I must say I don’t envy the job that the Obama administration faces when it comes to fixing all the things that are broken. The fact is that we’ve been on the wrong track for much of the last 30 years, as a result of corporate greed, back-room deal-making, and no small degree of bigotry, paranoia and laziness.
Today, I feel as though the country may be in the midst of an important awakening, though it may turn out be more like waking up in The Matrix than any of us would like to admit.
Since the financial meltdown, I’ve been slowly reawakening myself, and connecting to politically like-minded groups and people online. One of the more interesting connections I’ve made is with the Obama Network & Advisory Group on LinkedIn.com.
Last week, Chris Johnston posted a couple of links to the group’s discussion board, and asked:
“Of the priorities: education, renewable energy, defense, and fixing the medical system, which is most important and why?”
“Well,” I thought, “obviously it’s all important!” And I wrote the following reply:
I think it’s very difficult to place one of these priorities over the others.
Education is hugely broken right now, and that’s going to represent a huge long-term shortfall in so many areas it’s almost impossible to account for.
Renewal energy is mandatory. There’s really no way around that fact anymore. For years there has been no reputable scientist that has disputed carbon-based fuels’ role in global climate change. The risks are far too great to not address this aggressively now.
While the peacenik in me would like to think we can spend lots less on defense, the fact is that at least right now, we can’t. I think we can do a lot of work on efficiency, and lots more on treating our veterans with more civility. But defense is expensive, and there aren’t many shortcuts. It is what it is.
As the son of two doctors and the stepson of a third, I’ve seen first-hand, the gradual deterioration of the medical system over the last three decades. A large part of the cause has been corporatization, driven by the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry. The medical system is so inefficient and expensive today that only the wealthiest among us have truly comprehensive coverage — and I’m lucky to be among them because I work for Microsoft. (Microsoft has one of the best health-plans available in the US job market today.)
The other thing that’s wrong with the medical system, and which I haven’t heard talked about much by the Obama administration, is that our spending on basic science research (including Medicine) has been slashed by 40-to-60% during the last decade or so. This is unacceptable. Not only has this contributed to the corporitization I mention above (primarily through the pharma’s), but it’s also contributed to the leeching of medical expertise to academic and private institutions abroad in Europe and elsewhere, and decreased the desire of students in this country to go into medicine and the sciences. This coupled with the high cost of malpractice insurance makes the medical profession so unattractive to prospective doctors, that many of them do something else instead. Today by the time you go into practice, unless you’ve gone to school on a scholarship, you’re $500K in debt before the first patient walks in the door!
I am so happy that the people working with Obama value science highly. But there’s a long road ahead, and one which we will undoubtedly not have reached the end of by the end of Obama’s first term. Let’s hope that during that time America comes to our senses on education, science, and can continue to take a rational, pragmatic approach to solving these important problems.
(Ok, so that turned out to be a lot longer than I’d planned, but so be it. 🙂
Thanks to Barbara Paul for prodding me to get back on the stick, and post on the blog instead of on a DG where nobody can see it. Now let’s see if I can keep it going…
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