Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Ransom Not a Negotiation

This week, the Senate is voting on yet another round of 'healthcare reform.' I have a lot of trouble calling it healthcare. This is our third round of negotiations. I also have trouble calling them negotiations. I have a lifetime of experience with negotiations.

My son Nick went through a phase of negotiating absolutely everything. The garbage needs to go out? He would agree to take it outside if I brought it to the bottom of the stairs. His laundry basket was full? He'd bring me his hamper and put in the clothes if I would add detergent, start the washer, then put them into the dryer when they were done. It was exhausting, worse than shutting up and doing the whole job on my own. That wouldn't teach my son a thing.

But Nick was tenacious. He was born to negotiate.

Eventually, I began a tactic of reverse negotiations whenever I needed him to help around the house: if he was only willing to take the garbage half way to the can in the garage, I would only half cook his dinner. Then, as he continued to negotiate, I would decrease instead of increase my contribution to the plan. A third of dinner, meat and vegetables only, no macaroni and cheese, no bread, no fruit. Nick could cook his own macaroni and cheese and eat an apple if he was still hungry afterward. Plus, he would have to do dishes too. He wants to continue to argue? Okay, now we're down to vegetables alone. He could grill his own damned burger.

And Nick could keep going. Only thirteen and he was an absolute pro. I'm telling you, it turned something inside me.

At some point, I told him, I no longer wanted to negotiate. He needed to contribute or I would turn off the television and take the remote controls with me wherever I was going. I intended to take the power cables to his video games as well. Did he want me to go to my quilt meeting and bring the remotes and power cables with me? I packed them into my quilt bag. Nick could begin to earn them back when I got home.

That got action. The garbage went all the way to the bin in the garage. That reverse method of negotiation also gave me a surly teenager.

I began to wonder if those negotiations were unfair. "You're really mean," he told me, more than once. It's in a kid's nature to resist, to wheedle, and to negotiate. I should really have begun my negotiations from a stronger stance, more chores that could be negotiated down to what I wanted in the first place.

I can see that I haven't learned.

At my first job in the corporate world, I had the same problem, only I was on the receiving end of it. My boss asked me to schedule my time for the next design. I added up time for gathering the specifications on the design, for designing the circuit, for refining the circuit, build, then test. I gave him my best estimate in hours and planned a forty hour week to determine the completion date. I figured I came in within ten percent of what would actually happen.

When the overall schedule came back, my part of the schedule had been hacked in half.

I marched into his office and told him I wouldn't be able to complete the job, that all he'd get was a preliminary design, no build and no test if he kept my schedule at half the hours.

At that point that negotiations began. He squeezed and squeezed and squeezed my schedule until I was working nearly the same number of hours I'd originally estimated, but at seventy hours a week and I had to cancel a family trip at Christmas near the end. I only had Christmas day off instead of the usual week offered by the corporation for everyone else.

I was back at my desk and still fuming about it when a seasoned engineer came by and asked what was the matter. When I told him, he laughed. He said the routine was to add fluff to the schedule, thirty to fifty percent more time. Then, when the managers got hold of my schedule, I'd be able to negotiate to my real numbers so I wouldn't have to give up my Christmas vacation for my job.

I thought that was bullshit. I still do. It's why a government toilet seat cost $500. I expected to be able to tell my boss how many hours I needed do the job and then do it.

In the end, I was just ten hours under my estimate no matter how efficiently I tried to work. There are some corners that shouldn't be cut. After all that squeezing, my boss had paid me time and a half for a third of my work and even double-time for the holidays. I wondered if he realized his negotiations had cost him at least thirty percent more even though his end-date was close to what he'd wanted in the beginning. In the process, I'd transformed from an enthusiastic and honest engineer into a disenchanted employee who fabricated extra time for future schedules because I had really wanted my Christmas vacation.

Congress is using these same tactics on the people of the United States in its 'repeal and replace' effort. Every single iteration of Republican healthcare reform is stingier than the last. During the first round, the House of Representatives presented a bill that would cause ten million people to lose their healthcare. After listening to the people's stories, the Senate finally showed us their revision to that first bill and suddenly 22 million people would be without healthcare.

Now, they're attempting a simple repeal. Forget replace.

This would leave 32 million people without healthcare.

Every single iteration is worse than the last. Every one will cause more deaths nationwide, not fewer.

Mitch McConnell isn't asking us to contribute to society the way I was asking my son when I expected him to take out the garbage. McConnell is asking us to make Sophie's Choice. Who is going to die? You pick. If you won't pick, won't compromise, more will die.

This is not a negotiation. It's a ransom.

Thank you for listening, jules

No comments:

Post a Comment