A Shared Sacrifice That I Can Understand

April 20th, 2011
in Op Ed

American Idol Guest Author: Guy Lerner - Bio is available at a  previous article.
Last week in the President's speech on fiscal policy, he alluded to a shared sacrifice.  You know, something that we must all give up because we all understand you don't get something for nothing.  The President's vision:  "To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices.  But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in.  And as long as I’m President, we won’t."  Unfortunately, only some are sacrificing under the President's plan, and it sounds more like a transfer of wealth from those who have to those who don't.

Follow up:

The circumstances the President and the country find themselves in are unfortunate.  But for the President, this is of his own doing, and I guess you can say that of the citizenry: we elected the guy.  Elected to make change, the President had his opportunity 2 years ago, but he seem to squander whatever good will the electorate would afford him in trillion dollar bailouts that got us nothing.  Now after throwing much money down the drain and with things little better and all likelihood worse because so much ammunition has been spent, the President speaks of shared sacrifice.  And it rings hallow because there is nothing shared and only some are making a sacrifice.
Ironically, I have long contended that the change Americans wanted back in 2008 was all about making a "shared sacrifice".  After 8 years of President Bush , I think Americans knew better.  Bush's idea of a shared sacrifice was  for Americans to continue driving their gas guzzling SUV's to the mall to keep shopping while soldiers were placed in harms way "protecting" our way of life.  I could understand the soldiers' sacrifice, but somehow my life was little impacted or little inconvenienced.  I guess I could have been asked to cut back on my energy consumption or pay more for my gas at the pump to pay for the war effort, but alas, no sacrifice.  Nothing.  Just keep buying - the economy needs you.
Not only has this President squandered his opportunity, but his notion of a what a shared sacrifice is very much skewed.  The President's vision is all about taking from some so that others can have.  Yes, we are all sharing in the spoils of America, but only some are sacrificing.  The President says all the right things: "So this is our vision for America -– this is my vision for America -- a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and we provide rising opportunity for our children."  Sounds great but there is no shared sacrifice when you take from one to give to another.
Honestly, I would have been more thrilled if the President stood at the podium and said: "If you live in America and have a cell phone with caller ID, text messaging  and a data plan and you don't have health insurance, you will need to make a choice: if you want health insurance, then you will need to give up your cell phone."  Granted this would have caused a revolt, but this is a shared sacrifice I can understand.  Everyone has a cell phone; they aren't a necessity, but most could not imagine living without one even if it means not having health insurance.  So if you want health insurance, then give up your cell phone; do it for your country.
As preposterous as this may seem, this is real simple stuff.  We need priorities.  Healthcare or surfing Facebook on your smart phone?  If I could only afford one, I would go with healthcare, but I know that is not how the President and most Americans sees it.  He wants Americans to have their cake and to eat it too.  No worries let the one size fits all government take care of it.  Was he really serious when he said that government can wring out cost savings?  The President's speech was more of the same and showed an unwillingness to tackle the tough choices this country refuses to make.
I have spent over 80% of my professional medical life caring for patients who do not have the means to pay for their medical care.  I have never treated a patiently differently because of their ability to pay, and I have never, ever seen any doctor do anything but the best for their patients.  Patient's will get the care they need - this is America after all.  We won't turn our back on those in need.  However, the time has come to make those tough choices.

Class warfare and redistribution of wealth is not a solution.  It is not shared sacrifice. It is perpetuation of the problem.  As long as our leaders continue to avoid the tough choices, our problems will persist. 
And oh let me suggest one more solution.  The average family of four probably pays $250 a month for their wireless services.  This is $3000 a year.  $3000 a year may not cover healthcare costs and if it doesn't, so what?  Cut out something else.  How about cable TV?  No American Idol or reality TV.  That surely would be a shared sacrifice!

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