“For those who are less fortunate, their basic needs become unfulfilled. This then becomes a basic choice for society as a whole. These people look for assistance from family, nonprofits (including churches), and government at all levels – federal, state and local.” – Ed Shackelford
Commentary – Senior Services and Quality of Live for All
By Ed Shackelford, President Colorado Senior Lobby
The opinions in this article are the author’s, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Colorado Senior Lobby
Concentration of income and wealth – is, without contradiction, increasing in the USA. The causes are being widely discussed by economists and philosophers. This article is more concerned with the effects: not the causes. Wages have stagnated, even as the cost of services, such as shelter and medical care have increased markedly. The result, poverty for too many.
Many “baby-boomers” had increased their wealth by benefiting from unprecedented prosperity over an extended period of time. But too many have not been as fortunate. The reasons are many: bad choices, health issues and limited skills for the modern world, to name a few.
For those who are less fortunate, their basic needs become unfulfilled. This then becomes a basic choice for society as a whole. These people look for assistance from family, nonprofits (including churches), and government at all levels – federal, state and local. Government is the resource of last resort. As a country whose principles are based on Christian/Judeo ethics, there are certain basic obligations we as individuals and as a country must fulfill.
This creates a dilemma for policymakers at all levels of government. If these governments operated as businesses they would make their decisions based on the best return on investment. This would entail the ethical obligations and an analysis of where resources should be committed over an extended period of time. But, instead, allocation of resources is influenced by politicians functioning in an environment of short-term decisions, too often reflecting the biases of a minority of the population served.
What is missing is a well-thought-out grounding in concepts to make informed, balanced decisions on the allocation of resources.
The most basic requirements for everyone are: food and shelter. Government has two options – both important and both necessary. First provide an environment where everyone can earn enough to provide for these necessities. But for those who are unable to provide for themselves, the obligation of government at all levels is clear and absolute. These include children, the disabled, and those whose age keeps them from adequately providing for themselves, without consideration for the causes of their situation.
The next basic requirement for everyone is health care, including prescription drugs and dental care. Currently, even those covered by Medicare still have significant costs, such as supplemental insurance, dental care, co-pays, eyeglasses etc.
To expand the enjoyment of one’s existence, beyond just existing: everyone needs access to transportation, and ongoing social interaction.
I would propose that for those who meet the following criteria – children, disabled, and those whose age keeps them from providing for themselves – government at all levels has a basic Christian/Judeo moral and ethical obligation to provide: food, shelter, health care, including dentistry, transportation and a basic quality of life. There is no acceptable alternative that lets us maintain our dignity.
For these people, the typical arguments do not apply: these arguments include the following – they are “gaming the system”, they should be working, they should be responsible for their own poor choices, they should have led a healthier lifestyle.
Only after we, as a country, have met our fundamental moral and ethical obligations of allocating resources for minimalist survival, can we consider providing additional services.
This is where government at all levels needs to plan for the future and allocate resources to obtain the best “return on investment”.
These would include – expanded healthcare and dental care, techniques to keep people in their homes, healthier lifestyles (including better food, promoting exercise and improved social environment), and better end-of-life decisions.
The payoff for everything noted above is a dramatic reduction in the need for those expenses which can overwhelm the governmental budgets at all levels. This is the cost of providing for nursing home/assisted living care and unplanned end of life decisions (spending the last months at home surrounded by family instead of being in the hospital).