“you’ve got to be a football hero … “

I am writing this on Father’s Day. It is also the summer solstice at 8:48 pm. I have lived through quite a few solstices and Father’s Days  and I am feeling nostalgic.

When I was in high school (a long time ago) there was a popular song that summarized one my bigger worries. The song began “you’ve got to be a football hero to get along with a beautiful girl.”

Even today I remember how much I wanted to be a football hero. Or for that matter any kind of sports hero. Alas, in my large high school I was good in academics but mediocre in sports. I was just not talented enough or tough enough to make any of the varsity teams.

My two sons did better. Both were varsity basketball and soccer players and I was proud. I was also proud of quite a few of my nieces and nephews who were outstanding athletes in school and in college. One played quarterback in a California Bowl game and was voted the most valuable player.

All of this personal confession has relevance to my comments two weeks ago about the differences between liberals, progressives and conservatives. Progressives, I claimed, tended to stress equal results and liberals equal opportunities. Conservatives tend to think we should think twice before making radical changes in systems that work pretty well. I went on to point out that “in sports, minorities (especially African-Americans), have opened up achievement gaps every bit as wide in their favor as the academic ones where they lag behind. No one seems to be alarmed about this sports gap, why make so much about the academic test gap?”

The truth is that for most young people (and their parents and friends and fans) sports are, if anything, as important if not more important than academics. Still another truth is that the qualities that lead to success in sports – work ethic, perseverance, ability to work together in a common cause, courage, competitive drive, social skills, natural grace and ease – are just as important in life after school, if not more so, than success in academic subjects (especially as it is poorly measured by achievement tests).

In my humble opinion the best thing to do about any and all so-called “achievement gaps,” between any definable groups is–ignore it. Forget about it. Live with it. Make sure politically and practically that you provide opportunity for all individuals but as for results, let the chips fall where they may. So I can’t throw a football as well as Brett Favre. And I can’t hit a baseball like Willie Mays. And I can’t jump as well as Michael Jordan. And maybe I never had the toughness, perseverance and work ethic that made some of these athletes along with the lowliest second stringer on the high school football team successful in sports and in life. So what? You can probably get along with a beautiful girl anyway. I did.

In my recent News I did endorse the progressive point of view on health care. I think now that may have been premature. I do think that we are a wealthy enough society to assure everyone good health care just as we promise roads, sanitation services, police and fire services, etc. How to do that is still up for argument. An article in the NY Times last week as well as a thoughtful response from a reader leads me to rethink however my unqualified endorsement of some health care reform reforms.

Last week, for instance, the NY Times reported that the latest twist in progressive health care circles is to not just pay for prescription drugs but to pay people to take them. According to Pam Belluck, the NY Times reporter, “one-third to one-half of all patients do not take medication as prescribed, and up to one-quarter never fill prescriptions at all.”

Some doctors, pharmaceutical companies, health-care providers and social workers are trying a new experiment. Paying people to take their medicine! From $10 to $100 a day! Part of the rationale I suppose is that we want equal results as well as equal opportunity. The promoters also claim it will save money in the long run because these same people who do not presently take their medicine end up in the hospital or nursing home and since taxpayers will have to pay that bill too, better to bribe them to take their medicine now than pay more to save their lives later.

The Times reporter claims that “experts” vouch for the one-third, one-half, one-quarter statistics. I am suspicious. Who are these experts and what evidence do they have for such big numbers?

Aside from that and aside from the question of the government becoming the ultimate nanny, comes the question how far are we prepared to go to assure equal outcomes? Do we want to pay people to wear their helmets when riding motorcycles or fasten their seat belts in cars on the grounds that if they have an accident we will have to pay for their hospital and burial bills? Do we want to pay students to do their homework in high school on the grounds that we will have to support them with welfare if they don’t graduate? Do we want to pay people to recycle their newspapers and plastic cups on the grounds that if they don’t we will lose forest acreage and contribute to climate change? Do we want to pay people to buy hybrid automobiles on the grounds that doing so will help conserve oil? Do we want to pay people to exercise in gyms, swimming pools and health clubs on the grounds that it will save money in the end by preventing heart attacks later? Where do you draw the line? Or do you?

A Hawkhill News item the week before last about health care reform brought a thoughtful critique from retired psychologist Larry Larrabee who has an original take on these questions. He had long experience running a mental health clinic in Wisconsin.

“I agree [that in health care], a definite change is needed, both the basic costs are frequently ridiculous and, although accessibility (in my opinion) is not a major problem, care should be more affordable for everyone  …  I feel that until tort reform occurs in health care, we are dealing with a problem that absolutely cannot be afforded by ANY country. A recent study by a prestigious university found that among diagnostic tests ordered by cardiologists, 75% had been ordered solely to protect the doc from a malpractice suit and the doc saw absolutely no other justification for his order. The study surveyed several hundred cardiologists in the US and provided anonymity to obtain the honest reporting by the cardiologists. When the left says malpractice costs do not drive up health care cost, they are simply referring to awards, settlements and premiums. The far, far greater cost is the cost of defensive medicine done by all practitioners, including myself.

“The other part I am uncomfortable with is that the government will essentially be running the program (certainly later if not initially) much like it does Medicare. The Left cites the lower cost of the Social Security Administration managing Medicare as compared to private health insurance carriers. Again, this is a major error. That lower cost is based on the SSA cost of operation as a percentage of the entire SSA budget with many costs for Medicare generally folded into the overall budget. … when you make the adjustments, the average private administration cost is 30% less than the public administrative cost!

“The answer, to me, is to drastically correct the tort boondoggle and then to set up a system very much like the Medicare Prescription program that very clearly allows for private companies, with government supplements, competing on the Part D premiums and doing so while each company offers several alternative plans. AARP, of course, trashed the Part D program since it is quite left leaning but, in fact, Part D works very well, thank you.

“I think that if we do have a national health insurance of some kind, the premiums should be graduated based on annual income (as in gross, unadjusted, federal. income tax records of the preceding year) or establish very high deductibles, based again on income, with some relatively large deductibles (say $1000 to $2000 per year or illness for the lower income group and as much as $40,000 or $50,000 for upper income groups). High deductibles are an excellent way to reduce cost as all corporations know.”

I realize that none of these questions are easy nor are the answers obvious. Let me know what your opinion is.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. You already know my pitch. Please look to our web site for more information and insight on science/society issues like the ones addressed in these blogs. Our big sale is over but we have dramatically reduced regular prices on all of our programs for the 2010/2011 school year.

For health care issues see: DISEASE AND HEALTH. For progressive, liberal and conservative points of view on other science/society issues see: SCIENCE AND SOCIETY: GLOBAL ISSUES OF THE 21ST CENTURY, CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY, DEMOCRACY IN WORLD HISTORY and RESOURCES, POPULATIONS AND CLIMATE CHANGE.

One Response to ““you’ve got to be a football hero … “”

  1. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research about this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I am very glad to see such great information being shared freely out there.

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