I’m sure everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the ideological idiots we elected to office stopped playing chicken and decided to avoid a financial Armageddon. And just in case the healthcare community in general and nurses in particular don’t know: Every single area—service, education, research, public and private, personal and institutional—would have been devastated had the U.S. government defaulted on its debts. Not only Medicare and Medicaid payments, but research grants, subsidies, student loans, government institutions and employees, and interest rates on credit card, loans, mortgages would have gone sky high while the dollar would have been devalued to an extent never before even imagined. No one of any political persuasion can be anything but happy that the United States wasn’t pushed into default. And one can only hope we have learned a few lessons:
• If you elect ideologues, don’t be surprised if they behave like ideologues.
• Never again tie the debt ceiling to the federal budget. The former is money already spent, while the latter is money yet to be spent. They are related but separate issues. To put it on a “Mom and Pop” level: You may have to stop spending so much to get yourself out of debt, but you still have to pay your debts.
We the people must search for and elect moderates in both parties. And we the people, must demand balanced reporting from the media: no more right-wing or left-wing rants. However, one has barely has time to breathe a sigh of relief before we perceive another danger: With financial meltdown avoided, we now must move quickly to protect what we already have. As I write this, it’s early morning on August 2, 2011. The President has not yet signed the debt ceiling/deficit reduction bill, and already people are lining up to protect their self-interests from the financial axe. In this case, it is the American Hospital Association and one of nursing’s most aggressive unions, the 170,000-member National Nurses United who agree that whatever the proposed bipartisan, bicameral committee decides to cut, it had better not be Medicare! Although wrapped in altruistic language about seniors’ access to care, the bottom-line is AHA wants no further cuts to providers’ payments and neither does the nurses’ union (lest these cuts lead to reductions in nurses’ wages, benefits, or even nurses’ jobs). Certainly, we all agree someone has to suffer, just not me. By all means, let us be first to the federal trough!