Having been a teacher for the last 30 years at every educational level from pre-school to university graduate students, probably the most significant skill I have acquired is the knack to simply explain things that appear complicated to many. My 9-year-old son asked me the other day what this “public option” thing was all about in the health-care debate. I answered him and, in less that a minute, he clearly understood it.

I have listened to commentators and politicians struggle to explain why the public option isn’t a good idea, and they lose me at the first reference to “forcing employers to put workers on the public plan because of onerous federal taxation penalties.” What? As a person who has studied the public option and has a fairly good grasp of its meaning, these explanations do little for me and, I’m sure, even less for those not as well-informed.

So … here’s how to explain the public option so even a 9-year-old boy can understand it:

Suppose you own a grocery store and the government opens a grocery store right beside yours. Since all their expenses are paid by the taxpayers, they don’t have to make any money in their store, so they start selling a gallon of milk for a dollar while you sell your milk for $3.49. They sell a loaf of bread for 50 cents while you sell one for $1.89. They do the same with everything they sell. Which store do you think everybody in town will go to? How long do you think you will be able to stay in business?

There you have it. Nothing more need be said. The great communicators through the ages have been those who can simply explain the important things of life, from Ronald Reagan and his homilies to Jesus and his parables. Perhaps the media and the political parties would be smart to start culling the fertile field of teachers for their next spokespersons.

Terry Ray

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