Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Man Date

So, I'm watching/listening to the debate while I prepare for tomorrow's meeting of the Southern Girls' Supper Club (I'm the exception that proves the rule). My baking powder seems to be stale because my brownies are flat but I've lasted longer in this debate than any of the others.

Just a bit ago the candidates were duking it out over health care. The debate was heated and it's one of great interest to me. Senator Obama said that citizens may have seen their premiums double over the last 8 years. I've seen my premiums more than double in less than 4. Senator McCain drew a lovely picture of a health care system where one could, in theory, cherry pick the best doctors and the best prices but all I could see was how much money it would cost out of pocket. People don't have money for gas, how can they shell out more money for health care? I've said that before, I know. McCain also spoke strongly and repeatedly about mandates that Obama's plan would impose on businesses, parents and citizens in general for their health care.

I think this idea of government imposing borders and limits strikes a huge chord of fear in people. A fear of these proposed rules and strictures, which may or may not be designed for the greater good, is probably the single biggest weapon in the McCain arsenal. I think that people are afraid that the government is going to keep them from doing something they want and they hate to think that they will be forced to pay for things with which they disagree like welfare for the undeserving, social services for sensory integration issues like autism or even health care for people getting services they don't deem worthy like abortion or infertility treatment or, as one candidate mentioned tonight, hair plugs.

In relation to this election I've been thinking about a story about my ex. It's not a perfect parallel but I think it's pertinent and it speaks to me of why I agree with things like welfare reform not annhiliation and health care mandates as opposed to a free market approach.

JAM went to a school where no student pays tuition. The school only accepts as many students as it can support fully with its endowment. He had to apply two years running because the comeptition is so strong but he got into the electrical engineering program and became the president of his class. (I think he was president, it might have been a different class officer, we were already broken up I wasn't paying much attention.) Often the exiting senior class gives the gift of a donation to the school's endowment. Usually their fundraising drive states that they want to raise enough money to put one student through one entire year of study at the college. As JAM was heading up the drive for his class no class had yet reached that goal. Stating the objective he approached a friend. The friend replied, "OK, what's my share? Tell me what I owe and I'll give my full portion." JAM did a little research and a tiny bit of math and came back with an answer. If I remember correctly a share was $135. They took that approach with the rest of their class and they raised the full amount.

Now, I suspect that some students gave a bit more than their share and others were unable to give a full share. In a school like that students are going to come from a variety of economic backgrounds and will have differing abilities to contribute. Just like Americans, eh? However, they found that students, if asked to give whatever they wanted, even knowing the larger goal of reaching the full tuition for one student's year, they would have volunteered less than their mathematical share. Well, sure! If we could all choose what taxes we pay wouldn't we pay less? I don't know how much the materials and man hours cost for an abortion. I don't know how much it costs to feed a prisoner for a year. I don't know how much proper body armor for a soldier costs. Be fair with me and tell me my share, though, and I'll do my best to pay it.

I think.

It's complicated, I realize, there will be government services with which we disagree and there will be discussion over what things ought to cost. There should be discussions like that given what the government has spent money on in my lifetime. I'm sure we've all been witness to or participant in discussions between a teacher who feels undervalued and someone who thinks that teachers are wildly overpaid just to give one example. In order to come up with our share the calculations probably have to be based on percentages of our income. It's not as simple as they make it in that Kevin Kline movie.

Still, though, if you knew your share, wouldn't you try to pay it?


  1. I think yes. I would. I have. But my cousin who has been in and out of jail and still continues to suckle at the teet of his desperate Mother who offers it to him... does not care about his share. He thinks that he is entitled to it just because.
    So yes it works for me.
    And its beautiful that it would work for most of us.
    But what about those who refuse to pay their share. Zero dollars.
    Do they still get to enjoy all the benefits the share payers do? Or what?
    I love the post. I am squeaking your wheels and putting gas in your cause. But others would just like to take your wheels and your gas just because... they can.

  2. Anonymous1:12 AM

    I'm not a big fan of having the government in my business so when people say they want less government it sounds like a good thing. But what we have to realize is that so far they way republicans have reduced government has screwed us. They are the champions of deregulation. Look where that has gotten us: Enron, the current disaster in the banking industry, and ridiculous airplane routes along with extra charges for the extras - like LUGGAGE. On the other hand the government (largely the republicans) pushed the PATRIOT Act on us which gives them free reign to invade our privacy.

    I think our healthcare system sucks and we have to do something, but it does scare me to just hand it over to the government, given their track record of screwing things up royally.

  3. I like this theory, but it'll never come to practice. For starters, I don't think ANYONE knows was the REAL costs for these things are - wasn't there something about the military paying a thousand dollar for a hammer (or was it a toilet seat)? The approach worked for JAM (and I LOVE the pragmatism of how he managed his goal) and I'd love for the government to be able to do that, but it'll never happen.

  4. of course.

    but I think there is much mistrust. People don't trust the person who does the simple math. Is something going into his or her pocket to fund his or her pied-a-terre in Paris?

    whenever you go out to dinner in a large group, you risk this very thing. Do I want to split the bill evenly and pay for that guy's overpriced martini?!

    same difference.

  5. Oh Kitty, I'm so lucky, all my friends split things up pretty evenly. If it's super disparate consumption they kick in their share, if we're all close and don't care we split evenly and there's never any discussion of how it'll go. I did, though, once kick a woman out of my brunch club because the bill was always short money when she showed up.

    Chili, I don't think we can use this exact method and I mentioned in the post that it's probably more complicated to calculate but I think it's a good ideal to reach for, you know?

    Yeah you know Jules every time the Republican ticket talks about how much they want less government my eyes can't help but roll because their version of government has been so intrusive. I don't understand how they can reconcile the two.

    Yeah Gert there are a bunch of questions and details to be worked out. I just get worked up when people are all, "Why should I pay for someone else's road/surgery/food?" We're all in this together and if people are starving around us...you know?

  6. Still, though, if you knew your share, wouldn't you try to pay it?


    but as others have pointed out, there are always going to be people who say, "hey, you know what? with all those other people giving, they'll never miss it if my check gets lost in the mail."

    I once had an argument with someone about subsides to poor people. I said, "But you know, these people are probably the one who will end up caring for you in the nursing home at the end of your life. Wouldn't it be better for you if they had healthy childhoods, and were taught properly in schools, and weren't worrying so much about how to feed their kids that they were tempted to steal your rings off your fingers while you lay there?"

    fierce arguments come with fierce feelings.