|Photo by FLICKR/seiuhealthcare775nw/3584425251/|
A May, 2009 rally for health care reform. The legislation finally
passed the United States Senate on Christmas Eve -- about
60 years too late.
ALEXANDRIA, VA. - With the passage last week of the most sweeping health care reforms since Mount Vernon had George Washington's hippo ivory dentures cleaned, this Baby Boomer is definitely not looking forward to Medicare.
Millions of older Americans are suffering migraines trying to make sense of the Medicare prescription drug program. Seniors are bewildered over the number of choices. In California alone there are more plan providers than ailments to medicate.
The frustration over the colossal number of options in the new Medicare program may be just a symptom of a more widespread national malaise. (No, Jimmy Carter is not back).
In the U.S. we suffer from a glut of choices.
It seems unpatriotic to suggest that too many options stifle freedom of choice rather than expand it, but as a Boomer I was expecting as I grew older that life might get simpler.
In his insightful book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz argues, “There is a cost to having an overload of choice,” a cost that contributes to “bad decisions, to anxiety, and dissatisfaction — even to clinical depression.” Maybe that’s why we find ourselves rootless and lost, spiritually adrift, and stuck in a deep purple funk. We have way too many choices in jams, jeans, and pill providers!
|Photo by FLICKR/jordan_in_alaska/626680818/|
if you listened to the troglodyte tour guide, you
would think Halliburton is a greater engine of
good than Mother Teresa ever was...
What if we experimented with a handful of choice-narrowing decisions in our national life? We could begin with the seasons.
Why four seasons when one would do? Mid-summer in Bangor feels like mid-winter in Phoenix. Autumn in Las Vegas feels like spring in Baltimore. In Seattle it rains all year. In San Diego the sun always shines. How about one season? (Retailers could keep up Christmas decorations all year and save wear and tear on the décor and on our national psyche.
Next we could tackle Congress. It’s no wonder Members of Congress do so little of the people’s work. They’re far too busy choosing options. There’s the Children’s Caucus and the Child Care Caucus, the Rural Caucus and the Rural Education Caucus. There’s even an Arts Caucus. (Do members of both the Children’s Caucus and the Art Caucus debate proposed legislation on finger painting?)
There’s a caucus for progressives, for steel, and for textiles, for water infrastructure and methamphetamine control, for Hellenes, Asian Pacific Americans, and Nigerians. There’s even a new caucus to combat piracy. (Someone tell them Blackbeard is dead.)
In addition to selecting which caucuses to join, members struggle with choosing which wing of their party to belong. There are Blue Dog Democrats (Democrats who think like Republicans) and the Christian Right Coalition (Republicans who think like Benito Mussolini.).
There are southern conservatives, northern liberals, blue state Republicans, red state Democrats, progressive Republican northerners (a broken wing), Mountain State libertarians, and the odd fellow or two. Any avian with this many wings would never get off the ground. Is it any wonder Congress seems in a perpetual state of befuddlement?
Schwartz says that maintaining our national mental health as we age may require simplifying our choices. Medicare could begin this down sizing of American life options by replacing the staggering number of providers in its new prescription drug program with a single choice, a company accustomed to dispensing bitter medicine — Halliburton.
Dick Methia is a humorist who lives in Springfield. Contact him at