Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The flurry of comments on my recent post about Health Care in the U.S. Whole Foods, Health Care, and Buddhism led me to talk a little more about it.
First, I would like to point out the comments of Kris, who brings another important issue to light. She writes "The health care debate has been heart wrenching and maddening, but I'm grateful for all of it. Grateful that even the most wretchedly greedy and ignorant views are being heard. I'm hopeful that those views will help to "turn" the direction of the country toward a more compassionate, generous way of life. When we hear views so obviously rising from greed and fear, how can one not feel some twinge, some quake inside that says— 'this cannot stand!'" I absolutely agree with her. Without making the widely varied ideas we have about health care, or any major issue for that matter, public, it's hard to really address where we stand as a group, and move forward in any direction. This is the great struggle, and value of living in a more open, democratic society. To the degree that we have suppressed dissenting views, or have used wealth and power to talk over other viewpoints, our nation is all the more weaker for it. I, personally think the U.S. has a lot of work to do when it comes to being an active, democratic nation, but the lively discussions and debates about health care show that it can be possible.
Second, I'm very intrigued by the repeated comments made by some "Anonymous" person. I find anonymous commenting, especially repeated commenting against the position being stated, to be questionable. It's one thing if the person doesn't have an account, or a blog, and has to publish anonymously. But quite another if the person is choosing to be anonymous in order to say things that they wouldn't ever say to someone in person, or even online if their name was attached to it. The fact that this Anonymous commenter has never attached his/her name to any of the comments makes me wonder a bit about the intentions behind them. Many bloggers on here have had to change their open door policies following attacks from anonymous writers, which I think is sad. James over at Monkey Mind stopped accepting comments on his blog all together awhile back, which makes you wonder what kind of rot he must have been receiving, and for how long. More recently, Reverend Danny stopped accepting anonymous comments due to, I'm guessing, a similar level of repeated nastiness. These are just two examples of what I would argue is a downside of the internet - namely that the relative anonymity is an excuse for some people to let all their "bad behavior" spill out. I'm all for discussion, disagreement, even sharp tongued language about issues and ideas being expressed. But leveling personal insults and attacks while hiding behind a computer screen is not only cowardly, but also - for those of us who claim to be following Buddha's teachings - is disparaging the third treasure of sangha. As of now, the comments of the Anonymous on my current blog haven't quite plunged to the level of personal attack, but a few seem to teeter on the edge of doing so. I'm not interested in parsing out what has been said in these terms; mostly, I just find the whole issue of anonymous commenting to be problematic.
Finally,said Anonymous commenter displayed a lot of interest in the national debt, and in people not spending "beyond their means."
The total estimated U.S. national budget expenditures for 2009 are around $3 trillion. Now, here for me are some interesting numbers within that budget.
# $408 billion - Medicare
# $224 billion - Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
# $70.4 billion - United States Department of Health and Human Services
Total - $702.4 billion
# $515.4 billion - United States Department of Defense
# $145.2 billion(2008*) - Global War on Terror
# $37.6 billion - United States Department of Homeland Security
# $44.8 billion - United States Department of Veterans Affairs
Around $190 billion in appropriations for the Iraq War and Afghanistan War.
Total Approx. $930 billion
What I would like to know is where are these same people who complain about the cost of health care when the defense budget and all it's attachments are released? Are they out protesting about the fact that nearly 1/3 of our entire budget is spent on military and military related costs? I somehow doubt it. Deficit hawks are only hawkish when it comes to certain programs. When the government is feeding the military industrial complex, and keeping in place the veneer of safety and security, the hawks are nowhere near their squawk boxes.
Here are a few more interesting numbers.
# $1.21 trillion - Individual income tax
# $949.4 billion - Social Security and other payroll taxes
# $339.2 billion - Corporate income tax
Total Approx $1.29 trillion
Frankly, that corporate income tax number seems pretty damn small. But again, that tends to be off the board when it comes to most defecit hawks. Meanwhile, the CEO's and upper management of large corporations, and the rich stockholders of the same companies, walk off with millions, sometimes billions of dollars. What does any one person or family need that kind of money for? Why does Bill Gates need $57 billion? Why does Warren Buffett need $50 billion? Why does the Walton family collectively need more than $70 billion?
And why do many of us in the United States believe such a system that allows these kinds of excesses is worth supporting, and even touting as the greatest way to run an economy?
There is no scarity of resources here in the U.S. We could address our deficit, and still provide health care for everyone here, if our collective priorities were different.
The Buddha pointed out time and again that greed, hatred, and delusion are at the root of every issue we humans have. This issue is no different. In my opinion, if our collective priorities don't change, we'll continue to be swamped in a murky soup of all three poisons.
Posted by Nathan at 9:01 AM