Neither planned nor expected: I’m helping celebrate a lowly bungee’s 32nd birthday. Its age is not precisely known. At a minimum 32 because it’s that long since I stopped use of the canoe carrier where I bent the S hooks to a 90. A middle-aged bungee may not seem much cause for celebration, but compared to its kin expiring in their childhood (if not infancy), it is an ancient graybeard indeed. Alongside the old timer the whippersnappers croak literally left and right while old faithful hangs in there doing its necessary job. You’d think, or at least I hope you will consider as I do, a present-day bungee would not prove a likely candidate for infant mortality.

I don’t blame the big box store where I bought the more recent bungees fated with ill health and sudden death. I am a frequent and devout worshiper at a big box store with a big M in its name. (I don’t wish to be too sectarian.) There is a pew with my name in the central M cathedral. They don’t make the frail, puny bungees. They only sell them. Not wanting to have a career of regular bungee replacement, I asked a clerk for their most robust model. (We know what good asking the uninformed usually produces, but we ask in good faith and in hope, spiderweb fine though that may be.) She didn’t know, a fact confirmed by a blank look as I’d asked about something other than price. But in a rally of information, she pointed to a package of bungees and said “These cost more.” The assumption that price denotes quality is not wholly valid, at least not for bungees. I could have told her I’d tried them all, and whether plain black rubber or the prettier type with braided cover, they all die young. A contemporary bungee reaching the advanced age of puberty is apparently terminal, end of the line.

I wish I could be certain where the long-lived bungee (I have more than one old timer left over from my canoe days, but only one I can date with fair certainty) was made, but I suspect it was in the USA at a factory put out of business by cheap competition. Quick-death bungees are Asian. Despite the wondrous Cravaack’s praise for the Malaysian business model, the result of cheap is cheap. A one-dollar bungee is not actually cheaper than the five-dollar model if the one is on borrowed time after nine months and the other reaches middle age. If you’re interested, it takes 42 of one to equal one of the other, so the Cravaackian business model has one throwaway $42 when $5 would do. That’s near an eight and a half times difference favoring quality over cheap. Remember that motivation based on cheap carries more baggage than lower cost. In the bungee instance, a 40 to 1 difference also means grossly inferior.

During the ghastly political season, it’s difficult for me to not fall into gloomy despair over the sounds of incessant and often pointless wrangling. I’ve really no more patience for a liberal’s idiot notions than I have when his or her conservative counterpart offers their version of a dumb idea. I often wish both sides would focus more on what’s best or most needed rather than the do-or-die of national essence and reality summed up in a budget. It’s hard to find national vision and inspiration in a balance sheet. WE THE PEOPLE does not go on to propose a fiscal year, does it? It gives a direction and focus of intent. Surely a budget would eventually be necessary, but your vision should direct the budget rather than end up with the numbers dictating what we may or may not consider as a people. Conservative or liberal, we’re citizens. We live here. This is home. We need to put heads together and figure this out on a model better than taking sides in a partisan standoff.

Really, I resent phony argument such as the “No Child Left Behind” argument presented. I thought it a sham argument designed to mislead us from the simpler and better goal of insisting that all schools be good. Choice is mostly a distraction and not needed if your schools are committed to quality education. The same should hold for roads, buildings, etc. A constant maintenance headache erases the supposed savings or a minimal road or marginal building. Doing a thing right is worth the extra cost when seen beyond immediate budgetary pressure. There’s nothing wrong with paying more now it if saves you paying constantly for a shoddier bargain.

In many cases, there’s benefit in compromise when doing so hammers out a broader-based solution as opposed to the either/or solutions we’ve been getting. I’ve had the pleasure of high-cost health insurance denying costs and playing the nickel-dime game at every step of the procedure for 30 percent of this and 10 percent of that. In simple language, it stinks. In my opinion, the Health Care Reform measure was a bad compromise by accepting too much of a bad system as its model. From the way some talk about medical choice, when a person falls seriously ill, they suddenly develop deep pockets and spare time to go shopping for the “best” care. That sound like you? With a cancer diagnosis, do you simultaneously develop a yen for travel to Houston to experience its exceptional care? Those of us lacking deep pockets and private jets need care and options where we live. I don’t think we foster that by letting insurance companies run more flimflam with our health care money.

Bite the bullet on health care and go to single-payer universal coverage. The more affluent can still augment or expand their level of coverage. The wealthy can fly to Paris for cataract care and truffles. Living here, this is where I’ll fall ill. Don’t play “choice” with me. It’s like the 32-year-old bungee. We can do it if we’re not sidetracked with cheap or useless choices.