Things I Think

The Sales Manager in Chief

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz
I recently watched the presidential inauguration from the comfort of a fake leather couch at a car dealership. Over the din of overhead pages for the service department, Sales Manager in Chief Barack Obama was making an aggressive pitch, and I half expected him to finish his speech by asking, “So, America, what can I do to get you into this brand new future today?”

For a habitual snickerer, I'm a surprising sucker for larger-than-life occasions like this. The pomp. The circumstance. The First Lady's new 'do! I don't care if Beyonce was pre-recorded. She sold the deception with pitch-perfect flare, tossing that earpiece like she was working the high wire without a net. At least she was paying close attention to the way her lips were moving — a refreshing rarity in Washington.

But now with the oath of office barely consummated and the last echoes of Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor still bouncing off the monuments, our esteemed representatives are back to business as usual — conducting no business, as usual. That means it must be time to start speculating in feverish earnest about our future. What will the next four years mean for the health and wealth of long-term care providers?

Personally, I have no clear conclusion, and the more I think about the financial challenges this country faces, the more I'm disturbed by questions like that. We got into this mess, after all, because these conversations always seem to start with that big American “Me.” My life, my family, my business, my profession. How to protect and preserve what I have, and the irreplaceably good things I do.

Just before the election, at the fall national conferences, long-term care association leadership viewed the choice at hand through the understandable prism of collective self-interest. That's not really a criticism — protecting and advancing long-term care is their job, after all, and what's good for the profession is good for all of us connected to it, and for the people we serve. But what if it's not in the best interests of the country? Would we have the courage to stand up and say so?

The public strongly supports Medicare. Well of course they do. The long-term care profession strongly opposes cuts. Naturally. The Business Roundtable wants to change the retirement age, no surprise, and the AARP is in full-voice disagreement. Despite the hysterical rantings on the extremes that get all the media attention, good, reasonable, thoughtful arguments actually abound on all sides of the issues. Discussions get paralyzed by the equal validity of the competing positions, and the result is the status quo. Keep everything. Cut nothing. Defer the decision a decade or two and let even smarter people figure it out.

Last summer, a robin built a luxurious home atop my motion-sensor porch light, and from my lawn chair I could watch the mother on each swooping approach. Whenever she got close, five little mouths would poke out of the nest, birdy lips spread wide, vying for her attention and affection — but mostly for the hapless worm in her beak. I didn't envy her difficult position. Those five babies were hopelessly cute, and each deserved to live and fly and achieve their full robin potential. But there was only one worm and five mouths. What a horrible choice for any parent to make.

With so many professional organizations, interest groups and advocates each representing something positive and important in American life, there just aren't enough worms for all the noble and even essential things we as a society feel compelled to do. Maybe what we need is an impartial, all-powerful, all-knowing mother bird to swoop in and simply decide.

“My fellow Americans,” President Obama said, “we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.” But when “together” means a nation of worthy special interests like ours, all acting like starving baby robins, that's what worries me.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, who cobbles these pieces together from his secret lair somewhere near the scenic, wine-soaked hamlet of Walla Walla, WA. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.

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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Walla Walla, WA. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.

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