• 52°

Billy Davis Column

Billy Davis

Rational, reasonable discussion follows ‘peanut gallery’ remark

Panolian publisher John Howell Sr. got computer keys humming when Panolian readers reacted to his latest commentary about healthcare.

In his third column on the topic, John recalled visiting with a 10-year-old boy at a grocery story who was soliciting donations for his dad’s medical bills. The family was saddled with a $37,000 bill, which John surmised was the remaining cost after health insurance paid the remainder. 

What really got readers in a tizzy was John’s description of a“ raucous peanut gallery,” his illustration for critics and “naysayers?? whom he said are drowning out rational debate over “what’s wrong and how to fix it.”

 “It’s demagoguery — this practice of appealing to emotional ideas and prejudices rather than using rational argument,” John wrote, which was an ironic appeal since the young boy obviously got to John.  

Bennie Thompson used an August 16 ribbon cutting at Cooley’s Mortuary to blast the critics and naysayers, too.

Thompson told those in attendance that healthcare reform is being opposed by evil people “who somehow say we shouldn’t take care of one another,” according to the front page story Tuesday.

“You can’t be a Christian and not want to take care of your fellow man,” the Congressman said.

Did you get that? By opposing the Democrats’ current plan to change your healthcare system, you are a heathen who wants sick people to stay sick.

So that got me wondering if the congressman’s friend, mortuary owner Jerry Cooley, knows the National Funeral Directors Association opposes HR 3200. After reviewing the bill, it believes the legislation would force small businesses to subsidize an expensive, government-run health insurance program.

Adding a payroll tax penalty, and adding a surtax on the self-employed, were two concerns among a “Top 10” list compiled by the NFDA after it reviewed the bill. 

The organization states that HR 3200, if passed as-is, would oblige Mr. Cooley to purchase health insurance for his full-time employees, and even his part-time workers, or else pay a penalty to the U.S. government.

If Mr. Cooley chooses to pay the insurance premiums, he would be required to pay at least 72.5 percent of the premium for employees and 65 percent for family plans, the NFDA reported.

The business owner must also purchase health insurance from either the federal government or from a private plan that is approved by the federal government.

So let us summarize Mr. Cooley’s situation: the current healthcare bill would force him to purchase a health insurance plan pre-approved by the federal government or pay a fine if he refuses. If he opposes that plan then, by his friend’s definition, he’s being un-Christian. Did you get that, too?

Mr. Cooley, like most black funeral home directors, has joined a separate organization known as the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association.

If the NFDA opposes HR 3200, what does the Morticians Association think about it?

A spokeswoman for the Morticians Association, reached in Lexington, Kentucky, said the organization has not come out for or against the healthcare legislation.

But the spokeswoman, funeral director Gayle Shumake Graham, still shared with me her views on healthcare.

“I’ve prepared too many bodies way too soon,” she said. “I’m finding that many could have had a better life but they went without healthcare.”

Her comment, I think, frames the debate nicely. Put Graham’s concerns for her community beside the NFDA’s concerns for business owners. Then you see what John Sr. referred to as a “rational argument.”

Mrs. Graham is talking about “what’s wrong” with healthcare, and the NFDA is addressing how not to change the system we have.

I have a simple plan to improve healthcare that will make funeral directors everywhere happy: let the U.S. government send every American a voucher to shop for their own health insurance, with two stipulations: Blue Cross and other companies would be fined for jacking up their rates, and they must accept pre-existing conditions.

Heck, add more stipulations if you want. Write a 1,000-page bill to protect the public from the insurers – so long as the federal government doesn’t make those decisions for us.

Then my wife Shannon, who doesn’t have health insurance, and many other people can go shop for the best deal with consumers protected and the free market at work.

A similar mail-the-money method could have been accomplished with the Stimulus Bill, which cost taxpayers $787 billion in borrowed money to jumpstart our economy, which it has yet to do and probably never will.

Sending $5,000 to 200 million adults could have poured money into our floundering economy at a cost of $50 billion – still a fraction of the bill. What could you and your spouse do with $10,000?

Instead, Choctaw County has bought a backhoe with stimulus funds.

The town of Tishomingo bought a police car.

Panola County is repairing two rural bridges and Batesville is replacing redlights.

Back in May, before the U.S. unemployment rate was flirting with double digits, I was fuming after reading a press release from Congressman Travis Childers. It announced the Corps of Engineers was getting $238 million in “recovery funds” for Mississippi lakes.

The Corps, which is well known for its boondoggle waste, estimates it will cost $500,000 to renovate the showers and restrooms at Chickasaw Recreation Area at Enid Lake, and $1.5 million to relocate Sardis Lake campsites at Clear Creek.

Pointing out such waste, and comparing its failure to a hasty plan for government-run healthcare, is not demagoguery or naysaying. It’s a rational argument: if the mechanic can’t change your flat, do you really want him to take apart the engine and put it back together?