Sunday, July 8, 2007

Patriotism and other stuff

Government is supposed to provide the services we can't provide for ourselves, like defending the country, maintaining roads, public education, public health etc.

How's it working?

We know for instance, that health care costs are skyrocketing. We in the U.S. spend more per capita than any other country in the world.

Unfortunately we also have at the same time millions of people with inadequate or no health coverage at all.

And America has slipped in overall quality of health care compared to other nations. The latest WHO ranking places us 37th worldwide, behind Oman, Colombia, Israel, Morocco, Chile and Costa Rica. France and Italy are first and second.

How would any company that wanted to be best, respond?

Would it raise employee salaries? hire more people? Obviously not, at least not in the real world. In the real world when customers feel they aren't getting their money's worth, or are treated badly, they take their business elsewhere. Businesses know this and will react effectively, or they will fail and close their doors.

But government isn't business, or in the real world, it seems.

Customers (taxpayers) can't take business elsewhere.

Nor can they can't refuse to pay.

And government can't close its doors.

Here in Rhode Island, public employees' compensation and benefits are among the highest in the country and greater than the private sector as well.

Legislators have the power to increase taxes to pay for services, whether overpriced, substandard, or even non-existent.

And it isn't just here in Rhode Island but in the nation as a whole. Which brings me to Patriotism.

For too many, patriotism means waving a flag and saying how much you love America. A flag on a car doesn't make the driver a patriot, especially when he flips a cigarette butt out the window. Talk is cheap and flag waving is easy, but they're no substitute for patriotism.

Patriotism means not cheating our fellow citizens, not dirtying our streets, nor dumping trash in our waters, nor cheating on taxes.

True patriotism encourages us to volunteer, to pick up litter when we see it, to respect every citizen; in short, living American values.

True patriotism means we're honest, and that when elected to office we know we are servants of the people and protectors of the Constitution.

Patriotism is actions not words, not slogans, not flags.

Years ago, when I practiced dentistry, the pressures of our practice sometimes seemed overwhelming and we dreaded the ring of the telephone. At such times I would remind myself and my staff that our patients didn't exist for us. We existed for them!

John Kennedy said it well in his inaugural address in 1961:

"… ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country"

Elected officials, are you listening?

Or maybe it's just me.