Higgins: Titanic proportionsWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
People tend to search for patterns to the things in their lives, hoping to make some sense of what seems to be the random occurrences that they are confronted with. So I found myself when reading Michael Miller’s piece about the scheduled stories, observances and release of the 3-D Cameron movie version of events, all of which would culminate in the dinner and ball on April 14 to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic. I couldn’t help but be struck by some of irony surrounding this event, beginning with the fact that the anniversary of this disaster falls on tax day here in the U.S.
In parallel with the doomed liner that many will soon be celebrating, I also couldn’t help but notice that the nation likewise seems to be charting an ill-advised course in what many see today as increasingly dangerous waters; while traveling at a pace (at least of spending) that many more are calling at best reckless, and at worst an ongoing act of negligence. Unlike the tragedy that faced those on that terrible “Night to Remember,” the issue that we seem to face today is not one of too few lifeboats to save those on board, but too many of them to keep the ship upright and in trim, if not so many that they’re threatening to drag the ship down themselves.
The unemployment “insurance” boat had been extended by the national legislature to a keel length of 99 weeks to ensure that all were carried beyond the sucking effect of what still appears to be little more than a sinking economy. For those of us with failing math skills, that’s nearly two years of escape provided at a time when the government providing such rescue is also telling us that the economy and unemployment that they are designed to carry us away from are now improving. And while the latest congressional compromise for extending a tax cut will see the limit reduced 73, this might still seem to some to be an awfully long lifeboat and an awfully long time to be spending in it.
Social Security was designed as more of a retirement safety net than a lifeboat to sail the seven seas, but it seems over time to have become one over the decades since its construction. Like unemployment insurance, not only are many spending far more time in this boat than was ever anticipated, but the boat itself has been forced to grow to serve a far larger function than originally designed for or intended for it. While this boat appears to be carrying this increasing load well enough today, it’s showing every sign of becoming over-crowded. Referring back to the compromise that adjusted the unemployment boat, it also appears to be one with a leak that Congress not only refuses to plug, but created in the first place.
Medicare and Medicaid, once lifeboats themselves to ensure that seniors and the poor would have an escape from the ravages of disease in this country (the cost of medicine and not the illnesses themself), have apparently now become minicruise ships. Like the other boats discussed, they are operating far beyond their original mandate, and curiously find themselves dispensing treatment for conditions requiring Viagra for those with erectile dysfunction or abortions for those pregnant in the name of providing full access.
Very soon, the next and newest lifeboat will come into use on the great liner, as the Affordable Health Care Act is implemented. This boat promises to be larger than any of those in the fleet that we have seen before. Although it was originally designed to support the boats of private health insurance that were previously carrying many, it seems more likely now to run over those that came before in its way to be of service. More, it promises to morph into more of a hospital ship than a lifeboat, providing every service known to medical care, even to those who may not desire such treatments
None of this even talks about the boats providing food stamps, aid to dependent children or simple welfare. They have largely gone unnoticed, surrounded as they are with the increasing size of their ever-growing counterparts. They too, however, contribute to the weight that the big ship carries and the increasing instability that it has.
It’s getting a bit crowded on deck, but not as much with passengers trying to escape as it is with a fleet of lifeboats that are as great a threat to safety of the ship as the iceberg that was struck. Berg or boats, however, there is little doubt that the vessel that began the voyage is now under a threat of Titanic proportions.