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Let them eat cake


Fri, Jul 18th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

In the late 50's when I went on leave from an active duty post in Virginia I brought home a young man who had never been more than about 50 miles inside tidewater on the east coast He was born, I think, in Massachusetts and grew up in New York State. He was a well spoken intelligent fellow. We had some vocal and energetic arguments about various subjects over a chess board. In any case I thought of him as well read and sophisticated.

I was taken aback when, somewhere between West Virginia and Indiana, he asked me if we still had Indian uprisings back in Iowa. Thinking this was going to be the lead up to some droll joke of his, I replied something to the effect, it had been a few years but the uprising lasted just a couple days and nobody was scalped. His acceptance was such that I saw the question was posed seriously. I apologized, told him the truth, and reassured him we had indoor plumbing as well.

Those of us who have always lived in the flyover states, even if we have visited New York, Boston, Washington DC and the megalopolis corridor, have little understanding of the nitty gritty of their life style. Thus, I came to understand my friend's Hollywood view of life on the prairies. It's still doubtful a huge percentage of those living their life in eastern tidewater could accurately describe the difference between Iowa and Ohio, and you could possibly throw in Idaho as well.

That shouldn't be the case with Presidents, Presidential candidates, and ex-Senators acting as Presidential advisors. These people are supposed to be our surrogates and convince us they know our problems and can solve them if it involves the government.

Mr. Bush famously claimed in a press conference in response to a question about the uninsured and access to health care, "All Americans can get health care. All they need to do is go to the Emergency Room".

Emergency rooms are pretty much confined to metropolitan areas, leaving most rural areas and their residents at a terrible disadvantage and the ER is the most expensive way to treat chronic and non-acute problems. If you lived across the street from an emergency room and took your child in for routine immunizations, well-baby checks to assure he/she is developing normally, or even for a follow-up for an acute infection you would never be logged into the system. Adults needing dosage changes and follow-up for diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and a slew of other ailments need a regular primary care physician. They would have to wait until their conditions caused an emergency such as a diabetic ketoacidosis, stroke or heart attack possibly resulting in disability or even death.

Mr. Bush, in two sentences, demonstrated his lack of understanding of the health care system - a callous understanding of the problems people not born to money face with health care delivery. A "let them eat cake mentality" toward the unwashed masses.

One of Senator McCain's campaign advisors is ex-Senator Phil Gramm, an economist by education. During the Reagan years he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking. Senator McCain has called him his economic guru after stating he (McCain) doesn't "understand the economy as well as I should." Much has been written blaming Gramm legislation for the Enron debacle and now the housing market implosion because of sub-prime lending. (If you are interested I can provide references).

My problem is with his recent "let them eat cake" moment.

In a speech on July 9th he stated there is no recession. Americans, he stated, "have sort of become a nation of whiners" and America was "in a mental recession." Less than a week later General Motors announced plans to lay off another 47,000 workers. Ford is taking radical steps to avoid bankruptcy.

This let them eat cake moment came from the man expected by pundits to be McCain's Treasury Secretary. Just what we need from a multimillionaire vice-president of a Swiss Bank is advice to see an psycho-analyst if we get laid off or cannot afford to drive to our jobs.

The lack of understanding and the disconnect from ordinary peoples' problems is stunning. If living in Washington does this to all politicians it makes you want to revisit term limits. We do have to pay more attention to what these guys say because sooner or later if they talk enough, and they seem to love to talk, they will reveal themselves. We haven't been able to afford Mr. Bush. I don't think we can afford Mr. Gramm in an administration either.

Robert Sauer lives in Preston. He can be reached at r.sauer@mchsi.com

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