problem with being stupid: How do you know?
Joshua Holland is
a voice to pay attention to. His Nov01.2103
piece on billmoyers.com says more things you need to understand
about the American health care crisis in a single page than all of Obama’s
men and all of Obama’s horses have said in five years. Well, OK, the
horses haven’t said all that much anyway, and it doesn’t appear to
be the men who are running the DHS. I need to scratch around for a
better literary analogy.
But the point Holland is making is: This mess can be
fixed and it can be fixed virtually overnight if Americans just quit
assenting to their own rape by the medical industry.
What Holland fails to say, at least explicitly, is what absolutely
has to be said. This struggle is not Republicans v. Democrats, and it is
not conservatives v. liberals. The struggle is – and has to be
understood as – the AMA, the pharmaceutical industry, the
hospital industry, and the medical devices industry all ganging up
against the American public. Forget the banking industry, the financial
crisis and the medical care crisis in America are both driven by the
medical industry. And, as in all such struggles, while they have the
upper hand in terms of financing their fight, they can be completely
swamped and beaten into a pulp by the one thing the public has a
complete monopoly on: votes. If your representatives are not willing to
stand up against the medical industry in your behalf, then you have to
get new representatives who will. You are paying the present
politician to stand up against you in behalf of the medical
industry. That has a name: stupidity.
Here are a few of Holland’s points:
- Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcies in this
country, ahead of credit card debt and unwieldy mortgages. Rising
costs for health benefits are a big reason for flat wages: What
employers pay in total compensation, including health benefits, has
grown a lot faster than wages in recent years.
- If Americans paid the same amount for health care per person as
people do in other wealthy countries with longer average life
expectancies, we’d have a balanced budget now and surpluses
projected for the future.
- The $8,500 Americans spent per person on health care in 2011
was around $5,000 more than the average among developed countries.
- Americans have significantly poorer health outcomes than
most developed countries. Even white, well-off Americans live sicker
and die sooner than similarly situated people elsewhere.
- Americans rely much more heavily on the private sector to finance
our health care than any other wealthy country. Across the OECD
countries, governments pick up 72 percent of the tab for health
care, but the USG finances just under 48 percent of Americans’
healthcare – only the Chilean government covers a smaller
- New medical technologies are the number one driver of US health
care costs, and yet Americans have no advantage over other
developed countries in healthcare outcomes.
- Everything from pharmaceuticals to surgical procedures to tests costs
Americans more than citizens of other rich countries (the linked
study found only a single exception: cataract surgeries cost more in
Switzerland). Even a basic checkup is more expensive here than in
other highly developed states.
Holland’s objective is to make some very important and eye-popping
points about how Americans get ripped off by the medical care industry.
But I think the more basic point is one not even Bill Moyers and
his colleagues are willing to go public on: Americans are too stupid to
pick the best people to govern them. In other words, Americans are too
stupid for their own form of democracy. And I think both history and the
present testify to the truth of that assertion. The problem with
being stupid is: How do you know?