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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Money: How it is Spent Makes No Sense

A few days ago I read about my favorite invention I love to poke fun of--the human exoskeleton that enables paralyzed people to walk. Today I read 89 protesters from my favorite disability rights group, ADAPT, were arrested in Washington DC. What do these two disparate stories have to do with one another? Money stupid! Rex Bionics, a New Zealand company, has just sold its first custom fitted robotic exoskeleton to Dave MacCalman. MacCalman has represented New Zealand in the Paralympics, winning gold and silver medals. The exoskeleton is, in my estimation, silly in the extreme. In fact the words pointless waste of resources come to mind. And when it comes to resources much was spent. The exoskeleton took seven years and $10 million in development costs. Read that sentence again--carefully. And exactly how much does an exoskeleton cost? It retails for nearly $150,000 USA dollars. That is a lot of money. Now if I had a spare $150,000 I would not spend it on an exoskeleton. No, I would spend such money wisely. I would buy a high end sports car. A Porsche 911 Turbo that retails for $135,500. I would even have money left over to buy gas, go up to 135 mph, have 500 horse power, get 24 miles to a gallon, and be able to go from 0 to 60 in less than three seconds. This is may not be what everyone needs but it sure is valued by some. The point here is that the exoskeleton is about as practical as a Porsche 911 turbo. Practical or not we value such cars, priceless engineering, and walking. Walking is very nice. Driving a Porsche 911 is very nice too. But are either really important in the bigger picture of life? Not in my opinion. Would it nice to be able to walk around my house? Yes it would but it is nothing to aspire to nor is it worth spending $150,000. Waking does not define who we are as humans any more than the Porsche 911 turbo defines car making.

The exoskeleton and Porsche 911 are feats of engineering that are not needed. There are far more important things in life than the ability to walk or drive a car that costs $150,000. This is what I was thinking when I read about the 89 people from ADAPT that got arrested. ADAPT was protesting Paul Ryan's Medicaid plan that would force people with a disability into a nursing home rather than live in their own home. The issue as I understand it would turn Medicaid into block grants and reduce spending by more than $700 billion over ten years. The protesters were arrested by Capital Police for occupying the rotunda. I wish I was there for I know how sound travels in a rotunda. I bet they were loud and confrontation. ADAPT people get what is important. People with a disability, like all those pesky people that can walk, value their independence. This is something we as a society should invest in--independence and autonomy. No one can be independent and autonomous in a nursing home. In an institution you do not control your own destiny. Why we do not seek to empower people is a mystery. Why we spend invest, develop, and spend millions on things, material objects such as an exoskeleton and Porsche 911 turbos is a mystery. Which is more important, a material object, albeit a very cool one like a Porsche, or people's lives?


Unknown said...

I really wanted to be in DC for the APAPT thing, particularly cause it's close to where I live. Had to work though :(

william Peace said...

Ruth, I find it disheartening the ADAPT action garnered no press. Politico had a little blurb and Disability Scoop sent out a short story. Not a single word was in newspapers such as the Washington Post or New York Times. With the death of bibLaden I know the timing is not ideal but the protest did not even make it as news filler. This is a giant problem. It reinforces my belief disability rights simply does not resonate with the general population. Until this changes social change will be slow to happen.

Unknown said...

It's true. So much hard work being done, people traveling from all over, putting themselves at risk.

And the press ignores it, most people have no idea that it's happening, even right here 30 minutes away from D.C.

What can we do to convince people that this matters to them? To all of them?

Anonymous said...

Bill, I agree with you completely. I don't think anyone needs a Porsche, even if they're having a mid-life crisis. Besides that, red ones are speeding-ticket magnets. It's a fact that red sports cars get more speeding tickets than any other type of car. Statistics from both police depts. and insurance companies show that to be true. Show me someone who actually likes to get speeding tickets. Red sports cars are also the type of car most often pulled over by the police. Exactly how many people do you think want to be pulled over by Officer Friendly? About the same number that actually want to pay $4 a gallon for gas, & by the way, Porsches get some of the worst gas mileage out there- according to my sources, only about 12 miles to the gallon. However, they do get better mileage than most Stupid Useless Vehicles (what did you think SUV stood for?). My beautiful Nissan laughs at those silly cars. I get almost 30 miles a gallon in the city, and close to 40 on the highway, better than ridiculous luxury cars that cost 3- 4 times what my Nissan cost when new.
Why pay so much more when the car isn't more efficient? Do you really need to pay an extra $60 grand for burled mahogany pannelling, some absurd dingus on the hood, and leather seats?
Have you ever tried to sit on a leather seat on a hot, humid summer day? Besides the fact that they get all sticky, smell bad in seconds, & force you to sit in a pool of sweat that soaks your shorts so that once you get out of the car, it looks as though you've been sitting in a puddle, which, in fact, you have, if you have to leave such a car in a parking lot on a hot summer day for more than 10 minutes, by the time you get back, those seats will be so hot that you will not be able to sit on them without getting first-degree burns on your thighs. The only way to remedy this problem is to carry a large supply of towels in your snotty luxury car so that you can sit on them and thus avoid both the scorched thighs and the pools of sweat. However, this begs the question, 'If you have to bring towels anyway, why pay so much extra for the leather seats?' It's madness. Luxury cars are a stupid waste of money.

william Peace said...

Cait, I chose the Porsche 911 turbo because I would love to drive one! I have no idea what possesses men to buy expensive sports cars. I call them penile extensions. I go to car show in NYC every year and drool over these cars. I would never own one just as I would never own a exoskeleton.