Edgar Cahn, TimeBanks USA – How President Obama Can Beat The Odds And Make Good On His Commitments

posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013        

How President Obama Can Beat The Odds And Make Good On His Commitments

from Edgar S. Cahn, CEO TimeBanks USA,
Distinguished Professor of Law, UDC David A. Clarke School of Law

In his Inaugural Address, President Obama made some commitments that seem to defy fiscal reality:

  “A little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anyone else.”

  “We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”

  “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.”

The problem: there are not enough funds, public, private, philanthropic to pay the cost, at market prices, for all the educational services and all the health care services needed to make good on those promises.

For a quarter century, the TimeBanking community has been demonstrating how to make the impossible possible.  There is vast untapped capacity in community.  We have proven that:

  • Healthy seniors and their families can provide reliable, informal care that reduces medical costs.

  • Fifth graders can tutor third graders who otherwise fail to attain essential reading levels.

  • Teenagers can tutor elementary school children using evidence-based cross-age peer tutoring.

How could this get paid for?  How can we record, recognize and reward labor from a work force that is not recognized or valued by the GDP?  For decades, the TimeBank community in the United States and thirty four other countries has been learning how to do it, teaching us all that every one of us has something special to give.

The function of a medium of exchange is to put supply and demand, capacity and need together.  What money does not value, TimeBanking does.  TimeBanking provides a tax-exempt, local medium of exchange that uses Time as a currency.  One hour helping another (regardless of mainstream market value) equal one Time Credit.  TimeBanking has proven capable of harnessing vast untapped capacity that the market does not value to address vast unmet needs.

Ask the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation which just made a major award to Neighborhood Health Centers of Lehigh Valley to utilize its TimeBank program as a resource to help build a super utilizer intervention program to reduce health care costs.  For ten years, home visits by Lehigh Valley TimeBank members functioning as health coaches and providing informal support have helped folks with chronic problems stay healthy and at home.

Ask Mayor Bloomberg’s Department for the Aging which has established TimeBank programs for seniors in all five boroughs to provide the kind of informal support needed to promote health and prevent unnecessary utilization of the emergency room care by elders.

Ask the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (with a 3,000 member TimeBank) that reports that 79% of TimeBank members felt that their membership gives them support they need to be able to stay in their homes and community as they get older and 100% reported they have benefited from becoming a TimeBank member.

Ask the National Education Association or do a Google search to see if Cross-Age Peer Tutoring rates the status of an evidence-based instructional and remedial strategy.

Ask the Washington State Office of Public Instruction for its authoritative manual on Cross-Age Peer Tutoring.

Ask the National Science Foundation why it granted nearly $1million dollars to Pennsylvania State University Center for Human-Computer Interaction to develop mobile apps for TimeBanking so every Smartphone user can be a time banker.

It’s time America discovered its vast hidden wealth: people not in the work force – seniors, teenagers, children, the disabled – whose energy and capacity has been tapped by TimeBanking for over a quarter century to strengthen fragile families, rebuild community, enhance health, promote trust, restore hope.

President Obama, if you want to do the impossible, it’s time to bet on each other and on our collective capacity.  TimeBanking supplies a medium of exchange that translates “Created Equal” into a currency that embodies that equality.  If we take it to scale, we can make good on delivering those “inalienable rights” to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness promised to every one of us by the Founding Fathers.

Also see TimeBanks USA and Tucson Time Traders



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