Speaking of thankfulness this time of year, I wanted to thank you, my fellow taxpayers, for the hearing aids I just received, for the dental care I desperately needed, and for the pills I take to prevent a pregnancy neither you nor I can afford. I am deeply grateful.
I inherited a hearing loss problem from my mother which means that by the time I was 36, I needed hearing aids. For a couple of years I have been without, much to the consternation of my employer, and those of you I may have checked in as guests whilst performing my duties as a front desk clerk at a local hotel. Thankfully I stumbled upon an agency known as the Department of Rehabilitation (funded by the taxes we pay) and they were able to hook me up with a new set of hearing aids. Now when I greet you at the front desk or answer your phone calls, I no longer have to ask you to repeat yourself to the point of frustration. I am able to provide much better customer service to you. We are both much happier.
I am very appreciative of the dental care I recently received. At one point I did have dental insurance, but several years without care and cleanings wreaked havoc on my teeth. By the time I could qualify for medical benefits, two of my teeth were broken off at the gum line and I was at constant risk of an infection. In fact I had several, despite the gallons of Listerine I used. I worked still, in pain much of the time, at three jobs. If you’ve ever gone to work ill you know what I mean when I say I wasn’t at the top of my game. I missed work due to infections, and was certainly less congenial and patient than usual. Once I was able to have them extracted (thanks to our tax dollars) my health improved immensely. I was no longer fighting infections and I became much more productive and exuberant at work. Thank you again. We both benefit, again.
Finally, I want you to know how extremely grateful I am for the ability to obtain birth control at Margaret Sanger’s place because my husband and I cannot support a child right now. I learned the other day that many sisters in my age group (40 +) are the largest growing demographic among those seeking the services of Planned Parenthood, an organization partially funded by our tax dollars. Again, no insurance means no access to reproductive health care and effective birth control. Except for the help of Planned Parenthood, myself and many others would be at higher risk of an unwanted pregnancy. That means we are all saving millions of dollars a year because there are less mouths to feed and less medical bills to pay. We save millions in health care costs, fellow taxpayers, because breast cancer and cervical cancer are detected early thanks to Planned Parenthood’s commitment to holistic health. They are dedicated to ending domestic violence as well - every time I have an appointment the staff makes sure to ask that I am in a healthy, non-abusive relationship. Thanks to the efforts of Planned Parenthood, our tax dollars work to keep our sisters, our mothers, and our daughters healthier.
I am quite thankful that the government is able to meet at least these minimum needs for another reason too: I’d much rather have the government providing these services than have my care entrusted to a business whose only goal is to make money, which is exactly what happens with privatization.
Privatization is a recurring buzz word lately amongst many politicians. They tout it as the answer to our big government problem. As American citizens, we should be very concerned that our leaders seek to privatize government functions since a business or corporation’s number one priority is profit. When profit is the motive, then any sense of consumer safety, health, viability, and security are threatened. Chicago Tribune writer Linda Finley Belan says it most succinctly: “Putting profits above products and services means that companies are forced to cut corners (a nice way of saying cheat in some way), customers, employees, vendors, the community, whoever and whatever is necessary to meet the demands of the next quarterly report.” The only reason prescriptions cost so much is because privately owned pharmaceutical companies have stockholders to pander to, who expect to make a profit in their share of the company.
Ultimately, a wide gulf is created between the wealthy and the poor since privatization necessarily destroys the middle class of a country. How do we know these things? We’ve seen privatization implemented in other countries with devastating results. Chile, for instance in the 70’s and 80’s privatized everything as part of an ‘experiment’ of corporatism. Its government was forced to take over the very programs they forfeited in the name of “free market” because the “free market” wasn’t meeting demands sufficiently enough for the majority of the nation’s populace. There became an immense income gap with no middle class whatsoever. Having government provide some of the basic necessities boosted the health of the nation by nurturing a middle class, bringing in balance and subsequent stability (the middle class forms a bell curve balance which has much more stability than a lopsided one percent to ninety-nine percent ratio). A healthy middle class means a healthy nation.
By now many of you are screaming “socialist!” I would suggest that we get used to the word. We need to grow mature enough to elevate the term and its meaning to more practical applications. Because practically speaking, what really works for a nation and its people is a mixed economy, including both private and public elements, to a greater or lesser degree depending on politics and cultural forces. Socialism is not a dirty word. As one great American said “a government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Among the many things I am thankful for this year, I am most grateful to all my fellow workers and taxpayers for the ability to lead a more productive life and contribute much more efficiently to my community. I am off now to look for a better paying job. Since I can hear, I have the confidence I need to get one, which means I can pay more taxes, which means others can get help also. It takes all of us to make this thing work.