Life, Liberty, & Happiness

Am I My Brother's Keeper


t is really no real exaggeration to say our system of government has evolved into a vast social insurance system with a side-line business in defense. Social Security makes up about 23% of of total federal spending; followed by Defense (18%), Medicare (15%), Medicaid & Children's Health Insurance (8%) and Income Security & Unemployment Compensation (10%). Rounding out the top six categories is the interest on our National Debt (6%). 

I find this new role as a social safety-net system to be mostly appropriate - a humane response to deep changes in our society - and it offers basic security to those who otherwise would be homeless, hungry and without access to health care. Others likely find it distasteful that we spend our collective monies to help our friends and neighbors who are less fortunate. And while I may not agree with them, I respect their point of view. 

But whether you agree with this new role or not, this federal government as a social support system is our reality. Social Security and Medicare aren't going away. Individuals pay in every week through wage withholdings and expect it to offer them some type of income and care as they age. It's hard to imagine our society without these things (even though they did not exist prior to FDR and 1965).

This week the Senate is working behind closed doors to discuss how they may want to change and re-shape the federal component of Medicaid & Children's Health Insurance (8% of the budget). The House of Representatives already weighed in suggesting significant cuts to these programs to fund a tax break for a small segment of our society. While it's all part of the mantra of "repeal and replace" or "healthcare reform" - it's no secret that the largest issue at hand is healthcare for those with pre-existing conditions, for the poor, and for the socially vulnerable.

Congress and the President certainly may choose to simply transfer this issue to individual states to solve. The discussion is framed as "block grants" to the states - but it really is a shift of responsibility to individual states for their vulnerable populations. If that is indeed the case, some state legislatures will rise to the occasion and work to solve the issue; others will simply allow their most vulnerable to go without. 

There is much to be addressed and fixed within healthcare. I'm not suggesting we have a perfect system at all. There are many areas for improvement. We could discuss the need for pricing controls, tort reform, and reduced complexity in medical payments ad nauseam.

But the thought I'd like to leave you with today is simply this - when you think about the second great commandment (the one about love thy neighbor as thyself) - when do you think our moral and ethical responsibilities begin and end? Do we have a responsibility as a society to care for those who have lost everything (including losing their way)? It's not a soundbite answer. Or at least I hope you think more than a few seconds to process an answer. Growing up in very poor, rural America, I've always believed "...but there, for the grace of God, go I...."

History will be the final judge of our decisions - and whether we have strengthened or diminished our people and our democracy by caring for one another. I wish I had the magic bullet answer. I'd love to make a dent in this unfair universe. All I have to offer is my voice, my hands and my actions. And regardless of what Washington does (or doesn't do) I will continue to advocate for those who do not have the strength, the health, nor the resources to advocate for themselves. 

About Dr. Michael Burcham

Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.

“I built and sold a $40M company with Dr. Burcham as my mentor. This is the thing: if you EVER get the opportunity to learn from this man, from that moment forward, you’ll list him as one of the most influential people in your life, even if you live to be 90. And, you’ll know how lucky you were to have that opportunity and you’ll immediately say YES to any chance to be in his presence again—his wisdom is that impactful.”

Sherry Stewart Deutschmann

Former CEO, Letter Logic

“If you are looking for a trusted mentor and coach for yourself or your leadership team, I highly recommend Michael Burcham. He has worked with me as my executive coach for well over a decade now. Our conversations and his feedback have helped me sharpen my critical thinking skills. He’s a trusted advisor that I can confidentially speak with about any issue—and I know I’ll get valued feedback. I highly recommend him.”

Ryan McGrath

CEO, Asset Living

“Dr. Burcham’s depth and breadth of experience makes even the most ADD entrepreneurial leader sit up and take notes! His coaching skills bring out the ‘best you’ possible. He selflessly shares the good, the bad, and the ugly—leaving you with an authentic and moving experience sure to spur action and professional growth!”

Julie Lenzer

Director, U.S. Department of Commerce


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