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?
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