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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Smart Bombs: Some adults need a timeout

In perusing the littered landscape of raw political discourse, I’ve often wondered when it all starts. The answer may be third grade. I hadn’t realized this until I attended an open house, where parents were given a nifty pamphlet titled “Developmental Characteristics of a Third Grade Student.”

It only took some minor editing to describe some adult behaviors:

•Shares political information and misinformation with peers.

•Develops antagonism toward members of the opposite party.

•Joins same-belief cliques.

•Expends extreme energy in political game playing.

•May have difficulty handling failure.

•May be demanding and inflexible.

•May lie, cheat or complain a great deal.

•Is sensitive to criticism and ridicule.

However, upon re-examining the pamphlet, I realized that comparing hyperpartisan combatants to third-graders isn’t fair to the kids. For instance:

•Is testing and questioning attitudes, values and belief systems.

•Understands reasons and rules and behaves according to them.

•Learns about assuming personal and social responsibility.

•Begins to exhibit self-control.

So, perhaps third grade isn’t the place to look. Does anyone have the kindergarten version?

From the beginning. In case you’ve forgotten the origins of the health care reform idea, the Washington Post has reported the results from the annual survey of employers conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. Employers were asked what changes they plan for employee health benefits for 2010. Forty percent plan to increase the portion workers pay; 9 percent said they would tighten eligibility and 8 percent said they will stop covering workers.

Then there are the survey results from two consulting firms, as reported by businessinsurance.com. Aon Consulting is predicting an average premium increase of 10.5 percent for 2010. The Segal Co. is projecting increases between 10.2 percent and 10.8 percent. As for those “consumer-directed health plans” that are being touted as cost-controllers, Segal sees an 11.9 percent increase.

Meanwhile, that mecca of Marxist mischief known as the Business Roundtable is saying that if current trends continue, annual health care costs for employers in 2019 will rise to $28,530 per worker, which is a 166 percent increase.

“Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option,” Antonio M. Perez, chief executive of Eastman Kodak and a leader of the Business Roundtable, told the Washington Post.

All of this continues a distressing 10-year trend of health premiums rising by 131 percent, wages climbing by 38 percent and more and more businesses dropping coverage entirely. The only reason more people aren’t uninsured is that government has stepped in to offer coverage.

But the news isn’t cheery for government budgets either. In many states, spending on health care has surpassed education as the costliest budget item. The huge increase in college tuitions is just one result of health care devouring larger portions. By 2050, spending on Medicaid and Medicare will be 20 percent of the total economy if no changes are made. It’s 5 percent now.

If health reform is adopted this year, it still won’t be enough to turn around the problem of rising costs. This should be viewed as a first step, which is much healthier than sitting on our collective fannies.

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Wednesdays and Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or at (509) 459-5026.
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