The no blame game

By Reade Brower | Mar 26, 2020

As we continue down the abyss working to figure out how to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19), a guest column by an independent (unenrolled) member of the Maine House of Representatives, Jeffrey Evangelos, hit a chord.

Evangelos could be described as a hard-hitting politician with a socialist bent; he is not shy and is fierce in standing up for what he believes. What impressed me with his column is how he made his points without attacking President Trump, something this columnist has a hard time not doing.

The realization was that attacking our president isn’t productive in solving this crisis. Jeff’s column, https://knox.villagesoup.com/p/a-message-from-rep-jeffrey-evangelos/1855302, dealt more with hope and a message this crisis underlines societal problems; for him it comes down to income inequality.

Even those believing, like myself, that 1% of the people holding 50% of the wealth and 10% holding 85% is wrong doesn’t make them a socialist. As a habitual capitalist, my belief is trickle down does not make our country great, it just keeps us going. Yes, when the faucets are fully open, the trickle becomes a small stream and society benefits. What we need is for the stream to become a river; one flowing swiftly taking all working people with its currents.

The capitalists can still control the oceans and lakes, but leave the rivers to the masses and it will keep the lakes and oceans healthy with plenty of fish for all of society. If you stifle economic equality, you leave behind the masses; that is not only inhumane but bad capitalism.

Just as democratic socialism needn’t be shunned, neither should capitalism based on humanitarian tenets. With a commonsense moderate view, both can live under the same roof and share a common belief system.

A capitalist can believe education and health care for all are inalienable rights in a society built on decency, as well as the notion all citizens should have the right to create a life they aspire to. Our nation, built by immigrants, was founded on this principle but has been challenged because many feel that to stay ahead, they must push others aside.

When we give tax benefits to the wealthy, we create unnecessary obstacles for those in need. Promoting educated societies moves capitalism forward, hording (as we have learned recently through toilet paper) does nothing but cause “haves” and “have-nots.”

My wife brings a saying into our household: “Blowing out someone else’s candle does not make yours brighter.” In fact, the opposite is true. The more candles lit, the brighter the light. The brighter the light, the better we all can see. The better we all can see, the more productive and happy we are as a nation.

If mindsets are to change, it hinges on looking to the light rather than the blame game and what is stinking in the dark and dank corner.

With that in mind, hope bounds eternal. We’ve seen many signs people are good, people want to help each other, and people understand we are better when united.

Being united starts in neighborhoods and spreads to towns. Towns spread to communities and communities to states. States united change the country — that’s where COVID-19 comes in.

Forced to change our ways or perish, many are digging deep, remembering their moral code. When relying on core values, we are better. When recognizing those we disagree with have spouses, children, family and friends, just like we do, it allows us to come together. Empathy is powerful.

Circling back and adding to Jeff’s core concern, the need for more economic equality, let’s add a couple of basic needs showing up on the radar because of the current hardships. Universal health care; we see movie stars, politicians and sports heroes getting tested while the general public sits in angst.

Fairness defined simply is “giving people what they need.” When power derives from money, the people who need it the least get the most, defying common sense.

Let’s start with our representatives and senators agreeing Americans get the same health care they do. After that first step, maybe some action mirroring “Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream” could be adopted. Those bold capitalist entrepreneurs set levels of income for executives capped at a multiple of their lowest full-time worker’s wage. Sharing in the success is not only a great concept, it leads to increased “esprit de corps,” in turn leading to more productivity and more profit.

When we learn, as a society, that the joy is in giving and that the more we give, the richer we become, we will make the kind of strides needed to create a society that provides for all its citizens and allows for those wanting more to take chances, work harder, and strive for more.

Capitalistic entrepreneurs are the ones taking the chances and should not be viewed as the enemy, instead applauded. During successful times they reap the benefits; during hard times, as we face today, they bear the responsibility that comes with ownership.

***

“Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, American writer and poet (1803-1882)


Comments (4)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Mar 27, 2020 15:37

"Twenty of the nation's leading economists argued in support of Medicare for All in an open letter first published by Business Insider on Tuesday.

 

"We believe the available research supports the conclusion that a program of Medicare for All (M4A) could be considerably less expensive than the current system, reducing waste and profiteering inherent in the current system, and could be financed in a way to ensure significant financial savings for the vast majority of American households," the economists wrote in the open letter.

 

"Most important, Medicare for All will reduce morbidity and save tens of thousands of lives each year," the group of economists said.

 

Dr. Gerald Friedman, a professor at the University of Massachussetts Amherst, told Business Insider that the best argument for a universal healthcare system is its potential ability to rein in the skyrocketing costs of healthcare.

 

"There's been too much loose talk that Medicare for All is unaffordable," Friedman said. "What's really unaffordable is the current system. We spend about twice the average for affluent countries in the OECD on healthcare," referring to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development."
https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/medicare-for-all-leading-economists-sign-letter-massive-savings-cost-2020-3-1028982592?fbclid=iwar3mucjbmb7kjjvcgtv5whnuhc4ielclggf4iatpkoyxfehswynkpzffgoa


"We're spending twice as much per capita on healthcare as the people of any other country and yet 27 million are uninsured, 30,000 people die, half a million people go bankrupt every year because of medical-related debt, and we spend far and away the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. You want to defend that system?" Sanders said. "Let's do it."
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/05/give-us-hour-msnbc-sanders-says-he-would-love-debate-medicare-all-vs-profit-system?fbclid=IwAR2tzHx4gfhDZEjBgaGxYsnz-i7SBuhRjJ5lV4KGaDhvhyyJGG-hizCCaM0

 

"As most Americans have learned the hard way, profiteering insurance giants, Big Pharma, and hospital chains grossly overcharge us while constantly trying to shortchange — or outright deny — care to millions of our families.

 

So, unable to win public support on their own merit, the corporatists and their hired political hacks are going all out to continue their gouging and keep control of America’s dysfunctional system. They’re now running a multimillion-dollar PR and lobbying campaign of lies to trash and kill all reforms that would deliver quality, comprehensive care to everyone, at far less cost than they can deliver.

 

Masquerading as a 'Partnership for America’s Health Care Future,' the profiteers warn ominously that such reforms as Medicare for All or a public option for health insurance would take away people’s 'choice' and our 'control' over health care.

 

Hello: we presently have no choice or control."
https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/02/23/lie-healthcare-choice?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR3nYvfCh8lQWRFpnmChtLyhdMX54W2SmXYQsSa8yhJdfUNSQEFmh143lEM



"...  anxieties around the possibility of medically induced poverty are driving poor health habits among US consumers. In a recent Gallup poll, 25% of US consumers said they or a family member had delayed treatment for a serious illness because of the high cost of care....  patients with otherwise treatable conditions develop worse, more complicated ailments simply due to a lack of financial resources — the fact of the matter is that the cost of care in the US is out of control right now — driving families into poverty and no doubt exacerbating underlying health issues.
https://www.businessinsider.com/single-payer-system-could-save-us-massive-administrative-costs-2020-1?fbclid=IwAR3YblC7R5kEF0dhiZguDrUsEWizQ0KpNjZ2OQMyjw4pG6oZnBA7GY1o3gg



Posted by: Patricia Keyes | Mar 27, 2020 14:40

There are several reasons healthcare is so expensive. It's a perfect storm of govt incompetence, insurance company greed, and the human frailty of healthcare administered by humans.

1) While companies can buy health insurance for workers as an expense, lowering their final taxable profits,individuals cannot buy individual personal policies that function across state lines with PRE-TAX dollars. This has two effects: a) It forces folks to stay in dead end jobs to keep their current doctors. This is WAGE SUPPRESSION, honestly it's a sort of slavery; b) they cannot move to a better job without interrupting/losing their care, because of then "preexisting conditions".This is loss of PERSONAL RIGHTS. You paid your dues, but a job change erases them. Policies should belong to the person, not their employer or the insurance company.

Medical facilities used to be NON-PROFIT. This meant that the board of directors were unpaid. They made decisions for the good of the community, not the dollar. Yes, they had the ability to reward excellence, but they didn't run medical institutions to make money selling aspirin and bandaids. Congress or the states, I don't know who, ended this status model. I think we need to return to that. Don't you? If medical products were sold to individuals at cost, while the workers in the hospital were paid well, it would have to be less costly, wouldn't it? I'd love to hear from doctors on this, or the accounting dept!

The GOVERNMENT is causing this problem, and it ought to be out of it entirely. The courts exist to hold up contractual obligations. They are the check and balance. The cost of government oversight in taxes is bankrupting our nation. We should be able to hold a personal savings/retirement interest-bearing account tax-free forever that funds those needs and can be a tax-free inheritance, to keep people from becoming tax burdens.

Rules made to pander to the interests of insurance companies are also a problem. There's a lot of malpractice out there, and insurance companies don't want to pay. This makes for an environment in which all involved in selling healthcare have profit motives to hide incompetency. For all the creepy predatory Dr Gosnells, there are plenty of good doctors that were tired and left a sponge in their surgery patient. Or great doctors who did their best and the odds still beat them. They can't be honest about it because it exposes them to a lawsuit. And who wins? Who gets the money? Lawyers. How about some Tort Reform?

Local volunteer mediators would be obviously better. Lawyering-up lowers the quality of care, and skews data relating to outcomes. And it raises a patient's expectations far too high. Hate to have to say it here, but we're all going to die of something. A little mercy for a surgeon who's been on call for 36 hours is difficult but, if a problem is corrected at his cost, then forgiveness seems fairly easy. "An eye for an eye" is the concept of keeping restitution to actual damages. Not psychological ones. Mercy. Tort reform only hurts lawyers. How about we stop believing the hype and put some effort into realistic compensation? It it's jail time you want, then sue for assault in criminal court.

Obamacare was a sweeping corporate win by the insurance companies. Under Obamacare, the rules were so convoluted nobody would ever figure out the shell game of it all, as it funneled double or triple the payments to the insurance companies, bloated unionized govt staff, and all the while care was rationed and doctors' pay was capped, which meant less payouts. Imagine if specialists weren't able to recoup the cost of their education because they were all paid the same as a kid fresh out of college? Why should they specialize? Imagine if the govt decided everyone should have to buy a defective product from YOUR store under penalty of law? I always grimace as I approach Boston. The tallest buildings, The Pru and The Hancock, are like two big middle fingers to the common man. No other business has the profits to raise a highrise like the insurance industry. It's the same in every city. When you let them receive the bill for your care, instead of looking at it yourself, you're just giving them more opportunity to pad the bill or pass it on to you. And there's no dept of healthcare in the Constitution FOR A REASON. Hypochondria is one.

Forcing doctors to work is slavery. All work in THIS country is done on a free will basis for a mutually agreed upon price. You have no right to walk up to a doctor and demand service against his/her will. Everyone who clamors for "free" healthcare is ignorantly demanding a doctor do work without considering that they have a right to set their price, or for whatever personal reason, refuse to work at all. Many doctors have quit the profession because of this. And a govt office worker in DC isn't going to come here and fix your bill.

Direct Care Providers, completely accepted and common for labs, physical therapy, nursing, and home care, is making a comeback in Maine as doctors are forming their own groups of specialists that will provide your diagnostic care for a low membership fee of $100 or more a month. Each group has it's own way of dealing with testing; some can do a range of testing onsite, some will give you a scrip to take to a facility of your choice for such things as blood tests, MRI/CAT scans or x-rays. But, halleluiah, there's not a single insurance executive taking a cut, nor an insurance premium hanging over your head monthly. If you want a policy for accidents/emergency/long term hospital care, it's a lot less expensive than a full care policy. Medishare is only $315/mo for a couple plus 1 dependent, and the money is sent directly to folks like you in need, who negotiate a much lower price for their scheduled care/procedure by paying cash within 8-12 weeks of service. Only 1 monthly payment per year is used for office staff to gather the needs and distribute them out to the membership for direct payment, person to person. This isn't communism. This is VOLUNTARY Giving. What other ideas could free assemblies of people create?

There is NOTHING less expensive than paying your own bill. While President Trump's impeachment was being signed on the floor of the House of Representatives, Trump signed a mandate that forces ALL healthcare facilities to provide you with a price list of their costs for procedures, tests, and products. YOU can now compare prices between facilities. YOU can evaluate your bill and see if there are fraudulent charges, and refuse to pay. YOU have the power.

But you say you don't have any savings? You need help? Up until the 1960's, doctors gave away about 30% of their time for free, voluntarily out of kindness. Freedom to choose makes the gift meaningful. If we lifted the burden of record keeping (there's a lot to it besides just making a bill), and allowed doctors to work for free clinics without adding to their paperwork, I have met doctors who insist they would gladly help. Especially in times of emergency.

For the rest, there is volunteer care/charity funds, which may or may not be up to someone's standards somewhere and may cost someone their pride, but it's FREE. On the playground we used to say "Beggars can't be choosers!" Toughen up a little. Any help is better than none! And there's non-profit charity funding. The government has made it very difficult for the poor and sick to access it, (or maybe it's the hospital accounting division?) but plenty of successful people leave large sums to hospitals for indigent care. I've never heard of anyone getting that help. I know one person who managed to do the 14+ pages of paperwork, but never heard the outcome. Very often, in times of need, people are not capable in their illness of pulling together the masses of necessary documentation to apply. Especially the self-employed. This is a problem. If you fall apart or suffer an accident, and you're self-employed and in a coma/mentally impaired, then some sort of advocacy group would be very helpful. Someone could start a Retired Accountants for the Sick non-profit and help folks fill out paperwork. Family is important here, too.

Families DO have an obligation to step in and help. It's a sad thing that with modern promiscuity, motherhood devalued, and fatherhood assumed by the welfare system, family ties are strained, broken down and sometimes non-existent. I get it if you have a family member who is so antisocial and disrespectful that you can't have them around. I've watched elderly women with heart conditions struggle with their love for a child who's presence puts their stress levels and blood pressure dangerously thru the roof. Who can abide a parent that neglected you or turned a blind eye when you were raped as a child? It's hard! But you can do the right thing. What about someone creating a list where you trade your indigent family member for someone else's so the problem isn't so stressful? It's always easier to clean someone else's house! It's not nearly so boring, you feel useful, and when it's fixed you can leave.

Non-profit status, tax-free health care savings/insurance, personal insurance policies across state lines, direct doctor-patient billing, tort reform, transparency of pricing, transparency of doctor performance records, removing burdensome paperwork for free care, for both doctors and patients - these are all free market solutions, they don't cost us anything in taxes, and promote direct face-to-face positive interaction with our doctors and neighbors.

If you want "free healthcare" you don't have to wait for the govt to "give" it to you. Form a group yourself right now! Stop thinking the govt is the only one with power to fix things! The best things in life are free, like FRIENDS. Government is NOT free. Office workers are NOT your friends. Taxation now takes 55% of our yearly earnings. Every govt agency, dept, district and commission is an incorporated business with legal rights to fine you, make you pay permits, charge you fees on everything, and threaten you with jail time if you don't comply. There's not much room left for selfless giving. LOWER THE TAXES, fix the institutional greed, start encouraging and praising charity giving (I hear tell the Spartans used to compete for who could give the most) and enjoy life, family, and friendship again.

Communism? Please. Go live in Cuba, Venezuela or Honduras. They don't have any problems switching countries when they don't like the leadership, if they're "allowed" to leave. Why don't American communists?



Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Mar 26, 2020 14:57

Thank you Reade, a wonderful column for this week. This is a dark time, we all have a better chance of seeing it through by looking after each other than by going it alone. The Common Good rather than winner takes all.



Posted by: John Alden Shepard | Mar 26, 2020 10:39

Well said, Reade..... and Jeff. There may indeed be such a thing as a progressive capitalist! Here's hoping that our current situation incites a minor revolution in economic equality and social empowerment for all citizens.



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