Archive for February, 2009

The Fox is in charge of the Henhouse

February 24, 2009

During the great depression a lot of legislation was created which provided government oversight for banks, Wall street, the insurance industry, employee benefits etc.  It provided balance.  Government was watching the capitalist system and preventing excesses from ruining the economy.  However, no one was watching the government, whether it was over interfering, or not doing its job at all.  Rather than make the government into a better watchdog,  Mr. Obama now seems to want the government to just take over all these things outright.  This little old grandma is wondering, who will provide oversight of the government to prevent its excesses from ruining the economy?  Its just growing into a huge, bungling behemoth. Instead of a watchdog protecting the henhouse from the fox, we just put the fox in charge of the henhouse, and there is no longer anyone able to be in charge of the fox.

Is Patient Visitation Grounds for Gay Marriage?

February 18, 2009

Leonard Pitts wrote a heart-wrenching article about how a Lesbian woman wasn’t allowed to see her dying partner. He made a case for their being an outstanding couple and how “gay hatred” is at fault here. The woman had a medical power of attorney for the patient and the hospital had a concern for the patient’s privacy rights. I researched the case at length and although it is presented as a gay rights case, this really isn’t a case about gay rights. Anyone who holds the power of attorney for medical care should have the right to see the person at issue. Otherwise how can they make the legal decisions regarding care they have been empowered to make? Since the hospital erred in this case, they should be sued in my opinion. Establishing gay marriage nationwide still wouldn’t solve the issue of friends who hold powers of attorney for medical care for each other. This is a very, very common practice in the community, especially in this day and age when families often live far from one another. Particularly in the senior community, you have friends giving medical power of attorney to one another, and in these cases, the person holding the power of attorney has a right to see the patient and a right to the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions. This is an issue that is more far-reaching and common than gay partnerships, and “gay marriage” wouldn’t solve it for the vast majority of people affected by it.

Whats Fair is Fair

February 11, 2009

There’s been some talk lately about re-establishing the “Fairness Doctrine” whereby radio would be regulated by the government to make sure both ends of the political spectrum get a “fair” amount of time.  Can you imagine the government being fair?  Whoever is in power has control, period.  Can you imagine Rush Limbaugh on NPR?  That would be fair, wouldn’t it?  What about TV?  It isn’t being regulated for fairness.  I wonder why.  After looking at the coverage of the last election, the media bias toward the democratic party was obvious to anyone who was trying to be “fair”.  But there is no hint of regulating TV.  Why?  The Democrats are in power and TV is their best ally.  However, imagine the shoe on the other foot.  What if, after eight years and no improvement in the economy, the Democrats suddenly find themselves on the outside.  Would they be happy to have TV regulated by a Republican majority government deciding what is  “fair” (which means fair to the party in power). 

Leave free speech alone.  Anything else is too dangeous, even if our radio is tilted in favor of conservatives and our TV is tilted in favor of liberals (oops, thats now called “progressives”)

Getting Sick in Europe

February 11, 2009

One wonderful thing about getting older is I get to write about history that I actually saw and experienced.  As I look at our country, the United States, rushing in certain directions, I am both amazed and amused to find such ignorance of lessons already learned.

In the rush to “universal healthcare”, including the new federal electronic surveillance of medical records, we are truly seeing “change” of a magnitude Americans have never before experienced.  I know where we are going, both as a national economy and as a nationalized health system.  Within a few years we will be where Britain was in the 1980s.  I actually lived in Britain in the 1980s, and while I could quote lots of statistics, they are available other places online.  Because I lived it, I can tell you stories of what the reality looked like.

My first experience was touring the local hospital on a public information day.  We toured the Obstetrics unit, and as the ward sister (nurse) enthusiastically spoke of mothers being able to labor on the floor if they wished, I looked at the floor.  It looked as if it had not been mopped in weeks.  It was literally muddy.  Next came the emergency room.  It wasn’t full, with an overflowing waiting room, which I found interesting.  Later on I would learn why it was so relatively quiet.

I made friends with an elderly neighbor.  She had cataracts, and could barely get around.  I decided to help her with her grocery shopping.  Turns out she was on a two year waiting list for cataract surgery.  Once her cataracts became “ripe”,she went on the list.  Trouble is, she was quite blind before her name came up.  After her first cataract surgery was complete, she waited another two years to have the second eye done.  She eventually found a lump in her breast.  She was put on a list to see a surgeon and waited several months for an appointment.  She eventually had a radical mastectomy, but died of her cancer shortly afterward.  I will never know whether seeing the surgeon earlier would have made a difference, but the attitude of her caregivers was she was elderly and had a good life, so what.

I lived across from a children’s playground.  One day a child fell out of the equipment and obviously had a broken arm.  She was in shock and vomiting from the pain.  I convinced her mother to take her to the local emergency room, where they waited all night without being seen.  In the morning they were scolded for coming, and told to go to their g.p. (general practitioner).   Having lived in America, I thought it was unconscionable to let a child suffer in pain that long unattended, but this was how it was done.

A friend was in a motor vehicle accident and it was thought he had a fractured cervical vertebra.  They kept him on a gurney, and put on a cervical collar, but he was unattended for 24 hours–just lying in the hall, not being treated.  After 24 hours with no fluids, no food, and in pain, he convulsed and eventually died.

Another friend, in his 50s, had a heart attack and died in that same emergency room.  He had never had blood pressure medication or statins, although that kind of medication was already standard in t he U.S.  I actually heard a physician say it was a waste to give such medication just to prolong life a couple of years and have a person become senile instead of just dying.

So, look out when the government becomes your doctor.  You had better have good genes, good luck and good knowledge of whatever alternative care you can find for yourself. 

Britain now has a two-tiered health system.  The national health service couldn’t take care of everybody, so working people finally had the option of a system similar to Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and many are now using it.  Remember that the “Hilary Healthcare Plan” wasn’t going to give us that option.  A “single payer system” doesn’t have any other options.

Spreading the Wealth Around

February 11, 2009

Lately it seems I’ve been hearing more and more about the idea of spreading the wealth.  More and more people are complaining that there is too great a disparity in this country between the top “quintile” (20%) and the bottom “quintile”.  I wondered if there is anything more to this argument than fairness, and the reflex reaction that it must somehow be wrong that the top 20% of people in this country control over half of the wealth.  I read and read.  While I haven’t yet reached a conclusion, I found out a whole lot of interesting things. 

There is an actual measurement called Gini, which is an indicator of the wealth disparity within a country.  If a country has a high Gini, the top quintile owns a larger share of the wealth than if the country has a low Gini.  The countries with the highest Gini’s in the world change every year, but usually are poor, third-world countries.  This would tend to favor the argument that a larger wealth disparity creates a poor country, or keeps it poor.

However, as I read and read about the various  countries on the Gini scale, I found out a lot of other interesting things.  Among the countries that have a very low Gini (meaning they are “good” and share their wealth more equitably), they are about equally divided among rich and poor countries.  The Scandinavian countries are quite wealthy, but other countries with similar Gini scores include Ethiopia and Pakistan.  Clearly some other things must be operating here.  Gini alone doesn’t create wealth.

Countries I would expect to have a low Gini score would be countries which have had communism for 2 or more generations.  I was surprised to find out their Gini scores were higher than ours (Russia and China).  Some of the old Soviet satellites had low Gini scores, but remain very poor, i.e., Slovakia.

In a country with a low Gini (remember, this is good and means more equitable sharing of the wealth), you may have a very high cost of living—or not.  You may have a very high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita—or not.  We have a higher GDP per capita compared to Sweden and Denmark, while their Gini score is lower than ours.  One thing you will likely have with a low Gini score is much higher taxes and a lot more government intervention into people’s personal finance i.e., the Scandinavian countries.  After all, the top quintile isn’t likely to give away its wealth to the lower quintiles voluntarily, so the government must coerce it to do so with its tax laws.  I wondered if the high tax rate on the wealthy and the sharing of the wealth would increase growth.  After all, sharing the wealth is supposed to put more consumer spending into the economy.  However, while some of the more equitable (low Gini) economies have higher growth rates than ours, most do not.  Denmark has a very low growth rate right now.  Interestingly enough, in those wealthier economies which have established a more equitable distribution of wealth, the birthrate has plummeted, and now the country is in deep trouble as it tries to provide social services for an aging population which isn’t producing as much wealth.

I wondered if there is a cut-off on how much you can tax the top quintile.  I looked at the top hundred wealthiest people in the world, and they are generally owners of big business.  People who want to spread the wealth around tend to see big business as the enemy, yet it truly is the goose that lays the golden egg in terms of producing wealth and jobs for the country.  We don’t want to kill our golden goose for spite.  Yet, if we take money from the “rich” that would have been used for more business creation and gave it to people who would buy more consumer goods, which is better for the country, for how long, and where is the tipping point?  Kind of important to know, I would think.

Two points in closing.  As the mom of adult kids, I can see the envy of an eighth grader toward her high school senior sibling, who through hard work and a couple of awards managed to amass several thousand dollars to be used toward college.  The eighth grader would love to have some of that money for a new laptop.  The eighth grader isn’t currently able to earn or save any such amount of money.  What would be the wisdom of taking some of the senior’s college money and giving it to the eighth grader to be fair?  I don’t know.  You answer that one.

The second thought is that the countries with the highest Gini, where the wealth is spread around pretty well, the standard of living remains high and the government provides a pretty wide and strong safety net, the suicide rates are among the highest in the world.  Spreading the wealth doesn’t answer that question either.

This too shall pass

February 3, 2009

I have been reading the Old Testament of the Bible, the stories.  Stories tell truth in a different way than the other books.  Prophecy tells truth often symbolically, or it tells of a time yet unknown.  Doctrinal books tell truth directly and those books are chock full of truth and have to be read slowly.  Wisdom books tell the truth in often witty ways, but again the truth is compact and has to be taken slowly.  The stories tell truth more indirectly.  After reading many of the stories, one gets a sense of God’s truth through the repetitiveness of how he acts or speaks in the stories.  This truth settles slowly, almost imperceptibly, then suddenly you, the reader, realize you’ve been given quite a deep picture of God without being aware of how its coming about.

One of the pictures of God I get from the Old Testament stories is that God never lets evil just go on indefinitely.  Even though the evil is hated by God, it doesn’t control him.  Quite the opposite.  He always has the situation covered.  He knows what will happen and often directly turns the circumstances of evil into good for His own people.  Evil always has a definite end in God’s sight, both a real end in time, and an end in the sense that it is being used for His purposes.

The other theme I see is that God doesn’t allow evil to continue indefinitely IN his people either.  He will deal with it.  Because He knows hearts and attitudes, he sometimes deals directly through revelation to the person, allowing His grace to become a vehicle for change in a persons life.  Other times, he abruptly ends the person’s life.  Its quite awe inspiring, rather like watching one’s dad go to battle to defend you, or having him quite sternly rebuke or punish you. 

Nothing lasts forever, but God, and those who are His.

Crazy Love

February 1, 2009

I have written earlier about how we can still give even in tight times.  As I had written, I began cleaning out my house, and was amazed at how many bags of goods I was able to donate to the Salvation Army.  In fact, I’m not even finished going through the house.  We were able to give away a lot of really good shoes, either because they were uncomfortable or they didn’t fit quite right.  They may fit just fine on someone else’s foot.  Anyway, I was feeling all self-congratulatory last night as I filled another bag from another closet to give to the Salvation Army next week.

I had a funny thought as I dressed for church this morning.  I wanted to wear my favorite shoes because they look and feel so good, but I was afraid of rain, and of rain ruining them.  Just then I heard the weather report on the radio and it said “rain after midnight”.  I figured it was safe to wear my favorite shoes because the rain wouldn’t hurt them.

The sermon this morning was on “crazy love”.  The pastor talked about loving and “really loving”.  He talked about people who gave till it hurt, about people who moved to poor neighborhoods so they could better help the poor by being personally involved in their lives.  I was already squirming when he said he was going to throw out a challenge.  If we wanted, and if we felt comfortable doing it, we could come up to the altar and leave our shoes.  Our shoes would be donated to the organization Samaritan’s Purse to be used by people who were looking for work and didn’t have appropriate shoes.  My first thought was “these are my favorite shoes.”  And immediately I realized  that all I had already given was so much less valuable as a love gift, because I am giving away things I no longer need or want.  Now I was being asked to give away something I still wanted.  I walked forward and put the shoes on the altar.  It felt fine walking back to my seat on the church’s indoor-outdoor carpet, but as we walked out to our car–guess what?  It was raining!  By the time we got to the car, my thin socks were very wet, my feet were very cold, and in fact, my legs ached clear up to the knees.  I thought God must want me to understand what it feels like not to have shoes and not to take them for granted anymore.   Then I realized the irony.  The rain.  If it had been raining or even if the rain was predicted, I wouldn’t have worn my favorite shoes.  But then, I wouldn’t have had the feeling, now quite freeing and satisfying, that I could indeed give away something I still wanted and feel good about it.  Thank you God, I said silently toward the sky.

Of course, I feel this is just a start.  I have no idea what the pastor will ask next Sunday, and no, I have no intention of changing churches.  Heavenly father, change my heart instead.