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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Do You Know Any Poor Doctors? Lawyers? Plumbers? Indian Chiefs?

Actually there won't be any Indian Chiefs in this blog as I don't know any. I do, however, know many doctors (only a few personally but a lot professionaly) and I also know a few lawyers (plus all those on TV), and of course the plumber.

It is not my plan to berate doctors as there are certainly many who work hard and conscientiously to make people's lives better. I would even say most of them do. I do not even mean to beat up on the lower quality doctors; first because they are hard to identify and it wouldn't do any good anyhow. It is something to keep in mind, though, that in each graduating class of doctors there is one who graduated at the very bottom of his class and, what do you know, tomorrow morning he will have patients in the waiting room eager to see him.

Most of us treat our doctors as superior all-knowing individuals and tend to take their word as medical law. Even when they don't have the answer I supose that it is good for us to regard them in that way as that, in itself, is a form of treatment. As we age it eventually sinks in with most doctors that whatever they do will never be enough to keep that black-robed figure with the scythe away from our door. In that respect every doctor must eventually come to terms with the fact that he is a failure - that is in comparison with the engineer, the scientist, or the technician who sometimes really do solve a problem.

There are, of course, many times when a good doctor does completely solve a problem. I'm sure you can think of many examples, e.g., surgically removing an appenix. As patients (and doctors) age the realization finally sinks in; we are all mortal and will be gone at least by the next century. Where we will go may be the topic for another blog.

But, I am finally working my way around to the point, which is (with the exceptions that you will no doubt come up with) that there are no poor doctors. This leaves out the large number of docs who work almost pro bono in developing nations and even among our own poor. In the United States they are small enough in number of not be part of this blog. I am thinking of the "average" doctor (if such a thing exists) who lives just down the street or in the next subdivision. The giveaway to their life styles includes among other things, the places they go for seminars, the vacation trips they make, the investments they make, the cars they drive, the travel and investment mags lying around the waiting room, etc.

If we get a bit personal with our doctors we hear almost the same thing from each of them - the paperwork is horrendous, Medicare/Medicaid pay no way near the doctor-charged amount, insurance is very high, taxes are too high, etc., etc. Never, and I say never, will you ever hear a doctor complain that he is poor. None of them are. Nor do we begrudge most of it. Doctors, as a group should receive high pay for their efforts. We just want to avoid going into "sorry" mode when legislation is at stake.

Doctors, by almost any measurement, are never poor. At least most of those with whom we come into contact. So just smile and nod when they show signs of poverty. Most doctors are rich and raking it in, all at the expense of government (the people) and the regulated insurers.

Ah, but lawyers! Their big payoffs, their fancy homes, their lifestyles, nearly all come from their legal form of extortion. I like the law. I studied law in college - took courses in business law and aviation law. I would have liked to be a lawyer as I love to deal with the intricacies and details of cases. Lawyers would have you believe that they too, like doctors, exist to serve the common man (which is most of us). They do not. High fees, greed, unnecessary complications, taking advantage of adversity, all combine to make lawyers among the lowest rated of professions. Yes, I know law school is lengthy, the courses are hard, case history is boring and tedious to study, and bar exams provide a high hurdles for any without a lot of smarts.

However, there is still too much of the "who you know" factor involved in becoming a successful lawyer. And by successful I do mean making a lot of money. There is, of course, a big surplus of just-graduated lawyers who are struggling until they find their niche. Which, for the enterprising among them, they always do. As in any other field some lawyers never get there and often turn to easier professions or to less sought after lawyering positions.

Also, lawyers make up the bulk of our legislators and take care to fashion laws that will benefit them. I am the last person to advocate price controls; however, when I see lawyers accepting these big cash awards I can't help but feeling that the system is out of whack. Again, I don't know how to fix it but would if I could.

And again, in spite of all the lobbying, complaining, control of things within their profession, I submit to you as with doctors, there are no poor lawyers (with the exceptions being those who have been a little slow to adapt to the extortionate practices used by most). They'll get there.

Ah, yes plumbers. Pretty far removed from the field of medicine and law. But do you really think there are any poor ones? And, of course, I do not incude any who say they are plumbers but are really just learning the trade. Plumbing, unlike law and medicine, requires lots of really hard physical work along with a big personal knowledge base and a willingness to go home tired and dirty. I watched a plumber work today just installing a simple dishwasher. In the process he skinned his fingers, had to move a heavy dishwasher into a house by himself, had to compensate for problems of fit, had to crawl on the floor, and work in poor lighting.

Was this worth a lot of money? Well, of course it was, and he should be highly compensated. But should he become rich at a job which requires a maximum of knowledge and skill but a minimum of schooling? I once knew a plumber (fancy title - steamfitter) who easily cleared $100,000 per year. He, too, worked hard but had advanced beyond the stage of crawling on the floor and under sinks.

So, what am I trying to say here? Just that supply and demand should come into play more than it does. Government should mess out. Plumbers should be free to charge whatever they want; customers should be free to shop for best prices. Same should apply to doctors and lawyers and would have the effect of getting rid of incompetent people and getting these sky-high legal and medical expenses into the real world. It is so easy for these professionals to demand high prices and happily take less when the net result is that they all, doctors, lawyers, and plumbers really are getting rich.

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