9/3/09

Priceless

The other day I heard a report on the radio about some guy who played some sport of some kind with some sort of ball, who had just negotiated a contract with some team for eight million dollars.

What got me was the "negotiation" part. I assume, by this, that the team offered this guy, say, five million, and he said no no, I want ten million, and they both agreed to settle on eight million. Now, I know that there are market forces at play here, and there are matters of prestige, and I'm sure it wasn't this guy who said anything, it was his agent -- but isn't it incredible to imagine anyone saying, with any kind of straight face, "No, I'm sorry, five million dollars a year just won't be enough for me."

I remember reading a book about Scott's polar expedition, which posited that the party met their tragic demise because they happened to go out during a season where temperatures were much colder than average -- when it might only warm up to 120 below during the day, rather than 100 below. "One may wonder twenty degrees either way makes any difference, in a climate so extreme," the author noted, and then pointed out that it in fact did -- for example, the surface ice behaves differently; you perspire at a different rate; at certain temperatures it's possible to handle metal tools, but a few degrees colder and you can't, and so on.

I suppose that differences in vast amounts of money is similar, that there are, in fact, things you can do with eight million dollars a year that you can't do with five. It's hard to fathom exactly what that would be, though.

On the other hand...about two years ago I was driving to pick up the kids at my inlaw's house and saw a station wagon parked at the corner of their road. It was still there the next day. My father-in-law eventually stopped to check, and it turned out that the car belonged to a couple who had just lost their house. I've forgotten the finer details of the story, but it went something like this -- they were a middle-aged couple, they'd owned a home in town for years and years. She had just retired, he was a contractor or a builder, someone with a steady job. Then he fell and hurt his back, and couldn't go to work for a while. Then he lost his job. His back got worse; he required surgery. They depleted their retirement savings, trying to pay their mortgage and the hospital bills. Eventually the money ran out, and they lost their house and everything in it. All they had left was their car -- which was paid for -- and a few suitcases of clothes. My father- and sister-in-law brought them some food and other supplies; after a few days the car was gone; we never heard what happened to them.

This was a couple who had done everything right. They worked hard all their lives. They paid their taxes, they owned a home, they saved for retirement. And they lost everything -- everything! -- because he fell down. That's all it took, one slip of the foot.

I don't claim to understand much about the health care debate, but look. When people say that "socialism" shouldn't happen in America, that "handouts" shouldn't happen in America -- no, what happened to that couple, that is precisely what shouldn't happen in America. If a baseball player can negotiate for eight million dollars a year in America, then everyone else in America who isn't fortunate enough to be able to play baseball really well -- they should at least be able to go to the doctor when they need to, or take their children to the doctor when they need to be seen, or to change jobs without worrying about losing their coverage. It's not an encroachment of personal freedom for the government to give you the option of buying health care from them. It's ensuring freedom -- from worry, from homelessness, from catastrophe -- for those who are sick, or disabled -- which, guess what, could mean anyone one of us, at some point in our lives.

There seems to be a lack of compassion out there lately, and a great deal of animosity. There is a desperate need for...negotiation. I hope it comes in time.

3 comments:

MomofK9s said...

Wow-Powerful post. And I could not agree with you more...

Anonymous said...

Well-stated.

Mom

aimee said...

Very well said.