for "stimulating" our economy.
Many may think this an exaggeration or that I'm not familiar with these industries. However, I am a tax-paying citizen, I occasionally visit a doctor, and I proudly earn my more-than-reasonable living as a public school teacher. And anyone in America can easily verify by three social truths: the government spends, doctors charge, and teachers talk -- each of them too much. I recently invested in a bailout package I didn't want, I was charged $500 for a ten minute hearing test a while back, and I cover my ears and mouth upon entering any teacher's lounge. This isn't overreaction -- this is reality.
So where will this "stimulus" package lead? Who will be the real beneficiaries?
President Obama promised change, and liberals clamor for bipartisanship. But if they want Republicans to get behind their ideas, some drastic changes will need to be made. And reducing spending in the fields of government, healthcare, and education is a good first step. Altruism is dying in our country, even in the best of American professions, and how we view finance provides one of the truest insights into our character. So be careful of those who complain about it too much. They are usually the first ones to say it's not about the money.