I knew when I wrote about doctors, professors and lawyers (and dentists) making too much money, I would hear from those in the professions. The writers made valid points about their individual situations. And I agree with those points.
I know that hospital and insurance company CEOs, university presidents and administrators, and big corporate lawyers also make way too much money. I know that doctors have trained for years and save lives. I know that professors’ pay hasn’t kept up with inflation. I know that lawyers have to pay the office rent and other bills as well as just make a living.
But I am speaking of the macro. The common good vs. the individual. Disruptive is a favorite buzz word in the business world these days. It means an intrusion into traditional ways of doing things that turns the apple cart upside down. That is what big box store medical clinics, college contract instructors, and Legal Zoom are doing to traditional professions.
The common good is lost when the average person who needs medical care, a college education, or legal help can’t afford those services. When bankruptcy is the result of high medical bills, when college is beyond what even the middle class can afford, or child custody cases cost tens of thousands of dollars, the delivery of the promised – and needed – services is no longer available to do the most good for the most people.
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The difference from the consequences from overpaid hospital CEOs and administrators and insurance company executives, university presidents and administrators and outrageously overpriced corporate lawyers is that they are far fewer proportionately than on-the-job doctors, professors and lawyers. The professionals at the lowest level are also subject to market place forces whereas those at the top are insulated and protected from them.
Big box health clinics, contract instructors, and Legal Zoom are intruding into the first tier of services, but there is nothing comparable for those at the top. (I know there is much more that leads to high medical costs – the opaque pricing of hospital and medical procedures that prevents patients from finding a reasonable price for a procedure, the obscene pharmaceutical industry, the delay of the Dodd-Frank requirement that the ratio of CEO to workers be revealed, the insulation of CEO pay by overpaid corporate boards of directors.)
If income disparity is shocking at the 1 percent level, it is no less so when the average person (to say nothing of the working poor) can’t afford to have a major illness without the fear of bankruptcy. When the dream of the first generation of their children attending college is shattered. When a parent loses custody of their children for lack of a first-rate lawyer. And, of course, when poor children lose their teeth because they can’t afford a dentist.
Today’s high costs began 40 years ago. Health care costs have risen faster than inflation since 1964. When graduate school science researchers salaries began to climb, other professors wanted to keep up with the Joneses and the upward university pay scale race was on. When the corporate boys at the top raised their fees, other lawyers did too.
Doctors, professors and lawyers provide a service – a public good. Now the disruptive force of the market place is hopefully leading to the restoration of the common good. We usually regard the capitalist’s dream of market forces as the common evil. But this time, it might actually be the common good.
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