Monday, September 10, 2007

"If you don't work, you don't eat"

by shamanic

Hi, my name is Stacie and for the last four years I have worked for a really great company in an extremely competitive technology industry. On August 28, that company announced layoffs amounting to 49% of its employees. The first wave of us to go--which includes me--wrap up our tenure in the office on Friday.

This isn't my taking an opportunity to bash the company, by the way. I've really enjoyed my time here, gotten a lot out of it, met interesting people and made great friends, and leave with a real sense of being ready to move onto other things. I like this company a lot and I wish it well, especially for my friends and colleagues who were retained.

No, this isn't that. This is taking a moment to pose a perfectly sensible, and very front-of-mind question: how have we collectively decided that we can't trust the government to ensure insurance for all, but have instead opted to make our employers, a fickle lot at best, the guardians of our health care?

There's a certain insanity to the situation. I remember reading some of the writings of John Smith, head of one of the early English colonies in North America, back in high school. According to his self-aggrandizing accounts, his fellow colonists quickly distinguished themselves as no-good layabouts who would rather be drinking than working, so Smith instituted a policy of "if you don't work, you don't eat."

I suspect our current approach to health care is of the same mind as Smith's approach to forced labor. Food is cheap and plentiful, so that can't be used to ensure compliance anymore. But things like health insurance and student loans--those are great tools to keep us uncomfortable and frightened at all times!

Is it purposeful? You know, it's always dangerous to suggest conspiracies around things as large as health insurance or money for college, but intrinsically I have to think that yes, both of these situations play into the philosophical differences between America's two parties. So yeah, there's some intent here. Under the leadership of the party of punishment and retribution (the GOP), student loans became rife with fraud and grant programs received less funding. 47 million Americans are now without health insurance, as I may be when my Cobra coverage runs out in a few months.

I'm 31, and I know that there was a time in America when jobs were effectively cradle-to-grave and health care was light years from the miraculous science we expect today. I know it, but I've never lived in an America of family doctors making house calls and I've never worked in the America of dependable employment.

Our private system was perfectly fine for a time when communities were strong and the disparities between the wealthy and the poor were smaller. That isn't our America today. We need a system that works for us, not one that works against us. We need a federal system that makes health care affordable for all.

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