Printed letters, September 18, 2012
The dispute between the Chicago teachers and the mayor is all over the news. Theoretically, both protagonists want to improve education. This is a response to the United States’ global downward slide in the quality and efficiency of education, generally.
We have some of the very best institutions of higher learning in the world: Harvard, other Ivy League schools, MIT, Cal Tech, etc. Overall, however, we have slipped badly. Those bastions of learning need well-prepared students.
The same can be said for our out-of-control health system. We have some of the very best medical institutions and practices but, generally, what is available to everybody costs way too much and is oriented toward “fixing” problems rather than preventing those problems in the first place.
These two cases are among the most important things facing families and our country in the future. If success stories in those countries exceeding our results are there for all to see, why do we not have a concerted effort to learn from them and apply lessons learned to improve our systems and results?
One of the big problems is that education and health are not distinct subjects that can be studied in a vacuum, apart from the total culture of those countries to be studied. Both education and health are interwoven into our culture and can’t be isolated when looking at other cultures hoping to detect systems that can be grafted onto our culture.
We are hindered by attitudes of exceptionalism, xenophobia, short-term thinking and feeling that there is nothing we can learn from other “lesser” cultures and countries. The constant talk in conservative circles about wanting nothing to do with European cultures and socialist ideas is a perfect example. We need to grow up!
Seniors need to understand ramifications of health plans
In reference to Dr. Michael Pramenko’s criticism of the Romney-Ryan plan to reform Medicare, let me start by noting that his early and continuing support of Obamacare, which we all know is very unpopular. However, Medicare is popular as a senior health safety net, but will be bankrupt in 10 years, meaning we have 10 years to fix it.
Obama already started his Medicare reform by taking $716 billion from Medicare and transferring to Obamacare to help make it “budget neutral.” Meanwhile, it is expected that some 30 million more people will be added to Obamacare, while neither it nor Medicare has any provision to add to the already shrinking supply of doctors. Are seniors nervous?
To ease seniors’ fears about the obvious problems ahead, including Pramenko’s scare, Romney-Ryan will keep Medicare unchanged if you are nearing retirement age (55 or older) or are already on Medicare. Then changes will have to be made to make Medicare sustainable for the future.
Future seniors who are under 55 now will have when they retire a heath care choice: the new, sustainable Medicare completely paid for by the government or a check (voucher) to purchase an equivalent safety net from a private company (the second lowest bidder or a choice of the lowest to keep the difference) in the hope that government-private sector competition will reduce costs. Note that the Medicare prescription drug program is run entirely by private companies, and 10 years later, it has run 30 percent under original budget projections.
Recently on the Commentary page, David Brooks of The New York Times addressed Medicare reform in his column, “Romney-Ryan is the only one that will truly reform Medicare.” He wrote, “If you believe entitlement reform is essential for national solvency, then Romney-Ryan is the only train leaving the station.”
For now, my advice: If you have a physician, keep him or her close. If you don’t, get one while you can. And vote as if your future, and that of your kids and grandkids, depends on it!
STEPHEN A. SAMUELSON, MD
Voters should consider Gary Johnson for president
It seems that middle-class America is not in love with either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, and many seem to not realize that they have other options.
There is a third-party candidate whom many reliable sources are urging us to remember: Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico.
During his two terms as governor, Johnson cut taxes 14 times, created 20,000 new jobs, balanced the budget and left New Mexico with a budget surplus. His track record speaks for itself.
I know there are those out there who will say, “No one outside of the two-party system can ever win.” But if everyone voted based on the issues and not based on Republican or Democrat, that could change.
Let’s vote for what matters to us. Inform yourselves of all of your options. Don’t limit yourself to a lesser of two evils.