Disturbed

by Penrod

I am disturbed because most of the momentum in public life is headed in the wrong direction. Things are headed the wrong way because the dominant political and economic power values private wealth over public wealth. Public services and resources are being cut rather than raising the money needed for them and for public investment. Meanwhile, the interests of the wealthy and of corporations are given priority.

The well-intentioned who support the policies driving this momentum—many people do support it—believe that private wealth creates public wealth, that limits to wealth and power create more problems than they solve, and that laissez-faire provides the only workable system. Less well-intentioned are motivated by their narrow self-interests and believe that they should push for short-term profit regardless of consequences.

The environment will take care of itself. It is there for us to exploit. People who want to protect it are obstructionists. An increasing gap between rich and poor and increasing costs of basics like health care are not a worry for those who can easily afford it. They have other fish to fry—including making a lot of money providing health care.

Perhaps many MDs have charged more than necessary over the years, and HMOs may have limited the income of doctors. However, HMO chief executives, making sums like $6,000,000 per year, are hardly helping to cut costs. They have managed to shift the receipts to other pockets. This shift is not making health care less expensive for ordinary people.

Health care is but one matter. It looms large because people need it, because it is becoming more difficult to afford, and because public provision of health care for the poor is being reduced. There are other reasons for the increase in health care costs, but corporate profit, set free by the conviction that private enterprise alone can be trusted to be efficient, is a big factor.

On the public side, these same forces urge savings—save by reducing benefits to those having the most difficulty. Things deemed expendable—the places for cuts—are libraries, schools, and social services. Parks and programs for the environment take a hit. But super highways—we must have them! The environment is subject to our travel. Public transportation is too difficult to develop and not sufficiently convenient. We need more auto lanes.

Yes, I am disturbed. I think the current momentum lacks a vision of long-term human self-interest, is not conservative, is not practical, creates an untherapeutic social and physical environment, and lacks sound theology.

Penrod says that, in thinking about him, one should think first of Booth Tarkington's Penrod, the boy writer, and then of the mighty pen of Martin Luther with its power like unto the rod of Aaron.

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