Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Fight Among Cannibals

We live and function in an “official” economy which is run by a very small group of very rich people. Their goal is continued economic “growth”, yet what that really means is continued growth of their profits. In the days before the present limits on the resource base of the global industrial economy, this growth could be achieved by industrial expansion. But now that our natural resource base has become constrained, the growth of the profits of the rich increasingly comes only by the robbing of the poor.

A prime example of this is the big ongoing Congressional song-and-dance over health care “reform.” It should be fairly obvious that universal health care is not the same as universal health “insurance.” The Congress could have aimed for universal health care for all Americans, regardless of income. The money spent on bailing out the banks and Wall Street could easily have covered the cost of universal health care. The money spent on the Iraq war could easily have covered universal health care. Even under our present arrangement, there would have been lots of change left over. And the elimination of the private insurance “industry”, combined with Federal prohibitions on unjust medical price inflation by pharmaceutical companies and hospitals would have made our care just that much more affordable.

That sort of genuine reform was never seriously attempted by anyone in Congress or the Executive Branch. The medical industry was too strong, having grown to 1/8th of the total U.S. economy, according to this source: Health Care Reform: Problems for Human Health. The best our leaders could come up with was a proposal for a Government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurance companies. Private insurers are at present hideously expensive, with rates that rose at an annual rate of up to 13 percent in 2002 and 2003, and are rising at a rate of five percent per year now. The private insurers were deathly afraid of the mere possibility of Government-backed insurance, let alone genuine health care reform, and worked hard to kill this option, in a Senate Finance Committee vote which took place last week.

The Senate Finance Committee has therefore settled on a “reform” plan that would force all Americans to buy private health insurance by 2013. This plan is a “compromise” worked out by Democrats in order to appeal to Republicans who were afraid of the “Government spending taxpayer money to support socialism!!!” However, under this plan, ordinary Americans would be forced to spend:

  • up to 13 percent of yearly (pre-tax) income for a family of four making up to $88,000 a year;

  • over $700 a month for a family of four making $66,000 a year;

  • and a tax penalty of up to $1500 a year for those who refuse to buy health insurance and whose earnings are less than 300 percent of the poverty level, and $3800 a year for those who refuse to buy health insurance and whose earnings are greater than 300 percent of the poverty level. (Source: “Reform Bill Will Address GOP Fears,” Washington Post, 15 September 2009)

And our leaders call this “fixing health care”?!

I wonder now...so many families are now heavily indebted, having been tricked into buying overpriced houses and overpriced cars, having had to make ends meet with stagnant or declining real wages while the prices of basics like food, gasoline and utilities continue to rise. So many students have been drawn heavily into debt to attend colleges whose tuition continues to rise at a rate far outpacing general inflation. So many people are now either laid off or are on involuntary part-time schedules. So many small business owners have been given the business by this present “recession” that has put them out of business. The only green shoots one sees in the vicinity of many empty and boarded-up strip mall lease spaces are the shoots of weeds rising through the cracks in the pavement. And I do see a lot more people in raggedy clothes next to freeway off-ramps, holding up signs saying something like “Please give. Anything helps. God bless!”

Is the Government going to force these people to spend $700 a month on private health insurance? Is the Government going to hit these people with a $1500 or $3800 a year tax burden if they don't buy insurance? And what kind of insurance would they buy? The insurance lobby and their Republican sock puppets would propose making insurance “affordable” by offering plans with high deductibles in order to “keep costs down.” So that means that Americans are forced to give money to private insurers, and that they get almost nothing in return? If you buy one of these plans, does that mean that eighty or ninety percent of the cost of a doctor's visit is not covered by insurance? That's like getting into an airplane and being handed a parachute the size of a handkerchief. It won't slow you down much, will it?!

Now people like Glenn Beck and the Tea Party organizers claim to be fighting for the American taxpayer. Why are they not protesting this plan to force Americans to buy private health insurance? Why isn't Fox News protesting this? Why isn't Sarah Palin outraged over this? Are the Tea Partyers all “partied-out”? Or are they on the side of the enemy, after all? And why are both Democrats and Republicans helping the insurance “industry” to rape ordinary Americans?

For a rape it is, or to use another metaphor, it is a cannibal feast. Ordinary Americans have now been reduced to little more than a pile of body parts and limbs, some of which have already been picked clean. The cannibals comprise a small group, yet among them are competing interests. Each representative of these interests wants as big a share as possible of the pile of body parts and limbs, because each competing interest wants to grow as fat as possible.

So we have the private prison lobby, which wants to grow rich locking up as many Americans as possible. But wait – if they do that, that will hurt the growth prospects of the real estate “industry,” who will not have anyone to buy their excessive housing inventory. But if people buy houses, and their wages don't rise, they won't be able to afford consumer electronics and cheap Chinese-made goods, and this would hurt Wal-Mart and other big chain stores. Now the medical/insurance complex wants its share of the cannibal feast – “hey, let's extort $700 a month from every American family to fatten ourselves!” But that will mean that people don't have money anymore to go to Starbucks or to keep their cable TV subscriptions, or to buy new cars, or to buy stocks, etc.

What to do, what to do? How will the competing cannibals sort it all out? I don't know. Perhaps they will all get into a fight with each other, killing each other off and leaving the rest of us alone. I have to confess that I would enjoy seeing such an outcome. Lord, forgive me.

Meanwhile, if you want to see an example of genuine citizen rage and not some store-bought Tea Party astroturf purchased by rich lobbyists, here's a link to a YouTube video of a woman delivering a few words to Bank of America. I must warn you that her language is not family-friendly. Yet I say “Amen” to her message. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGC1mCS4OVo

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