It’s Not Obamacare We Should Fear…

jolly

Sick and unhealthy American people, prepare to be boarded, arrrrrrr!

…It’s all these robber baron commercial health care corporations and conglomerates who are robbing us blind. I wonder how much these companies are doling out to FOX News and other right-wing media outlets to oppose the Affordable Health Care Act.

From the always excellent New York TimesDiagnosis: Insufficient Outrage

This scathing piece by H. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, begins with this blistering Socratic inquiry about commercial health care in America:

Recent revelations should lead those of us involved in America’s health care system to ask a hard question about our business: At what point does it become a crime?

I’m not talking about a violation of federal or state statutes, like Medicare or Medicaid fraud, although crime in that sense definitely exists. I’m talking instead about the violation of an ethical standard, of the very “calling” of medicine.

Medical care is intended to help people, not enrich providers. But the way prices are rising, it’s beginning to look less like help than like highway robbery. And the providers—hospitals, doctors, universities, pharmaceutical companies and device manufactures—are the ones benefiting.

Ouch.

The Times also also recently published a frightening analysis of how expensive childbirth in the USA costs compared to the rest of the world. Here’s the sad and insane truth about America’s vastly more expensive costs for birthing:

And though maternity care costs far less in other developed countries than it does in the United States, studies show that their citizens do not have less access to care or to high-tech care during pregnancy than Americans.

“It’s not primarily that we get a different bundle of services when we have a baby,” said Gerard Anderson, an economist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who studies international health costs. “It’s that we pay individually for each service and pay more for the services we receive.”

Why is the system so completely tilted to favor these massive health care industries? Perhaps because all the lobbyists, campaign contributors, and other paid shills who influence our politicians at every level of government work for the health care industry and not the citizen consumers. These companies are reaping huge profits and spending some of them lavishly to keep the gravy train rolling at the expense of the citizenry. The power and influence of their vast wealth has perverted the system totally to their favor, and goddamn if they’re going to let any legislation pass, or be put into effect that which does pass, that tries to fix this perverted system!

The way working class people badmouth Obamacare, without being even remotely capable of explaining why with any factual veracity, proves that the marketing campaign waged by these rich, vile, robber baron health care conglomerates is working. Public opinion is a cheap whore you can satiate with a few trinkets as long as your message appeals to the inherent ignorance, prejudice, and childish worldview of so many out there. What’s right for the citizenry is massively subservient to the greed of those wielding power and influence to make this country work in their favor, even if it is extremely destructive to the well being of the republic.

The public dialogue is so polluted and poisoned by the sophistry peddled by the corporate oligarchs these days, one wonders if we’ve reached the point of no return and we’ll be witnessing the complete destruction of our middle and working classes over the next decade. By the time the middle and working classes wake up to realize they are completely fucked, and no more than subjects and serfs to the new ruling corporate and wealthy elite, will it be too late?

If Congress manages to roll back the Affordable Health Care Act, the class war will have been won resolutely. We’ll all be fucked from then on. Mark my words on 7/5/2013.

UPDATE: By golly, those rascally Koch brothers are opening their wallets again—$1 million to be specific—to finance even more sophistry to erode the Affordable Health Care Act. The Koch brothers call themselves “Americans for Prosperity. ” However: Just exactly who “prospers” from denying millions of American citizens affordable—hell, and kind of—access to health care? Not the citizenry, of course. Oh, hell no! Who, then? Why, rich fat fucks like the Koch brothers, of course.

What a great strategy. As I’ve said repeatedly, public opinion is a cheap whore, and if you spend enough on specious p.r. campaigns you can convince just about any drooling moron on the street to vote against his or her own right to breathe if you shovel enough tasty sophistry down their throats that appeals to their envy, hate, prejudice, and insecurity. Just rile Goober up that blacks and Mexicans will get a free ride on his back, and old Goober will vote to have himself castrated if he’s convinced that is the solution.

These vile Koch pricks never met a tax they don’t want to pay. These bastards annually spend tens of millions of their vast fortune to avoid paying taxes as if they are fending off a life-threatening disease. How can common people fight this kind of wealth, power, and influence held by two dyspeptic, greedy misanthropes who, like those two saucy old hecklers on the Muppet Show, sit in the elite seats and sneer at the common citizenry as “parasites”?

The Koch brothers are the generals leading the class war in this country, and money is no object in their quest to render us all serfs and slaves to the wealthy elite. What a better way to create a feudalistic society than to destroy all the social-democratic reforms from the last 100 years that equaled the playing field and allowed tens of millions of Americans upward mobility into socio-economic classes to which they were long denied access. Now these doors are deliberately being closed by the ultra-wealthy who want to rule like feudal lords over a dominion of underpaid, unhealthy, and undereducated peasants.

How wide has the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us grown since Ronald Reagan was President? More than is healthy for our nation. I can just see Reagan, hand on heart, joyful tear in his eye, watching with immense pride as the rich keep getting richer while every year hundreds of thousands of poor children suffer needlessly because they don’t have access to health care. But, you know, the rich need more yachts and ski lodges; fuck poor children, the little parasites! Nothing screams “elite” quite like a luridly opulent $10 million wedding that would have made Marie Antoinette squeal with envy.

We live in an era when the so-called “job creators” are taxed less than they have been in a century, and yet where are the jobs they are supposedly creating? Unemployment is still appallingly high and yet these motherfuckers want to erode even more social welfare programs to get back even more of the wealth they don’t need to NOT create more jobs. What a sick, twisted world they are creating. A pox on them all. Of course, they can easily afford to ward off a pox. But not the rest of us as our health care system becomes more expensive and our coverage gets cut even more to the bone.

One Nation, Underdog, Secular

Not a deity, but more believable than your silly god

Not a deity, but more believable than your silly god

I must confess that when I was a kid and we recited the Pledge of Allegiance in school, I always said, “One nation, Underdog” instead of “under God” because I felt that was more appropriate than falsely claiming I believed in the so-called “Almighty.” So to everyone yacking about the exclusion of god in this phrase, let me tell you that I was one of the early ones who did it deliberately and replaced it with a silly cartoon character—which meant more to me despite the silliness of it. I was seven years old and already an atheist.

This is a secular nation; I don’t particularly give a shit about your god, but I love this country. Worshiping deities in this country is optional; respecting, and abiding by the Constitution is mandatory.

What does that mean? It means you are free to worship whatever you want, but please don’t think your god or religious dogma has any place in the governance of the United States of America. Our government belongs to all of us, and many of us don’t share your religious belief system. I respect your right to worship, but I have zero respect for what you worship, and I certainly don’t want our government espousing, promoting, or favoring your religion, even if it’s worshiped by the majority.

Your churches and homes are the appropriate domains for your religious expression. Once you enter the shared public domain and institutions governed by the First Amendment, your religious beliefs should be held in check out of respect for all your fellow citizens who do not share your religious beliefs, but who do share your respect and observance of our Constitution.

If you are as patriotic as you claim, and you love this country and its Constitution, then you should respect the idea we have a secular government, that our public institutions should be free of, and from, any and all religion. If you don’t, then you don’t respect my rights, and all I can say is go fuck yourself. I will not let your religion intrude my public institutions or my life. I will fight this with every fiber of my being.

You have been warned.

The Laughable Liturgy of Libertarianism

Note: This was the third essay in my three-part series titled “The Doubting Lectures,” which I wrote in the summer of 2008.

Part Three: The Laughable Liturgy of Libertarianism

Ideology, like theater, is dependent on the willing suspension of disbelief. At the core of every ideology lies the worship of a bright new future, with only failure in the immediate past.

 – John Ralston Saul

Like all religions, libertarian ideology is predicated on ridiculous leaps of faith when reason and common sense cannot prove—or at least render inconclusive—the tenets of their faith. However, much worse is the historical amnesia that afflicts the worshipers of libertarian ideology. Indeed, libertarians ignore history and its many inconvenient truths out of intellectual laziness or deliberate, willful ignorance, and because of this they overlook the many lessons that all liberal democracies have learned as they struggled and evolved over the last three centuries.

Libertarianism is a lousy religion and a disastrous and destructive ideology that is mostly espoused by what can best be described as post-modern children of the middle class and privileged meritocracy, very few of whom comprehend the 150 years of class struggle that afforded their generation such a haughty conceit and overblown sense of self worth. Libertarianism is, in short, the iconoclastic ideology of well-to-do brats who have benefited from being raised in a peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, and their sole purpose is to destroy this liberal democracy that raised and nurtured them and allowed them to succeed so well. They wish to forge a future with ideas long-ago proven to be destructive for a human society, and they reject the very system that led to their own prosperity and safe and peaceful existence. Their ideology is nihilism wrapped in childish sophistry, a vicious reverse class war determined to undermine social progress in favor of Social Darwinism, which is an attractive concept to individuals upon whom favor has already smiled, due to the luck of their birth into the meritocracy or because they excelled and succeeded within its system. I call it “The revenge of the bourgeoisie brats.”

Libertarians categorically reject all government as “evil” (of course grudgingly admitting some government—such as armies and police, for instance—is necessary) while at the same time unapologetically touting “the free, unfettered marketplace” as the most important aspect of human culture. What follows in their discourse are a series of trite slogans and aphorisms that sounds like religious liturgy, all delivered with an eerily arrogant certainty in the supremacy of their largely untested ideas, or worse, their insane devotion in supporting ideas—such as Chicago School “free market” economics—that have already been well proven to not only not to work, but have caused great damage when applied to large economic and social systems. Just ask Argentina, Bolivia, New Zealand, and Russia how their Chicago School-styled free market reforms fared, to name a few.

Debunking libertarian ideas is like proving the moon isn’t made of cheese, so I won’t waste valuable time here in this essay doing that. Not all libertarian ideas are wacky, but the base assumption of the ideology—that government is bad and must be extremely limited—is asking us to return to a society that existed before the social, economic, and political reforms of the last 150 years. No thanks.

I believe in the concept of liberty and the idea a government should stay out of the personal business of its citizens. I am against the War on Drugs, the FISA wiretapping laws, the Patriot Act, and all other forms of excessive government intrusion into the lives of citizens. I think most currently illegal drugs should be legalized, especially marijuana. I believe a woman has the right to choose. I think homosexuals should be afforded the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. I am against unjust taxation. I abhor all government waste of taxpayer money. I vehemently oppose any government policy that would promote religious intolerance, racism, sexism, or homophobia. So there are issues with which I agree with libertarians.

But I also believe in government. On this subject I cite the brilliant words of the Canadian novelist and philosopher John Ralston Saul, who so completely articulated in his book The Unconscious Civilization what government means and why we need it large and strong in a democratic state:

The most powerful force possessed by the individual citizen is her own government. Or governments, because a multiplicity of levels means a multiplicity of strengths.

The individual has no other large organized mechanism that he can call his own. There are other mechanisms, but they reduce the citizen to the status of a subject. Government is the only organized mechanism that makes possible that level of shared disinterest known as the public good. Without this greater interest the individual is reduced to a lesser, narrower being limited to immediate needs. He will then be subject to other, larger forces, which will necessarily come forward to fill the void left by the withering of the public good. Those forces will fill it with some other directing interest that will serve their purposes, not the larger purposes of the citizen. It would be naïve to blame them for occupying abandoned territory.

How then could individuals possibly replace government? In a democracy they are government.

Individuals do not beat large companies or defeat large armies. Why would one expect them to replace governments? The point is there will be a government as there always has been. People ask: What kind of government? How much government? I think the primary question is: Whose government? If individuals do not occupy their legitimate position, then it will be occupied by a god or king or a coalition of interest groups. If citizens do not exercise the powers conferred by their legitimacy, others will do so.

The citizenry might well wonder why they should put artificial limits on their only force. The power we refuse ourselves goes somewhere else. Yet no other legitimacy is capable of disinterest. If the citizenry agree to exclude themselves from any given area, they are automatically excluding the possibility that in that domain the public good could have any role to play.

It is therefore naïve or disingenuous for those leading the fight against government to suggest that society will be reinvigorated by smaller government. Responsibility will simply have been transferred to an equally if not more sluggish bureaucracy in the private sector. What’s more, by demonizing the public civil servant they are obscuring the matter of the citizen’s legitimacy and of the public good which only that legitimacy can produce. People become so obsessed by hating government that they forget it is meant to be their government and is the only powerful public force they have purchase on.

My point is that the individual and the government are linked together by an artery. If we act to sever that artery by replacing or opposing a central role for government, we cease to be individuals and revert to the status of subject. If democracy fails, then it is ultimately the citizen who has failed, not the politician. The politician can always find a new place in a new configuration of power—witness the growing attachment of the elected to private sector interests.

I would argue that to a greater extent we are already well engaged in the act of cutting our own arteries—in both the wrists and the throat. If we are slipping into such a foolish act, it is largely because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced by our own elites that the democratic system is a secondary product of the free market system. And so, if the system and managers—supported by their acolytes in departments of economics around the West and by the invasive buzz of their eager neo-conservative courtiers—if all these people and institutions indicate that there must be changes, well, we bow our head in respect.

And that pretty much sums up why I reject libertarianism. To reject government is to reject democracy…in favor of what? Anarchy? Organized chaos? Social Darwinism? Who will take the place of government? Warlords? Gangsters? Will corporations become our overlords?

To me, the society espoused by libertarians sounds like a hippie commune run by steroid-gobbling, in-your-face jock frat rats, where the poor, weak, and uneducated become subjects to the whims of the rich, brilliant, strong, and educated. It’s a nice world if you belong to the right side of this divide. If you don’t, you’re doomed to the same existence so many millions faced before the social reforms of the 20th century, when poverty, inadequate health care, unsafe work conditions, unfairly low wages, unsanitary living conditions, an unsafe food supply, racism, sexism, and many other injustices and social ills prevented so many from the pursuit of happiness. The marketplace didn’t create these reforms; democratic governments did. Libertarians call a social democracy a “nanny state.” I call it the best and most enlightened society humans can create; most importantly, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Since most libertarians are beneficiaries of this generous social democracy—whether they admit it or not—the fact they, in their comfortable affluence and peaceful existence, wish to destroy the mechanism that created this good life for themselves, is insanely irrational.

But such is the pathology of the affluent brats we’ve created today. They are ignorant of history and obsessed with the false belief they are “self-made individualists.” They won’t be satisfied until our great social democracy is destroyed and they find themselves licking the boots of some master or other whose power is not restrained and who is a million times more evil than anything these dingbat brats can even imagine our government to be. Without the power of government to protect individuals, no matter how smart or cool or tough you think you are (or how many assault rifles you have in your gun cabinet), there will always be others out there who can easily dominate you, and they will without the restraint and check government provides against their power.

Libertarianism is the false religion of affluent conceit in a free democratic society. It is a self-defeating proposition and a delusion, post-modern science fiction for spoiled brats who are consumed with self-love and an inflated sense of self-worth, and who possess seriously deformed civic virtues.

What it is not is a rational system of ideas worthy of much examination. So much of its ethos is wrapped in anti-government sophistry and delusional conceit that there’s not much substance left except that which liberal thinkers for the last three centuries have already expressed much better and with more ethical authority. So let’s move on.