In some cultures and at some places of business and of friendship groups, it is a custom for the person who has a birthday to give gifts to others.
So here is my Birthday Gift to you on this day of my birth. It consists of two “packages.” I hope they will stimulate your reasoning mind (Romans 12:1-8; Colossians 2:6-8, etc.) and help you to ponder on issues of public morality, sometimes called “social justice” or “social sin and righteousness,” that ought to be among the concerns of every citizen of the USA. They especially should receive major attention by all Christians who are trying to know “the mind of Christ,” those who want to love the Lord with all their minds (Matthew 22:37-40), to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1), and to worship Him instead of Mammon (materialism or money, Luke 16:13) and the greed that is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
My gift consists of some of my observations about two current issues. They have arisen under the stimulus of seeing how our great nation that once was “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” to use Abraham Lincoln’s words, has become one that is “of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.” People of wealth control both political parties and most major institutions of society. Many of them have so shrewdly twisted biblical principles that their (recognized or unrecognized) greedy interests have won the support of many evangelical Christians as well as of many poor and middle class people.
Of course, I know that many people at every social and economic level have money-directed and materialistic values, while others at every level (like you! [editor: I need to do way better!]) do honestly try to live in accord with ethical and biblical values that put the well-being of people ahead of the acquisition and protection of property. The Bible includes the condemnation of unrighteous wealthy people (read examples in Isaiah, Amos, the other Hebrew prophets, and James 2:5-13) and the sinfulness of loving money (1 Timothy 6:10), but it also has instructions for the proper use of wealth (e.g., 1 Timothy 6:17-19).
Details of my first gift to you, GIFT 1: REFLECTIONS ON HEALTH CARE IN AMERICA, are elaborated below. To oversimplify, it reflects the Mammon Worship that is preventing the most genuinely major reforms of the health system of our nation (even though the changes under consideration will bring improvements). If members of Congress would no longer profit personally from our expensive system, we would win better health care at far lower costs. You and I are lavishly paying for huge costs classified as healthcare expenses that are mostly hidden but prevent any genuine overhaul of our extremely expensive and discriminatory circumstances related to health. To plead that “government must not come between me and healthcare” is equivalent to the foolish plea that “we want the profit-seeking insurance bureaucrats to continue to stand between us and healthcare instead.” Read some of the details below.
My second gift is passed along to you under the title of GIFT 2: MORAL ISSUES IN OUR NATIONAL ECONOMY. It clarifies significant aspects of the causes of our current worldwide economic depression, and it reflects the moral and mental lethargy of Christians who support maintaining or strengthening the very conditions that brought it about. I fear far too many of us concentrate so heavily upon the first part of Christ’s “Great Commission” that we overlook its last part, the command to teach his disciples to obey everything that He commanded (Matthew 28:20). That includes applying His teachings (all Scripture!) to life in our own society, which is so different from that of Israel and the ancient Roman Empire in which Jesus lived. Again, our woes have come from allowing “free enterprise capitalism” to overpower the governmental controls that are so necessary as long as people (yes, even Christians, 1 John 1:8-10) are sinners. Fortunately, despite the strong pressures of Mammon to eliminate the balance of powers (legislative, executive, judicial) that characterize our government under the Constitution, they still exist. An analogous or similar balance of powers also is needed more than ever in the economic and other institutions of society.
Christians need to focus upon each respective specific issue that calls for action instead of simply assuming that any one political gang is always correct on every issue. We must not give our highest loyalty unswervingly away to any person (president, governor, mayor, pastor, pope, or other) nor to any group (political party, profession, union, church, denomination, nation, etc.). There is only ONE, whom we should love (i.e., obey and serve) above all else. Only He deserves to receive our unmitigated loyalty and obedience. Of course, we who pledge loyalty to Him sometimes can disagree about the specific actions that obedience to Almighty God calls for because life is so complex, circumstances have so many entangled components, we observe but few of them, and we tend to apply or misapply different teachings from the Bible. We need to help one another to work together as members of the one Body of Christ in this world in which Satan masquerades as the servant of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), trying continuously to squeeze us into its mould (Romans 12:2, Philips) or pattern of conformity.
I hope many of you will share and discuss these observations with family members and friends. They are passed along as “grist for the grinding mill” of your astute minds, not at all “the final word” on their subjects, but as perspectives to place under the revealing “Light of the World” that ideally is reflected by all who are sincere believers in Jesus Christ and servants of Him as their Lord.
Happily, humbly, and gratefully your one-year-older friend, David
David O. Moberg
7120 W. Dove Ct.
Milwaukee, WI 53223-2766
GIFT 1: REFLECTIONS ON HEALTH CARE IN AMERICA:
For your information, I have publicly shared some questions again, this time about the healthcare reform bills that may soon be consolidated by the House and Senate and then made into law. If passed, there will be improvements for most ordinary people, but per capita healthcare costs will continue to soar far above those of most (possibly all) other industrial nations.
On Friday, Dec. 18, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published my letter copied below (with minor adaptations of the first paragraph) in its Letters to the Editor section entitled, “YOUR OPINIONS” under the label, “HEALTH CARE, Keep digging.” (The title I gave it referred to Recusals.)
The article to which its first paragraph refers is Lawmakers invest in what is at issue: Three own stock in medical firms by Diana Marrero on Dec. 13 (pp. 1B & 6B). She revealed that numerous Wisconsin legislators own health care stocks and similar investments. (The three most egregious examples she gave are Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, Paul Ryan, and Tom Petri.) Marrero emphasized the possibility that personal financial gain could influence their votes on health care reform and, by implication, on other subjects. Similar circumstances apply to senators and representatives from every state of the USA.
My letter added to her perspective about health care reform legislation. It emphasizes that it will be impossible to get major reforms as long as nearly all of our legislators reap big benefits from the status quo.
The ethical principles that apply in scientific research, academic scholarship, legal representation, and many other professions demand that persons who would directly benefit from either changing or retaining the status quo must recuse themselves from policy decision-making, but Congress has made its own rules, so it exempts its members from the need for recusals whenever they are proposing, discussing, or voting upon potential legislation.
I am still sure that “If members of Congress no longer profited from our expensive system, we would win better health care at far lower costs.”
On this topic, there almost seems to be a coverup about many details related to healthcare in the USA. One reason is that the mass media themselves profit financially from keeping our current system. Significant reforms will reduce their income.
Someone, however, must have collected and reported information about the actual health care dollars that are spent (by health insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations, hospitals and clinics, prosthetic device manufacturing and sales agencies, and other medical and health-related companies) for each of the following categories of expenditures, but why are they not shared with all of us in the regular news channels?
1. Individual and total contributions to the campaign funds of the members of Congress, the President, state legislators, governors, judges, and others who are elected to their offices.
2. Expenditures for federal, state, regional, and municipal lobbying related to health care issues.
3. Advertising in newspapers, magazines, TV, and other mass media that aims to make patients insist that their physicians prescribe specific medications, surgical procedures, prosthetic or other devices, etc.
4. The marketing expenses for promoting and selling private health insurance plans, including Medicare supplemental policies.
5. The total cost of excessive salaries (is that above $250,000 or $500,000 a year??), the special fringe benefits (country club memberships, lavish paid vacations, etc. that normal workers do not receive), and cash or stock bonuses received by the CEOs and top administrators of healthcare-related corporations.
6. The extra costs of repeatedly collecting the same information again and again, plus maintaining and updating those duplicate records, for each patient who uses the services of more than one physician, clinic, hospital, etc., as well as the expenses for transferring data from one agency to another, in contrast to the savings that would come from maintaining a single central data bank on each person. (Fears of abusing such information are linked more with worry over increased premiums or loss of insurance coverage under our current for-profit insurance system than with anything else.)
7. The profits “earned” by those who are executives of and investors in our private health and health-related industrial and commercial companies. (Yes, that includes most of us who have investments in mutual funds.)
8. All the other expenditures from the health and health-related segment of the national economy that are aimed at influencing legislation and protection of the interests of the industry in contrast to those of consumers. (Some of this is labeled as disseminating information or education.)
Those are among the non-healthcare costs of current health care. They are tucked into its bookkeeping as if they are valid expenses for whatever aspect of healthcare they offer to their clients. Is my impression, that many or most of these costs will be retained or increased and not eliminated by the proposed health care reforms that were separately passed by the House and Senate, correct?
Both “conservatives” and “liberals” have strongly held opinions and fears of what could happen. Both spread lop-sided propaganda through their respective channels as if their views are the whole truth and nothing but the truth on the subject.
But what are the truly relevant facts related to the legislation under consideration in Congress? To me they seem to center around the Almighty Dollar. For the “upper crust” this means the fears of reduced income from their health-related investments, of losing current income tax privileges (under which billionaire Warren Buffett has publicly told that he pays a smaller percentage of his income than does his $60,000 a year secretary), and of carrying a larger share of taxation. For “working class” people it means gaining improved access to healthcare services within their means to pay and without regard for pre-existing conditions, fine-print exclusions from coverage, lack or loss of employer-covered health insurance, etc. But only after there is a competitive public option plan and the eight issues I mention above have been addressed satisfactorily are we likely to see significant reductions in overall healthcare costs for the nation and for individuals.
(No reply to this memo is requested, unless you can provide a single source that has all the answers to all the issues I mention, using solid biblical ethics as the guide to values.)
David O. Moberg
Letters to the Editor (sent Dec. 15, 2009; published Dec. 18)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
RECUSAL FROM INDIRECT HEALTH CARE COSTS
Congratulations on revealing how personal gain directly (even if unconsciously) influences votes in Congress (“Lawmakers invest in what is at issue,” by Diana Marrero, Dec. 13). But dig still deeper!
Most politicians have such strong vested interests in privileges from the status quo in Health Care that they ought to recuse themselves from voting on health care reform. They reap rich personal and politicalbenefits from insurance, pharmaceutical, medical device, financial, and other health care companies.
Even when “reformed,” health expenditures will continue escalating. Reasons include legislators’direct profits from investments in those companies, but also major donations by the companies to campaign funds and other benefits.
Citizens are the ultimate payers of the expanding non-medical expenses charged to health care. These include lobbying, advertising to make patients persuade physicians to prescribe expensive medications, duplicating medical records (how many times must we tell each provider the same things, each set fattening another file?), excessive profits and bonuses, and marketing costs of insurance (48 plans just for Medicare supplements in Wisconsin to enable “the annual choice best forus”).
If members of Congress no longer profited from our expensive system, we would win better health care at far lower costs.
David O. Moberg, Ph. D.
GIFT 2: MORAL ISSUES IN OUR NATIONAL ECONOMY
[The author and source of this article are at the end. DOM]
Did You Know?
“Repentance was an involved process in the early church. Sin was seen not as a personal matter but as something that destroyed the unity of the church. Penitents fasted and prayed for the forgiveness of their sins, appeared before the church to make public confession, and were barred from the Lord’s Supper until they gave evidence of a change of heart and were absolved. (The only exception was for people facing persecution. They were readmitted to the Lord’s Supper so they could receive strength.)” —John O. Gooch (Christian History Newsletter, Feb. 13, 2010)
Thank God, even the sins of which we are completely unaware and that that we think are righteous deed are forgiven by our Lord Jesus
Christ. — D.O.M.