It’s Wednesday: October 2, 2013

With the holidays concluded, I was all ready to start a Syria related thread about America: that we are (or are not) a countryfounded on a vision of freedom, dignity and equality for all, our history driven by a desire to get closer and closer to that dream within our own society and for all humanity. America’s uniqueness is not borne of a sense of our being better than others. Rather, what makes us unique is precisely that we have the humility as a nation to realize that we must collectively answer to a higher cause and seek the welfare of all humanity, that we cannot turn inward selfishly and worry only about our own wellbeing. We cannot ignore the suffering of others.

Then came yesterday’s government shutdown, and I know I need to comment on that. In future weeks we will return to the postponed matter above as well as to the Pew study of American Jewry that came out yesterday and has many American Jews very nervous about our future.

Given what is going on 10 miles away on Capital Hill, we certainly cannot claim to be better than other nations. We are more a laughingstock than special.  It is just about impossible to discuss this without being partisan, and I will fail on one count. The blame game for the standoff is in full motion, and there is a lot at stake.  I will restrict my comments to the Affordable Care Act. (I would never btw call it Obamacare, which makes it about Obama and not about the tens of millions of people in our society who can’t access affordable medical care. We join with Turkey and Mexico as the only industrialized nations that do not guarantee access to health care.)  It is not partisan to say that a large number of Republicans are using the budget bill as a means to roll back the ACA. They say it. They also say that we have a great/ the best health care system in the world and why would we tinker with it? This is where I lose my neutrality.  We may have great doctors and medical professionals, but we don’t have anywhere near the best health care system in the world. The data are clear. Life expectancy: 27th out of the 34 industrialized OECD nations; highest or near-highest prevalence of infant mortality and heart and lung disease; 46th among 48 countries in a Bloomberg study of the most efficient health systems.  At the same time, the WHO reports that we spend more on health per capita and as percentage of the GDP than any other nation. And remember about Turkey and Mexico.  To want to preserve that “system” is beyond defense and, frankly, anyone who argues for that should be embarrassed.

So, I am more than perturbed. My only consolation is that, having watched Israelis do such a poor job of governing themselves and thinking maybe Jews are just not good at that, I now am comforted to know that Americans are not much better.  More seriously, I think what we see on the Hill is just a symptom of our division into two countries, red and blue for short, and there is very little common ground. That is very distressing for both the long term and for the short term when it produces the havoc in the lives of countless good citizens that this shutdown is causing.

It is never good to end on a distressing note.  So that you can feel constructive and that you are helping to shape a small piece of the future, read the P.S. one more time. And have a great Wednesday.   Bill Rudolph

P.S. We have over 250 responses to our High Holiday survey.  When we launched it, I bet Sid Groeneman a DQ Blizzard that we would get significantly more.  Are you going to let me down?  Please do the survey now, before 50 emails pile up on top of this one. Thanks.