Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chained Reaction

I watched a movie this morning, one which I had seen a few times before.  Chain Reaction is the name.  The movie concerns some scientists working on a new technology that will provide clean energy (not fossil fuel dependent).  Unfortunately, behind the scenes lurks a secret government agency that has been monitoring these experiments and, once it is clear that the technology can work, take control of the experiments, and ultimately, those involved in its development.  Of course, when I say take control, they kill the lead guy, blow up their lab, and kidnap one of the other main contributors. 

As the story progresses, the main character played by Keanu Reeves begins to discover the truth of the death of his mentor, and the details of the secret organization which has taken control of the research.  As it is Hollywood, Keanu makes the final leap to discovering the secret of the new technology, foils the plot of the bad guys, rescues the girl (a fellow scientist), and releases this new, clean, free energy to the world.  The happy ending is only tempered by the fact that the main bad guy, played by Morgan Freeman, survives as well, knowing that he will begin again with a new secret organization.

As I have said, I have seen this movie a few times before.  But on this particular day, I was struck by a scene towards the end, where the Keanu character, after secretly tinkering with the parameters of the experiment to make it work, now faces the two lead bad guys.  He offers a trade, the technology for his life and the life of the girl scientist.  He is told in no uncertain terms that he has not bargaining chips.  After all, the bad guys hold the guns and the power.

What they forget, what is so often forgotten in the dynamics of using violence to get one's way, is that the idea, the intelligence behind the technology in question is greater that any gun or threat of violence.  The Keanu Reeves character anticipated their dependence on guns and threats to get their way, and simply withdraws his intellect from the success of the experiment.  Despite the bad guys' monopoly on the guns and power, they fail in the face of the intelligence behind the breakthrough.

The phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword" (if not the idea, which had been expressed in various earlier forms) was coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy

Whether it be the pen or computer keyboard, ideas are the true power of this world.  It is in ideas and innovations that societies are built.  To continue to believe that violence, even when used for a presumably good cause, can bring about good, or result in something positive, is a reaction which chains the believer to a path of failure. 

As I have said many time before, I believe in the evolution of mankind, physical and spiritual.  When I hear the many comments, and I hear them weekly, that society is going to hell, that mankind is doomed to kill himself and/or his planet, I generally counter those statements.  Perhaps I am na├»ve, perhaps a glass half full guy, perhaps just living in a fantasy world.  But to me the days of violence being used to obtain one's needs whether personal or national, are beginning to wane.  Further, it is my hope that this realization will not be lost on the American people and our elected officials.  If we wish to change the face of the earth, inspire the peoples of the third world, deflect the actions of those countries that violate human rights in the name of their sovereignty, we need to do it by example, by spiritually progressive ideas rather than by bombs and "peace-keeping" forces, and drones.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Next Greatest Generation

                                                        The Next Greatest Generation      

The obituary was neither remarkable in its description of the recently deceased nor in its presentation in the local newspaper.  Yet it could be said that it was the most important obituary written in its time as it marked the final passing of the last person born of the greatest generation in American history. 

 As is always the case, the early lives of this wondrous generation of Americans was marked by ridicule from those members of the previous generations.  Lazy, selfish, too focused on fun, undependable, irresponsible, etc.  The same criticisms that have been leveled at every generation by its predecessors were directed at them as well.  But again, as is frequently the case, when faced with the very destruction of the life they had come to love, when liberty, self-determination and freedom were at risk, they rose as one to the challenge, and with unwavering resolve, self-sacrifice and a fixation on the end goals, they brought the country (and correspondingly, the world) back from the edge of ruin. 

Unlike the last previously anointed greatest generation, the threat was more internal than external.  Whereas a great world war was fought by that initial greatest generation, a great world peace was required for this generation’s outcome.  Whereas the wrong side, the side of inhumanity and intolerance was easy to identify by that previous greatest generation, the right side for this challenge was much more difficult to discern.   

After the defeat of the forces of evil, the first greatest generation rebuilt the world, infusing it with the benefits of democracy, and creating a booming postwar economy fueled by industrial growth and driven by a growing labor force and burgeoning middle class.  Yet, in the following few generations, the darker sides of those same positive developments infected the economic and social systems, reducing all to a strong-over-the-weak, more-resources-for-less-citizens facsimile of its former self.   Opportunity became limited, and those with the advantages turned the political system upside down to ensure their status, while also eliciting support from the spiritually bankrupt forces of religion which described those with less as victims of their own laziness and ignorant of God’s will.

Education was determined to be the first critical area to address.  Public school education was OK, but not advancing to keep pace with the changing technological and social trends of the day.  Private school education was better focused, but the expense limited its students to those who already had the advantages of birth.  And too often it strayed into the realm of religious indoctrination that denied the facts of science and was blind to the discriminations embedded in its dogma.  College tuition continued to skyrocket while funding was cut in the name of fiscal responsibility.  When a return to an interest in the blue collar trades became apparent, for-profit schools turned historic apprenticeship programs into overpriced, under performing certificate mills that created more debt than job opportunities.

 The second biggest challenge was health care, or to be more precise, paying for health care.  While the baby boomer generation had died off a generation before, the debt associated with their unprecedented longevity, the medical professions cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry to prescribe a pill for every ailment, health insurance industry greed that placed profit over patient wellness, and the overall selfishness of a generation told it was the best and brightest but could never figure out that such a title needed to be earned, all had combined to create a perfect storm of private and government debt.  To make matters worse, the political will to tell the truth and address the issue was continually masked by media created news bytes which focused the passionate but uninformed electorate into a series of congressional and executive votes that created an atmosphere ripe for political maneuvering but did nothing to solve the problem. 

As this new generation began to reach voting age, it turned its attention to politics.  The great American experiment of government by the people, for the people, had been hijacked by single issue voters, well-funded special interest groups, and elected officials who, if they ever grasped the importance of public service, had long ago traded it for the desire to govern for life while padding the bank accounts of themselves and their loved ones. 

As they began to marry and have children, this generation was faced with a growing sense that the very roots of the democracy that had been built upon for over 250 years, were now withering from within, being poisoned rather than nurtured by the very forces of capitalism and individualism that had helped make the United States so strong.    

And so they began to change these trends. 

It was slow and difficult at first.  Many martyrs to the cause were created, visionary individuals who saw the inevitable destruction as it approached but were ignored and ridiculed for suggesting that the great concepts themselves were the problem. 

Fortunately, there had been some groundwork laid by the previous generation, so the message was not completely foreign to everyone.  As it gained a foothold, more and more people who had sensed the problems were finally willing to state the causes out loud, and begin the work to correct and move forward anew.  In some cases, surprisingly, change came swiftly as the apathy of the previous generations, especially in the voting booth, made it easy for the new generation to elect those who shared this new vision.   

First and foremost, the nature of the election process was altered.  No more eighteen month campaigns.  No more multi-million dollar election war chests.  Oddly, to some, the salaries of many elected public servants were increased.  While winning a House of Representatives or Senatorial office was still coveted, being a US Representative or Senator became an exclusive club fit for only the best and brightest of men and women interested in the public good.  Political ethics was no longer a contradiction in terms.  The influence of money was certainly not eliminated, but its hold on those in office was substantially reduced because the days of midterm elections which drew 20-25% of the electorate were replaced by hotly contested elections between members of a generation not interested in making a million, just in making a difference.     

Income inequality was addressed but not through legislation which had proven to be a fruitless endeavor in the past.  Being rich and successful was still an admired goal of much of the population.  But accumulating wealth became a byproduct of hard work, ambition, innovation, and perseverance not the goal in itself.  And how one became rich was gauged to be just as important as achieving material success.  Taking advantage of others, whether through questionable business ethics or outright deceitful advertising was no longer acceptable.  Investment groups which bought struggling companies for a song, moved the labor force overseas or to a state where employment laws were more “friendly” to business slowly faded out of existence, replaced by investors who were interested in saving jobs and communities, and less concerned about the percentage they would get once the company was profitable again.  At one point, when one of the most successful innovators in the manufacturing world announced that she would offer her services for free beginning with the most troubled companies in the country, the precedent was set.  When other well-respected men and women who had achieved great success joined her, she was able to form a school to begin training a new generation of public servants who placed the public good above massive material enrichment.   Being rich was slowly being re-defined in non-material terms.

Once the concept of public service was returned to politics, those elected were able to turn their attention to the originally identified main problems; education and paying for health care. 

As the problems with the education system were analyzed, it soon became clear that public education in the United States perfectly illustrated how severely penalized were those born with less.  Income disparity was the first indicator among the undereducated of the country.  Not necessarily because less money was being spent on their education.  In some cases, under achieving school districts were as well funded as those whose students excelled.  It was the level of poverty in the surrounding community that interfered with the education process.  Parents who struggled to stay fiscally above water, spent that much less time participating in the education of their children.    And children with parents who did not teach the importance of education and engage with their children in the learning process, continually under performed.  Communities stuck in an endless cycle of poverty, less education producing poor job skills and job opportunities could not prosper regardless of outside funding.   While not exclusive to inner city and extremely rural areas, there was a disproportionate number of children attending those kind of schools who were imprisoned within that cycle.   

It was a national problem in that no state was immune to the problem, but it was a local solution that was applied.  Where the confluence of big government and big business had corrupted the ideals of America, the application of a non-specific but global government provided solution funded by private monies, and applied to address the specific needs of each local school district, employed the best of both worlds to begin the transformation. 

Within 20 years, and with the cooperation of community leaders and parents, local and national teachers, government guidelines, regional businessmen and women, and directed funding to address specific problems in each affected area, the American education system, elementary and high school, became as respected world-wide as its higher education system had always been.   And, with cooperation among the education players, education costs stabilized eliminating the young to have to choose between higher education and high personal debt. 

Those that had said, “there will always be poverty among us”, were proven incorrect as poor became an adjective rather than a noun.  Of course, income disparity still existed.  But the extremes were eliminated.  People were poor only in the sense that they had not yet achieved an income level which would suffice for their needs.  “Not yet achieved” as opposed to “will never achieve” as had existed before. 

Individual greed which was rewarded, even adored, under the guise of a free market and a love of capitalism was recognized for the damage that it unleashed upon all levels of society, especially those born with less than average intelligence, ambition, and physical strength.  Reaching one’s potential was intertwined with the understanding that in doing so, helping other’s to achieve the same was part of the process not a hindrance.  The phrase dog eat dog reminded everyone how not to act towards their fellow man as opposed to being used as an excuse for those who achieved success on the backs of others.   

The problem of health care was a trickier issue.  Everyone agreed that America could not pretend its claim as the greatest country on earth, as long as its most vulnerable citizens were not included in a solution that provided health care for all.  Yet, it was also obvious that those most in need of advanced health care services, the elderly and the very sick, were most likely to be the least capable of paying for those services.  A purely market solution would never solve an issue where those in need of the most advanced services were the least likely to afford them.  The mid-twentieth century concepts of Social Security and Medicare, had addressed the issue but failed to provide a long term financial answer.  As America’s population aged, combined with the incredible medical breakthroughs which prolonged life, the cost of providing the safety nets seemed unsustainable. 

A few decades earlier, a bold approach to address the escalating costs of health care was initiated.  A mandate that required everyone to purchase health care insurance was enacted.  Among others. laws that eliminated previous health insurance industry rules that capped benefits for the truly sick, and outlawed pre-existing exclusions for those seeking health care insurance were also passed.  But the idea languished in a political morass of party before country.  Also, some American businesses took advantage of the "out" which allowed them to jettison the responsibility to their employees to provide health care insurance or altered working hours to deflect the requirement to provide coverage for full time employees.  The generation that became known for its selfishness and me before country attitude, ignored the premise of the concept, to allow more Americans access to health care insurance, working against the concept itself rather than addressing the shortcomings of this initial attempt.  

Now, building on the positive aspects of that legislation, this new generation combined the basic tenet of individual responsibility with the understanding that that responsibility extended beyond one’s own self, beyond one’s own family.   Gradually, amendments to the law were passed that focused energy on access to health care insurance for all while reducing costs for services most needed.  Insurance plans were crafted that addressed individual needs yet priced across broad actuarial models.     

More importantly however, an attitude shift began to develop.  Americans began to understand that each of them needed to participate in the solution, both on a personal as well as country-wide level.  A partnership between the American public and the health care providers took root.  Cost for services, which had become insulated from the public, became an ingredient just as when purchasing any product or service.   A level of competition was introduced to care givers that had been missing since the emergence of HMO’s and employer subsidized health insurance.  Additionally, the providers, individuals as well as hospitals, being already more cognizant of the dangers of income disparity, and having been freed of the escalating costs of higher education debt, slowly began to reduce their costs.  Reasonable profits and salaries slowly became the norm, and as more people became engaged in the process, even more insurance plans were developed to address even more specific health care needs.  Involvement at the federal level was slowly replaced by oversight by the individual states, each with their different demographics, hence different health insurance requirements.    

Bankruptcy via medical bills was eliminated.  Costs were contained via the normal market forces that control any product or service through the supply and demand process, but also due to those service providers internalizing a newly evolved belief that providing excellent health care service is a reward in itself, and that the accumulation of material wealth by providing those services is icing on the cake, not the cake itself. 

Once this perspective began gaining hold across other big money industries, energy, entertainment, communication, and technology, the problem of income inequality began to disappear.  Many people were still rich, but a much larger percentage of Americans were economically comfortable.  As a result, even more products and services were required, more jobs were created, more businesses prospered, and the economic turnaround was complete.  Needless to say, the rest of the world turned its collective eye once again to America, and its shining example of prosperity for all spread quickly throughout the globe. 

Strangely, and only in the clarity that is available in retrospect, this new generation also became known as the most spiritual generation in history.  While organized religion remained a positive force in many lives, the various dogmas that had produced “religious” wars and hatred between believers of differing faiths faded into oblivion.  One man’s religion did not justify the discrimination against those whose biblical interpretations focused on finding a scapegoat for the troubles of society.  Xenophobia, a force used without restraint by both governmental and religious organizations, was turned on its head with the wide spread belief that our creator made us different precisely to challenge us to live the message of love rather than retreating into the fear and violence of tribalism.  

Belief in God remained widespread but the practice of that belief was manifested in the mantra that those with the most have a social obligation to help those with the least.   Those who had prospered the most financially happily shared their wealth with the less fortunate.  Those born with above average intelligence spent a part of their lives improving the minds of others.  Those blessed with physical strength served their communities with free labor.   The overriding tenet of this generation was that personal success was equal parts luck, hard work and birth lottery.  Each individual endeavored to uphold that tenet by honoring the creator that provided the luck, supporting rewards for those who worked hard, and respecting the parents, friends and family that added up to the circumstances of their birth.   

Which returns us to that last obituary.  As is true for each individual from every generation that preceded this next greatest generation, no one escaped the inevitability of death.  Regardless of achievement or status, wealth or renown, fame or fortune, each person had lived and died.  But in so doing, the combined efforts of each and every one of them created a legacy that produced a country greater than any that had come before it.   And a world far better with their passing than when they were born.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Half Full - Half Empty Conundrum

A beautiful day in the neighborhood so I took full advantage via an extra long walk with the dog.  While enjoying the sun on my face, an occasional breeze and the pleasant temperature, my mind wandered, as it sometimes does.

Thoughts of those I know and have read about who seem to have very little going their way yet remain optimistic about the future and grateful for what they have, mixed with thoughts of those I know and have read about who seem to have everything in their favor yet remain disgruntled about their lives and fear the future.

What makes some people adopt the half full philosophy while others cling to the half empty perception?

I believe that I haven't mentioned that I was recently promoted to a larger store.  Also, that we recently began a complete bathroom renovation, and, as a result, we haven't had a working shower for ten weeks.

The half full viewpoint on the new job notes the slight increase in pay and the exposure to the challenges of assisting in running a much larger establishment.  The half empty perception notes that the drive is now 50 minutes rather than three, and that shipments in this store begin at 5:00 AM (necessitating a 3:30 AM wake up).   Additionally, since I am maintaining my second job minus one shift, the half full person is grateful to have a second job to support the family while the half empty person notes that twice a week I work from 10PM to 4AM which puts quite a kink in the sleep cycle.

As for the shower, half full knows that the bathroom will be great, once it is done, and that it has been gratifying to know that so many friends and family have been willing to allow me to shower at their home, while half empty is not happy with the occasional hair washing in the kitchen sink, and purchasing/wearing extra deodorant and cologne to mask the days when a shower is not available. 

As I continued to walk, more of my life became fodder for these musings.  Half full is extremely proud of my two children, both in college.  Half full regrets the college tuition cost.

Half full is happy to have such a beautiful, smart, loving wife who has remained at his side for 25+ years.  Half full is cognizant of seeing the same face, day after day after day.  (Sorry honey, just making a point).

At this point, my half full/half empty dialogue moved to the national scene.  Half full realizes that the government shutdown will eventually end, and the United States of America will survive another default crisis.  Half empty bemoans the selfishness of our elected officials who have placed party over country, and knows that this is just another in a series of "crisis" that our representatives will continue to create, to the detriment of America.

As a Democrat and Liberal, half full can only shake his head at the continued distention in the GOP, with its carousel of leadership via the flavor of the month.  From 2008 candidate John McCain to 2012 candidate Mitt Romney, from Sarah Palin to Ted Cruz, from Newt Gingrich to Donald Trump, the GOP has fluttered, and now seems to have failed its moderate majority in favor of the resource rich, be-elected-but-refuse-to-govern tea party minority.  Half empty is saddened, knowing that a two party system is required to maintain the give and take that a democracy needs to thrive, and hopes that saner minds in the GOP will cleanse the party of those who, like my kids at age two, only know how to say no.

And finally, we have our president, Barrack Obama.  Elected twice, both times receiving a majority of the popular vote as well as the electoral.  Half full is exceedingly proud of the American electorate for choosing our first African American President.  We are all a part of history, regardless of how we voted, and future political as well as social historians will dissect how and why we made that choice. 

But half empty sees an electorate with a sagging spine.  Perhaps we were ready to elect a black president but we may not have been ready to be governed by one.  From those who openly challenge President Obama on his heritage, his religion, his love of country, to those who stand by and say nothing to rebuke those who cast such dispersions, lies, and hate, to those of us who voted for him but seem afraid to defend our vote and our president, seem unwilling to shout down the ignorant who fail to realize that once you legitimize such hatred of our president you can't go back when the next one happens to be one you voted for, can't retain the higher morale ground when he is besmirched by friend and foes outside our borders.

Half full - half empty.  Can one choose which side one's viewpoint will fall?  Or are half of us born half full while the others are born half empty? 

I like to think that I lean towards half full, which upholds that we can train our mind, direct our thinking to half full if we reflect on our lives, and our perspectives, and understand the difference between the two viewpoints.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Defunding Obamacare

I thought for a few seconds about using "Obamacare" in the title for this post as I absolutely despise its use.  At first only those opposed to the Affordable Heath Care Act (ACA) used this derogatory term, but as time passed even many advocates began to use it, mostly because the term Obamacare was instantly recognizable, but also, sadly, because referring to the law that aims to provide access to health care insurance by its true name does not create the visceral reaction that so many pundits, politicians and news journalists are seeking.

So, that being said, I decided to join the crowd with my title in hopes that I may reach an audience that is pre-disposed to fighting the implementation of ACA.

Like all laws, ACA is not perfect.  First and foremost, it requires the citizens of America to seek health care insurance through this program when they have no other source.  Not because it might be cheaper, not because it might be partially subsidized, but because they have no other options.  It also requires businesses with more than fifty employees, to accept their duty to offer basic health care insurance to those people who make their business successful, as opposed to reducing their full time work force to avoid the requirement.  In each case, it requires Americans, as individuals and as corporations, to put the needs of the country ahead of selfishness and greed.  And finally, it requires the health industry, insurance and providers alike,  to place the health of Americans, especially the sickest among us, on par with their profit margins and salaries. 

In my opinion, if the American people continue to seek only what is in it for them, and if American corporations continue to measure each and every decision by the yardstick of short term profit, then the program will not work.

Speaking of opinions, here is a quick caveat.  From the President himself, down through every Senator and Congressmen for and against ACA, to anyone willing to air his/her viewpoint concerning the consequences of implementing ACA, it is ALL conjecture.  No one really knows if it will work, no one really knows it if will save money or be a boondoggle, no one really knows if lives will be saved because more people have access to health insurance, no one really knows if our continued experiment with using a "market" approach to health care insurance will ever work.  No one really knows.  Opinions are just glorified guesses, so anyone who presents his/her opinion as fact might best be ignored. 

But there is one thing I believe I do know.  If we work together, the health care insurance, pharmaceutical, medical device industries, doctors, hospitals and other care givers, politicians on both sides of the aisle, and most importantly each and every American, if we all work together towards a common goal of developing a program so that no American is denied health care insurance, no American can go bankrupt due to their medical bills, no American must make a choice between medicine and food, then I believe we can solve this problem.  If we want to continue to believe we are the greatest nation on Earth, then we must solve this problem or no longer make that claim.

So, then, the big question is, why is the GOP so intent on defunding ACA, so much so that they are willing to shut down the government?  Obviously, they oppose it.  They oppose Obamacare.  But which portions of ACA do they actually oppose?   For those reading this blog, which of these do you oppose?

No yearly health insurance benefit caps
No lifetime health insurance benefit caps
No denial of insurance coverage simply due to an error on an application
No denial of insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions
No denial of insurance coverage for children with pre-existing conditions
An option for young adults to stay on their parents policy up to age 26
Reduction of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare
Subsidies for people earning incomes which make paying premiums cost prohibitive.
The individual mandate requiring all Americans to retain health care insurance.

If you are like most people I have spoken with, you are opposed to one or less of the above items, and most likely the mandate.

Strangely, most of the people I have spoken with have health care insurance yet resent being told (by the government) that they must purchase it.  And, if we had laws that said that those without health care insurance should not be given health care services that they can't afford, I guess I could understand people who decided to throw the dice and take their chances.  But we have more humane laws that require people to receive health care services despite their ability to pay, and we have care givers that concern themselves more with healing the sick, first, worry about the money, second. 

So, answer me this.  Would you agree to waive your rights to health care services that you can't afford so that you do not pass along your debt to your fellow taxpayers, or do you think it best to pay an insurance premium so that if you (or a family member) does become extremely sick, you will be covered for the services required to save your life? 

I have a life insurance policy on myself so that should I die, my wife and children will have the option to stay in our home, continue their education, live in the community where we have lived for 20+ years, etc.  Hopefully, I will not die prematurely which means I will have wasted my money on that life insurance policy, and I will be darn happy about it!

Similarly, for those who live a lifetime of good health never having to face the consequences of a heart attack, a cancer diagnosis, or a debilitating accident, for those who are fortunate enough to never needing costly health care services, I say, what a shame!  All that money wasted!  Perhaps in your next life you will be less fortunate and have some type of chronic disease that justifies your health insurance premium.  But in the meantime, perhaps you should visit a local cancer ward to bolster your perspective on who is suffering.

Finally, to my young readers who still believe you are immortal.  Enjoy your health!!!  Stay up all night, burn the candle at both ends, sky dive, travel, hitchhike across America, engage in recreational drugs and one night stands.  Do it all, enjoy your life knowing that eventually, inevitably, you will grow old.  So yes, you might have a few less bucks to spend today, but if something were to happen in your happy-go-lucky time of life, you won't be saddled with immense medical debt, or, should you opt to the waiver I mention above, find yourself on the short end of the medical services stick.  And don't forget that you are paying those premiums now, so that us old people, your parents and grandparents, uncle and aunts, older cousins, brothers and sisters, will have the means to obtain health care insurance despite being old, or sick, or both.  Hopefully, then, when your time comes for help from the generations to follow yours, they will also be as generous. 

Which brings us back to ACA.  What provisions need to be changed?  Of course, it is hard to know since the main tenets of the law are just starting to become effective.  But, as the exchanges begin to develop, as people who have spent years trying to obtain health care insurance navigate their options under ACA, as the wheels begin to turn on this massive program, we should be able to identify problems and tweak the law, just as we have tweaked virtually every law ever written, including the Constitution for those of you keeping score.  But, again, we need to do it together, with the best interests in mind of the American people in the forefront of the discussion.  Not through the lens of which political party can make the most points or which special interest group can get the most exemptions. 

Finally, one last question.  If you were to lose your job tomorrow, do you know what your COBRA payment would be?  Could you afford it?  Up until now, you most likely would have had to make the tough choice of dropping health care coverage in this scenario, either because you weren't able to obtain coverage on your own or because you could not afford the premiums.  You were isolated and alone, and if you will forgive my obvious distaste for the health care insurance industry, you were at their mercy which is precisely where they want us all to be.  Now, through ACA you will have other choices.  That simple fact alone makes this a no brainer for me that we should stop trying to defund ACA, and get on the side of the American people.