Friday, February 26, 2010

Obama's Felonious Forum
t’s rare when the public gets to witness an illicit meeting by a criminal syndicate. That’s why this old police reporter was all eyes and ears at Barack Obama’s “Health Care Forum” on Thursday. Here, right on cable for all the world to eavesdrop, was a mob wrangling over territory and loot. But my fascination didn’t last long. For all their dark power, the attendees were a boring lot. Not one had the flash of John Gotti or the quiet authority of Frank Costello. I switched over to TCM and the far more scintillating Marx Brothers in A Day at the Races.
Criminal confab? Attended by the top leaders of our government! What is this nut ranting about? Well, the fact is that just about everywhere in the civilized world profiting on basic health care, as we do here in America, is unlawful, illegal and verboten, not to mention immoral and uneconomical. Thus, so would be meetings furthering this activity.
Non-profit health care? Perfectly OK. Government-provided health care? No problem. Private profit health care for ancillary items like dental, glasses, private rooms? Sure. But profit on treating illness, disease and trauma? No, not allowed. Period.
Those civilized nations see three big reasons for this rule. The first is that the state, any state, reserves to itself the right to take life, and then only by way of due process. Anything else is murder to one degree or another. Allowing private companies to deny health care to their customers simply on the basis of profitability gives them the power of life and death.
The second is that it is not possible to make a free market in health care. Just about everyone would surrender their last penny and go into lifetime hock to keep themselves and their loved ones alive and well. Under capitalism’s sacred law of supply and demand this means that providers of health care will charge whatever the traffic will bear, meaning taking that last penny and IOU from a sufferer. That’s not only immoral, but a formula for impoverishing millions of people.
The third is that, like all businesses, private health care providers expect to increase their market share and profit every year. Given the above mentioned imperative of survival, this means that they can easily grow from their present 17 percent share of our economy to 20 or 30 percent. While those civilized countries were prospering by producing goods and services, our economy would be increasingly based on treating each other for our ills. And there would be no incentive for offering preventive care or adopting healthy habits since they would slow the growth of the dominant sickness sector.
The real, but unspoken, issue at Obama’s felonious forum, was how to control the rapacious growth of health care so that it doesn’t swallow the rest of the economy. GM, for example, says it’s at a competitive disadvantage because every car it makes in the U.S. has an added $1,500 built into the price because of the health care benefits won by its union workers. That same car made in Ontario is $1,500 more profitable because Canadian taxpayers rather than GM bear that cost.
The ills of ordinary Americans have no part in the so-called health care debate of the Washington power players and their corporate pay masters. Sob stories about poor Aunt Thelma who was turned down for cancer treatment by Moneybags Health Insurance are for show. The fight is really about balancing the conflicting interests of different business sectors. Obama takes that very seriously, while the Reps, like nasty brats, think only of ways to screw him and the Dems, no matter the damage it does to the system they claim to revere.
What’s the solution? One is that you get active with one of the many groups promoting a single payer answer, like Health Care Now or Single Payer Action. Another was suggested back in the ‘70s by Gordon Lightfoot when he sang, “The skyline of Toronto is something you’ll get onto...”