Or- The Doctrine of Unintended Consequences

The World seems to be in chaos on both global and local scales. Food and fuel prices are going up. Banks are raising ATM fees. Baggage fees are going up on airlines, meaning folks will cram more and more into those overheads until they explode. Then there’s the cutbacks everyone is facing, ranging from public education, to funding for public broadcasting, to defunding Planned Parenthood.

It seems to me we’re starting to make more and more irrational and reactionary monetary decisions, based on short term versus long term consequences.

For example, if you think Public Education needs to be improved to make sure our kids are ready to enter the 21st century workforce, is cutting the budgets so they can’t have access to a computer lab really helping? If we’re concerned about more and more partisanship in the news, and a lack of quality broadcasting about everything from arts to science to early education, does cutting funding for Sesame Street, NOVA, Frontline, and All Things Considered really make a lot of sense?

Likewise, if food prices go up dramatically, people wil start eating more “Cheap” food than more expensive nutritionally rich food, feeding the cycle of obesity and health care problems.

Similarly, a friend works for Bank Of America. As a recognized top performer, they got a raise- not the $0.22 an hour others got, but a whopping $0.47 an hour. Giving someone an extra 47 cents an hour may be great when you multiply it out over the course of a year, but it “feels” cheap and not particularly something to brag about. Had the bank decided instead to give out one time bonus checks equivalent to that amount, the employees would have felt more valued, I’ll bet. (I am sure there are tax reasons to do it one way versus the other, but minuscule raises that feel like pennies are almost demoralizing, and feel cheap, even if they aren’t meant to.) So instead of the raise feeling like an “Atta boy! Go For it and do even more for the team!” it feels like someone dropped a few cents into your empty coffee cup on your desk. Not exactly what earns you more employee loyalty when you may need it most.

The most moronic cut of all recently that leads to the Doctrine of unintended consequences are the cuts for Planned Parenthood.

Here’s the problem:

In any medical practice, most of the “profit” comes from doing “procedures” or surgery. There’s less money made to pay the secretary, office staff, rent, etc. off of plain, ordinary office visits. For OB GYN’s, this means a typical pap smear or contraceptive visit is probably cost neutral, and the profit to do everything from upgrading to electronic medical records to hiring more staff comes from doing procedures or operations. So the Federal money that went to support health clinics like Planned Parenthood and helped increase access to care for women, helped support the “loss leaders” of contraception, well visits, health screening and testing and counseling- the softer stuff that helps prevent unwanted pregnancies and spread of disease. When funding gets cut, it will drive their business/provider model towards doing more, not less procedures, because that’s what’s going to keep the lights on and the doors open, if they can hold on. If institutions like Planned Parenthood go down, the primary effect will be more, not less, unwanted pregnancies, increase in rates of chlamydia and other sexually transmitted disease, and a potential increase, not decrease, in the overall abortion rate, with more people seeking care through hospitals instead, when they seek care at all.

I understand people cutting back. I understand the need to watch the nickels and dimes as well as they truly big expenditures. But we have to look past the immediate crisis and look long term, and make sure the short term gain is really worth the long term risk, as well as the value message (or lack of value message) it sends to the people most directly effected.

Times are tough. But let’s make decisions that are less reactionary and more thoughtful, so we stop running around trying to put out little fires, and instead, concentrate on the larger picture of where we’re going and what do we value as a community and Country.

Thanks for reading this rant.