Walking Backwards Into the Future

In a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling upholding President Obama’s healthcare bill the U.S. finally joined the rest of the developed world of 60 years ago with universal coverage. Perhaps Americans can now rest a bit easier knowing that in 2014 they won’t be denied healthcare for pre-existing conditions. The 20-30% annual premium increases may even slowdown once basic medical services for the uninsured kick in. Preventive care can work wonders (think catching a cavity today rather than surgery for an abscess tomorrow). Frontline and the Center for Public Integrity “Dollars and Dentists” laid it all out – “100 million Americans don’t go tot the dentist because they can’t afford it”.

Meanwhile, China joined the space world of 50 years ago with a successful orbital docking mission, including a safe return to earth of three astronauts and China’s first woman in space. While the technology is ancient by today’s standards, China rightly celebrated and pledged some $3 billion for more space programs. Pundits jumped on the decline of the west bandwagon with comments like – maybe NASA can take a lesson from China. A quick look at proposed budgets (even with cuts) shows NASA spending more than double that figure in one year on space exploration activity alone. Extensive Mars programs may not see the light of day or may be delayed, but seriously, a docking mission as a guide for NASA?

There’s no space race going here and pitting the U.S. against China as if it were the old Cold War is useless and counterproductive. Rivalry and divergent interests abound, but constructive engagement remains the wise word of the diplomatic day. Find areas of agreement and manage the difficulties while standing firm on at least some principles.

Sometimes going backwards is going forwards, other times not.

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