The Dream Is Dying
President Barack Obama recently declared, "The nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism."
Tell a story? Well, there are a lot of us these days who have stories to tell. And far from reflecting unity, purpose, and optimism, these are testimonials to another sad reality: the "American dream" -- at least under the Obama administration -- is dying.
My story is not that special, though it is unique in some ways. My wife is a medical doctor from the former Soviet Union -- as smart as she is beautiful. A surgeon by training (holding a Ph.D. in medicine on top of her M.D.), not only is she extremely capable as a hands-on physician, but she is also a businesswoman. Being a doctor has always meant everything to her, but she also knew that state-employed doctors in Russia earn on average only about $400 a month. She, however, had enough of an entrepreneurial spirit that, after practicing many years in emergency rooms and in cardiovascular surgery, she established her own plastic surgery clinic in the heart of Siberia.
Over time, she was grossing a "respectable" $2,000 a month. When we married and she came to America, I was thrilled to bring her to the "land of opportunity," where, as a doctor, she could earn multiple times her Russian income. Earning her American citizenship, she dug in and started studying to meet the American medical requirements. That meant passing a series of exams, every bit as stringent as the ones she took when she first became a doctor. Over the course of three years, studying day and night, in what was for her a foreign language -- English -- she did it. She took her exams and passed. Now "certified" as a physician in the United States, she still lacks a license to practice medicine. That's because the U.S. first requires the completion of a medical residency program, under supervision in a hospital, that takes anywhere from three to six years, depending on one's specialty.
Bear in mind that not all countries require this for incoming medical doctors. In the European Union, for example, there are reciprocity agreements, whereby my Russian wife could work as a medical doctor with no further hurdles or obstacles in front of her. There are many regions in the world where a properly credentialed doctor in one country can practice in another. Not so in the United States.
Here, medical residency positions (of which there is a drastic shortage) first go to graduates of American medical schools, which of course my wife is not. She must therefore wait far back in line for a residency position to open somewhere, anywhere -- which never does -- regardless of her qualifications. These include training medical doctors in cardiovascular surgical techniques at one of the largest medical academies in Russia.
Now, after years of frustration, along comes ObamaCare, with its promise of providing free medical coverage to how many millions of new patients, including throngs of undocumented aliens? Respectable estimates are in the range of thirty million. Now, wouldn't one imagine that if the administration were really serious about this, the first thing they would have done would be to take some of that initial trillion dollars of "stimulus" money and fast-track the creation of new residency programs for all the doctors trying to get their licenses? Maybe they would even eliminate some of the residency requirements altogether and foster more reciprocity agreements, so that more foreign-trained medical graduates could legally work in this country.
Has the Obama administration contemplated any of that? Of course...not! There is not a single new residency program, and there will not be a single additional doctor in this country to care for the thirty million new patients. And "we the people" are expected to believe that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it"? We're expected to believe that there will not be "rationing" of medical services in this country?
The truth is, the new health care law (now upheld by the Supreme Court) isn't about providing medical care to the millions who can't afford it. It's about creating enough phony "compassion," via the biggest bloated entitlement program ever invented, to buy the votes of the "dependent class" and forge a permanent socialist/Marxist power bloc that will indeed "fundamentally transform" America.
Many doctors have already complained that the resulting mess leaves them little choice but to leave the medical profession altogether. Others have gone on national television (the Huckabee show being a prime example) to explain that they must reluctantly advise up-and-coming young medical students not to become physicians at all. They'll only end up working for the state, drowning in paperwork and, by the way, not making any money to speak of. Maybe they'll match the $400 a month earned by their Russian counterparts.
This is the message that I must now convey to my Russian-born doctor-wife, whose only desire is to return to the profession she loves so dearly and to serve as a physician here in the United States. This is the "land of opportunity" to which I brought her. Is the "American dream" still alive and well? Maybe so...but I'm inclined to think, as she does, that the dream is dying.
Kenneth L. Hanson, Ph.D. is an associate professor at the University of Central Florida, Orlando. He is the author of The Eagle and the Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ (New English Review Press, 2012).