An open letter to President George W. Bush
Say, George Bush, you heartless fiend, why are you forcing Parkinson's disease on poor little Michael J. Fox? I saw him on TV the other night and he was shaking like a Chihuahua sitting in an ice bucket being juggled by Janet Reno on roller skates! Wasn't it bad enough you broke Christopher Reeves' back? My, God! . . . You Republicans. If you would just untie the national purse strings, I'm sure that – in addition to finding a cheap and bio-friendly substitute for gasoline – government funded researchers could knock out all disease in a generation. After all, it is a constitutional mandate . . . uh, pursuit of happiness, or something like that (and how can you be happy if you're feeling all icky, or dying?) . . ., besides, what has private medical research ever done for anyone?
Debbie the-soccer-mom-democrat, President Emeritus of the Southern California committee to put pants on trees.
In spite of what Debbie and others have been led into thinking – myself included, since I depended at first on grossly misstated major media reports – the president has not outlawed stem-cell research. What he did was to decline to finance stem-cell research with federal funds! And that's an equine of a different hue. So, here is the vital compound question: What is disease and what the hell is Uncle Sam supposed to do about it – other than station troops in hospitals? Disease is defined as any impairment of the normal state of a living animal or plant that affects its vital functions. Diseases range from colds, cancer and tuberculosis to earaches and STDs. Given that a ‘disease’ is, basically, anything that impairs the vital functions of a living plant or animal, the term covers a lot of territory; now, throw in digestive disorders, mental, emotional and behavioral disorders and, well, humanity is sinking into a morass of putrefaction.
(Everyone has a favorite disease, one that personally impacts them, that they'd like to see eradicated; mine is cellular senescence.)
And government has to rush in, since no private funds are available for research, right? The National Parkinson Foundation reports that over nine million dollars in grants for research into Parkinson's is available over the next two years. Somebody is giving money. But it's not enough. To the loudly lamenting of the world, there is never enough. And what of the millions in private research funds that have been and will be spent on trying to cure Parkinson's and other diseases?
Once the companies dedicate lab time, pay doctors and research assistants salaries and buy material, in trying to either cure citizens of a disease or at least abate the symptoms, can they recoup their investment and make a profit without the liberals screaming and acting like a bunch of cheerleaders who've just had a bag of snakes let loose on their locker room floor? Me thinks not. Instead they lobby the government to either pay for the new drugs they need or to pass laws restricting the very profit motive that resulted in the life-benefiting drugs in the first place.
So perhaps medical research is a worthy goal for the Hollywood intelligentsia? Celebs could swear off cocaine for a year -- or buying third-world orphans -- pool the money saved, and use it to attack a major disease a year. Perhaps I can sign you up for a donation to this, Ms. Streisand? Ms.. Streisand . . Perhaps we can Another fruitful idea is sell some nukes to North Korea, get paid in those proto-US dollars they print, and pay off the lab staffs with funny money.
Or, since Fox is a Canadian citizen (or was originally)! So why the heck isn't he lobbying the Canadian government to divert some of the money they squander on things like building UFO landing platforms (or the money they save by not having a standing army worth spit) to stem-cell research?
Then again, instead of holding our breath and waiting for the Canadians, or Hollywood benefactors, maybe it is better if Uncle Sam staggers to the bar once again and announces "Drinks on the house!"
If so, we have to then consider . . .
The Allocation Factor
Most people think that government money is a resource that grows on trees in carefully nurtured groves outside of Washington, DC. Not so, I'm afraid. It is the taxpayer (gasp) who lines Uncle Sam's holey pockets, and the amount of money he can confiscate from us – the better to squander on votes – is limited. So, what is the proper way to disburse the funds for the care of diseased Americans? Or is there a proper way, other than pandering to those who squeal the loudest?
People naturally assume that the federal government is heartless and self-serving – and it is. However, be you democrat, republican, communist, socialist, or anarchist, certain facts about government involvement with health care do not change. And that is the dispensation of government resources in the treatment of disease. A). Decisions have to be made about allocation; B). Everything else being the same, some decisions will be arbitrary; and; C) when decisions about allocation are not downright arbitrary, they are made for political reasons. (See the statement above about government being self-serving.)
Therefore, when it comes to Big Brother's involvement in our medical care, and the allocation of resources, I like to use what I refer to as the ‘Crack Baby’ formula to explain to liberals why we shouldn't use our resources in a capricious fashion. The theory goes something like this: You've got $100,000,000 to spend on medical care. A crack baby is blind, deaf and retarded, and will only live a few years at most. It will have zero ability to contribute to society; in fact, it will prove a financial determent to society. To keep one crack baby alive for the normal span of its existence it will cost approximately. $1,000,000, i.e., with your available resources you can extend the lives of 100 crack babies. On the other hand, it costs approximately $100,000 to treat and successfully rehabilitate heart attack victims between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five (who will then have between ten to twenty productive years left). Therefore, spending the same amount, $100,000,000, you can return 1000 individuals to some sort of productive life. So, which way uses public largesse in a wiser way? Remember, this type of decision has to be made. According to the National Institutes of Health, Parkinson's affects at least 500,000 people in the United States, though some sources give estimates as high as a million. Taking the larger estimate of a million, this puts Parkinson's Disease, or PD, as affecting 0.3% (One third of one percent) of the population of the United States (now 300,000,000). AIDS was the last disease politicized in this fashion, so as to get more federal funds for research? I suggest, in self defense from liberals, we develop a formula for granting federal dollars for research funding – the purpose of which is to see that the most number of citizens are served by the research, that national productivity is maximized for the dollars spent – say, something along the lines of an algebraic formula, involving the factors of time vs. money vs. disease impact, which I call The Fox Factor (in honor of Canadian Michael J. Fox):
7 = Longevity (the length of time, years and/or months, one can be expected to survive the onset of the disease)
P = (large P) represents the total number of the population affected.
p = (small p) the productivity factor, represents the percentage of 7 that the affected person will retain the ability to function and work in the community.
I = time (derived from 7 X P /p)
) = represents the cost, pharmacological and medical, of treating a given disease over 7
E = accumulated cost of treating disease over remaining time.
$ = represents the total assets available to either treat or research a particular disease.
( = survival
(N.B. I used as much Greek lettering here as possible because it looks sexy and confuses most people).
Therefore: (7) X (P) ' p = I: () X I) = E: $/E = (
Here, in our calculus of misery, the lower the G number is in relation to the $ number, the more citizens served and the better our money is spent in researching a particular disease. Or something like that . . . hell, algebra was difficult for me in high school – I barely passed with a 70. But I think you get the overall point, which is that, if the feds are going to squander our money on pet-project medical research, they should at least do so in a manner that benefits the greatest number of citizens. And we'd better decide something fast, before Senator Teddy Kennedy, in one of his sobriety-less moments, suggests that all excess government funds be used to fight AIDS in Africa . . . or put pants on trees.
(Ed. note - don't miss Lehamic Renwar's editorial cartoon on the same issue.)
Update - The Anchoress, blogging at Captain's Quarters, says:
If you want to enter an arena of ideas, you can't stuff your glove with "don't you feel bad for me" brass knuckles and then call it a fair match. You cannot sucker-punch your opponant by playing on a ref's sympathies. And I'm a little disappointed in Fox, that he is content to do so. And I'm disappointed in the rest of the people who are content to let him. Sorry, but to my way of thinking, emotionally surrendering to Michael J. Fox's ads simply because he's suffering is to show him - and our whole democratic process - tremendous disrespect.
Read the whole thing, as they say.