THE MAN IN BLACK

Ok, I get it. This country, or much of it, gets hives when anything that smacks of socialism is mentioned. Socialism structurally means more government. Anything that smacks of more government is bad because it is anti- capitalism. Socialism tells people what they need and creates a government to give it to them; capitalism  lets people figure out what they want and how to get it. Bernie Sanders is a socialist. John Wayne was a capitalist. Compare the images in your mind and you’ll get it too.

The current major anti-socialist bug-a-boo of course is medical care. Were we to start tabla rasa, with an empty slate, a group of post Neanderthals coming together to discuss what to do when some, or many of us, got sick, I could see this being an interesting and worthwhile discussion. No one would have care, but what had been passed along down the line by a leader or whoever passed for the local groupings’ medicine men. You needed an herb you picked it. You needed a leech you reached into the muck, plucked it and applied it. Then word came of another grouping suffering grievously at the hands of some illness. “What,” the not yet sick councils asked, ” should/could be done?” Maybe there was some bartering or swapping, but when the council met to determine the answer we would have the first congressional debate on health care.

‘not quite the case right now in 2017, is it? We already have herbs and drugs and leeches and a lot of us can’t afford them. In some places we have councils providing care in ways that people can afford; in some places we have lesser functioning care systems. The Great Council is faced not with a system that needs inventing; it is faced with an existing system and making a choice to dismantle it and build a whole new one, one that would disrupt the on-going care of many of its members, or fix the existing one. It has chosen dismantling.

Nor is it dealing at all with the supply side issue of medicine. We’ve got all kinds of specialized leeches now, but the people who discovered them have hoarded them. You can’t go down to the pond and scoop up as many as might be needed anymore. Most folks don’t have what with to trade or barter to obtain them. What to do? What to do?

Let’s jump forward a few thousand millennia for an inconsistency or two. The leader of our government has picked Andrew Jackson as his model. Much has been said about the General as a President, much of it not good. However one thing is clear. His political philosophy can be traced back to Thomas Jefferson about whom much has been said, almost all of it sterling expect for a few social issues, shall we say? They believed that given all the facts the average person would come to the solution to the problems that were presented him/her. And yet the current Jacksonian overlay on health care has been created in the dark, behind closed doors and is widely rumored to provide less at greater cost. It is further rumored that the “savings” from this system will go towards a massive tax cut for businesses and their leaders who in turn will use that money to create jobs that will pay workers a living wage that will allow them to make enough money to afford  free market health care for themselves and their children.

Several ironies need to be pointed out. One is that Jackson, the great populist, was famous for having his “kitchen cabinet.” It was a group of insiders who met in the kitchen of the White House before cabinet meetings to decide on how things would go before they went.

The second is the name for the major industrialists who created the kind of system mentioned above, a system later called the “trickle down” system. These folks were none-to-generously called as a group, “The Robber Barons.” One example of their trickle down activities was not putting the money into fixing a dam holding back the lake at their private hunting and fishing club above the valley in Johnstown, Pa. The result was known as the Johnstown Flood.

Finally it should be pointed out that there is no modern economic example of the Trickle Down Theory working in actuality though it does have a history of leaving huge debt and huge social inequity. But I quibble.

In 1971 a country and western singer wrote a social protest song, “The Man in Black” and spent the rest of his career performing dressed in black. His name: Johnny Cash. The song opens by posing the question to the questioners, “Why, you ask, do I wear black?” Here are some of his answers:

“…for the poor and beaten down, living in the hopeless, hungry side of town

…for the prisoner who is the victim of the times

…for the sick and lonely old

…in mourning for the lives that could have been each week we lose a hundred fine men.

Anything sound familiar here?

 In the middle Cash intones,

“Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,

In our streak of lightin’ cars and fancy clothes,

But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,

Up front there ought to be a man in Black.”

We don’t have such a man no less a council of them, didn’t then either. So Cash concluded,

Ah I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,

and tell the world that everything’s OK,

But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,

‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.”

Johnny Cash is gone now.

But he left behind a question or two. Who now will be that Man in Black up front?
And will there be enough folks behind him to matter?

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