I’ve been trying to understand why as a nation, we are so divided about health care reform. You would think every American would be generous enough to think the guy next door deserved decent health care. You would also think we would be embarrassed to have our issues aired in front of all the other developed countries, like our neighbor Canada , who extend protection to their own citizens. (Never mind those socialists in Europe). I mean, the single SuperPower, the country I grew up in, is expected to set a standard for the rest of the world to follow. But in the past year, we have set a standard only for uncivil debate, distortions, lies, half-true talking points, and backroom deals.
Health care reform has ceased to be about health care or reform. Instead, it is now about money, like everything else in the country. That monolith I hear about on C-SPAN every day “the American people,” has taken a collective haircut in wealth over the past few years. No longer to we feel like the richest, most powerful nation in the world. In fact, we feel like China is eating our lunch, the planet is warming or cooling, the Islamic fascists are out to get us, and our children may not even be getting a good education. We feel poor.
No wonder we have retreated into our shells, a nation of turtles. Recent events have scared the pants off us. Especially events involving money.
We’ve spent the past eighteen months desperately de-leveraging, denying ourselves things we used to take for granted, and trying to climb out of debt. We are in no frame of mind to authorize spending on a single extra family-sized pizza, much less on an “entitlement program” that might raise the deficit, a concept we never discussed in the passed.
The deficit is the difference between the money Government takes in, called receipts, and what the Government spends, called outlays, each year. Receipts include the money the Government takes in from income, excise and social insurance taxes as well as fees and other income. Outlays include all Federal spending including social security and Medicare benefits along with all other spending ranging from medical research to interest payments on the debt. When there is a deficit, Treasury must borrow the money needed for the government to pay its bills.
The national debt goes up and down, depending on what’s happening in the country. For the last couple of years, because of the downturn, tax receipts have gone down, so the deficits have gone up. Those accumulated deficits make up the national debt.
When well-run businesses run into a downturn, what do they do? They don’t just stop taking risk. Often they use the time to invest in the future. The next time the economy turns around, they are well-positioned to grab a leadership position. Not that there’s anything wrong with paying down debt, but you can’t downsize your way to success. You have to raise revenues. You have to sell. You have to grow.
If we keep our population healthy and educated, then when the turnaround comes, we can quickly pay off our debt, because the deficits from income tax receipts will go away. We can grow. That will raise revenues.
Not passing health care reform is the flip side of fighting wars on two or three different middle Easts fronts at a time. It’s what we do out of fear. It’s not what we do out of strategy, or leadership, or even our Christian underpinnings.