Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Continued Observations on Free Mark Philosophy - Summary

Recently, I have been working on a series of articles devoted to studying the ideology of free market fundamentalism that is currently sweeping the United States. For reference, I have summarized recent entries in the series below:

The Free Market Mentality - The Neoconservative/Libertarian Pipe Dream begins by looking at the fallacy in the reductionism of the neoconservative movement, and the failure of the right to recognize the imprudence in failing to recognize the significance of the impending energy crisis.

Continued Observations on Free Mark Philosophy looks at the ever increasing demands placed individuals in American society, and the continual relaxation of regulations on corporate behavior.

The Neoconservative Agenda and the Mainstream Media - Logic Need Not Apply begins to examine the effect that the marketplace has had on journalism in America. To anyone truly following current events in America, it should be obvious that we no longer have an independent media concerned with presenting the truth. Instead, we have a bought and paid for media, intent only on making a profit and selling the corporate agenda.

Corporatism, Wal*Mart, Halliburton and the Free Market - Studies the results of unregulated free market fundamentalism in a case study of Wal*Mart -- A corporation that is now the single largest employer in the United States.

Finally, Continued Observations on Free Mark Philosophy, Part Two - Health Care began a discussion on the current state of health care in the United States. The next article in the series will continue the discussion of health care policy and the free market.


Continued Observations on Free Mark Philosophy, Part Two - Health Care

Today, I'd to take a look at health care and the free market. Health care costs in the United States are exploding. Some facts from the National Coalition on Health Care (NOCH):

  • The United States spends more on health care than other industrialized countries; as a percentage of 2001 GDP, the United States spent 13.9%, Germany spent 10.7%, Canada spent 9.7%, France spent 9.5%, and Sweden spent 8.7% on total health care spending. (David Walker, “Health Care System Crisis: Growing Challenges Point to Need for Fundamental Reform,” presentation to the General Accounting Office Health Care Forum, 13 January 2004).
  • Americans’ average annual out-of-pocket expenses for health care rose 26% between 1995 and 2001, to $2,182. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Co-payments for brand-name drugs that have generic equivalents jumped 62% to $26 last year from $16 in 2000, while generics rose to an average of $9 from $8. (The Kaiser Family Foundation)
  • Health insurance premiums will rise to an average of more than $14,500 for family coverage in 2006 (“Charting the Cost of Inaction,” National Coalition on Health Care, May 2003.)
  • In 1999, health administration costs totaled at least $294.3 billion in the United States, or $1,059 per capita, as compared with $307 per capita in Canada. After exclusions, administration accounted for 31.0 percent of health care expenditures in the United States and 16.7 percent of health care expenditures in Canada
  • Approximately 45 million Americans, or 15.6 percent of the population, had no health insurance coverage in 2003
I have heard arguments that these high costs are the price to pay for the innovation and quality of health care in the United States. And, yet, the United States lags behind other industrialized nations in many key health care metrics:

  • Despite its higher levels of health care spending, the United States has higher infant mortality rates, lower life expectancy, higher levels of poverty, and lower levels of health care coverage than other comparable industrialized nations, such as Canada, France, Germany, Britain, and Japan
  • About 11% of cancer patients under the age of 65 are uninsured, and as many as 20% of minority cancer patients do not have coverage. (Lucette Lagnado, “What is a Bet on Life Worth?” Wall Street Journal, 18 June 2003)
  • The uninsured are more likely to put off seeking care; to not receive care when needed; and to not fill a prescription or get a recommended treatment because of the expense. (“Access to Care for the Uninsured: An Update,” Ibid).
  • Uninsured adults who have been hospitalized for heart attacks are over 25 percent more likely to die while in the hospital than privately insured adults. While the uninsured are just as likely to improve blood flow to their hearts in the acute stages of their heart attacks, they are less likely to undergo further costly diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. (“Access to Care for the Uninsured: An Update,” Ibid)
I generally avoid resorting to the anecdotal, but will today share my experiences. I lived the first 24 years of my life in Canada, and have spent three and half years in the United States. During my time in the United States, I have had medical coverage from three separate health insurance companies, and due to the economic turmoil generated by the Bush Administration, I have also spent about six months of the past few years living in the US uninsured.

While in Canada, I generally took the Universal Health Care coverage offered by the government for granted. My experience in the United States has awoken me to the harsh reality of privatized health care. I have experienced the frustration of having valid medical claims denied time after time, after forking over thousands of dollars per year in insurance premiums to insurance companies. I have experienced firsthand the deterrent effect that being uninsured has on seeking preventive health care -- The costs of medical visits, tests, and prescriptions in the United States is unreasonable, and the state of being uninsured persuades individuals to avoid seeking treatment at all costs.

I'd like to get back to my original point, which was to equate the current state of Health Care in the United States to the trend of unwavering belief in free market fundamentalism (A term I picked up from Robert Reich's book, Reason, which I'm currently wrapping up) Unfortunately, it's getting pretty late, so you'll have to stay tuned for part three in my series on Free Market Philosophy.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Continued Observations on Free Mark Philosophy

Last month, in a presentation on social security, President Bush had a discussion with Mary Mornin, a woman in her late fifties who told the president she was a divorced mother of three, including a 'mentally challenged' son. Here is the how the conversation went:

MS. MORNIN: That's good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.

THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?

MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)

I wonder if the president even realized how absurd it sounded to state "That's fantastic". Didn't he realize what a condemnation on his country it is that a single mother with a 'mentally challenged' son has to work three jobs to make ends meet. Does he realize how difficult this women's life must have been. Uniquely American?

This woman's plight represents the end game for the neoconservative agenda. Time after time, the neocons promote policy changes which push every ounce of productivity out of Joe Average, while reducing regulations on corporations and the rich. They are truly promoting an aristocracy.

There is a new bill in the senate designed to push the minimum wage up to $7.25, the first significant jump in the minimum wage in years. Some in the senate are attempting to limit the raise to $6.25, which will keep those at minimum wage below the poverty line. Daily Kos has an entry stating the Santorum is trying to add an amendment which will eliminate the 40 hour work week.

The end result is a depoliticized America. In the sixties, a family was able to get by on a single parent income. Now, some dual income families are barely scraping by, after spending a significant portion of their income on child care. A tired and overworked population does not have the will and energy to educate themselves and realize what is happening.

Right now, I'm watching Super Size Me for the third time, with my dad. Nominated for best documentary at the Oscars, this movie exemplifies the symptoms of the free market experiment gone awry. The neocons talk of eliminating frivolous lawsuits, like those wishing to sue McDonalds for destroying the health of our nation.

McDonalds servers 46 million meals a day, and has over 30,000 locations worldwide. One in four Americans eat at a fast food restaurant every day. Having families where both parents have to work, along with having to stretch our dollar further and further as each year passes, it's no wonder that people eat at fast food joints as often as we do. Pressed for time and money, McDonalds and their associates represent the best value for the American buck, but they do not provide any benefit whatsoever to society.

Keep on eye on the agenda that the Bush Administration is pushing on us these days. They are passing laws that eliminate bankruptcy for an option for the average American, while keeping loopholes in place that allow corporations and the rich to continue to keep their assets and operate under bankruptcy. They are trying to destroy social security, and pass the money on to corporations and CEOs. They are trying to eliminate overtime pay and the forty hour work week. They have passed tax cuts that overwhelming favor the rich. They have passed laws to eliminate environmental regulations and refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, yet they continue to push for reform to regulate individual behavior.

The level of complacency in America is alarming, but it is not unexplainable. The combination of a bought-and-paid for corporate media that hold the Bush Administration accountable and a depoliticized population has given the administration a very loose leash.


Friday Cat Blogging, March 5th

Teeger Makes himself comfortable

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Neo just wasn't feeling very photogenic today, so we couldn't get any usable photos. He seems to have inherited my tendancy to shut his eyes during almost every good photo op.


Friday, March 04, 2005

Gibbons, Blogger Regulation, and Bankruptcy

It turns out that Rep. Jim Gibbons' (R-Nev) speech was both in horrible taste, and also plagiarized, according to Atrios. I honestly don't know how they get away with this stuff.

Back in January, I predicted that the neocons would recognize that blogging may be one of the last great hopes to save America from the clutches of deceit and corporate sponsorship of the Republican Noise Machine. Bloggers have the potential to change the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. Given this recognition, I believe the neocons and the right wing think tanks will do what they can to A) Marginalize the opinions of bloggers and B) Regulate and control the behavior of bloggers in every way that they can.

This process has already started. We have already witnessed bloggers as the center of attention in the media over the past few weeks. Outside of the positive coverage on the Daily Show and Keith Olbermann, the majority of the reporting has been critical of the idea of giving a voice to the common man - The media feels threatened. The neocons feigned mock outrage in the Jeff Gannon affair - choosing to instead claim that the bloggers were invading the privacy of Gannon, instead of focusing on the outright audacity of the Bush Administration.

Finally, on the regulation front, they are starting by proposing a bill making it illegal to link to a campaign site from a blog, stating that doing so is equivalent to making a campaign contribution. Is this the beginning of the end for a political blog? I don't know. I do know that if this passes, the Neocons are going to continue to push for more laws that regulate free speech, and destroy dissenting opinion.

Finally, the neocons are demonstrating their true lack of compassion in the bankruptcy legislation, claiming that bankruptcy is a personal accountability issue. We are truly in the beginning stages of a fascist society, with credit card companies as a major contributor to the republican campaign platform. They are simply ignoring the fact that 90% of all bankruptcy cases are caused by unexpected health care costs, unexpected job loss, and divorce. The republicans stayed the party line on all issues - voting to prevent exceptions for military families and closing of loopholes that allow wealthy to protect their millions of dollars in assets by using offshore accounts in the Caymen Islands. They are requiring individuals to be "personally accountable", while allowing corporations and wealthy families to continue to file under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

groupThink Sick Leave

groupThink has been on a short-term temporary hiatus. I've been pretty sick the past few weeks, and have hardly had the energy to drag myself into the office. I started on Robert Reich's book, Reason - Why Liberal's Will Will the Battle for America, and I can already say that I whole-heartidly recommend it to all.

As soon as I regain my health, I hope to continue a series on the unwavering neoconservative belief in free market thinking, with an entry on health care. Recent related posts on the topic include The Free Market Mentality - The Neoconservative/Libertarian Pipe Dream and Corporatism, Wal*Mart, Halliburton and the Free Market.

Check out articles from the Elko Daily Free Press and RJG.com, concerning some outrageous comments made by Rep. Gibbons, R-Nev. Gibbons stated that liberals should be used as human shields for the US soldiers in Iraq. Gibbons referred to liberals as "liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals", a week after getting into hot water for referring to those who oppose corporate donations to president Bush as communists.