By Robert Field
As one who read Plutarch Lives while in tenth grade, I have long been fascinated by history. I had an opportunity to exercise that interest at Cal Berkeley both through the curriculum and my independent readings. And my studies have continued through at least 67 of my 82 years, ebbing and flowing with the demands of other of life’s aspects, but books on history and current events were always at hand for the reading as well as newspapers and magazines dealing with national and international subjects.
In my mid-fifties I had a desire to utilize my studies in a manner that would help the nation. I had read about the follow of the alcohol prohibition, defied by at least 40% of Americans. Although only around 20% utilized illegal drugs, I understood that the accusations about marijuana were exaggerated and often to the point of opportunism and / or lunacy. And I felt that lack of factual information was leading the nation down the mindless and disastrous prohibition road again.
So after a year long active tenure as a board member of the then Drug Policy Foundation (later to morph into the Drug Policy Alliance), I founded, along with Kevin Zeese and later aided by Mike Gray and Doug McCoy, Common Sense for Drug policy and for several years offered factual information through a hundred full page advertisements published in half a dozen magazines of divers political opinion plus the creation of a booklet named “Drug War Facts” and widely distribution to the nation’s journalists, academics and opinion leaders to help transition to an informed discussion of the issues. (“Drug War Facts” later became a web site – www.drugwarfacts.org– and to this day attracts almost 2000 visitors a day to read excerpts and links largely to articles published by the federal government or peer reviewed professional journals.
I headed up the educational effort and funded a couple of million dollars, and I considered that to have been the most important contribution to society of my lifetime.
We dealt with two issues:
The first was the War on Drugs. It wasn’t that easy to alter peoples opinions on that subject, even though they more often as not were based upon erroneous information and propaganda.
But we also promoted Harm Reduction, which is the treatment of addicts and the prevention of the spread of diseases, at a time that HIV / AIDS was as wide spread as opioid overdoses are today. I have long described public opinion concerning Harm Reduction as being a mile wide and an eighth of an inch thick. It seldom took more than fifteen minutes of explanation to bring even the most ardent Drug Warrior over to our Harm Reduction Side. No one wanted loved ones to become infected.
I had read much over the past decade concerning health care and the Affordable Care Act , a/k/a “Obama Care”. I have noted widespread ignorance of our nation’s excessive spending on health care , much of it wasted, since in general U S. health care trails all of the advanced nations in the world ,ranking around 37thaccording to the World Health Organization.
Health care insurance got off to a false start during the Second World War when wages were frozen and businesses sought to lure workers by offering health insurance. Other advanced nations had developed efficient systems based upon universal and mandatory health care subject to government regulations, either through taxes such as Canada or private insurance such as Germany. All ranked higher in care and far lower in spending, between 9% and 11% of Gross National Product, regardless to their approach. USA spends around 19% of its Gross National Product, hundreds of billions of dollars more each year as compared to others, that might have been better invested in infrastructure, education, social programs or tax reductions.
Recently there has been a call for the expansion of the successful and economical Medicare System to cover everyone, known as Medicare for All (M4A).
What isn’t properly understood, even by its advocates, is the M4A is but one type of many possible statutory insurance systems of the other leading nations of the world, some of which like England and Canada are operated by the governments and others like Germany and the Netherlands that require everyone to join and be covered by some form of private insurance.
In short, there are two issues here: 1) Do we also need to adopt a form of mandated universal health care and 2) What form would create the least unnecessary dislocation of business and workers and be more likely to be enacted.
I have again started to fund research on these two matters. Once again, I will concentrate my efforts on informing the public out of the belief that “an informed public, over time, will tend to make better decisions.” (I borrow that description from George Soros’s Open Society Institute.)
To me, there are a lot of matters more important to the world than whether LNP and Dale High through Penn Square Partners are ripping off tax payers, whether Mayor Rick Gray was making bad decisions on important matters, and the folly of the board of directors of the Lancaster Public Library (A matter hopefully they may soon correct.) I have tried to draw local attention to these subjects. But I have not allowed myself to be consumed by local folly.
And I intend to go out from this world doing what I can do to better inform our nation on the most important issue of our day: The excessive cost and relative poor quality (unless you have insurance or are rich) of the American health care system.