January 2, 2010
Self-Inflicted Health Care CostsBy Rich Lindbloom
Part of the solution to the quixotic health care bill being proposed by the enlightened public servants in Washington can be found in a reflective consideration of dental floss. One of my friends, who actually did move to Montana, became a dentist back in the late '70s. Montana Bob told me, "Bloom, the best thing you can do to prevent dental disease is to regularly floss your teeth." His next statement: "But I know you won't. Nobody does. You'll eventually come to me and make me rich." That more than a grain of truth to it.
Before we delve into the insight that can be obtained by considering Shakespeare's daily query -- "To floss or not to floss, that is the question" -- I must weigh in on the health care debates that seem to be exposing a deep-seated mistrust of our elected officials. For these "public servants" to call concerned citizens "angry mobs" or "right-wing extremists" is not only an attempt to deny the middle class a voice in the debate, but to question our intelligence.
I resent being classified as an extremist just because I have deep reservations about handing over 16% of the national economy to officials who know nothing of reducing costs or running a profitable business. The fact that everyone in Washington seems oblivious to the 11.5-trillion-dollar debt doesn't help to decrease "the angry mobs'" mistrust of our legislators. The leaders of the Democratic Party keep parrying the objections to their hastily thrown together plans by accusing the right of using "scare tactics." Believe me, I don't need to play the boogeyman. The debt our nation has and continues to amass is more than frightening enough.
It would be quite wise for the Democratic leadership to immediately cease and desist from statements similar to President Obama's "[t]he ruckus over the issue on TV didn't reflect conversations around the nation." Mr. President, you are so out of touch when you make that assessment. If you listen, you'll find that it's as plain as the nose on your face. The middle class is examining your mercurial positions, reading extensively, and questioning the direction on which you intend to set "our" nation. In your stupefying arrogance, you have awakened a sleeping giant: "We the People." In your grandiose redistribution theories, you seem to have taken us for granted.
I believe that every American needs to be able to state the following statistics from memory. Unfortunately, until the Democrats' inadvertent "great awakening" of the middle class, I would guess that one out of ten people could regurgitate these indigestible numbers.
1. Our national debt is a staggering 11.5 trillion dollars.
2. The budget in 2008 was $2.9 trillion.
3. The interest portion that was budgeted in 2008 was $250 billion. Think about this for a moment: $684,931,506.85 dollars per day go toward paying interest on the debt!
4. The proposed budget for 2009 was $4 trillion. And climbing.
5. Total receipts, almost exclusively from taxes in 2008, were $2.66 trillion. I'm not a Rhodes Scholar, but the numbers not only don't add up, but they're a Hitchcockian nightmare.
Before we add the crushing debt that a national health care plan most certainly will produce, we'd better make sure that the cure is not worse than the disease. With the current economic malaise were trudging through, tax receipts this year will most certainly be less than what they were in 2008. Banking on tax receipts increasing every year is similar to people stating that real estate will always increase in value. How did that premise work out for everyone last year? From a distance, it appears that our "public servants" are leading us into a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff blush. Remember, our children and grandchildren are going to be pulverized at the bottom of that pyramid.
So is there a solution to the seemingly intractable health care dilemma? Anyone who's read or watched even a modicum of the various debates on the issues know we have to deal with the illegal alien drain, insurance issues such as portability, state confined policies, and preexisting conditions. Pharmaceutical costs must be reigned in. Tort reform is a must. The uninsured must be able to get affordable insurance. However, who in his right mind believes that government has the solution? Who believes that we can possibly solve all the problems at once?
There is one area I haven't mentioned that could be addressed immediately without substantial cost or effort on the government's part. I promised to get back to the topic of dental floss. By reflecting on that "little white box that I could sell uptown," I believe great insight can be gleaned in regards to the health care impasse. It's rather apparent that a huge part of the problem is our growing dependence on miracle cures for our irresponsible lifestyle choices.
At a party recently, I asked about ten people if they regularly flossed their teeth. Only one claimed to floss more than once a week, although he said the frequency picks up a few weeks before a dental visit. I bring this up because millions of people ignore one of the most cost-effective ways of preventing dental disease. It's quite easy to extrapolate the insight gained from "waxing it up and waxing it down" to other areas of our health care. Personal responsibility seems to be a taboo word in Washington. It generally doesn't win you many votes.
How many of our health issues are self-inflicted? Obesity, drug and alcohol addiction, smoking, eating fast food, and the sedentary lifestyle of the boob tube are all areas that could be remedied by the individual. Divorce, sexually transmitted diseases, and out-of-wedlock children (where a father procreates and then decides to abdicate any responsibility) are all choices at the individual level. They all add enormously to the health care dilemma. A huge chunk of the cost of our health care could be remedied if people adhered to the age-old adage: "Physician, heal thyself."
As Montana Bob noted so many moons ago, though: "I know you won't. Nobody does..." So we're left with people clamoring for a free ride. We already have two government health programs that insure approximately 80 million Americans. Their track record is less than stellar. Medicare's and Medicaid's solution to the problem has left us with an approximate 36-trillion-dollar bill for underfunded obligations that will eventually have to be met. It's another statistic that the middle class would be wise to inculcate before believing the fairy tales emanating from Capitol Hill.
In conclusion, if my ramblings seem a bit incoherent, it could be due to the fact that I nibbled on a bit too much sponge cake at a Mexican restaurant on Saturday. (Yes, I know -- it was obviously not a choice that increased my health.) However, even under the evil influences of a couple of margaritas, I can tell that a government-run health care system would have more holes in it than Swiss cheese. The fact that we're seriously considering a government solution is far from humorous. However, as Mr. James Buffet sings: "If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane." Did you hear the one about a cost-efficient government program? If you can't laugh, then drink two margaritas and call me in the morning.