OP-ED

Coming Short with Thinking

I am mad at congress.

I don’t care if they are Democrats or Republicans, I am sick of healthcare being treated as a political football. How much more of a crisis do we need before we actually start working on a solution? Why does each party have to sit on its side of the aisle shooting spitballs at the other? Each side has its pet issues that are tied to contributors, supporters, and lobbyists. Each side will work to see the other side fail even if the other side is right. Each side seems unable to do anything unless there is political value in it. Power is more important than service, and power is a short-term project.

The real problem is that congress is thinking of short-term political gain while sabotaging the long-term. It’s like the publicly traded company that works to maximize quarterly profits even if it damages the corporation in the long run. Our society thinks in the short not in the long, and our congressmen are doing so in a way that harms all of us.

I thought of this while I was in the shower this morning. I am not sure if it is the shampoo, but I have thoughts about blog posts while I’m in the shower. I was getting filled with righteous rage about the stupidity of congress and how they mimic corporate America in short-sightedness.

Then I realized something: I do the same thing in my personal life. I am trying to eat better and exercise, but that brownie in the break room looks awfully tempting. A little indulgence now won’t hurt in the long-run, will it? I start playing that damned Bejeweled game on Facebook instead of working around the house. It’s only one night, and I am stressed-out about stuff.

Perhaps it’s the soap that gets me thinking this way.

Living my life making decisions based on my immediate feelings is the same stupidity that infects congress. I indulge for personal gain in the short-term and let tomorrow’s crisis build. I have had people younger than me have heart attacks and die; do I really want my last night on earth be spent playing Bejeweled? Worse yet, if I survive and keep acting in this way, do I really want the measure of my life be how many brownies I eat or what my high score is on a game? It’s not that I don’t realize I should spend my days better; it’s just human nature that thinks in the now in ways that harm the future.

Then I thought about my patients: they do the same thing. My patients who are overweight, smokers, alcoholics, non-compliant, in bad relationships, neglecting their children, or hating others because of superficial differences – they are not all that different from me. They are not different from congress. They are living in the now because humans do that. Humans overcharge their credit cards to the point that they can’t even afford the monthly payments. Humans buy cars with money they don’t have just to get the warm feeling of having a new toy, and the joy of making others jealous.

It doesn’t justify stupidity, but it does explain it. I feel righteous anger toward congress because I see the result of their inaction. I see the harm caused to people by a dysfunctional system. My paycheck is affected by it. Congress can’t resist the brownies; they can’t stop playing Bejeweled. Congress can’t stop smoking, or stop spending money on credit cards.

So how do we fight this battle that is all too human? How do we get congress to act in a way that’s best for us, not them? How do we get ourselves to spend time with the kids, not the blog? How do I get my patients with heart disease to stop smoking?

I don’t know. I had to get out of the shower.

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19 replies »

  1. Not at all. It is not Corporate America’s job to grant or deny anything, least of all equality of any sort.

  2. Let’s see if I can sugarcoat the Marxist core thought with a little humanitarian “spin”: “A system where Corporate America can not deny to the most vulnerable among us equality of access to health care.” That more pleasing to your ears?

  3. Yes, I would.
    The statement implies equal guaranties for all. It does not imply that ALL is guaranteed.
    From Merriam-Webster:
    effective: producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect
    The “desired” part is what private money will have to buy.

  4. Ah. Then you would not second the proposal that “everyone would be guaranteed the same effective health care.”

  5. I am advocating a system where everybody has basic care and money will, of course, buy as much additional care as the wealthy person desires.
    BTW, productivity is not necessarily a good indicator of income and income may not be a good indicator for ability to pay either.

  6. Not to seem insensitive, but I really have no idea what you are trying to say. If you’ve been advocating a system where health care bears some reasonable relationship to income and productivity, it sailed over my head.
    As for China and the soviet systems, it has always been my understanding that some are more equal than others.

  7. How wonderfully Communist of you archon41.
    I believe this is exactly how things work in China and used to work in the USSR….

  8. The obsessional fixation on the notion that the burger flipper and the neurologist are to be rationed the same dose of homogenized health care is not only an “agenda,” but the fruit of ideological dementia.

  9. No, politics is not inherently evil and Athens’ fate is not bound to be repeated here. If you put current events in a long term perspective, there really isn’t anything too terribly unusual about what is happening today.
    Housing bubble and an economy going down the drain? Well, remember the real estate bubble at the end of the eighteen century? It ruined many folks and sent a signer of the Constitution to debtor prison. Greed and speculation and credit crisis in the financial industry? Not much different than 1792 and 1819 and many more. Bad foreign policy? Jefferson’s o-grab-me that ruined working folks and great fortunes alike, including the President, was much worse than anything going on today. And the previously very popular President never bothered to get his message out to the people. How familiar.
    Great orations and even folks beating each other with canes on the assembly floor were part of the system. Remember Randolph and Henry and Clay packing the visitor galleries?
    And the media today pales by comparison to the vicious pamphleteers of the eighteen and nineteen century, some of whom were writing from office. That’s how blogging must have started….
    The difference today is that the notion of Representative democracy is being assaulted by the Parties. We don’t vote for parties in this country. We vote for individually named people, who are supposed to Represent our best interests. The first allegiance of these elected Representatives should be to the people. Party interests were always a factor, but today they are the only factor.
    When a Senator, that I greatly respected, like John McCain can sit there with a straight face and admonish a General for wanting to end the ridiculous “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy, something Mr. McCain himself publicly supported over the years, than you know that the Party apparatus is now in charge of thought, opinion, speech and action.
    We are not dealing with individual bums here. We are dealing with two institutions that are locked in a fight for power, pure power, and nothing but power. This is not a debate over ideology and ideas, even though it is presented that way. It is not a debate over the interests of a region versus the other and it is not a class debate of rich versus poor. The current debate has no substance and that is why it is so destructive.
    I think it’s time to throw both bums out.
    I don’t believe we are doomed to repeat Athens’ fate and I don’t believe that inordinate civil unrest is inevitable either. However, I do think that our times are not going to be remembered by history as the best of times for America.

  10. One day there will be a terrible event, bigger than 9-11, that will galvanize the political will and determine a clear course of action, most likely for our survival as a nation. It is not healthcare. It will be economic and it will lead to the undoing of all the entitlements and all the subsidies and all the earmarks.
    When people left the safety of the east and struck out for the west, they had no guarantees. They just new they wanted to make a better life for themselves. It wasn’t for everybody. Not everybody left the relative safety of life as they knew it. Congress had no control over them. Congress did not provide healthcare. Congress did not provide a cart or a horse or anything.
    If we do not get Congress out of our lives and get them back on the country’s life, then we are finished.

  11. LOTS of doctors in this thread. Sorry archon41, but I don’t detect an “agenda” among the docs, but rather mounting anger that our elected officials are not minding the public trust. Politics is not inherently evil. The clash both of ideas and interests is about the only way we have of sorting out how to move forward as a society. What seems to have been lost is the ability to say “no” at some point, to sort out the strong from the weak claims on our vast but still limited resources.
    Congress is a political institution. So let’s not beat them up for being politicians. It’s what they do. It is also a REPRESENTATIVE democracy we have, not an direct democracy. We put those folks there to do what they think is best for us. Congress was intended constitutionally to insulate us from mob rule, not to become a mob themselves.
    What concerns me is that we’re going to lock ourselves into a cycle of “throwing the bums out” without anyone figuring out why we’re putting new people in.
    As repellant as I found the Contract For America itself, it wasn’t just a gimmick.
    It was like a party manifesto in Britain that said: “If you elect us, here’s what we’re going to do”. The Republicans who seem destined to regain control of Congress in the next two election cycles don’t seem to have the leadership or discipline to tell us what we’re buying if we go to the polls and throw the current crop of bums out. It’s not clear that the bums we have now are all that better than the bums we threw out in 2006 and 2008. Bum quality control?
    Isn’t this what happened to Athens? Slick rhetoricians, bad decisions about foreign wars, factional paralysis. . .

  12. I have learned never to underestimate the self destructiveness of individuals and institutions.
    The US is in a self destructive downward spiral big time facilitated by short term thinking inside the beltway and on Wall Street
    Main street stands by seemingly helpless,apathetic or both?
    When the pain of US vox populi, though, becomes inevitably greater look for more widespread acts of civil disobediance and general civil unrest.
    YES- IT CAN HAPPEN HERE
    Dr. Rick Lippin
    Southampton,Pa

  13. Doctor,
    It is not your job to get your heart patients to quit smoking. They are adults and only they can reap either the benefit or detriment of a course of action. They are free to live their own lives on their terms. If you have a problem with that, then you do not understand what they want from you. They already know smoking is bad for them. But they also know that quitting never stopped someone from dying.
    People should live free and you should help them do that. Care for who they are. They are not looking for a master.

  14. Someone refresh my memory: what’s the correct medical term for an angry denial of reality?
    Your problem isn’t the polititians and “special interests.” It’s the many millions of people who have considered your agenda and rejected it. And with you, there can be no compromise.
    I get a kick out of you guys, I really do.

  15. I am mad at Congress too, but don’t let them off the hook with the brownies analogy. We all do things in our personal lives that we know we shouldn’t do, but MOST of us try to do our jobs to the best of our ability. Congress is not doing its JOB, and people who don’t do their jobs get fired.
    And BTW, I am a political independent, and I blame the donkeys and the elephants equally on this one. It is the business as usual in Washington, where, as Gerald Seib in the WSJ put it:
    “it is the very culture of the capital, where every problem is seen less as an issue to be resolved than a tool to improve political position; in which every position taken by a political leader of either party is automatically and mindlessly assailed by the other side’s 24-7 political-attack machines; and in which lawmakers willing to negotiate a compromise are assailed by their own party’s activists as spineless or lacking in conviction.”

  16. Power is not a short term project, at least not in Congress. Power can last many decades for any given individual. Power, once acquired, is irresistible and that’s another basic of human nature. Power is almost never abdicated willingly and cheerfully unless it is defined as transitory from inception. Power obscures the greater good, assuming it was ever a concern to begin with.
    Eating a brownie and playing Bejeweled are things people do and I don’t see them as faults. There isn’t much point of living in constant deprivation of simple joys even if some are totally without long term benefit. Giving up one brownie equals in my mind to 5 more minutes of existence in a nursing home. Is it worth it?
    A “brownie” here and there makes life an adventure. It’s the forbidden little pleasures, the lazy days of doing nothing and the exhilarating risks, taken or considered, all balanced out with “good behavior” that make it all worthwhile.
    This is not what Congress is doing. There is no parallel here. Congress is committing high treason by putting their faction and their personal interests ahead of those of the nation they were hired to serve.
    They are not eating the proverbial brownie after months of healthy workouts with that sweet, guilty smile that asks forgiveness. They are gorging themselves on our brownies and with no apologies, while letting the corporate robbers into our homes through the backdoor.
    I am mad at Congress too.

  17. I don’t know either, but we better start figuring it out. Why? Because the lives of our children and grand children depend on it, that’s why. Congress fiddles while Rome burns. I don’t think this is just hyperbole. Our politics will kill us before a foreign enemy does. It is five minutes to midnight in healthcare and we need to pull another rabbit out of the hat, but I have more faith (by far) in America’s entrepreneurs than in Congress. Even with Congress on board, we still need to innovate our way out of this mess. Change or die. As melodramatic as that sounds that’s the way I see it.

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