Tom's Thoughts

Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

On living in a Pocket Borough

In England, members of Parliament who represent a district whose voters can be counted on to reelect them regardless of what they may do are said to represent "pocket boroughs." The Tenth Congressional District of North Carolina is a pocket borough for the Republican establishment. No matter what idiocy our Congressman may pull he can count on being reelected.

Now, this year, since Bush is so unpopular nationwide, and there are rumblings even in this thoroughly Republican district, another Republican or two started to test the waters to mount a primary run. One was the mayor of Hickory. He got some very firm phone calls from the Republican establishment leaders telling him to step away from the idea.

Garrison Keillor spoke in one of his radio shows about "Second Coming Republicans." They would not vote for a Democrat if he came down from heaven blowing a trumpet. That describes the majority of voters in this district.

That is why the Democratic candidate for Congress this year has to tout his conservative credentials to be taken seriously, even in this era when conservatism is falling apart nationwide.

Well, we who oppose the incumbent Congressman will need to keep the pressure on, pointing out his shortcomings and offering better alternatives than cloning Bush.

Friday, March 03, 2006

On Health Care

The United States has the largest, most expensive, and yet least efficient health care system among the developed nations on Planet Earth.

We spend more on health care and get less for our money than anyone else, yet when anyone talks about changing the system people scream, "Socialized Medicine!" They point to England and the long waits people have for care, or to the number of Canadians coming to the States to get operations. They don't talk about France or Germany, where waiting periods are no longer than ours, drugs cost less, and quality of care is equal.

A woman from England told me once, "My country cares what happens to me." We can't say that on this side of the pond.

They also scream that parmaceutical companies won't have the incentive to develop new drugs if they aren't allowed to gouge people like my 87-year-old mother who can't afford all her prescriptions. Yet under the present system they spend far more on advertising than they do on research, and the new drugs the come up with mostly duplicate drugs already on the market. I heard this morning (on the BBC of all places) that there are six major high blood pressure drugs on the market and six cholesterol-lowering drugs. Even Nexium, the most highly-advertised (at least in my perception) drug on the market is just a re-working of Prilosec, whose patent is about to expire.

I don't have a simple, bumper-sticker-sized answer to this problem, but I do believe it would help if we looked carefully at countries where the health care system works better than ours does for some ideas.