Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Political Rant, with Religious Roots

Let me warn you in advance that what I’m about to rant about is not only long, but something I feel very passionate about. Its core is rooted in my family and our struggle to make our way in this world. I’m fully aware that what I’m saying flies in the face of some strongly held political beliefs by many of you, many of whom are my neighbors and friends.

But here we go anyway…

At a website of a local candidate for City Council, I found an ebook for free download. This was made available a few years back by Chris Cannon, a Utah Congressman. It’s called, “The Role of Government”, by Ezra Taft Benson.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I believe it a violation of the Constitution for government to deprive the individual of life, liberty, or property except for these purposes:

“1 Punish crime and provide for the administration of justice;

“2 Protect the right and control of private property;

“3 Wage defensive war and provide for the nation’s defense;

“4 Compel each one who enjoys the protection of government to bear his fair share of the burden of performing the above functions.”

Basically, that means that government can only provide a judicial system, a police force, and an army, and that it can tax its citizens to pay for that, and that alone.

Now, on the surface, that seems pretty reasonable. No big government, no volumes of rules and regulations, no high taxes. Pretty sweet, huh? In theory, it sounds great. But in practicality, I have some significant problems with it.

Any other use of taxes, he says, is redistribution of wealth and plunder. “…Once government steps over this clear line between the protective or negative role into the aggressive role of redistributing the wealth and providing so called “benefits” for some of its citizens, then it becomes means for what he accurately described as legalized plunder. It becomes a lever of unlimited power which is the sought-after prize of unscrupulous individuals and pressure groups, each seeking to control the machine to fatten his own pockets or to benefit its favorite charities—all with the other fellow’s money, of course.”

But when talking about the needy, the lame, the sick, he says, “America traditionally has followed Jefferson’s advice of relying on individual action and charity.”

OK, so where’s all this going?

Every year, Jodi goes to the state capitol to lobby the legislators to provide more funding for services for the handicapped. Most prominent among those is a system called DSPD (the Division for Services for People with Disabilities). This system helps provide many valuable services for people, like my son Jacob. Unfortunately, the system is also drastically underfunded. There is currently about a four to five year waiting list to get approved. It took Jacob about four years to get off the list and begin receiving services.

Previously, however, once you were off the waiting list and on services, you were guaranteed services and aid pretty much for good. Not so any more. This last summer, Jacob had to requalify.

Let’s look at Jacob’s situation. The actual services we receive from DSPD are actually pretty nominal. A few hundred dollars a month for respite care. But the big deal is that if you get services from DSPD, you automatically qualify for Medicaid. That’s a big deal. What that means is that after our own insurance coverage, Medicaid covers the remainder of his medical bills.

For those that don’t understand that, let me point some things out:

  1. His formula for nourishment costs $2500 a month.
  2. His wheelchair for mobility at school and home costs over $20,000
  3. His medications for Cystic Fibrosis and seizures cost upwards of 8,000 to 10,000 a month
  4. And on and on…

So, if our state legislators were to follow President Benson’s advice, we would be left with expenses of over 10 to 15 thousand dollars A MONTH!

Let me clarify. This is not because I’m a lazy bum who can’t get work to support my family. This is not because I’m a welfare leech. This is not because I have bad or no insurance. This is the cost AFTER my insurance.

Let me further clarify: This is not money we’d like to have so that we can maintain a more comfortable standard of living. This is not so that we can drive a nicer car. This is money spent on medicines (and we receive the medicines, not the money) to keep my son ALIVE. Let me stress that. Without this “unconstitutional redistribution of plundered wealth”, my son would DIE.

So, how come he didn’t die while he was waiting on the list? Because my wife tackled his health care as if it were her full-time job and found other governmental sources of “unconstitutional redistributions of plundered wealth.” It also helped that he wasn’t having seizures back then and was on fewer medications.

The alternative, according to President Benson, is to rely on the charity of those around us. Anyone willing to step up and donate a couple of grand a month to help us out? I’m not holding my breath.

Here’s my point: Yes, government is too big. I think much of that has to do with a bloated “defense” budget, but that’s another blog entry for another day. Yes, there are a lot of people who cheat welfare. Yes, the welfare system is set up to encourage people to stay on and cheat.

But let’s reform the system to truly take care of those who need it, and not cut everyone off in the process.

Mark Hansen


  1. Mark,

    I have no doubt that you remember our brief discussion on this topic over at my blog almost 2 months ago. I know I have not forgotten it because I had never heard the details of a case as extreme as yours. I applaud you for standing up for yourself and those in similar situations and bringing a dose of reality to those of us who are committed to principles such as those outlined by President Benson (Secretary Benson at the time) and who are not burdened with the serious challenges that you must bear daily with your son.

    You and I both know that your invitation for some of us, as private citizens to cough up a couple of thousand dollars a month to help you out is not a challenge you honestly expect any of us to accept. The question I have is, do you really think that there could never be any alternative to government aid to bail you out of this crushing burden?

    Perhaps my real question is, do you and your family work as hard at cultivating other sources of funding, such as charitable organizations, as you do at working to ensure that the government funding does not dry up? My other question is, are you vocal about the need to minimize waste in the government system that you are reliant upon to make sure that your son survives?

    If you can answer yes to both of the above questions then I don't think anyone has any right to complain about the aid that you so deservedly receive.

  2. David: Perhaps my real question is, do you and your family work as hard at cultivating other sources of funding, such as charitable organizations, as you do at working to ensure that the government funding does not dry up?

    Mark: The honest truth is, no, we don't spend as much effort generating charitable contributions, although we have done some work on that in the past, for some treatments and physical therapies that neither medicaid, private insurance, nor the government would cover.

    I work 45+ hours a week at my job. My wife works 30+ hours a week maintaining the programs that she already has in place. Making sure that these programs communicate with each other, and cover every medical bill, and when the don't, making sure that it's contested, is almost a full-time job in and of itself. And that doesn't leave much time for seeking private funding.

    We have, however, been seriously considering setting up a 501(c) foundation to that end. Still, that can cost as much as $500 to set up, so that's also cost-prohibitive. We've heard of less expensive ways to go, but haven't investigated them yet.

    David: My other question is, are you vocal about the need to minimize waste in the government system that you are reliant upon to make sure that your son survives?

    Mark: The answer to that one is, definitely YES. We spend a lot of time in meeting and hearings trying to express how difficult and frustrating the system is. Jodi sits on the parent advocacy board of Primary Children's Medical Center as a part of that effort, and we've made a lot of effort to lobby not only legislators, but administrators to manage the system more efficiently.

  3. Jodi (mark's better half)9/2/07, 11:08 PM

    David, I wish that the money were the only things I had to work on. Then I could spend much more time devoting it to going to different agencies to help us out on financially.

    This is just some of the stuff we have to do with Jake just to keep him going. It doesn't add all the other stuff that we do and sometimes don't do because we just can't get it all in.

    Jacob Hansen is our 7 year old boy with Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis and Seizure Disorder.

    Daily Routines
    • Give Enzymes and turn off Feeding pump
    • Change Diaper and clothes
    • Give Albuterol
    • Give Flovent
    • Hook up to Vest that jiggles his upper body to loosen Mucus
    • Give other medications
    • Put on Foot Braces and shoes
    • Put in wheelchair.
    This all takes at least an hour
    • Every 3 hours change diaper
    • Put in Stander
    • Practice walking
    • Every meal take 3 enzymes
    • Feed Jake
    • Give Drinks
    • Bathe
    • Get ready for bed
    • Give Albuterol
    • Give Flovent
    • Hook up to Vest that jiggles his upper body to loosen Mucus
    • Give other medications
    • Hook up to feeding pump
    • Hook up to Cpap and Oxygen

    Physical Therapy
    Occupational Therapy

    At least 3 Dr. Appointments
    Shriners once

    TONS OF PAPERWORK Check with insurance because they decline many things until we double check it.

    We have another child as well who needs to know we love him and support him as well.

    I work for an agency that the whole focus is helping families with children with special health care needs find means to getting the medical needs met. And yes many of these are done by agencies other then government. It is with agencies like Shriners, independent living services, and many many more. We hold many fundraisers for personal families that have specific needs. We do a program at least once a year with Jake to help him build up his strength. We do fund raisers just tor him every year and have raised thousands of dollars for that. Our extended family has helped us tons with putting in a elevator in our house to paying our van payment, the van was worth $8000 used, but with modifications ended up costing $24,000.

    I sit on boards for Primary Childrens, I work for an agency like I said before, I am on the state board as secretary for Family To Family which helps supports the family and their personal more emotional needs. The list actually goes on and on and I could write so much more but obviously I have gotten this too long.

    So that is my day and month. Now when should I go out and ask for more financial help for my son's life saving equipment.....

  4. David,

    Unless you are playing the devil's advocate to create a terrific debate, you need someone to tap you on the shoulder and tell you you are in great danger of making a fool of yourself. Dear sir, may you never be as challenged as are these families. I don't think you'd be equal to it; although by your thoughts and words you have begged for some pretty funky kharma to come your way.


    Take solice in the fact that there are many of us, without these same circumstances, who encourage this kind of funding. We find it our duty, both politically and Spiritually. To do otherwise is to live in favor of one's own interest and wallet.

  5. Perry Shumway9/11/07, 12:42 AM

    President Benson's view is a big-picture, idealistic one. You can't take just one part of it and pragmatically apply it to your life as it exists today, all else being equal, and then conclude that under President Benson's plan, your little Jacob would be dead. I get tired just reading Jodi's list of daily and weekly tasks associated with his upkeep! You guys are amazing!

    I have to say that as much as I love President Benson's political concepts - at least on paper - in the current climate, if I had a son like yours, I'd be doing exactly what you are; lobbying for a bigger share of the pie. In fact, my kids go to public schools and qualify for free lunches, which we are happy to take, in spite of my great love for President Benson's call for minimalist government. Why? Because you can't participate in part of the system - paying taxes, following the existing laws, etc. - and deny yourself the benefits derived therefrom (unless you're independently rich, I suppose). Taken to an extreme, you could determine never to use the postal service to send a letter, never to visit a national park or to go to the public library or to send your kids to public schools. Not very practical, to say the least.

    On the whole, though, President Benson's vision is beautiful, zion-like even. Think about it: a society with virtually no taxation, with a libertarian-style government with very little reach or activity, with minimal regulations and restrictions. For one thing, we would all be a lot richer, retaining much more of the money that gets taken from our paychecks each week. For another, the economy would be much, much stronger, further enriching us individually and as a nation.

    Beyond that, the unregulated, unrestricted health care industry would compete openly for the business of individual consumers - something radically different from today's system, which suffers from intrusive government bureaucracy at every level - and this competition would drive medical prices down until they were a small fraction of what they are now. And finally, most people would feel like being more charitable, not only because of their own increased wealth, but because they would know that the government no longer did it. It's too easy of an excuse for so many people right now, i.e., "I WOULD give, but the government already taxes me and uses my taxes to take care of the poor and needy anyway, so I'll just leave the government to take care of it for me; I'll just turn a blind eye."

    People like "s'mee" (below) have difficulty seeing this vision. To many, the only way to get others to be charitable is to compel them. After all, taxes are certainly not voluntary! S'mee considers it his politial and spiritual duty to encourage government funding of programs like the ones that benefit people like Jacob. Such funding can only be derived from compulsory taxation. I have to conclude, therefore, that S'mee's worldview is that people are inherently greedy and evil and selfish and will only give charitably if forced to do so. The only alternative to government-funded charity, in s'mee's mind, is to be "in favor of one's own interest and wallet."

    I, on the other hand, choose to believe that the vast majority of people on this planet are inherently good, and giving, and have a desire to help their neighbors. Imagine how much love could be unleashed if the government completely removed itself from the business of helping the needy! Cynics might predict that we would all simply leave the poor and the homeless to die in the gutters, unnoticed and uncared for. I think I know better. Instead of poorly-run, inefficient government programs, which you yourself, Mark, said are problematic and often don't help that much, your Jacob would be cared for by neighbors and friends, the local church and various charitable organizations. These groups would have a lot more money at their disposal than they do now, both from lower taxes and from a stronger economy, AND the cost of health care itself would be substantially smaller than it is today. And without the government clumsily trying to do what it was never intended to do and thereby discouraging private parties from duplicating their work, big-hearted Americans would, by the millions, gladly step up to the plate and help out, in ways more beautiful and charitable than can be imagined in our current society.

    Not a bad political vision, when you think about it. Can it really happen? Not only can it; it WILL. Hopefully sooner, rather than later! Until then, though, you and Jodi will have to keep fighting for the life of your son. More power to you!



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