As we face the beginning of a new school year, I cannot help but recall the words of former Yale President A. Bartlett Giametti that “Yale’s liberal education is … an education in the development of that most practical of human activities, which is thinking — analytically, creatively, humanely.”
Why does this matter? Well, for one, September also happens to be the start of a new session of Congress, a session in which our leaders hope to make great strides in rethinking failed policies. As this battle for our future heats up, we have the moral obligation to use our ability to reason and think to cut through lies to educate our neighbors and ourselves.
The debate over health care policy is especially meaningful to Yalies because it will profoundly affect us in the years to come. When we graduate from college, we will be early adopters of whatever changes are made. Regardless of whether the final legislation is effective, we will have to live with it and pay for it.
We have a responsibility to look critically at proposed solutions and question them in the same way that we question our professors and our peers. Just as it would be a waste of a Yale education to “educate” oneself merely by adopting the opinions and manners of a professor without evaluating them, it is also foolish to support a cause célèbre without pausing to understand exactly what sustains it. Is it driven by a pragmatic and critical approach to a problem, or is it a dogmatic and rigid application of ideological doctrine?
This means that you, the average Yalie, will have to look further for the truth than dining hall table tents or Colbert’s latest show. As the partisan divide grows deeper, an increasing number of people and organizations, in the hopes of making an easy conversion to their cause, leave out information vital to making an informed conclusion. As thinkers, it is our job to fill in the blanks.
Take, for example, the current push in Congress for a governmental solution to health care costs. Your political views aside, it may interest you to know that the U.S. government has been trying to use policy to “improve” health care since at least the 1940s, with varying results.
The modern HMO is the direct result of previous fixes. It is a favorite target of politicians and citizens alike, but few people know that this type of insurance rose to prevalence at the whim of Congress. The Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, which forced companies with more than 25 employees to offer HMO insurance, was written with the explicit goal of making health care more affordable and extending coverage to more Americans.
Intentions aside, it is obvious that Congress’ interference in the health care market and the HMOs’ ensuing dominance failed to have the desired affect. In 1973, there were only 40 HMOs in the United States. After this legislation, this number rose to approximately 575 HMOs today.
Over the same period, health care costs as a percentage of GDP have almost doubled from approximately 9 percent to 17.6 percent. As any good statistician can tell you, correlation does not imply causality, but accept these statistics merely as a waypoint to help you navigate your way through political promises.
When Democratic cheerleaders extol the virtues of further government intervention, listen politely, but don’t forget that the same song has been sung before. Question their assumptions. Why will we succeed this time where we have failed before?
As Republicans mount a campaign to whitewash our current system at the Democrats’ expense, don’t forget the reality of spiraling costs; there is little question that something must be done to address this. In 2008 alone, 17.6 percent of the United States’ GDP was consumed by health care costs. Experts predict that amount will double by 2018.
Keep an open mind. Don’t reject a solution because you don’t like the ideology behind it or the group that presents it to you. Congress and its leaders have fallen into this trap. They are divided by party and are forcing their constituents to choose between their dogmas: the status quo or optimistic but blind intervention.
Many avenues, including tort reform, tax code revision and limiting the discounts insurance companies receive from doctors, have been all but ignored. Congressional leaders have barely pretended to seek their own information, instead relying on networks of partisan think tanks, pollsters and lobbyists. That should be unacceptable to a community that prides itself on thinking.
John Scrudato is a junior in Morse College.