Following is an actual dream I had the night before last, I didn't make it up for the column.
In the dream I was not retired from pastoral ministry and was still active in denominational leadership. I was asked to address an audience composed of people connected with our ministries of benevolence. I gave the speech without incident, and the audience appeared attentive. Afterward I was presented with my honorarium, a sloppily written check made out to me for more than 1.4 million dollars. It was obviously some sort of outlandish mistake, but I couldn't get anybody to say that it was a mistake or even admit that it was unusual. I woke up, then went back to sleep, and still had that check to deal with. When I awoke in the morning I was very glad that the dream was over and I didn't have to do something about that money.
I had the feeling that the dream had something to do with the column I was trying to write for the PO, in which I was reflecting on the political fallout from the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act , and getting nowhere.
I've never been in government, but I have been in church bureaucracies in several contexts and levels. I wondered if my unconscious mind had resolved my writer's block by showing me what the benevolent ministries of the church would look like if the church acted as the Congress does. While our health care institutions would have the stated goal of caring for the sick and impoverished, their real purpose would be to satisfy the wants of ourselves and our supporters. My unconscious mind cast me as one of the bad guys in my own dream; it wrote a script in which I could walk away with over a million bucks in my pocket!
Churches in real life actually do pretty well at taking care of people. They do not act like the people in my dream, but the government does. It's not lack of medical skill but American greed as enabled by Congress that makes the United States such a miserable performer in health care as compared to other industrialized nations. Though statistics say we spend more per capita on health care than any other nation, we rank 37th in quality of care—behind Costa Rica but ahead of Slovenia. Obviously the money is not spent on health care because people are not being cared for. It's amazing how profitable a business can be when it gets paid for services it doesn't deliver. Our nearest neighbor, Canada, so much like us in values, background and lifestyle,still does a little better than we do--30th in quality and tenth in per capita spending, about 2/3 of the American dollar amount.
Governor Romney thinks we will solve the problem by getting rid of Obama, thus ridding ourselves of Obamacare. But Obamacare can't be the root of the problem because Congress has not enabled it to function. So we would get rid of it to ac-complish what? To spend more than everybody else and get even less for our money? To fall behind Slovenia, perhaps, in quality of care?
I have a better idea. Get rid of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Willful opposition is no way to govern anyway. My own congressman is a knowledgeable and caring Republican, but he seems to have caved to his party's line. He claims that "we can do better" than the current law, but the Republicans have done nothing, which is not a definition of "better." They have demonstrated in word and action that their goal is not to govern, but to defeat the President. They have allowed Rush Limbaugh to set their agenda with his infamous declaration after the President's election: "I hope he fails."
That is not statesmanship. Let me quote myself from this journal, during the first term of George Bush when I was writing as Barnabas: "We do not want the President to be absurd or to screw up so we can criticize him. He is, after all, our President too, and the stakes are too high for Americans to want their President to fail in order to give temporary political advantage to someone else. Some of us actually want the President, of either party, to know his job and to fulfill his responsibilities with intelligence and competence."(The Partial Observer, April 21, 2004)
I will reaffirm that statement, and add my observation that most of us out here expect our House members, as well as our President, of any party or none, to know their jobs and fulfill their responsibilities with intelligence and competence.