Wednesday, May 28, 2014

THYME Magazine: A Culture of Life Matters

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VII, Issue XIV

A Culture of Life, Why it Matters

Often touted as an example of a government run healthcare system that works, the VA system does indeed have some good people in it, and they do perform their mission to care for our elderly and wounded warriors in a professional manner. But it is likely that cost-saving directives and management level decisions have kept many from getting the care they need. This is simply unacceptable! These are men and women who swore an oath and put themselves in harm's way for their country. They deserve to be cared for. The news that up to forty people may have died waiting for necessary procedures in Arizona VA hospitals is a dark chapter in our history. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is understandably on the carpet right now, and though the President claims he didn't know, that excuse is wearing pretty thin. Reports show that he WAS briefed about this problem long ago. Denied care, stories of secret "wait lists" and a general sense of betrayal weigh heavily right now. I think we need quite a few questions answered.

The issue is not one that can be simplified. Between 2000 and 2012 the total number of veterans decreased 16.5% while resources to care for them have risen steadily over the past decade. Some Veterans benefit spending is 'mandiatory,' or set by a statuatory formula. This includes the GI Bill, vocational rehabilitation, disability payments, pensions and survivor benefits. VA Health system spending, however, is considered 'discretionary' spending and is under the purview of Congress. Congress has NOT "slashed" funding for the system. Actual figures show that the VA budget has risen from $47.8 Billion in 2009 to $63.4 Billion in 2014. That is a 30% increase in the last three years. The situation is complicated by ageing VA facilities and other factors, but claims that the VA has been denied resources are simply not accurate. The problem is very likely to be blameable on administrative decisions. Politicians tend to ask for inflated budget requests, knowing full well they will have to settle for smaller increases, then they tend to blame insufficient funding anyway when their costs exceed planned expenditures. When it comes to assigning blame, administrators are indeed a pass-through entity!

But if administrators are redirecting discretianary funds and denying care, that begs a larger discussion. It involves the value of human life, and the danger in arbitrarily deciding who is worthy to live and who isn't. While Liberal commentators often present their arguments in the context of "doing what is best for you," they gravitate toward providing more benefits for young healthy people and rationing care to the elderly and overlooking the unborn. That is why you will see a push to provide free contaceptives while encouraging easy access to abortion and measures such as the "death panels" in the so-called "Affordable" Care Act. Benefits tend to concentrate for those who are likely to keep voting for those who provide them. Unborn babies cannot vote at all and older people are more likely to strive for self-sufficiency, making them less likely to vote for Liberal benefactors. The media, however, continues to drone on about the relative "compassion" of Liberal policies. One is hard pressed to make the argument for free and vital markets, which not only provide more and better services to more people, but often are the fertile ground for new and better methods to be created in. Markets just aren't "fair."

You may complain that new procedures are not universally available, but the fact that they exist at all is due to innovation. Given time these new innovations may become more readily available and come down in cost. A healthy marketplace often corrects its own discrepancies as doctors and hospitals provide care on a sliding fee scale or write off some care for indigents. This requires an efficient system that brings profits to those who administer it. Profit is what provides money that may be used more creatively or is the source for tax revenues that may be used to provide coverage for those who cannot afford it. While this illustration is indeed simplified, it does make the case for tort reform, insurance portability and a host of reforms that might allow more and better healthcare to be delivered more efficiently. These issues can be addressed as stand-alone reforms and do not require 2000 page "outline" legislation. But there IS an overriding source of guidance that is sadly missing, and that would be the valuation of all individuals seen in the concept of IMAGO DEI.

If a person's value is indeed a product of Divine investment, his or her rights are indeed INALIENABLE! You cannot arbitrarily decide "viability" or who is "too old" if you have no basis for it. A higher court has affirmed the dignity of men and women. You cannot make some arbitrary relativistic judgement. Indeed it is worth remembering that when governments decide who is worthy and who is not, you get forced sterilization in institutions like Virginia's Western State Hospital during the first half of the Twentieth Century and you get a whole slate of "undesireables" in regimes such as that of the National Socialists in 1930's Germany where Jews, Gypsies, Jehovas Witnesses, Homosexuals and Italians were all sorted and identified with a system of colored triangles. Almost seven million people were eliminated because the government decided to. When anything is permissible, ANYTHING is permissible. Yet most historians would agree that the holocaust was EVIL. How can anything be evil if anything is permissable? Indeed it seems to some easier to rewrite history and say the holocaust didn't happen than to wrap one's mind around its evil. Yet holocaust is verified history, as is the extermination of ten million Ukranians by Stalin and the killing of untold millions in Mao's China.

In the end one must come to terms with the unique value of every man, woman and child on the planet... even if we stand on the opposite sides of an armed conflict! We all are moved by those stories of cease-fire, like the time English and German soldiers sang "Silent Night" together on Christmas in 1914, or during our Civil War, when troops of the opposing armies sometimes exchanged coffee and sugar for tobacco. In fact, in the Winter of 1862, opposing troops near Fredericksburg, Virginia floated little, sailboats back and forth across the Rappahannock River with items they wanted to trade. Today Israeli Defense Force medical teams care for the wounded they receive without regard for their status or nationality. These moments in history need to serve as a benchmark. Those who champion the rights of the unborn, or the rights of forgotten elderly veterans also enlarge the vision of IMAGO DEI. Just as William Wilberforce extended compassion to the slaves of England, so these modern men and women who follow in his footsteps elevate the entire human condition.

For many of us, the mistreatment of our veterans is a travesty we cannot allow in its own right, but it begs to be resolved in terms of the high principles laid down by Locke and Jefferson which are ultimately founded in Divine Revelation!

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