Who does what for whom?
In his It Seems to Me column, “America is a Great Country” (T&V, Sept. 26) Christopher Hagedorn noted that, “You don’t have to be a statistics major in college (Where else, one might ask?)to understand that persons with kids over 26 are paying for persons with kids under 26,” and Mr. Hagedorn goes on to stress, “All of the above are paying for others with chronic diseases.”
In reading Mr. Hagedorn, I was reminded of PBS reporters, Thursday the 26th, as I recall, who pushed the point that the young (contributors) would be paying for the elderly and sick. So the question I have is this: Is that so? Is it so that those who make no claims pay for those that do?
I believe that here we are witness to the framed opposition between collective actions (such as insurance) and those who take a more deeply personal and self-centered, almost acquisitive, view.
I want to offer something different. I want to acknowledge collective actions, public and private such as health care, Social Security, with its payments to widows, kids, disabled, but also car and home insurances, for two, provided by private insurance companies. These are forms of collective behavior. Hence, when I pay my health care premium that is not analogous to my paying for the narrow world of buying a theater ticket:
I pay for my ticket and get a show. That’s it! Nor is my paying into an insurance fund analogous to my setting money aside for myself in the form of a savings, bond fund or stock.
While it is true that a record may be kept of my contributions, that record does not indicate ownership; it merely shows my contributions. When I retire, or get sick, I do not draw on them, I draw on the fund. If I do not draw on my contributions, then contrary to Mr. Hegedorn and the gentle voices on PBS, I do not draw on those of others either! Social Security and health care were never “nest eggs.” They were never singular “savings for a rainy day.” They are complex participations in the life of a people, and they do not have the logic of Me, Myself and I. To suggest that they do is to distort the collective energies of a people.
John Giannone, ST