Thoughts for Thursday: Prosperity Doesn’t Have to be Zero Sum.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day…

If you’re not going to click the link, that’s okay. I’ll post the meme below, and we’ll have a chat about how me improving my situation doesn’t have to mean your situation gets worse.

Meme showing a church reader board that says "Why is Narcan Free to a Dope Addict But my Insulin is $750 a month"  The frame next to it has everything but the words "Why is my insulin $750 a month" blacked out.  Jim Carey is in the bottom frame with the lines "Other people who are struggling are not your enemy.  It's embarrassing that this has to be explained."
Here’s where we have to start…

So, let’s unpack this for a bit, shall we? Let’s look at it from several different points of view, and see which one points us toward a better world for everyone.

From the Reader Board Author’s Point of View

Okay, I don’t know the author of that reader board, and I’m sure as hell not going to waste time trying to find out who he or she was when I only have an hour before this post is late. Instead, I’m going to write from the point of view of an angry blue-collar suburban conservative-ish white man/woman I’d be willing to bet is at least 80% accurate. I’m confident in my ability to characterize here because a) I grew up and currently live in Spokane Valley, WA, possibly one of the most white-bread blue-collar areas in the country. My dad was a farm equipment mechanic. I worked with him for quite a few summers and I heard all kinds of good-ol-boy political talk coming from his clientele.

I promise, I’m not writing this next bit as a lampoon or with any disrespect in my heart. This is how I interpret the kind of attitude I find people of this persuasion to have. Here’s how I can envision one of these people coming up with the line for the sign:

Two friends who go to church together or who do business together a bit are talking bullshit while business is slow one day. One says to the other, “Did you hear Bobby Corwood left Harvey high and dry down to the store the other day?” Then they talk about how he’s hooked on painkillers and he gets “free” Narcan (which isn’t free, by the way – somebody ALWAYS pays for it). Then one of them gets pissed because he just shelled out $750 for his daughter’s insulin – because he’s self-employed and has to buy shitty high-deductible insurance with little to no drug coverage.

Now – this guy, the one who’s pissed about Bobby getting “free Narcan” – doesn’t understand the health insurance system in America. He thinks he understands politics. He thinks the government is all a bunch of crooked bastards, and the only way to fix it is to “get rid of the whole works of ’em!”

In this guy’s mind, drug addicts should go to jail, not get treatment for free – especially when law-abiding citizens like himself have to pay so much to get the medicine they need to live.

If you don’t think about it too hard – which nobody does, because… ‘Murica? I don’t know why – it’s super easy to blame the drug addict. You don’t know him or her. You don’t know his/her circumstances. It’s easier to just take your anger out on them than the complicated system you don’t understand. And I can’t say I completely blame you.

I mean, let’s think about the type of people we’re talking about here. Most of these people are “working class” which means they work 40 hours or more per week, have to come home and take care of kids, and try to figure out a way to make a secure living for themselves and their families every month. If so much of your time is occupied with that then it’s easy to see why your opinion would end up being whatever seems like the easiest solution – even if it means other people have to suffer.

From the Meme Author’s Perspective

I’m obviously biased and more sympathetic to this perspective, so let me just break it down from my point of view here.

Let’s start with the idea of justice. Whoever wrote that reader board feels there’s an injustice in the system. He or she is right. The problem is the good guy/bad guy mentality. In America, we’re so used to capitalism, competition, and winning that we can’t stand the idea of a tie – a situation in which everyone wins.

First of all, there’s no link between the Narcan program and the $750 copay you have to pay for insulin. So, the villain in your story is off. Second, there doesn’t have to be a villain, and if there is, it’s not the downtrodden, it’s the profiteers. Pharmaceutical companies are some of the most profitable in the United States, and with their advertising budgets alone, they could probably have cured cancer by now (I have no proof of that statement, it was rhetorical). Next come the insurance companies. They also spend a lot of money on advertising and sales. They also find any way to cut corners and benefits they possibly can – you can trust me on this. I worked for several in my time.

Second, let’s think about just the numbers there for a second in juxtaposition of the big picture regarding healthcare in America today. You pay $750/month for insulin? How much are your insurance premiums? If my experience over a decade ago, combined with premium inflation are considered, and assuming you work either for yourself or for a small business, your premium is probably over $1000 per month for employee only. So that’s $1750 per month in healthcare for you.

Can you honestly imagine that your tax bill would be anything close to that if we just expanded Medicare to everyone? If we moved to a single payer system, then yes, everyone would have to pay more in taxes, but nobody would have to pay insurance premiums anymore. And with a “group” (in insurance, the larger the group, the lower the premiums) of well over three hundred million people, there’s no way the tax burden would come close to the current burden of premiums on private corporations, large and small.

So why haven’t we done this?

Because we’re tribal idiots. That’s why. Some guy with an R next to his name on TV calls the woman with the D next to her name a terrible name like a “liberal,” or a “socialist,” or a “communist,” or “unAmerican” and everyone forgets about the idea. They just think about which side the idea came from.

It’s like football. Richard Sherman is one of the most talented players in the game and one of my favorites. Now, I’m a Seahawks fan, through and through, but now Richard is a 49er. I should hate him, right? He’s got the other jersey on. If I were a politician that’s the way it would be. I would have for several years praised Sherman while he was a Seahawk, but now that he’s a 49er, I would have to come out and say that he’s overrated, out of practice, and not a threat anymore (even though none of those are true).

We need to get over this idea that in order for me to win you need to lose. That’s all I have for today. Maybe we’ll pick this back up next week.

Ps. I’ll also come back later and update links and add pics.