Obamacare and the Death of American Value


I understand the thought behind Obamacare. I am thankful that my wife and I will be able to afford healthcare under the plan, as our multiple part-time jobs don’t provide it. However, it would be unfair to take my personal situation, or any other, and extrapolate it into a blanket judgment of good or bad for the program. The economy of healthcare is far too complex to allow my personal emotions to come into any opinion on it. Objectivity, as painful and impossible as it is, remains the best goal for my thoughts on the subject.

Idealist, free-market capitalism really does resonate with me. I realize that I need to get off my behind and provide something that someone else needs. Otherwise, how can I expect to take food, shelter, shoes, and Internet from a society that works hard to provide them? It’s a matter of doing my part, working to the best of my innate and developed capacities, to make this life a little easier for someone else. I do this by transcribing class lectures for hard-of-hearing students in a university setting, and by teaching private music lessons to elementary-aged children. When I’m on, I’m on, and I work pretty hard at these things. I should. I could work harder, though.

I seem to have been gifted with some pretty strong innate capacities. I’ve also been given the environment in which I could develop those capacities to a pretty reasonable level. I’m thankful for the power that’s been given to me through my innate capacities and my environment. I also recognize that with that, as they said in Spiderman, great power comes with great responsibility. I have to work. I have to write, transcribe, and teach. I should always be on the front edge of what I can do and what I’m comfortable with. I can’t sit on these talents or bury them in the ground out of feelings of inadequacy. So teaching stretches me? I start from my perceived inadequacy. I start with the first moment of response to whatever my student brings in. It doesn’t matter that I don’t consider myself a teacher; my students and my paycheck consider me a teacher. I have to do the best I can.

But there is no one explanation for the measure of a person’s innate capacities, for the effect of environment on those capacities, or for why this person’s income does or doesn’t match up to his or her idea (or objective reality’s idea) of a livable wage. Though the idealist imagines equal paychecks for all, reality gives us people of vastly different capacities. Not everyone has innate or developed capacities to which the free market ascribes a livable wage. Should a person lacking in capacity be able to survive? Well, yes. But what is survival? More on that in a moment.

If there is no one explanation, there is no one answer to poverty. This is extraordinarily painful for me to admit. I want to get behind Obamacare. Emotionally, I’ve been behind it from the start. My heart bleeds liberal for the homeless people I see on the streets of Akron. I want them to get on their feet, and yes, I certainly want them to get the healthcare they need. Surely the conditions of homelessness put a person in far greater health danger than do the conditions of white-collar, Beamer-driving executivism.

However, my intellect is deeply concerned with the new law. Healthcare is expensive because it takes so many man-hours to research, develop, pass on, and practice. Adequate medical care is not a human right; it is made possible by the work of hundreds of thousands of people. Those people need food, shelter, shoes, and Internet, too. Healthcare simply must be paid for, or no high school graduate will consider going into it. If no one had ever gone into it, the possibility (not the right) of healthcare treatment would not exist in our society.

For one thing, Obamacare concerns me because those in greatest poverty won’t be covered by the plan, due either to the Federal Government’s misguided belief that all States would extend Medicare benefits to the lowest income levels, or to the Feds’ psychotic onus-pushing of the issue onto the States. You can see this alarming fact for yourself. This calculator reveals that an Ohio family of 2 with a combined annual income of $10,000 would pay a premium of $3,703 for healthcare—a staggering 37% of an annual income which is already probably not enough to cover basic essentials, even without the luxury of iPhones and cable TV. If we are going to redistribute wealth in this way, shouldn’t we make sure it covers those who are most in need of a handout? Shouldn’t we do it with style?

I keep asking how we got here. I don’t have an answer, but I see the threads connecting the points of this dark constellation. An alarmingly high standard of living inherited from the 20th century, coupled with our membership in a society developed enough to meet those expectations (if one can pay), has dreadfully clouded our view of what wealth is. As the bottom has fallen out of American value, my generation finds itself scrambling to find service-based jobs so we can pay for the entertainment services we use. The race to the technological top has become a race to the goods-based economic bottom, as young people seek prestige and pay in the technocracy. (The shortage of young workers going into blue-collar professions, which even the 21st century will still need, has been documented elsewhere. You can probably Google it.) I believe this problem will only increase with the stratification between the working classes and the technocracy. Someone has to make and sell the bread, but no one wants to, because it isn’t sexy, like designing the next iPhone is. Even the technocracy will need bread, barring some sort of virtual reality development giving wealthy consciousnesses the ability to detach from physical need—though I don’t doubt that we may see this, too, in the next ten years.

All of that to say that we expect too much value in return from the value that we as people provide to the economy. Remember, the economy is not a disembodied entity seeking to screw us; it is the man or woman sitting next to you, multiplied to the nth. The sum of humanity has needs, and the sum of able-bodied or able-minded humanity needs to work hard to create value—even if those more-able-bodied must work harder than those less-able-bodied. Remember that quote from Spiderman?

What insight does this give me on Obamacare? None. I can’t figure out if this is a good idea from a humanitarian perspective, or if it displays the dying throes of our 21st century economic beast. We will recover from this time, I think; but it may only be through some sort of value catastrophe even worse than 2008. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s what I see in the stratification between the technocracy and those who produce the nation’s life-supporting goods.

10 thoughts on “Obamacare and the Death of American Value

  1. George I have yet to hear anyone address the main reason why Obama care will be very difficult for our nation to afford. A writer for the N.Y. Times did a series this summer on the hihg cost of healthcare in the U.S. She told of a man who need surgery and who didn’t have the $100,000 dollars he was quoted to have it done here. He flew to Belgium , which has state supported healthcare for everyone, and had the surgery done.His total cost including his airfare was $30,000. He said when he saw the building where the surgery was to be done he almost changed his mind , it was rather non-descipt and unattractive, but once inside he found it to be clean, well thought out, and couldn’t ask for better or more professional care than he received. We in this country seem intent on building Tag Mahals complete with glorious attriums and glass inclosed elevators, parking garages within easy walking distances and meanwhile laying off staff because their revenue wont support the foolhardy extravegant spending.We have been brianwashed into believing that all of the above is required to provide adequate healthcare. The folks who contend we can’t afford universal health care are right as long as we insist on all the unneeded peripherals that do nothing to inhance the quality of healthcare. When social security was first proposed there was fierce opposition included were those in my own family, but I noticed when any of them retired they didn’t refuse their checks. I believe strongly that we are indeed our brothers keeper , and in a country so richly blessed we have to find a way to help those who can’t help themselves. I don’t really know if Obamacare will be the answer, but when you ask those opposed for what their better idea is , they become strangely silent, which tells me a lot about their motives

  2. I agree that healthcare could theoretically be more affordable. The question is, will doctors want to give up their yachts for the good of the people? We can’t be naive about our inherent selfishness.

  3. George,
    The funny thing about Obamacare is that it is portrayed as a radical change of our healthcare industry but it is really a minor change in insurance. What good is health insurance if you cannot afford it or if you are not able to obtain it because of pre-exisiting conditions. We need a universal healthcare system, private or public, that puts people before profit. The “free enterprise idealist” system has shown that it cannot do it. The goverment has gotten pretty good at medicare and medicaid, expanding medicaid for all should be a no brainer. Imagine the flowering of american ingenuity if people were healthy, and not afraid to leave jobs because of the lack of health insurance.

  4. Whereas politics is often concerned with a this-vs.-that approach to questions of concrete application, I interpret this moment in history (including Obamacare) through a much broader lens: what we know of human nature. The attempt to provide healthcare to those who don’t have it is a valiant and excellent cause. The question is not even “Obamacare yes or no” from an implementation standpoint, but rather a deeper question: “why can’t people afford things?”

    Hence the concept of Value, contrasted with Laziness. Government cannot legislate Value into existence unless we have federal agents enforcing it personally on every member of the economy. (The broad and idiotic sweep of that statement matches the broad idiocy of socialism’s assumption that we will all choose to work hard every single day when not driven to the action by our own need.)

    On a deeper level, then, the question of Obamacare and the unaffordability of Life In General becomes one which neither bleeding-heart leftism nor free-market rightism can answer. The answer to our country’s tanking economy lies not in governmental policy, but in my work ethic, your work ethic, and the work ethic of every single person in the United States. The immediate complaint is, what about those who can’t work as hard as other people because of preexisting conditions? The answer is in the 2nd-to-last paragraph of my essay.

    I am not a politician, nor do I have political leanings; hence my thoughts on the subject do not take the form of concrete suggestions. I am describing the problem and the way in which the concrete suggestions being implemented (i.e. Obamacare) don’t even address the real issue.

  5. Hi George,

    Here is a real world example. I currently pay as a business expense $30,000 per year for health insurance for myself and one employee (and his family) Then before the insurance policy starts to pay for all family members there is a $5,000.00 family deductible per family per year. So $40,000 goes to the insurance company before 100% coverage of any family medical expenses. (It is $2,500 per person deductible. Once each family incurs an additional $5,000 out of pocket for the whole family we get 100% coverage for the rest of the year. Then it starts all over again on Jan 1. Long story short. We priced ObamaCare for the two of us. $49,000 per year. This is going to affect every business in this country one way or another. Have you actually gone on line to see what your insurance will cost? This is a big bill for businesses of all size. It is a job killer in the economy. The $49,000 includes all government tax credits designed to “reduce” the cost of care. $49,000….it takes my breath away.

  6. Oh and on the “greedy” doctors. Its too easy to point that finger. They are the cream of our gene pool in intelligence. They spend far more time preparing to become doctors and incur huge costs just to be able to treat you and me and everyone else. If you check their level of compensation against other highly competent professionals (forget media and sports stars) you will find that they are not at the top of the food chain at all. They deserve what they earn. Focus on the insurance companies if you want to find some fat in the system. You might also want to look into the increased costs piled on the health care system (and on docs for the cost of liability insurance) by lawsuits.

  7. The cost on businesses really concerns me. Where will we see the fallout from that? In a rising cost of Everything, right? I mean, businesses have to pass on costs to customers.

    That’s why I see the root cause of the problems as being in our work ethic and our expectations of rewards not commensurate with our creation (individual and communal) of Value. I worry that an increased socialistic meddling with a free market (a free market which, admittedly, does drive stratification and economic inequality) only serves to drive these expectations higher. “Why can’t my employer afford my insurance? Healthcare is my right! Plus the Feds said they have to!” Well… who’s going to pay for it? The Federal Government? Didn’t they sign us over to indentured servitude to the Chinese?

    But now I’m descending into the uneducated political blather that I swore this was not going to be about.

    1. Yes on the costs to business, George. Stepping back from all of this my thoughts are…”So why is it my responsibility to provide health insurance for my employees? I don’t provide them with pre-paid 21 meals per week passes. I don’t provide vouchers to pay the rent or a house payment. Nor do we offer an unlimited credit line at Macy’s for all clothing needs. I pay a salary. (And I have been making payroll and paying all of the employer taxes since I think 1983.) Somehow businesses took this on. Now it is too expensive and the goose has been gored. In our economy today the big tech companies who need highly skilled people who happen to be in short supply offer lavish employee benefits. Other companies cutback. But I do not see that there has to be some “equality” among all people for equal benefits. But that is a minority sentiment today. Our nation seems to prefer by a majority sentiment that productive successful people’s capital should be looted and shared with others against their will (a.k.a. wealth confiscation by taxation.)

      OK enough! My rambling is proof that you have a good blog because it stimulates thinking!

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