If you earn it, can you keep it? - Martha Randolph Carr

The most fun about having a pragmatic Democrat, like Obama, in the White House is the amount of angst that arises from trying to please everyone.

Trying to find a practical solution to costly issues, like health care in America, which is once again a hot topic, is a political black hole.

A lot of ideas are going to go into the meetings, but most will never be heard from again. Take the idea of removing part or all of the tax exemption first given to workers in 1943 who participate in employee health care plans.

This idea was floated in 1984 by President Reagan, a Republican pragmatist who was actually trying to be there for all the voters, not just those who voted for him. It was even lauded as a practical way to pay for health care reform by economists, but shot down mostly by labor unions and not spoken of again till now.

The balance is the problem. Most Republicans these days don't appear to have this concern. Their ideas may be galling to a lot of people, but they're very clear about their mission.

The GOP's message has been consistently, if you earn it, you can keep it. Said in another way, it could sound like the ends do justify the means and don't look too closely at the have-nots. It'll ruin your day.

That's how a lot of old-school liberals have told the story to the masses. It felt like there ought to be a campfire and a flashlight held just under the chin as the spooky story was told about how we'd all be crushed by big business and left with nothing. Never mind that big business provided the jobs.

That's the reflexive counter argument from the red states and is often where discussion ends, and circular arguments between the two sides get stuck in an endless loop. But hold on just a moment before pulling out any of those old diatribes about who has to be right or wrong.

Start instead with the idea that in America, it's a free society constructed with a certain set of ideals. Throw in that every citizen, with some exceptions, has the right to vote. That part we all finally agree upon and even that one has taken us a long time to put to rest, Florida and Ohio election machines not withstanding.

But where it got tricky was when our first elected officials threw in an entire Bill of Rights that said we were all going to do our best to simultaneously mind our own business and yet, take care of each other. There's the rub, but also the reason so many want to immigrate to America, no matter who's in office.

Pulling off that magic trick is an impossible task that requires constant reworking and is the best thing we do on any given day. Most societies choose one or the other, and with good reason, but we have a certain identity as freewheeling cowboys, striking out on our own, blended with mass protests where we come together peacefully to make our voices heard.

However, we believe that if you got up every day, and went to work, you should be able to keep the majority of that paycheck. That's only reasonable. We recognize, though, that there are a lot of services like schools, courts, paved streets and more that need to be funded.

And then there are the funds necessary to pay for services, like health care, to help those who are working just as hard but earning far less. No one in America should have a curable condition and not be able to get adequate treatment, but especially during the Great Recession, those numbers have been swelling.

That's going to take money out of someone's pocket that may not be seen as directly benefiting the one who made the dough and then had to hand it over.

So, here's a couple of thoughts to ponder and is a good part of the reason why monarchies, which rule from the top down, have failed, and communism, which rules from the bottom up, has also gone down in flames, and America still stands. As the past year has shown us, millions of dollars aren't enough to guarantee lasting wealth or even health.

Sometimes, we have to come together in order to find solutions while cheering on those mavericks among us who will get back up and reach for something much better.

If you'd like to get involved in the 2009 America Challenge to raise funds for community-based charities, e-mail me at Martha@CagleCartoons.com, for more information. Together, we're going to build stronger communities and empower ourselves.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.