Sunday, May 31, 2009

"I can't do that, Dave"....

My buddy Marvin, a farmer up by Mooreland, is fond of telling the story about the time he added a new hired-hand, Ronald, to help with some summer projects around the farm. It was mid August, and one of the projects involved installing a new roof on one of his barns. When Marvin took the new man out to the barn, Ronald informed him that he wasn’t able to climb.

Marvin ensured him that wasn’t a problem, because there was plenty of other work that needed to be done. They then drove to the other end of the farm, where a new fence needed to be built. Ronald was given a set of posthole diggers, and instructed where the holes for the end posts needed to be dug. If you’ve ever built much fence, you probably remember how hot the sun gets and how hard the ground gets around mid August.

When he retuned home for lunch, Marvin saw the posthole diggers leaning up against the barn, and Ronald nailing shingles on the roof. To this day, Marvin maintains that one of his greatest accomplishments in life was teaching the new man how to climb.

We’ve all been in situations where we found out we were capable of doing something we didn’t think we were capable of doing. A few times in my youth, I was convinced I couldn’t possibly get out of bed so early in the morning to milk cows. My father was able to convince me otherwise.

A while back, I was involved in a discussion about an employee who was taking a $3.50 per hour pay cut, in order to relocate with a company that offered health insurance. I offered my opinion that with an extra $140.00 per week, a person could by a high-deductible major-medical policy, open a tax deductible medical savings account, and in the long and short run be money ahead. The general consensus among the group was that people wouldn’t be able to make themselves contribute to the savings account. I suggested that maybe they needed to have a talk with my Dad.

The American people have developed quite a list of things they think they can’t do. The recent economic downturn and resultant budget cuts have caused some cities and towns to consider eliminating government provided trash pick-up. A lot of people are convinced that if the government doesn’t provide the service, trash will pile up and eventually bury us all. But in actuality, there are people who pay for their own trash pick-up, or haul their own trash, with seemingly minimal side effects.

At the federal level, the stakes are a little higher, but the principle is the same. We’ve known for a long time that the Social Security and Medicare systems are paying out more money than they are collecting, and the state of the economy is speeding those systems respective demise. The keepers of the programs recently estimated that Medicare is just 8 years away from financial meltdown, with Social Security meeting the same fate 20 years later.

With so many people convinced that they can’t survive without a government run retirement and healthcare system, I’m sure we’ll see a lot of activity by the government in the next few years trying to make those systems work by raising taxes, lowering benefits, raising qualifications, and lowering expectations.

I’d like to believe the people who will come out winners in all of this are the ones who are able to figure out that they can take care of themselves, and their retirement, and their healthcare, without a lot of interference from the government.

Unfortunately, the way things work now, they’ll end up being the ones who take care of the people that couldn’t, or wouldn't, figure it out.

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