Thursday, March 25, 2010

Open letter

Dear Mr. President,
Like many other Americans tonight, I'm just sitting down to watch a little NCAA basketball. Its not early here in the Midwest: 9:30 pm, so I've already missed the first game of tonight's lineup. Most evenings, we sit down and watch a DVR'd version of Bret Baier's "Special Report" on FOX. That's in the interest of full disclosure; yes, we tend to get our national news via the Fox grapevine, but we don't stop there. We read the WSJ as well as a selection of other magazines, both news and opinion.
Not as closely though this time of year. We are small businessmen, really small, but I assume that still puts us in the anointed category of "engine of economic growth" and "innovators and entrepreneurs". Most days in the spring, my feet aren't telling me I'm an entrepreneur: nope, they are telling me I'm labor, the help, the economic engine that takes out the trash, makes the payroll, cleans the toilets, and, in the case of my husband, fixes lots of stuff that breaks. We are farmers, but this time of year, we are greenhouse growers and March is crunch time. We're trying to juggle weather, fuel, plants, labor, and space. The weather is contrary and erratic; the fuel to keep all the greenhouses warm these many cloudy days is dear; the labor and greenhouse space are limiting factors for all those begonias, wave petunias, impatiens, zinnias, alyssum, tomatoes, and even more esoteric and specialized crops that our customers, our partners, need to be a optimal size at a prescribed time. When I was in college, I discovered whole magazines in the Ag Econ library devoted to the study of logistics; the idea of that subject grabbed my interest then. Little did I know that logistics and "just in time" would be at the heart of our plant business lo these many years later. Service and quality; personal attention by all our trusted help and our family members both full and part time: these qualities are what sets us apart and keeps us in business.
So, frankly, Mr. President, I don't have time right now to worry about what the health reform law is going to do to my business. We are anomalies, I know; we buy our own health insurance and I am well aware of what it costs per month. I know full well that we are on the hook for any medical expenses we incur up to our really hefty deductible. We've been fortunate in our health, but that only means we haven't suffered thus far the catastrophic long term illness that can decimate savings and livelihoods. We have tried all means in our power to use the tools available to protect ourselves in that eventuality; after all, our small business employs our daughter and husband and provides the living for two of our four grandchildren.
Our other daughter works at our small local hospital; it has a special designation as a critical provider in our overwhelmingly rural and medically underserved county. While the debate was taking place this past week, she confessed a fear of what the results of the law would mean for our hospital, currently in the midst of new construction. We lost one of our doctors and have been unable to attract another family physician to our county despite all manner of recruiting tools and incentives, as well as the new facilities. Am I worried about "health care reform"? Not nearly as much as I worry about not having a doctor within 20 miles. Not nearly as much as I worry how this new law will affect young people looking at medicine as a possible profession. Who wants to plight their troth with the good folks of Fairfax, Tarkio, and Rock Port, Missouri? Look us up, Mr. President, and tell us what good things are going to come our way.
I'm not going to pretend that folks I know don't worry about how to pay for either their medical care, or their insurance. But the people I know do worry about not having any choice. We live out here, for the most part, by choice. We sacrifice proximity to some luxuries others might consider necessities. We pay lots of taxes and we know exactly how much because most of us are self employed. We won't take kindly to paying more taxes and getting less choice.
Tomorrow the daughter at the hospital will be calling in all the able bodied family members to help haul the heavy tables and chairs her more frail volunteers can't handle; Saturday night will be one of the big fundraisers the hospital's development council puts on. We'll all attend or help in some other capacity. Sunday the other daughter and helpers of the little kid's church group will lead them in songs at the Palm Sunday service. We'll bake goodies next Saturday for the Easter morning breakfast. In between, I have my grandson's school play on the calendar. My mother-in-law will have a ceremony the next weekend dedicating a stone where the store and center of the community she grew up in stood . She has asked my husband and I to play something. He will be in good shape after practicing to play the Star Spangled banner Saturday night at the hospital.
Because the grandchildren are young, after our extended family Easter dinner, we will hunt eggs in our gutter connect greenhouse....that way the farm dogs won't get the eggs before the kids do, and we have a better chance of remembering where we hid them.
And the point of that litany? The point is we have a stake in the success of our homes, our businesses and our community. We've been here for years and hope to stay, raising the next generation and praying a few of them will be able to call Tarkio home. I am certain you truly believe you are making life better for lots of folks. But we're used to taking responsibility for ourselves and I'm not convinced you've made it better for us. And I know for certain paying for everyone's health will not make life easier for my kids and grandkids. I don't have to be a Harvard grad or the President to know that.

No comments:

Post a Comment