12/26/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hypocrisy and Arrogance-A Lesson From the Car Industry on Why Health Care Reform Must Not Fail

While listening to the CEOs of the Big Three automakers plead before Congress last week to fill their company's "tin cup," it occurred to me (as no doubt to most Americans) that it must have cost their companies probably $30,000 to take the corporate jet to fly each to DC from Detroit. But only yesterday, I saw where the CEO of Japan Airlines cut his salary to $90,000 US, earning less than some of his company's pilots; he also eliminated all of his perequisites and eats in the employee cafeteria - - - all because JAL is facing tough times.

Hypocrisy is defined by Webster as pretending to be what one is not, or feel what one does not feel. These American auto CEOs came hat-in-hand to Washington, DC to bail out their companies, yet they came without a plan, and certainly without telling us that they individually would share the burden equally with those who are losing their jobs building cars, or even those who must take a pay cut to keep their jobs. Instead, they wanted $25 billion, so they could keep the corporate jets, the seven figure salaries, and so forth; how disingenuous and hypocritical. What they did was to come to the Nation's Capital dripping with arrogance -- how dare anyone suggest cutting their personal salaries and benefits. If they were sincere about wanting to help their business and thus the nation's economy, they would have proposed, like the JAL chief executive has done, that they would cut their salaries, perqs, and benefits for months (as well as come up with a business plan with oversight to downsize cars and make them run on alternative energy sources). Let's be fair guys.

What does this have to do with health care? Part of the problem is that employees are losing jobs; with job loses come elimination of health care benefits; and when health care coverage is eliminated, the ranks of the uninsured swell even more than the 45 million+ said to lack coverage now. Hospitals and health care providers just can't afford to backstop so many more Americans without health care, and the auto industry with its vendors and suppliers is leading the way. While a crisis is upon the health care industry, what is happening in the auto industry due to the hypocrisy and arrogance of its leaders, is but in microcosm of the job losses, nee, then lack of health care coverage, leading to a Titanic-size proportion failure and inability to care and treat every American.

President-Elect Obama said to us all that health care is a "right" when he debated McCain in October in Nashville. With various plans coming into play, i.e., Ron Wyden's Healthy Americans Act, Max Baucus' recent "White Paper", Kennedy working on his plan to be introduced in January (with Sen. Clinton headed for Sec. of State and Kennedy the "dean" of health care reform on the Hill, expect any bill headed for the White House to have the name Kennedy in it), what Obama has proposed, and not to mention anything coming from House members yet, there will now be considerable effort and enthusiasm to see a new era in the delivery and accessibility of health care for all Americans ("Kennedy set for major health care push", USA Today, p. 15A, 11-21-08). Also, the headline to Jim Carney's piece, writing for Time, is, "Reform's Moment May Be Now."

If genuineness is substituted for hypocrisy in the executive suite, and arrogance is replaced by a real, honest-to-goodness effort to rebuild industries and restore jobs for all Americans with sacrifices across all levels of employment, then the crisis that now exists within our present health care system should be quite "treatable" under Obama's mantra that health care is a right for all citizens. Let's roll up our sleeves now and get to work on this!

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