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Why is a once self-reliant country not able to tie its own shoes without government's help.

September 26, 2012

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You...

The other morning I sat having a cup of coffee and a bagel on an outdoor patio. I watched the birds searching for bugs in the grass. They seemed perfectly content. Not a single bird was concerned with what the other birds were doing; what the other birds had or didn’t have. They were all too focused looking for their own food. But then, I, in my infinite wisdom, decided I would toss them a piece of bagel (a far less nutritious food than the bugs they were feeding on), and the whole dynamic changed. Suddenly, all the birds were on the patio, fighting over the little pieces of bagel, concerned with what another bird had, and waiting for their chance to steal it away. And they did.

Then a very interesting thing happened. One little bird, younger and braver than the rest, got right under my feet to be fed. He was happy for a while, but when I stopped feeding him, he just sat there, seemingly perplexed about what to do next. The other birds went back to looking for bugs, but he stayed there under my feet for the longest time, and I wondered if he’d be able to forage for himself now that he was dependent on me, and if he’d forgotten about the bugs in the grass. Eventually he went back looking for bugs, but not until he was convinced I wasn’t giving him anymore.

It seems like one-time self-reliant people are having this same problem. We live in the greatest country in the world, with the highest standard of living in the world. Is this the reason we have become so spoiled? Now we appreciate hardly anything, and expect everything.

I’m so thankful for the time I spent living in Ukraine. It taught me much about appreciation. I’m thankful for my wife who grew up there, and for my in-laws who grew up under communism, and the experiences they have shared. It has made me appreciate the USA so much more. I’m also so thankful for the example of my parents who worked hard and were self-reliant. I’m sorry if you grew up without examples like this, but you can rise up and be this kind of example to your children. Else, the cycle will just repeat itself, as we go down, down, down.

In business, I realized many years ago that 90% of my problems consistently came from the same 10% of my customers. Maybe that’s the problem in our country today; that the same people are not asking what they can do for their country, but what their country can do for them. Except that the percentage asking what their country can do for them is much closer to 50% now than the 10% it was a few decades ago.

Healthcare is a problem that needs a minimum amount of government intervention, and a maximum amount of citizen attention. There is nothing wrong with our health care system. It is the best in the world. The health crisis we face is citizen induced, because we are writing checks our bodies can’t cash, and we expect others to pick up the tab as we continue to abuse our own bodies.

Because of our indulgent lifestyles, medicine should be a thriving business in this country. And if it’s thriving, then logically, there should be competition, which should drive costs down. But costs are instead going up. Many think that socializing medicine is the grand solution, but this only feeds the problem of self-abuse and rising costs. And ObamaCare has only deepened the problem. The immediate problem is some can’t afford the mandate, period. Without jobs, we are dead in the water. Many large companies are holding on to large amounts of money to cover for the ObamaCare requirements should Obama get re-elected. This money will instead go into investment and expansion (meaning JOBS) should Romney get elected.

Another problem here is that we are moving away from state sovereignty, toward centralized government and a one-size-fits-all approach, which is no solution at all. It just compounds the problem.

This is a very sensitive issue, but it really comes back to what individuals are willing to do for themselves and for others, outside of government supervision. Many think that government is a “cleaner” way of taking care of the process, removing people from the equation, alleviating greed, and feelings of obligation, both on the part of the giver and the recipient. But these human elements need to stay in place, so that we all recognize the intimacy of this process. The giver needs to give more than just money, and the receiver needs to see the benefactor as human, like themselves. It is a very personal process, and when things are personal, we take greater care of ourselves, and greater responsibility for ourselves.

We must all ask ourselves these very difficult personal questions:

1) Do I really want others to be responsible when I have abused my body.

2) If I take care of my body, my body may fail at some point anyway for reasons beyond my control. Am I covered sufficiently so as to not be a burden on others?

3) Since I know my body will eventually fail as I get older, do I want to try and sustain my life indefinitely, at any cost to others?

All difficult questions, but all within the obligation of personal responsibility.

Ukraine has semi-socialized medicine, and you can’t imagine the conditions. My first visit to the hospital there was shocking. Not just waiting for 4-6 hours, but the hospital looked like a bombed out building from WW2. A toilet was overflowing into the hallway. There were 15-20 people in many of the rooms (not in the waiting room, but in each room!). In other, not so poor countries, the facilities are nicer, but there, socialized medicine translates into long waits for medical care – in some cases, six months or more.

Is this what we want for our country? Not only should we not have this, but we should be an example to the rest of the world as to how things can work. We need to wake up in the USA, stop complaining, and realize that we are riding a wave of entitlement that will eventually curl.


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