Public Health, Public Good

There is rarely genuine public debate about almost any important issue in American society. Listening to healthcare reform on the corporate media, I was reminded of this. It didn’t slip past my notice that the entire frame of discussion is seeking corporatist solutions to corporatist problems in a corporatist political and economic system. The fact of the matter is that there is no way to provide better and cheaper healthcare to more citizens, as other countries do, through the capitalist system. In particular, the last thing in the world we need is further aligning big business with big government.

Here is what is rarely brought up. Consider the simple fact that 40% of the deaths worldwide are caused by pollution. And that is one small part of externalized costs, externalized often by corporations that make immense profits from that externalization that goes hand in hand with internalizing benefits. Most of the people harmed by these externalized costs are the lower classes who are the least able to seek healthcare to treat health conditions caused by wealthy and powerful interests. First of all, we should stop these corporations from externalizing costs. But to the extent that isn’t always possible, we should tax these corporations to pay for those externalized costs, which is to say those who benefit the most from the system should pay the most to offset the costs of the system.

This is common sense. Only a sociopath could argue against it, but sadly we have a system that promotes the sociopathic mindset and gives a platform to the sociopathic rhetoric that justifies it. The plutocrats who are harming others for their own self-interest have the morally depraved sense of privilege to complain that taxes are theft. These are the same plutocrats who have spent their lives stealing from the commons, stealing from the public good. They internalize  and privatize the benefit from resources taken from public lands, from their dominant use of the public infrastructure, from highly profitable government contracts (often crony no bid contracts), from control of the government (through lobbying, revolving door, regulatory capture, legalized bribery, etc), from free trade agreements written in their favor to help them dominate global markets, from a military that serves to protect their interests (maintaining international relations, keeping open trade routes, ensuring access to natural resources on foreign public lands, etc), and on and on. All paid for with public wealth and resources. This gives the appearance of legitimacy to the illegitimate.

There is an important point that gets lost here. The plutocrats are half right about one thing. We shouldn’t rely on taxes of plutocrats to fund the public good. Rather, we simply shouldn’t allow plutocrats to steal from the public good in the first place, such that taxation becomes necessary. Once that theft has happened, the plutocrats will treat this theft as their right and privilege. As they see it, everything that is public is theirs to take, even the government itself. It’s all theirs and so if we don’t let them rape and pillage freely across the world, we are stealing from them just as the starving peasant was stealing from the lord when he gathered some food for his family from what once was feudal commons. They accuse others of theft out of bad conscience, knowing that their entire way of life is theft.

The reality is that the US is the wealthiest country in the world. In global capitalism, the public wealth and resources regularly given away and wasted for private interests is easily in the trillions of dollars on a yearly basis. It might be trillions in just considering the direct benefits corporations have on US land and waters. The precise amount has never been calculated because the corporatist don’t want to know or rather don’t want the rest of us to know, although I’m sure they have a good sense of the approximate amount of what is being sucked out of the system. Whatever the exact amount, it’s guaranteed that it could pay for healthcare for every US citizen, along with so much else.

There is the basic problem that healthcare can’t operate as a free market for many reasons, the most basic of which is that sick and injured people aren’t in the mindset to be able to make rational choices, even if we had a system that offered real choices. The problem goes so much deeper than that, though. It’s the entire system that has failed and so no solution can be found within the system. In fact, this system is designed to fail according to the standard of public good for the simple reason that the interests it is designed to serve are not we the people.

This is what is never stated in a straightforward manner. There is no lack of public wealth and resources. The question is where is it going, when it is redirected away from the public good and siphoned off into the private sector. This question is not allowed to be fairly and fully discussed in the corporate media and corporatist politics that the plutocracy controls. The final proof that we live in a banana republic is that we the public are effectively silenced in public debate about our own public good, such that the majority has yet to realize it is a majority. The public majority demanding public healthcare reform that benefits most Americans should be heeded by the political system claiming to represent we the people.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Every time they raise your tuition you are paying for the cost of empire. Every time they cut funds to the state of Wisconsin you have to make up the difference. Everywhere I go… and, when I pick up the local newspapers, it often seems like the same paper and every paper has the same story for a while, factoring when the fiscal year was ending, it would say: ‘State facing huge deficits’, ‘City council voting cuts in budget’…
“That is the cost of empire. What happens then is our economic democracy is under attack.
“Not everyone, as they say, pays the costs. Some people profit immensely.”
~ Michael Parenti, Ph.D.

* * *

An Invisible Debt Made Visible
True Costs are ‘Punitive
Losses Outweighing Gains
Costs Must Be Paid: Social Darwinism As Public Good
Socialized Medicine & Externalized Costs
On Welfare: Poverty, Unemployment, Health, Etc
Athens is starved so that Sparta can be fed.
On Infrastructure and Injustice
Investing in Violence and Death
Government Efficiency: Public’s Lack of Knowledge
Public Opinion on Tax Cuts for the Rich
Most Oppose Cutting Social Security (data)
Public Opinion On Government & Tea Party
Democracy and Propaganda
Public Intellectuals As Thought Leaders
The Establishement: NPR, Obama, Corporatism, Parties
Corporate Bias of ‘Mainstream’ Media
What Does Liberal Bias Mean?
The Golden Rule and Reality
Homelessness and Mental Illness
A Sense of Urgency
A System of Unhappiness
Capitalism as Social Control
It’s All Your Fault, You Fat Loser!
Social Disorder, Mental Disorder
Social Conditions of an Individual’s Condition
Rationalizing the Rat Race, Imagining the Rat Park
Frrrreeeeeddoommmm?????
Not Funny At All
Protecting Elections From Democracy
Of Dreamers and Sleepwalkers
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
By What Right?
But Then It Was Too Late
Then What?

Health Care Reform: What is the real issue?

Here is a discussion I had on Facebook in response to this article about Obama’s health care reform (or rather health care insurance reform). It ‘s not a bad article and makes a good point, but I’m ever the critic. Here was my first comment:

I’ve never been one to think in black/white terms. I didn’t assume the health care reform either had to be a total success or a total failure. It has both some good aspects and some less-than-good aspects. From my perspective, it simply isn’t what the majority of Americans wanted which was either public option or single payer.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/health-reform-public-option-polls-other-info/

If not for lobbyists, we would already have public option or single payer. But Obama threw those off of the table. Why should we be satisfied with crumbs instead of demanding the whole pie? Yes, crumbs are nice when you are starving, but that should be the bare minimum of a starting point.

I understand looking for the positive. Anything is better than nothing. But let us not be overly grateful in begging for these crumbs. We shouldn’t have to beg for crumbs in the first place.

My friend Nicole responded with this:

“Agreed but there is a difference between being overly grateful and being downright hateful (not you personally but so many people on “Obamacare”)”

Continuing my criticism, I make a plea for balance:

I understand what you are saying. I just get tired of both sides that either want to attack or idolize Obama. There is no need to apologize to Obama just because there is some good in health care reform. One would hope there is some good in any health care reform. Anyway, apology wouldn’t be necessary if one didn’t react with emotional criticalness in the first place.
Let’s stand back and look at politics without becoming identified with one side or the other, without getting emotionally drawn in. Let’s have a discussion based on the known data.

After losing a posted comment, I added some further thoughts on a related issue that came to my mind:

That is odd. I posted a comment after your last comment, but it is no longer shown here. Where did it go. I don’t even remember all that I wrote. Part of what I said was that I understand that you are willing. I wasn’t criticizing you or people like you. I wasn’t criticizing your having posted this. I wasn’t even criticizing the act of pointing out the positve aspects of a particular policy promoted by Obama.

But that isn’t the reason I came back to this post. I was thinking about Obama last night. I was thinking about what is good or bad about him or else what is just neutral, the neutral part standing out to me.

In particular, I was comparing in my mind Obama and Bush. The reason I was doing this is because Obama has continued many of Bush’s policies, not all but many. Even Bush proposed some health care refom such as with his Medicare prescription drug program. Bush was a ‘compassionate conservative” which meant that he was as interested in social programs (health care, education, etc) as a Democrat like Obama. In the opposite direction, Obama is just as interested in promoting the power of the presidency as any neocon Republican, is just as interested in promoting the security state (with its undermining of civil liberties) as any war hawk Republican.

So, what makes Obama and Bush different? This is where it gets interesting.

In terms of personality and career, Obama and Bush couldn’t be more different. Obama was more of an outsider who worked his way up and Bush was born into wealth and power. Obama learned to play the game well becoming a professional politician and Bush was used to things being handed to him without having to work for it. Obama was intelligent and well-educated and Bush was just average.

It’s the professional politican aspect of Obama that stands out. Bush isn’t a professional politician. Bush is where he is because he has done what people have told him to do. He inherited political connections from his dad. Bush is a puppet. As a puppet, he is as good or bad as those pulling the strings. Obama isn’t a puppet. Instead, Obama acts according to pressure. Obama listens carefully to the public and to lobbyist groups and he guides his political career carefully.

What this means is this: Obama will only do good if pressure forces him to do good. So, the good that came about in health care reform came about to the exteent there was enough pressure to do so. He chose to push for health care reform because he was paying attention to polls and saw that it was in the air. Bush, however, isn’t pressured in the same way. Rather, Bush just does what his handlers/advisers tell him to do, and so its his handlers who respond to the pressures and filter them accordingly. A big difference is that Bush’s handlers/advisers happened to be evil geniuses who were heavily mired in the power structure of lobbyists and good ol’ boy politics. No amount of public pressure would likely have influenced Bush, but enough public pressure will influence Obama.

By the way, after posting that I went back to the article and noticed an added response by the author. Unsurprisingly, there were many haters of the view she expressed in her original article, mostly partisan attacks I presume. Here is her response to the “haters”:

“I wrote this piece to give the health insurance crisis in this country a common face.  My objectives in writing it were to hopefully get people to see themselves in me and my family, and I wanted people to know what Obama has done for people who have pre-existing conditions so they can get health insurance through PCIP.  My husband and I both knew that by doing this, we would invite hatred into our lives, and that indeed has happened.  To those of you who don’t want to see the commonalities between me and my family, let me pose it to you this way:  If your sister or mother lost her job and health insurance, and then turned up with breast cancer, what would you do?  Would you let her die?  Would you pick up the cancer tab yourself?, or would you tell her about PCIP?”

That is fair. She is making a good point. Such discussions aren’t just ideological battles or philosophical debates about abstract ideas. No, that isn’t the real issue, despite that being what politicians and pundits too often make it into. This is ultimately about real people. I might be dissatisfied with the results. Any rational person would have to admit that health care reform could have been better. It would be a cold-hearted person who would dismiss the people who have actually been helped.

IRONY ALERT: Rush Limbaugh Touts Socialist Health Care

IRONY ALERT: Rush Limbaugh Touts Socialist Health Care (UPDATED)

Rush Limbaugh on the care he received in Hawaii after his heart attack scare (via the Denver Post):

Limbaugh couldn’t resist a few political comments in the short press conference at the hospital. He said he got the best health treatment in the world “right here in the United States of America.”

“I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with the United States health system,” Limbaugh said.

He thinks he’s being a smart ass; that he’ll show Obama by holding a news conference to tout the care our current health care system provided him.

Unfortunately for him, or fortunately for his health, Hawaii has pretty much had what amounts to universal health care since 1974.

His treatment, under the Hawaiian system, and one he’d call socialist on any given day, was the best possible care he could have gotten despite being very similar to that dreaded “universal health care” he rails on and on about.

From Paul Abrams:

Yes, Rush. That’s the point! American medicine is superb–for those who can get it. And, in Hawaii, no one gets special treatment, because everyone can get it.

[snip]

Hawaii has had nearly-universal employer-mandated health insurance since 1974. Although its Pacific Island location makes the costs of everything–from gasoline to milk to ice cream to housing–the highest in the nation, health care premiums in Hawaii, for comprehensive care with small co-pays and deductibles, are nearly the lowest and their costs per medicare beneficiary are the lowest in the nation.Why? There are a variety of reasons, most traceable to universality. With everyone covered by primary care, emergency room visits tend to be for real emergencies, not the non-emergent care mainland ERs dispense for people without coverage. That reduces the costs of ERs and the costs of non-emergent medicine since patients can be handled less expensively and more effectively by their primary docs. Hospitals have not overbuilt, acquiring expensive machines to compete with their neighbors for patients. Insurance companies have instituted screening and other measures to improve wellness among their covered populations.

We can all be pleased that Rush appears to have survived his encounter with socialist medical care. He seems to be very happy himself, commenting on the results of a socialist angiogram that showed no disease in the arteries that feed his heart muscle.

Now, of course, Rush does not live in Hawaii and so his costs are not covered by the Hawaiian insurance system, but having that “socialist” system for more than 3 decades has not reduced the quality of the care he received. Who would have thunk it!

read more…

But, Rush doesn’t really have to worry about costs — like 95% of the rest of us (h/t BarbinMD):

Conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh Wednesday inked an eight-year contract for around $400 million …

In his efforts to show up the President, all the fat, sweaty bouncy one did was show what an ignoramus he truly is.