Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Selfish States of America?

Have we become the Selfish States of America? The question popped into my mind after reading news reports about rampant contractor abuse in Iraq, union leaders suggesting employer based health insurance is a relic of the past, millions of Southern Baptists turning their back on public schools and obscenely paid investment fund leaders decrying the prospect of surrendering their preferred tax breaks.

In Iraq the $400 hammer is back, courtesy of layers and layers of contractors, each with their own profit incentive. The only problem is it comes with a $1,200 security bill to use properly. That is roughly the ratio spent on security in "rebuilding" Iraq. Selfish!

Bob Herbert's column in the NY Times quoted a union leader. “We can’t be the only country on earth that asks our employers to put the price of health care on its products when a lot of our competitors don’t.” Those same employers covered 1 million fewer workers this past year as the number of uninsured rose over 2.1 million to 47 million Americans. The number of uninsured children rose by 700,000 to 8.7 million. The day these statistics were released, President Bush raised the specter of nuclear holocaust in the Middle East. He failed to mention the very real human toll caused by legions of citizens without health insurance coverage. That fallout didn't cross his lips.

Months back Democratic and Labor leaders offered a proposal jettisoning employer based health insurance. As usual our leaders reach to the lowest common denominator. Do we not compete with British, German, and other European firms whose governments provide universal health care? And don't forget about Japan which ensures everyone has coverage. They don't seem ready to dump it. Of course we compete with these countries, but instead our Washington bobbleheads raise China and India.

Unions want to become the group purchaser for health care, with you paying. Corporate America is looking for the next big profit boost and dumping that pesky insurance benefit would do the trick. Disturbing and disgusting. When more people should be paying into the system at levels they can afford, the deep pockets look to bail. Selfish!

Many Southern Baptists apply "who is not for me, is against me" to educating today's youth. They are offended by secularism which teaches evolution over creationism, world faiths over Christianity, sex education over abstinence, and moral relativism over Christian claims of truth. (I thought kids went to school to learn math, English, and science.) As a result, many of the 16 million Baptists are avoiding public school altogether. It seems the above concerns could be addressed in an out of school Christian education environment, Wednesday evening or Sunday school. What happened to "he who is not against me, is for me"?

As for business leaders, I was appalled by the widespread cheating by corporate executives on their incentive stock option programs. But that outrage multiplied when I found the most handsomely paid leaders in our country want to keep their cushy tax breaks. Top investment fund managers make $657 million a year. They pull down in ten minutes what the average worker makes in a whole year. When challenged over the preferred tax rates given to both private equity firms and their investment managers, they cry out "raising taxes will hurt the economy". They threaten to take their firms overseas and our elected leaders cave. Selfish!

Both Democratic and Republican leaders court American corporate interests. Their duplicitous behavior is difficult to see, frequently requiring much digging. But it's there, if you look!