Thursday, November 28, 2002

A crisis of common sense II. I can't stand it. I need to take a deep breath and remind myself that we really do need universal health care, if only to protect people like Diane MacPherson and her husband, Mr. X, from themselves -- and from us, when the cost of their grotesequely irresponsible decision not to buy medical insurance for their families falls into our laps.

Today the Boston Globe offers us the downbeat but heartwarming Thanksgiving tale of Craig and Michelle Brenner, both of whom are unemployed as the holidays loom, but who are persevering because of their faith in God and their basic human optimism. Good for them! But there's more. The Brenners appear to enjoy a rather lavish lifestyle, and it's one of recent vintage. In 1997, Craig was making $37,000 a year managing a Bruegger's. He jumped into the burgeoning dot-com economy and, before you know it, was pulling down $135,000. The inevitable happened, and he's been without work since October 1 -- with no prospect of finding a new job that pays anywhere near that.

So what did the Brenners spend their newfound income on? A $400,000 home on an acre of land. And, judging from this photo (online today only), a spiffy new red SUV. Now, I'm not going to get all judgmental here and say that they shouldn't have bought these things. Why not? They were hardly the only ones who thought the New Economy was going to roll on forever. We'd have probably done the same thing.

But then this sentence hit me right between the eyes: "The family has no health insurance because the $750-a-month cost is too steep." Keep in mind that the Brenners have two boys, a four-year-old and a two-year-old. Hasn't anyone told them that, you know, things happen?

It gets better. Toward the end of the article, we learn this:

Finally, Michelle Brenner, who was a social worker before her husband's growing salary allowed her to become a full-time mother, is contemplating a return to the work force if Craig's emergency account -- he's socked away enough to get the family through much of 2003 -- runs out.

Michelle! You could bring home the $750-a-month cost of health insurance working part-time at McDonald's! And Craig could look after the kids. I mean, I know he's really busy, "plot[ting] out new business strategies" in his home office, but couldn't he do that after you got off work? I'm sorry to belabor the obvious, but the Brenners seem to need it.

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