ABCs of Economic Resuscitation


Yesterday I was busy responding to e-mail messages from people upset with my article about the economy in the Hebrew Bible helping to understand why it was a bad choice for Barack Obama to focus on health-insurance policy at the expense of problems in housing and related unemployment. Then I saw a girl get hit by a car.

Check, Call, Care

My fifteen years of training as a U.S. Army medic and American Red Cross instructor automatically kicked into gear, as I repeated to myself the same three words – check, call, care. First, I made sure to check the scene to confirm it was safe for me to approach the girl without getting hit by a car myself. Reaching the girl, I told the panicking woman who was driving the car that hit her to call 911. When I was ready to care for the victim, pulling out of my pocket a first-aid pouch that contains a pair of gloves and breathing barrier, I looked down to see a young lady and gentleman feeling the girl’s wrist for a pulse.

Since nobody else had done it, I tapped the girl on the shoulder to see if she was responsive.

Are you alright?” I asked the girl at the top of my voice. No response. She needed somebody to check her airway, breathing, and circulation, better known as the ABCs of CPR.

But when I tried to get in front of the girl, who was lying on her side, the gentleman and young lady told me to stand clear and leave the girl alone, as they continued searching for a pulse on the girl’s wrist . I asked if they knew the girl, and they said, “No.” They also said they didn’t know CPR when I asked, showing them my gloves and breathing barrier and identifying myself as a former Army medic, who was certified by the American Red Cross to teach CPR to people like them.

I demanded to learn more about the girl’s condition, and said, “Does the girl have an airway, is she breathing?”

Without either one of them taking their fingers off the girl’s wrist, the gentleman looked at her face and said she was breathing.

If she’s breathing, she’s also going to have a pulse,” I said.

Keeping her fingers pressed firmly on the girl’s wrist, the lady snapped her head to cock it in my direction, and pinching her nose with a sneer she said, “Not necessarily.”

I could hear the ambulance quickly approaching from about a block away and knew the girl would soon be in better hands, thus allowing me to leave quietly without responding.

It All Starts with Making Money

You’re probably saying to yourself, “What does any of this have to do with the economy?”

A lot. And for a good analogy we need to look no further than back to yesterday’s article.

Think of the economy as an accident victim. Jobs that provide Americans with income could then be thought of as an open airway in a breathing economy. After the recent financial crisis, the economy’s breathing was in danger, with rising levels of unemployment and a record number of middle-class Americans falling into poverty.

But our analogy begins to fall apart with Barack Obama’s choice to focus on health-insurance policy instead of rising unemployment.

Checking a victim’s wrist for circulation before checking for breathing — as observed yesterday — would be more analogous to focusing on middle-class families struggling to make mortgage payments and a related increase in homelessness before focusing on the unemployment problem. Or as poverty expert Paul Polak says, “It all starts with making more money.”

In our economy-victim analogy, focusing on a health-insurance bill at the expense of rising unemployment can be compared to ignoring the airway and breathing of a victim who needs effective treatment from somebody trained with relevant skills while focusing instead on a commitment to eat a diet that will minimize the risk of obesity.


Paul Polak, Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail (San Francisco: Berret-Koehler, 2008).


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