Like an overloaded airplane at high density altitude, our economy is underpowered and burdened with unproductive drag.
Years ago, as a student pilot vying for a commercial fixed-wing license, my wife and I were flying cross country in a rented Piper Arrow. As a requirement for my new license, I had to log a number of solo cross country hours anyway, so we were taking advantage of the requirement to enjoy a little get-away. My VA educational benefits were paying for the flight hours. Thank you, Uncle Sam.
After three glorious days at South Shore Tahoe where the altitude above sea level is 6,237 feet, we were taking off again on the next leg of our trip. It was mid-afternoon, warmer and more humid than usual. A storm was approaching so the “density altitude” must have been at least 10,000 feet.
With us on this flight was another young couple, a full load of fuel, and at least one suitcase for each of us. We were too heavy and I should have known better. Cecil? Helen? If you’re reading this now, I’m sorry. I screwed up!
The stall horn started sounding almost immediately after breaking ground following a long take-off roll. I never should have rotated, but I was committed now. My wife asked, “What’s that noise?” At the same time, a tower operator advised me over the radio that there was a golf course to the right just off my nose if I needed it. With flaps and landing gear still down, I was struggling to gain altitude and ponderosa conifers at the base of Sierra Nevada mountains were coming up fast. Our couple friends in the back were oblivious to the looming disaster.
Zoom forward. It’s today. We’re still alive.
I recently responded to several comments posted by a reader of my blog who is skeptical about our nation’s need for healthcare reform. His major point is that we are in the midst of a serious recession and that healthcare reform will cost more than a trillion dollars over the next ten years. He, like many Americans, are fearful of the impact of a growing national debt on our already sick economy and he expressed an unwillingness to do his part to address the problem — arguably one of the biggest reasons our economy is struggling to gain altitude.
Like an overloaded airplane at high density altitude, our economy is underpowered and burdened with unproductive drag. The drag is our outmoded, out-of-date, managed care system for compensating doctors, hospitals and the rest of the health care community — or should I say “industry”. So our economic airplane is losing altitude even as a range of mountains looms ahead. I’m speaking of course of the baby-boom generation fast approaching retirement age. There are other sources of drag on our economy, like our dependency on foreign oil which may be as big a problem as health care. But that’s another issue. Minimizing the health care drag is something that we can do today without having to invent or perfect new technologies and replace much of our energy infrastructure.
SHOUTAmerica, a non-profit organization committed to culti- vating sustainable solutions and policies that address today’s healthcare crisis with a conscience for tomorrow, has created an excellent video designed to grab our attention about the need for healthcare reform. If you haven’t yet watched it, I think you’ll find it both informative and compelling.
Despite the serious nature of this crisis situation, the CPR (Conservatives for Patients’ Rights) is airing infomercials suggesting that the government’s plans for healthcare reform will actually raise costs and pit “government bureaucrat” gatekeepers between us and our doctors. Well, gee, don’t we already have gatekeepers employed by commercial insurance companies standing between us and our doctors (see Republican Arguments Against Health Care Reform ~ The Ammunition of Myths)? If we are lucky enough to still have insurance, and 46 million people living in America do not, whether we have opted for a lower cost HMO or a higher cost PPO, this is true. Notwithstanding, CPR’s efforts seem to be having their intended effect. Public support for reform and the political will to get it done, according to some independent polls, seem to be slipping. That’s why the President wants Congress to act swiftly. The politics of fear worked for private interests last time around with the Harry and Louise infomercials. Let’s not let it happen again.
I apologize for my own scare tactics… act decisively or crash ‘n burn. But sometimes one must fight fire with fire.
Oh yeah, you are wondering how we survived the looming disaster years ago at South Shore Tahoe. Well, I decisively risked a might more back pressure on the airplane’s yoke and started a slow, cautious bank to the right (I wish I could say to the left, my analogy falters here somewhat, but that’s not the geography at South Shore Tahoe). After barely clearing the trees, I pushed the yoke forward to gain enough airspeed over the clearing afforded by the golf course so that retracting the landing gear and flaps wouldn’t add too much more drag. We gained altitude, slowly but it was enough so that I could wind our way up the steep valleys ahead of us and eventually clear the mountain tops. The golf course proved to be our salvation and I learned several important lessons about flying that day: plan a good flight considering all relevant factors, and then fly the plan; if the plan doesn’t work out, innovate smartly and decisively; get your head out of the cockpit and trust good advise from unbiased experts. The tower operator that day was not in the airplane with us that day, but he sure knew what he was talking about. Likewise… trust the good advise from unbiased experts on the need for health care reform. Who are the biased experts? Those whose ears are had by those who profit by the status quo.
Health care reform, as advocated by the President, like the golf course at South Shore Tahoe, will be our economy’s salvation. But we cannot hesitate to act decisively.
I invite your comments, whether you support the President’s plan or not.