Friday, October 17, 2008

A Little Something on Socialism

Fellow Bloggers and Dear Readers,

A few days ago I wrote this post in response to Mrs. Obama’s post on Blogher. Honestly, I have been reluctant to post it here. Not because it is not all true, but rather because a lot of dear and Democratic friends have been stressing to me that Obama’s positions are not radical socialism. Since none of us can truly be in the mind of another, we may never know (especially since even if he is truly radical, his view may well be tempered once in Washington).

However, regardless of where you think things are going to go, I’d like to remind everyone that socialism is just a bad idea. So, please, peek through the window with me and let’s remind ourselves of what we do NOT want. Then, hopefully, I can get this out of my head and return to focusing on what we DO want.

Let us consider that it would be extremely nice if everyone had more time off from workplaces. It would also be awesome if everyone was paid the appropriate amount for the job they did, regardless of race, color, creed, or gender. These are unarguable ideals. My concern is how we go about pursuing these ideals. We are given the right to pursue happiness. We are not given the right to be provided happiness.

Let us look at how socialist programs work in the oases in which they exist in our world.

I spent a few nights in a hospital in Japan a number of years ago. Have you ever been inside a socialist health care system? I spoke Japanese just fine, so I wasn’t worried about the language barrier. The floors were filthy. The only food I ate was brought to me by a few, kind Japanese friends. The doctor was shocked when I asked him what was in the IV he planned on giving me. He wouldn’t tell me. I wouldn’t give him my arm. There were four other patients in my room. I talked to them at some length (what else was there to do?), and I’ll assure you I learned a lot about how things worked there. I didn’t even have the right questions at first. The four other patients in my room were shocked when I decided to leave, without the permission of the doctor. Let’s just say things weren’t working out really well. It’s a long story, but you really don’t want socialized medicine.

Go to Europe and smile and you’ll see what socialized dentistry looks like.

Let’s see, education is another example of social programs. Public education in America has both the hand of government and unions. There are many wonderful teachers, but they are wonderful because they truly care about the students, not because the system works. Talk to any parent in a public education system and they can point to a number of teachers who, well, “we try to avoid them but everyone knows they can’t be fired.” And, if you are a really good teacher, you can’t expect to ever have a fabulous bonus for all your hard work and dedication, unless it is from the parents in the PTA. Sometimes I feel like that is the primary role of the PTA, to pump up the teachers to keep doing the best that they can under unfortunate circumstances. That’s what parents do, they do their best to make things work for their kids. Fortunately, teaching does attract people who generally care a lot about education. (Thank you teachers).

The UAW is an interesting example. I worked in a UAW plant as a night shift supervisor. There were lots of rules ensuring that everyone was treated exactly equally. If I didn’t follow those rules exactly, I was “written up” by an employee, and a union representative (and sometimes labor relations) would come down and have a chat with me about how things worked. (Yea, I got to know my union reps pretty well). In fact, I learned a lot from the UAW representatives, who were very nice to me when no one was looking. And, yes, they occasionally yelled at me when everyone WAS looking: an unfortunate culture.

I had four pregnant women working in my area. One, we’ll call her Susie, worked over-the-top hard. She took every opportunity for overtime. She was always there in plenty of time to walk from her car (although some of the guys would hijack an electric cart to go get her – they never wrote me up for letting them do that, hee hee). She showed up in a dirty coat, stretched tight over her huge belly, pregnant with her third child. She explained to me that she was taking all the overtime because she was barely making it by paying for all the childcare for her first two kids. So, she logically decided it made more sense to push out all the overtime up until she delivered, then take a week or so off when she would otherwise be paying for three kids in childcare: good mommy logic.

At the time, two pregnant chief engineers were just beginning to job share. I asked Susie about the Union helping out with childcare. There were many young employees and often both husband and wife worked at the plant (some took different shifts, and just never saw each other, but that was hard because the youngest person on 1st shift was 63, you know, it was fair). All they would have had to do was deduct a small amount from their pay for childcare and allow husband and wife to work the same shift. They were making nearly $20/hour, but there was no consideration for the effect the work structure was having on families.

I asked her about the UAW. The pregnancy hormones must have kicked in. I won’t quote her here, but lets just say that she felt that they were a bunch of self-serving old men who had forgotten that unions were actually for the employees. I quickly found out that even some young men were not happy with the UAW. They knew that no matter how hard they worked, they couldn’t do any better for themselves. Some employees who had been there for a few years had already thrown up their hands and, to some degree, stopped trying.

One of the young men and I had a couple lively discussions about it. He was very ambitious and had been elected the team leader. He complained that the team was so lackadaisical. He told me that there was a strong belief that the company was sitting on a “big pot of money” and just not sharing with the employees.

I asked him if there was a general concern that if the plant couldn’t be productive enough, that it might be shut down and the jobs shipped overseas.

“No, the Union wouldn’t let that happen. We’d just take the whole company down with us. Management doesn’t want that to happen.”

“Yeah, except that if the whole company went out of business, most of management would get jobs elsewhere. I’m not sure there are enough manufacturing jobs elsewhere to accommodate everyone in this plant.” I took a brisk walk between buildings after that one. I wanted to hang from the rafters and scream that everyone just did their best for even a six hour shift, we’d make so much money everyone could have childcare AND be home to get their kid off the bus. (I wonder if I would have gotten written up for hanging from the rafters). Well, to make that work, the system had to change.

About this same time, the company was looking for a new supervisor and was searching the ranks of UAW employees to hire into management.

“Why don’t you take it?” I asked. “I’ll recommend you. I think you’d be great.”


He wouldn’t even entertain it. He told me that he would lose all of his friends. The culture was so deep, he was concerned his neighbors wouldn’t talk to him anymore (and it was probably true). He knew that I didn’t make more than he did. And, of course, he was concerned about being fired.

They knew that they had traded in opportunity for security, but they were afraid to shed it as well. It is scary. Susie was afraid to bring up childcare to the UAW, the very socialist mechanism that theoretically represented her. They thought I didn’t sleep at night. It must be SO horrible to worry every day about losing my job.

I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t worried because I personally felt that my ability to do something productive for society was strong enough that I would be able to find a job. Many of them had been hired because their parents worked in the plant. Those who understood that lived in fear. They were afraid to complain, because if they lost their jobs, they weren’t sure they could do it on their own. A few of my employees had college degrees and one was working on her masters. (She told me that the job offers she had weren’t as good as the plant, so she felt pressure to forgo building a career).

I also heard plenty of heart wrenching stories from the older employees that taught me just how important it was that the unions were started in the first place. I know the tragic history, and how the pendulum can swing so tragically too far in the wrong direction. But, they traded their security in to give the power to the union leaders, and now in some cases they weren’t being treated fairly by the union either.

People need to be properly appreciated for the work that they do. If you remove the competition, people do naturally lose their drive to work (blessings to all you teachers who hang in against the odds). Taking competition away from the health care industry will significantly decrease the quality of care. I want to be able to choose my doctor. I want to know that if my kids need something, I can get them the best care in the world, even if I spend every last minute of my life working to pay it back. I’m their mom, that’s what moms do.

I also want there to be safety nets for those of less means. I am not suggesting we should allow people to be pushed out in the streets because they cannot afford it, but destroying our health care system won’t ensure proper care for everyone either. Let’s work on people getting a good education and good jobs, so they can pay the doctors a reasonable salary (that pays their college loans and insurance so they stay doctors).

The government did a great job finding ways to give credit to people to buy houses, how about limiting credit purchases to health care loans? Oh, not as fun though, because if those loans aren’t paid, the government would have to repossess YOU as an asset. And, of course, people aren’t our most valuable asset, right?


OHmommy said...

I know of many wealthy Canadians that cross the border and pay cash at our hospitals. Do you know how many times I have seen Arab sheiks on the plane to the Cleveland Clinic? More than once.

And for the record. My son got stitches at one of the finest hospitals in Paris. And. Ewwww... you should have seen how dirty and run down that was.

Can I assume that the majority of Americans aren't well traveled? Because even the most run-down inner city hospitals would be considered four star retreats in places like.... well, Paris.

Man. Don't get me started. I am no a blogging break Emama!

OHmommy said...

I am ON a blogging break.

Happy Homemaker said...

I don't know if I've told you yet that I really enjoy your political posts. So often you type what is going thru my mind and you say it so well.

I have a private blog but I would be happy to send you an invite... but I don't really discuss politics because I try to keep things... I don't know... smooth and easy???

Flea said...

You speak from experience here and it's appreciated. Politics is so polarizing. I'll be voting the McCain/Palin ticket. Just hoping it actually does some good.

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no experience with health care outside of the United States, but I have plenty of experience receiving and advocating for health care here in the United States.

My candidate has talked about having health care available for everyone in the United States. He has said over and over again that if I like my health insurance, the health insurance we pay DEARLY for through my husband's employer, we are going to be able to keep it.

The care my family and I have received in hospital and in doctor's office has been first rate. I have worked hard to learn how to advocate for myself, my son and (while she was alive) my ill mother. I would never, ever condone a system that would force me to take less than the care we've had in the past.

However, there are many things that are broken in our health care system. When my son received occupational and speech therapy for developmental delays at age 4 years, (the result of which has been, 10 years later, a very very good outcome and result), we were forced to go onto a medicaid type of system while we fought with our private insurance company over whether or not our kid's therapy would be covered.

I will not go into how HARD I fought to get care for my child and how hard his pediatrician fought with the Medical Director in order to get the services covered. Thankfully, because of TEFRA -- a government sponsored health insurance benefit available to children with disabilities -- we were able to keep the therapy going, billed at the medicaid rate -- which was more than $100 less than the private pay.

I was astounded to see that the negotiated rate for government health care was so vastly different than private pay. What about all the families whose kids really needed this early intervention intensive therapy also, and their insurance, too, wouldn't pay? Sure, they too could apply for TEFRA, but that too what a chore. I kept thinking, as I filled out the enormously complicated forms for TEFRA -- what if I didn't speak English -- if my husband or partner were a visiting professor at the University -- what if I were a recent immigrant, a new citizen. Someone who was dyslexic?

There HAS to be something in the middle of "socialized" medicine as you so eloquently describe it, and the medical system we have now -- excellent health care for the people who are lucky to make enough money and work for companies who can afford to provide it. Health care is a billion dollar industry. Just look at the compensation packages of the CEOs. There MUST be some way we can ensure that all people in this wealthy nation can get a slice of the pie --- preventative care, well child care, care in case of injury or disease.

I don't know the answer, but with my experience, I'm planning to advocate for a better system. Something in the middle is what I think has to be possible... Everyone at the table willing to give and to take. CEOs willing to take fewer billions, doctors willing to order fewer expensive tests because they're afraid of litigation, patients knowledgeable enough to know when they need to go and not to go to the doctor. It's an overhaul to be sure, but hopefully a balanced overhaul where we're not afraid to listen to the other side of the story and come to a negoitated place.

Mama Smurf said...

I love your political posts. I couldn't agree more with everything you stated here.

"We are given the right to pursue happiness. We are not given the right to be provided happiness."

Amen sistah!

enthalpymama said...

Standing Still - Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with us. I do agree that there must be some way to improve the way we distribute the unbelievably awesome care we have, without disabling the system entirely.

My parents also had a terrible time receiving care for my mother. Basically, the insurance company told them that the procedure she was planning to have (which I believe saved her life) was unnecessary. In the end, I believe they did have most of it paid for, but not without paying it out of pocket first. But, exactly to your point, someone less fortunate may have succumbed to the pressure, not had the cash, and the likely tragedy could have happened. There are too many such stories.

We just need to be cautious to not "throw out the baby with the bath water" and lose what we have while trying to improve access.

Hmm. I think we're on to some bipartisan stuff here.

I really appreciate your comments. Thank you.

enthalpymama said...

Ohmommy - I like getting you started.

Happy Homemaker - Happy to have you! I would be honored to see your blog!

Flea - Voting always does good, even if you are just letting the winner know that he has some work to do (but you know that).

Mama smurf - Always thanks for stopping by. Can I make a little quip here about a red (Republican) smurf? (Good thing I don't pride myself on my humor, huh).

Rachel said...

Less government is what I believe...socialize healthcare won't work...I agree with Oh Mommy; a lot of Canadians not to mention people from England come here for healthcare and dentistry

McCain/Palin 2008

Indy said...

I read your post and started to think maybe I was crazy for liking Obama. But then this morning, Powell endorsed him. I am feeling a lot better. Still don't want to talk politics with my friends. Just least I am not crazy.