Tsach Gilboa looks at the idea of noble behavior in the context of the shenanigans in Washington, but more importantly, with the context of greater humanity.
What it means – “Noblesse Oblige”, literally means Nobility Obliges. It is a very simple, but deeply meaningful principal of a civilized positive society. A principle that dictates that with wealth, power and prestige come responsibilities and an obligations to provide the standard and set the tone in society of helping those in need.
This French phrase is defined in the Dictionaire de L’Academie Francaise as follows:
- He who claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.
- One must act in a fashion that conforms to one’s position, and with the reputation that one has earned.
The Oxford English Dictionary says the term “suggests noble ancestry constrains to honourable behavior; privilege entails to responsibility” (Wikipedia).
Why you should care – It is important to note that money alone, although an important part of it, does not nobility create or foster. It is strength of character, proper home environment, a healthy dose of self awareness and an evolved understanding that we are all connected and that the good of everyone benefits the whole, the few and the one that results, in most cases, in noble behavior that improves society and makes life better for everyone. This is not just the purview of the rich and famous, although many of them are actively involved and contribute (a few of many: Bill & Melinda Gates, Sting, Bono, Warren Buffet, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey… ). In addition there are many unsung heroes that have no wealth or fame but contribute, in their very meaningful way, to making life better for others, both close to home and across the oceans.
Congress spoils it all – And yet, we are again on the verge of a financial and economic abyss, courtesy of the party of Lincoln. In 2010 the battle was over the extension of the Bush tax cuts beyond 2010, as proposed by the Republicans and agreed to by the Democrats (the Bush tax cuts were a 10 year deal since they were not paid for–trickle down economics and all that Voodoo, at stated magnificently by President George H. Walker Bush).
You have to pay your debts – The weapon of choice then, 2010, was not raising the debt ceiling and destroying the full faith and credit of the United States. It is critical to understand that raising the debt ceiling does not mean increasing spending. It is simply paying what you already spent, just like a credit card. The US government is funded by combination of revenue (taxes) and issuing debt. Congress is the only body authorized to do so as well as the only body that can authorize spending. The debt is held by US individuals and corporations as well as foreign ones, but America “earns more from its assets abroad that it pays to foreign investors”.
President caves – In 2010 President Obama, faced with the possible shutdown of the government as well as damaging the full faith and credit of the US by a congress holding the debt ceiling hostage, caved and agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for 2 years for everyone, not only for lower to middle income Americans’ as he intended.
Present day shenanigans – Now fast forward to 2013 and they are at it again in Washington. This time it is the swan song of the Republican Don Quixote battles to repeal and/or defund the Affordable Care Act (the campaign to have young people opt out of health insurance is simply false, insane and repulsive in its imagery. I wonder who will step in when young people that opt out of health insurance show up in the emergency room for treatment/care due to accident or lack of appropriate preventative care?). And in earth shattering news/spoiler alert to all you young people–and I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that, you will not only not live forever, but you will not be healthy forever or all of the time.
Back to the debt ceiling
Then Taxes. – In 2010 the issue on the table was simple: are we continuing these reduced tax rates for the very rich (there was full agreement on extending them for the vast majority of the public–98%)? Made no sense then and still does not, in addition to a long list that makes no sense, like for example, accrued interest tax rates being lower than income tax rates (meaning if you have invested wealth that works for you, you pay a lower tax rate on what your money earns than the tax rate you pay if you actually work for your money yourself).
Now Health Care – Fast forward to now and the pretext of choice is Health Care or more accurately Health Insurance. Unlike most developed and some third world countries, we do not have Health Care in this “greatest country in the world” of ours. Up till now, most of us were at the mercy of insurance companies (think “The Rainmaker” by John Grisham where a legal battle is fought on behalf of a young man dying of cancer and the corrupt insurance company that denies him care). They decided what would be covered and how much we pay for what kind of coverage and then reduced it via deductibles and out-of-pockets. Now we have a law that actually requires reasonable coverage for reasonable rates, builds savings and efficiencies via exchanges that increase competition, eliminates lifetime limits, reigns in cost increases and provides for covered preventative care, all via the existing for profit insurance companies and that is not good? Our representatives get great health care fully paid for by us, don’t we deserve the same?
Romney is right – One good example that works is Israel where health care costs a mere 8% of GDP, compared to our 18% of GDP. While campaigning for President in July 2012, Mitt Romney praised the Israeli system “you spend 8 percent of GDP on health care. And you’re a pretty healthy nation.” Important to know that Israel’s success is due to a system largely funded thought payroll and generated tax revenue and Israeli’s have a choice among 4 nonprofit plans and they are required to have insurance.
What we have lost here is the spirit of shared sacrifice. What we lack is leadership that pushes us and challenges us to do the right thing for our collective well being as well as that of our country and ourselves. Noblesse Oblige goes beyond individuals and various charities to include government. It dictates a clear path for those fortunate enough to not have money worries in these hard times to contribute. It also dictates that we as a collective through our elected representatives must make the right choices for the benefit of all and the recovery of the whole. It is a moral choice and a political one. Leadership in Washington is and must be about the country and not one’s career. Let’s hope they rise to the challenge and do the right thing! However, Washington will not do it if “we the people” don’t demand it. Make your voices heard and demand!
Image: lisby1 / flickr