Work harder or work smarter?
I’ve been trying to understand the rejection of health insurance reform by people who seem to be average middle-class Americans. I’ve spoken with some hard-working friends and family members with varying degrees of college education, who in at least one case abandoned the field of their dreams in order to provide for a growing family. I proposed an alternative scenario to them, which is the reality in countries with universal healthcare: What if your dream job had paid a living wage and your family had health care? In other words, the job you really wanted provided a modest but sustainable living: enough to pay the rent and keep food on the table, and health care was either free or close to it. The response: but then we would never want to do better/be more/improve.
If you’re working at least 40 hours a week at a job you love in the field you spent 4 years (and a few thousand dollars) studying in college, why is it not enough? Is the need to do better/be more/improve based solely on compensation? Do we diminish some fields strictly because they don’t pay? If we don’t value work in the arts or natural resources, we risk losing key elements of our civilization. What is life without art or music? How can we sustain human life on the planet without managing our natural resources? Why not expect a system that values the work people do and compensates them adequately?
More than once I’ve heard someone express the idea that “I couldn’t afford health care (or housing) and didn’t qualify for assistance; so why should anyone else get assistance?” Perhaps the problem isn’t the people who do qualify for or receive assistance, but with the programs we have in place. We can change housing and health care programs to make services available to more people. Maybe expanding availability of health care would be more palatable to the tax-paying Middle Class if they were receiving the benefits their taxes fund.
Do we want our children to have to weigh the same choices: pursue their dreams or choose job security in a field for which they have no passion or interest? The ultimate sellout: trade dream to cling with gratitude for a less than satisfying job which provides health insurance (which they still have to pay for and may not cover all necessary healthcare). We’re all paying for something.