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  • Last modified 20 days ago (Oct. 23, 2019)

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Taking a look at what ails us

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times and you have the shameful wheeling and dealing that for far too long has held health care hostage in Hillsboro.

Swooping in from a maze of limited-liability nests as confusing as those organized crime uses to hide ill-gotten gains, speculators linked to previous bankruptcies once again are hovering over Hillsboro Community Hospital, prepared to pick it over like carrion.

It’s not so much a case of well-meaning out-of-town saviors nobly wanting to provide health care to a rural area that desperately wants or needs it. It’s more a case of business speculators trying to secure additional blocks in a pyramid of debt that can yield handsome profits until the Jenga tower falls and they start all over again.

In many ways, it’s reminiscent of what’s happening with another vital local service — community newspapers.

What seems to be a disruption born of new technology, both in health care and in newspapers, is in reality more about gangs of distant profiteers preying on communities by abandoning the morality and civic obligation that community ownership of vital services entails.

Hillsboro officials are not totally blameless for falling for long-ago come-ons from profiteers who seemed to offer too-good-to-be-true ways of saving and actually improving a community institution.

But perhaps the gift horse needed a bit more of a dental checkup back when the profiteers’ grow-or-die mentality toward spending created not just shiny new facilities but also blinding debt.

Health care in particular has been obsessed with the notion that it’s necessary to spend its way to profitability. It’s a capitalistic twist on survival of the fittest, ironically applied to an industry based on just the opposite mantra — helping the weakest.

As an abstract concept, we all hate the notion of government intervention in private business, but in an era in which being community spirited is regarded as an outmoded and unprofitable attitude, how else can we ensure that vital local services do not fall prey to those who use and abuse them, then toss them aside when the going gets tough?

Look at our neighboring newspapers if you want to see what happens when hedge funds and overeager outsiders gobble up once vital businesses then spit out their gutted remains.

If we, as rural communities, want to survive in an economy based on pyramid schemes of mega-corporations, our sole hope is to become self-sufficient, with local institutions owned and run by people who actually care about the communities they serve, not just about how they can leverage profit or tax advantages out of them.

We don’t mean to sound un-American, but we should be looking less to cutthroat capitalists and more to governmental bodies, foundations, charities, and the ever dwindling handful of businesses run by civic-minded individuals who, while not disdaining profit, care more about service than about bottom line.

In truth, this is among the best traditions of true American spirit — not wanting some distant king, whether corporate or governmental, ruling our lives without caring about their quality.

What we need is a modern American revolution, one that involves throwing off the yoke of corporate rather than governmental oppression by adopting on a community-by-community basis the oldest of American ideas: Unite or die.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Oct. 23, 2019

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