Implicit in the contemporary American health care system is a threat: Conform and spend your life behaving yourself in limited jobs or we will deny you insurance and put your health and your family’s future at risk.
Restrictions on health care availability are an effective form of social control. We often talk about this in terms of women’s health care. But too often lost in the health care debate is the broader truth: health care is used as a weapon of control. In a certain sense, we can be healthy or we can be truly free. So much for Patrick Henry.
Just one of the bizarre ironies of the current debate is the libertarian view that universal health care threatens our freedom. If libertarian-minded Americans would open their eyes, they’d see that just the opposite is true. How many Americans remain in dead-end jobs for the health benefits, however meager they might be? How many entrepreneurs never launch their independent initiatives because they can’t risk the loss of health care?
What is going to become of the generation just now graduating from college? In recent years, tuition has been jacked up to levels requiring many students to borrow heavily for undergrad degrees. They will enter the workforce already in debt. If the Senate’s insurance mandate becomes law, they will be forced to buy expensive health insurance from a black-hearted insurance industry that trades in suffering and death. The rich and powerful make sure today’s youth start their lives in debt to the company store.
The consequences are profound. Innovation is stifled as people are padlocked in their cubicles or enslaved to the fast-food registers or big box retail hells. Risk-taking is strangled. Class divisions become permanent caste divisions. The rich get richer because only they can afford to take the risks that produce more wealth. Well, that’s not quite true. With the population well under control, the rich have been largely successful in eliminating financial risk altogether. The Wall Street bailout and Congress’ subservience to the lords of insurance make that much clear.
Family heads work two or three jobs to keep up. Neither young nor old have time for effective political engagement. That’s the very point of the social/political control. Want health care? Better stay off the streets and away from the ballot box.
Some claim American productivity is growing, and that means workers are happily getting ahead. Horseshit, as we say hereabouts. New Deal 2.0, a project of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, put the lie to that claim:
The “productivity boom” idea is not new. But in the US, it as much a mirage as the money that drove the apparent boom. There was no productivity boom in the US in the last two decades of the 20th century; there was an import boom that came with productivity fallouts. What’s more, this boom was driven not by the spectacular growth of the American economy; it was driven by debt borrowed from the low-wage countries producing this wealth. The acceleration of productivity was accomplished by someone else doing the producing without getting proper credit for it. It was called a “bubble” for a reason.
Meanwhile, US wages dropped. Outsourcing has not been the only factor driving US wages down: Even as average worker productivity within the US has surged, average hourly earnings have stagnated, while the nation’s economic elites have prospered with astronomical levels of incomes. The high-tech, information technology and financial services sectors operated on the model of low salaries and high stock options. Even for investors, the trend had been to favor equity appreciation over dividend income. Yet this flies in the face of a basic economic principle: Income is all, and economic growth without income is a fantasy.
I’ve been writing lately about how our politic debate is stuck in mid-20th Century mud. Our valiant efforts at health care reform have been framed in terms familiar to the old politics: liberals want a big government solution; conservatives want to protect individual freedom from government.
While we’re stuck in the old politics, the corporatists have consolidated real power. A corporatist believes that corporations transcend democratic institutions, safeguards, the public will, checks and balances. He aims for rule by corporation, unfettered by any regulations, voter reprisals or legal accountability. So-called tort reform was about ending public accountability for corporate wrongdoing…
…This fundamental issue — the issue we should be discussing — has been raised recently by three progressive writers: Ed Kilgore in The New Republic, Glenn Greenwald in Salon, Jeffrey Feldman at Daily Kos.
Individualistic or libertarian-minded Americans should be with us in the health care debate. They’re not, because we haven’t made the right case to them. It’s corporatism that threatens their freedoms. We don’t want big government. We just want unaccountable, global economic powers to get their boot-heels off our throats. With real health care reform, reform that eliminated the economic, social and political control of our lives by a bloodthirsty health care industry, we could breathe again like Patrick Henry.