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Why the public is so pissed off
Friday, January 13, 2017, 11:50 PM

Fair warning, my family just received a 61.5% increase in our healthcare insurance premium of 2017, on top of last year’s 24.8% increase, so I am quite annoyed at the moment.  For my non-US readers, perhaps what follows will interest you as a means of understanding how and why Donald Trump came to be elected President.  I am going to be channeling some of my inner crank today.

If you want to understand why Trump won the recent US presidential election, you can't overlook the economic data.  If you do, his victory may look mighty confusing, alarming even.  But once you understand the degree to which the average US family and the entire Gen-X and Millennial generations are being completely hosed economically, everything starts to take shape.

As most struggling Americans can tell you, real household income has gone nowhere for more than 20 years:

This multi-decade burden of "running ever faster just to stay in the same place" is what led many US voters to reject Hillary Clinton, the establishment candidate, and instead roll the dice on the iconoclast promising to upend the system.

But if Trump's plan to “make America great again” means a return to the 1980s and 1990s when median real incomes climbed smartly, he’s not going to be able to pull that rabbit out of the hat, I’m afraid.  None of the conditions in place then are with us today including cheap, abundant energy (remember, oil was $10 a barrel in 1998); not to mention that we were riding the tailwinds produced by all of the gains from the early, explosive stage of the technology and internet revolutions.

Instead, we're at a stage where the pie is no longer expanding -- it's now a zero-sum game where those with power are using their advantage to continue to increase the size of their slice at the expense of the rest of us. The US now routinely subjects its citizens to racketeering, charging excessive prices that are increasingly cumbersome to avoid. One example among thousands; a Viagra pill that costs less than $1 in India, costs over $38 in the US:

(Source)

Cell phone plans in the US are 2x to 3x more expensive (and more limited in terms of both data and speed) than any of the other countries I’ve traveled to in the past few years.  A phone bill from AT&T in Hong Kong is a single page long and clearly explains how your unlimited high speed plan ended up costing you around $30/mo. In contrast, my bill from the same company in the US runs about 30 pages, and seems intentionally opaque in helping me understand why I'm spending over $100/mo for a limited data plan with much slower speeds.

There's no good reason for this except that in the US, companies have learned they can get away with predatory tactics by “wearing down” customers with gigantic, indecipherable billing statements.

This is pure racketeering. Your phone carrier is counting on your cable company to be running the same complexity scam.  Ditto especially for all of your insurance providers whom you just know, in your heart, you'll have to battle ferociously with for what you're owed should you ever need to really use that coverage.

And it's not just corporations; the government is in on the action, too. The US tax code is now over 74,600 pages in length, and the IRS cannot even get close to answering questions accurately.  Yet the citizen is on the hook for getting everything exactly right or else incurring stiff penalties, necessitating the use of expensive CPAs -- which is still no guarantee that an auditor's subjective judgment might go against you. 

Fun fact: during the first 26 years of its existence, the US income tax code grew by 104 pages. Over the past 30 years, it has grown by 50,000 pages.

While our politicians to expand the tax code, as far as I know nobody from any US government agency has been at all interested in the obvious price collusion displayed in this chart:

(Source)

Believe it or not, there are two price lines on this chart (one red, one blue) from supposedly independent companies who are allegedly competing with each other -- but most clearly are not. Humalog and Novalog are both manufactures of injectable insulin.

Insulin is an absolutely vital, non-substitutable necessity for people with diabetes and these companies saw fit to collude and jack up the prices over 1000% in ten years, from $25 a vial to over $250.

Why would two separate companies maintain the exact same price for their competing products for 20 years? I don’t have any other explanation except for collusion.

In any sane, rational and caring nation this wouldn't have happened. But under Bush, and then Obama, such predatory behavior went completely uninvestigated let alone punished. 

So it's no wonder then that so many people looked at the ‘status quo’ candidacy of Hillary Clinton and said No thanks.  Many families cannot afford more years of status quo predation by the unchecked rapaciousness of US cartels -- er, corporations -- and their government protectors.

Look, we all knew that the faux recovery seen over the past seven years had to end sometime, sooner or later. A “recovery”, mind you, that never actually happened except in the fantasy press releases of the government's statistical fabricators, lovingly reproduced by unquestioning “journalists” working for corporate entities harboring deep conflicts of interest.

But the “little people” (hereby defined as those occupying the bottom 95% of the socioeconomic ladder) have long known they've been getting screwed. Sadly, it's just getting worse.

The Obamacare Disaster

Obamacare (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act) is a disaster. We always knew it was going to be. Why? Because it represents the single largest give-away to the health insurance industry in our lifetime. 

Obama and the DC politicians crafted the Affordable Care Act as a monstrously large bill. And they failed to take on the biggest source of fat in the entire system: the healthcare insurance companies themselves. Of course, these companies have very well-funded lobbyists and  pushing back against them on would have required real leadership and possibly cost some political capital.  So they were left entirely alone, with all of the massive increases in healthcare premium costs left to be borne by “somebody” other than them.

Well that “somebody” has turned out to be pretty much everybody:

Obamacare Benchmark Premiums to Rise 25% in Sharpest Jump Yet

Oct 24, 2017

Monthly premiums for benchmark silver-level plans are going up by an average of 25 percent in the 38 states using the federal HealthCare.gov website, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report today. 

Last year, premiums for the second-lowest-cost silver plans went up by 7.5 percent on average across 37 states.

(Source)

Now what’s both fascinating and part of the electorate anger is that the same government that forced Obamacare on everyone is also the same government that swears that health care inflation is running at only 2.5% to 3.5% per year over the past few years. Here are the governments numbers:

(Source)

I find myself wondering what country (or planet?) those numbers are for. Because for those who actually pay for their health insurance, the answer for sure isn't either "America" or "Earth".

In total, US health care premiums have fully tripled since 1999.

But for fun, using the government’s own CPI-Med data from the table above, if healthcare premiums had tracked the government’s stated rate of inflation between 2006 and 2015 then they would be some $2500 less today than they actually are:

People are angry because they are being lied to. Or more accurately: lied to while being robbed. 

Even worse, while the rate of health care inflation is being understated at the individual premium level shown above, it's also wildly understated in the larger inflation statistic used to level-set everything from cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to pay raises across the country.

As explained in the Fuzzy Numbers chapter of The Crash Course, even though healthcare spending is nearly 18% of GDP, for some reason healthcare comprises only 5.85% of the CPI basket:

[C]urrently CPI-MED accounts for 5.825% of the overall CPI. Increases in the share of medical expense paid by individuals (as opposed to their insurers), will not affect CPI levels. 

(Source)

And:

U.S. health care spending grew 5.8 percent in 2015, reaching $3.2 trillion or $9,990 per person.  As a share of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, health spending accounted for 17.8 percent.

(Source)

Does it make any sense to record something that's nearly 18% of GDP as only 5.8% of your inflationary experience? Nope, it sure doesn’t. Unless your desire is to mask the actual rate of inflation.

In simple terms, just healthcare's share of inflation alone comes to (0.25)*(0.18) = 4.5%.  That’s more than twice the rate of the supposed total inflation we are experiencing all by itself.  Throw in rising rents, car prices, and energy and it’s far more likely that an urban consumer is experiencing total price inflation closer to 6% or more per year.

Now, if you were a government bean-counter who want to mask the impact of a rapidly-rising factor within the nation’s inflation rate, presumably to blunt the statistical damage and make things look rosier than they actually are, all you need do is weight that item less in the basket used to calculate inflation.

For example, if the vegetables making up 18% of the cost of your shopping cart have gone up in price by a whopping 25%, that’s going to leave a mark. 

But what the government does is pretend that your shopping cart only has 6% vegetables, and is increasing at a much lower annual rate -- say 3.2%. Voila! Reported price inflation for carrots and celery is now much lower: (0.06)*(0.032) = 0.12%.

Even though you're forking out 4.5% more at the grocery counter, the government is loudly telling everyone you're only seeing an increase of 0.12% 

This is infuriating, of course. 

Here’s what this looks like in chart form. Total inflation is being sold to us as low – "too low" and "dangerously low" even. But I’ve helpfully included where the chart would show the total rate if were only what we're seeing with health care costs:

(Source)

Imagine how much higher it would be if we added in the actual inflation observed in other costly sectors like food, housing and education. Obviously there’s something desperately wrong going on here.

This is statistical lying and weaseling of the worst sort, which of course everyone can see through because it gets harder and harder each year to balance the family budget. If you're alarmed by fake news, perhaps you should be more alarmed by fake data, something the US government has perfected and continues to perpetuate. 

All of this is deeply unfair. And -- surprise! -- people really get annoyed when they're constantly lied to. Eventually their trust goes right out the window. Is it any wonder that a profoundly status quo candidate (HRC) could not sway the voters in rural America, where these trends and insults are even more acutely felt than in urban areas? The status quo is figuratively and literally killing these people. 

As mentioned earlier, my family's health care plan premium went up over 60% in cash costs alone this year. The rate of increase is an even larger when the plans' reduced benefits and increased deductibles are factored in. The out-of-pocket amount for my family will be pretty close to $30,000 this year before any insurance actually kicks in.

In other words, I'm subsidizing somebody.

Unfortunately, that somebody is probably not a lower-income person up the street who badly needs coverage, but rather someone in the C-suite at one of the major heath companies. 

Check out the 2013 compensation packages for the CEOs of the major US health insureres.  They're truly breathtaking:

Maybe 2013 was a standout year, and is an errant data point.  Maybe things moderated in 2014? 

Nope.  Everybody apparently deserved an even more massively large payout:

You have to wonder how much care was denied to patients in order to afford those executive salaries.  It also bears mentioning, that some of these CEOs ‘earned’ more by 10:30 a.m. on the first day of 2014 than the median household did during that entire year.

Put a different way, in order to pay out the compensation for Stephen Hemsley, the United Health CEO for 2014, nearly 4,000 families had to pay the full $16,351 amount for healthcare that year.  In what sort of world should 4,000 families have to pay close to a third of their total income to a single individual simply for the pleasure of having health insurance?

Greedy doesn’t begin to cover what’s going on here. If ever there was any sort of 'social contract' between these companies and the public, it's now utterly broken by the rewarding their upper management with tens of millions of dollars – each! – and then jacking up healthcare premiums on families simply because they can.  And now, thanks to the "Affordable" Care Act, you can now be fined for not forking over whatever insane price increases the healthcare cartel decides to dream up from their government protected boardrooms.

Bizarrely, the healthcare insurance options in many states have been vastly reduced as carriers claiming losses, while massive premium increases have been justified also on the basis of losses and reduced profits. I say "bizarrely" because you’d imagine, being a regular person, that such losses should show up in actual profit declines for the insurers.

Nope:

Making a killing under Obamacare: The ACA gets blamed for rising premiums, while insurance companies are reaping massive profits

Oct 28, 2016

While Americans continue to be hammered by rising health care costs, and while congressional lawmakers (with their taxpayer-subsidized health care) do nothing to lower the cost of pharmaceuticals and medical care, one group is reaping a windfall in profit: health insurance companies and their investors.

On Thursday, Aetna reported $734 million in profit on $15.8 billion in revenue for the three months that ended Sept. 30. The nation’s third-largest health insurer by revenue handily beat Wall Street estimates for the quarter.

Aetna’s earnings report came a week after UnitedHealth reported a 12 percent jump in revenue to $46.3 billion for the three months that ended Sept. 30 compared with the same period the previous year. The company collected $36.1 billion in insurance premiums, a sum 11 percent higher than for the year-ago quarter, while profits increased 29 percent to $1.98 billion.

A Salon analysis of regulatory filings found that the top five health insurers — UnitedHealth, Anthem, Aetna, Humana and Cigna — have doled out nearly $30 billion in stock buybacks and dividends from 2013 to 2015. (The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act in 2012.)

(Source)

Similar strong results were noted for Humana in their last earnings release.  So how can it be that all these companies are both reporting the need for massively higher premiums while also booking higher and higher profits?

Well, when you live in a country that routinely subjects its citizens to racketeering, this is exactly the sort of disconnect you have to live with. They say one thing; but you see with your own eyes, or experience with your own wallet, something completely different.

Conclusion

Obama’s main failing in the ACA was in not going directly after the powerful insurance industry and forcing its players to participate in the reduction of waste, and sharing in the costs. Instead, they got more than a free pass: they got millions of new enrollees with the right to ‘withdraw’ from any markets and exchanges where they felt their massive profits might take a ding. 

And withdraw they did, with 2 million people losing their coverage for 2017 due to major carriers pulling out of state exchanges. 

Just looking at the cost of healthcare alone, we can detect massive fraud and deceit being foisted on the American public today. What emerges from these many rackets is a corrosion of the social contract.  In a word, these arrangements are abusive.  

The enormous pressures we see across the globe, with the rise of what the mainstream news outlets (aka “largest purveyors of fake news”) are trying to label as ‘nationalism,’ are really in large measure simply a reaction to the economic oxygen having been sucked away from the populace of various countries and delivered into the hands of a very tiny elite.

Yes, that elite still controls the ‘news’ and therefore the narrative; but increasingly people are waking up and deciding for themselves that ‘something is wrong’. Not unlike a person slowly becoming aware that they have somehow fallen into and been the victim of an abusive relationship.

Let me be clear: if we do not somehow find the courage and appropriate leadership to begin righting these wrongs, this trajectory ends in tears.  And it shouldn’t be up to a government body to have to regulate proper action; the insurance companies themselves should have nobody but themselves to blame if they fail to self-regulate. 

Ditto for every major corporation that is running various rackets using a combination of predatory pricing, overly complex practices, and regulatory capture to operate as a cartel. 

If the elites don't manage to figure out how to contain their greed, then an angry electorate is just the beginning of their troubles.  Anybody seeking to understand the political landscape really just needs to spend a little time on the eroding prosperity of the bottom 99% over the past 20 years.

In Part 2: How To Fix The Future we lay out how a critical movement is arising at this time in history. Each of us can assume a role to play in its formation and development, and therefore its eventual success or failure. It's my personal belief that we are past the time where we can avoid major disruption, so each of us must be personally prepared as best we can for upheaval, while also working towards building a new and better narrative to live by.

Do you have the courage to participate?

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

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63 Comments

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
AKGrannyWGrit
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2011
Posts: 341
What's In A Name?

Some nincompoops decided to name the tallest mountain in North America after an irrelevant political figure and the name "Mountain McKinley" was established.  The indigenous  people and the local residents of the State of Alaska continued to call the mountain "Mt. Denali" which means The Great One.  It's my understanding that the name has been officially changed back to Mt. Denali.  The point being just because some nincompoop waves their wand, makes a declaration and declares This Is Good, This Is So - does not make it so.

Why do people CONTINUE to call the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the given name by some nincompoop?  Is it illegal, immoral, an unforgivable sin to call it "The UN-affordable Care Act"?  Perhaps it's not Politically Correct?  I know heaven forbid we offend anyone.  Hmmmmm just think what would happen if say a whole lot of people just started a movement and called the ACA the UN-Affordable Care Act.  Perhaps it would send a message? Or as in the example of Mt. McKinley, the name was just a blip in time and Mt. Denali will endure.  As the saying goes, A Land That Has Always Been and a Mountain That Has Always Been  What's un-affordable can't be made so by naming it so.  Let's get the name right.

AKGrannyWGrit

,

keithnunnstephenson's picture
keithnunnstephenson
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 9 2012
Posts: 1
Awesome

Such good information. Small criticism, don't use Viagra as a drug example. People with a cognitive bias to want to defend ACA will consider that a non necessary drug and hand wave the whole article off. Unfortunate but this is the political environment we live in. IMHO

Hotrod's picture
Hotrod
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 20 2009
Posts: 158
Here's why you can't get anything changed

Bernie introduced legislation to allow importation of cheaper drugs from Canada and it went down in flames.

https://trofire.com/2017/01/12/corporatist-dems-vote-bernies-cheap-prescription-drug-amendment/

It is rigged.  Just enough Republicans voted for it and just enough Democrats voted against the bill for it to fail.  I'm guessing all pre-determined.  Disgusting.

regionswork's picture
regionswork
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 18 2012
Posts: 3
Competition at the bottom, collusion at the top.

Competition at the bottom, collusion at the top.
This is what the MBAs and JDs have created for us. The "profit motive" has failed.

Unless the "community motive" regains it's sacred role of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior (thou shalt not steal, kill, bear false witness [lie]), the predator work-a-rounds will have us permanently indebted.

The solutions needed are moral. Any of the economic systems lead to dominance by the few. We survive and perpetuate as communities, not individuals. This is a spiritual challenge to all religions which are more like political parties seeking. Pope Francis has spoken out and has to challenge the privileged in his own faith.

President-elect Trump was elected because he promised to protect the people's Social Security, reduce health insurance costs, and bring back manufacturing jobs. He ran as the austerity party candidate, and that's not how they really act. They think suffering builds character.

ChandOne's picture
ChandOne
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 12 2014
Posts: 30
Options

Great article Chris, please feel free to let out your inner crank anytime (we all learn from it) ;)

There is one opt-out option to ACA, which meets the ACA requirement for 'insurance' while not burdening your with the inflated insurance profit margin:

https://www.libertyhealthshare.org/how-it-works

If I didn't have good insurance through my employer, I would absolutely explore this option.  I am NOT in any way affiliated with them.

----

Here's a excerpt from their website: 

Total Transparency

Imagine how you'll feel knowing that Liberty HealthShare℠ is advocating for members to keep costs fair and reasonable, you know where your money is going, you make your own healthcare decisions, and you choose any doctor or hospital."

One question which I don't have the answer to is how are big medical emergencies covered?  If someone comes down with cancer and needs 100k/year treatment, where do those bills go? If anyone looks into this further and finds an answer, I'd very much appreciate a follow-up post

TnDoc's picture
TnDoc
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 19 2009
Posts: 1
Great commentary, Chris! My 2

Great commentary, Chris! My 2 Cents:

Open Letter to President-Elect Trump Dear Mr. President-Elect: Congratulations on your recent win against the corrupt and entrenched Establishment! Your next few months will be busy ones as you move to reform and rejuvenate our flagging Republic, but I am optimistic that you and your team can make a positive difference for We-The-People, our nation, and all the citizens of the planet. Stay the course! As one of your oft-stated goals for the new Administration, you promised to rid us of the abomination known as Obamacare (the Orwellian "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act"). Please do so - yesterday! Certainly, it is one of the most ill-conceived boondoggles in the country's history, but its disastrous financial failings are the least of its issues. Of more concern to this jaded old physician, is its failure to actually do anything that improves patient health or well-being. No one seems to even question this glaring deficiency In the many debates about this legislation - both during the election cycle and over the life of the act itself - one of the most alarming things to me has been the failure to recognize that "Health Care" and wellness are NOT synonymous with health insurance coverage. Good health is NOT about access to more of the sacrosanct, allopathic medicine system that has so throttled health and innovation in this country throughout my medical career. Just because more patients have access to health insurance coverage does NOT equate to improved health. A system that supports abortion mills for People of Color, forced vaccinations with untested and unproven vaccines, billion dollar drugs of debatable value, the poisoning of our water supplies with fluoride and our food with toxic pesticides and herbicides, confiscatory taxation under the guise of "health insurance premiums", and the persecution of any and all who dare question its anti-Humankind actions is certainly not one that has the health of the individual in mind. In fact, it is my belief that the Medical-Industrial Complex (Med-IC, so as not to be confused with the Military-Industrial Complex or Mil-IC) has become the leading cause of ill health (dis-ease) in the nation and that making it easier to access that corrupt system cannot and will not meet people's health needs. Big Pharma, Big Medicine (AMA, etc.), Big Insurance, Big Media, and Big Politics have had a parasitic lock on the health system of this country since at least World War II and have worked hand-in-glove to loot the populace while controlling it for its own ends. Using corrupt research (invariably funded by Big Pharma or other politically motivated Special Interests) to support their "evidence-based" medical theories, the MedIC gods are focused on maintaining their own hallowed positions and institutional and corporate bottom lines at all costs (Dr. Richard Horton with "Lancet" summarizes the problem here: http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736%2815%2960696...). Just as the dishonest media and ruling oligarchs showed us their true colors during your campaign, these same people maintain a stranglehold on the health care of our citizens. No country on the planet spends more per capita for health care and has less to show for it than the US. In spite of trillions of dollars shoveled into the health care system over the past couple of decades, Americans are rapidly falling to the level of Third World citizens by every health care index - and, being financially bled dry to finance their own demise! It is sad commentary that hundreds of thousands of people are known to be killed every year by "medical errors" in the US alone (estimates run from a minimum of 200,000 to nearly 1 million such deaths). It is somewhat encouraging to read that you recently met with Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a fellow billionaire with roots in biotech, as he is an outsider to the System. But, beware! We do not need more "wars" on cancer, drugs, Zika, Ebola, or the "enemy" of the moment. It is also fallacious and naïve to assume that medical salvation lies purely in "genetic" manipulation. We need well-funded, honest and open life science research, a re-thinking of the goals of medicine and the encouragement of innovation and critical thinking. We need a de-politicized and reformed FDA and CDC that are free of the machinations of the Med-IC! You have a unique opportunity here to change this failing system. Enlist the growing number of alternative medicine practitioners who have awakened to the failures of our "mainstream" corporatized and monetized medicine system - men and women who are daring to empower patients to care for themselves and to implement natural medicine solutions, in spite of sanctions and harassment from our ruling elite. You will be able to identify these individuals easily, as they are the ones attacked continuously by the Med-IC via its control of the dishonest media that has so bedeviled you. Though modern medicine has made some great breakthroughs - especially in acute emergency care - the progress has been much less than one would expect given the lives, time, and money that have been expended over the past 50 years. Dr. Ben Carson seems to be an open-minded and thoughtful MD who could lead such an exploratory reform effort. I would enlist other public high profile "Alt Med" practitioners like Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. David Brownstein, and Dr. John McDougall to participate in a "Reinventing the Health Care System" effort. I would avoid including representatives from the AMA, many of the medical subspecialty groups, and especially corporatist members of the Med-IC. These folks are the ones who created Obamacare in all of its glory and the failing health care system that is the root of the problem. They have nothing to gain from reform of the health care system and will fight vigorously to maintain the status quo. It is past time to drain the Med-IC swamp and put Humankind first! Thank you for taking time to consider my thoughts. In Peace and Hope, I am… Respectfully yours...

KugsCheese's picture
KugsCheese
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 2 2010
Posts: 1280
One Simple Step

One simple step would be to create one national market for healthcare instead of 50 separate ones.  Small business tried to get this reform considered in Congress throughout the 2000's, but it was ALWAYS shot down in the Senate.   Trump will be in for rude surprise as he meets the real political power centered in Congress.

LesPhelps's picture
LesPhelps
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 30 2009
Posts: 638
Don't Use Viagra as an example? Really?

keithnunnstephenson wrote:

Such good information. Small criticism, don't use Viagra as a drug example. People with a cognitive bias to want to defend ACA will consider that a non necessary drug and hand wave the whole article off. Unfortunate but this is the political environment we live in. IMHO

California is planning to cover a sex change operation for a transgender prison inmate who is serving life for first degree murder, abduction and robbery.  Yet Viagra is considered unnecessary by some?  I doubt I'm the only one who feels our society is traveling down an absurd path.

chipshot's picture
chipshot
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 15 2010
Posts: 25
Two Reactions

1)  Health Care

Single payer is likely the most effective health care system for keeping costs down, since it eliminates insurance company profits and the use of emergency room care by the uninsured.  However even with single payer, health care costs will escalate when the country has such poor overall health and a population skewed towards 60, 70 and 80 yr olds.  We have to improve our health  (better lifestyles, primarily by better eating and more exercise) and spend less on seniors, especially end-of-life care, if we want to avoid being financially overwhelmed by health care costs.

2)  Stagnant Incomes

Globalization and its chase for the cheapest labor on the planet have played a big part by driving down wages and chasing jobs out of the country.  But a bigger factor may be the .1% and their ever increasing un-earned incomes, which is sucking up most of the corporate profits generated by the working people of this country.  If working people got their share of profits, their incomes wouldn't be so stagnant.  We need more profit sharing and co-op style businesses  (a la Richard Wolff) if we want to improve working people's incomes and slow the growing concentration of wealth.

Duelingforks's picture
Duelingforks
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 15 2017
Posts: 2
Kudos

Excellent rant and straight to the point.

Duelingforks's picture
Duelingforks
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 15 2017
Posts: 2
What is really needed

Is the politicians too stop meddling with our live's. For the federal government to return to it's original jurisdiction, and a repeal of ALL extra constitutional policies.

LesPhelps's picture
LesPhelps
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 30 2009
Posts: 638
US Tax Code

I just responded to my 4th computer generated letter from the IRS regarding my 2014 tax return. Long story.

Anyway, I decided to Google tax code.  For those interested, the US Tax Code at the end of 2013 was 71,684 pages long, or 205 books containing 350 pages each.

Fate help us!

ccwesq's picture
ccwesq
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 12 2013
Posts: 44
My premium

For a healthy family of four is currently $24,500. Renewal is in March, can't wait.

efarmer.ny's picture
efarmer.ny
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 7 2012
Posts: 57
Health Cost Sharing Groups

ChandOne (#5 above) said

One question which I don't have the answer to is how are big medical emergencies covered?  If someone comes down with cancer and needs 100k/year treatment, where do those bills go? If anyone looks into this further and finds an answer, I'd very much appreciate a follow-up post

I can't answer for Liberty, but my family has been a member of a different health cost savings group for about 15 years. (Unlike Liberty, ours has a "religious" component and pledge not to engage in certain lifestyle activities.)

Our group's guidelines allow us to submit up to $250,000 in medical bills for any one medical incident. But there are restrictions that apply; for example, medication for that event is only covered for 120 days unless they are part of a long term course of care - e.g. anti-rejection drugs and cancer treatments. And pre-existing conditions do not qualify. And there is an additional program called save-to-share that members can sign onto whereby they agree to set aside $400 yearly for three years to help pay for special needs that are submitted. Then, as part of that program, you can then submit bills beyond the $250,000.

Here is what my statement looks like this month: $495 for a family share, -7% (34.65) because there were less needs submitted than available dollars this month +5.24 save to share allotment. So we are sending a check for $465.59 to a specific family in Long Beach WA where a family member is being treated for lung cancer. Knowing my health care dollars are going directly to a family for known medical needs is what I like most about this particular health care sharing ministry. (Once a year our monthly allotment goes to fund the administration of the organization.)

Health cost sharing has worked quite well in our situation. We have submitted several $5 - 10,000 needs over the years (pregnancies, collapsed lung, etc.) and they have been covered. But we have to pay out-of-pocket for all of our well-care, dental visits, and vision screenings.

Someone would definitely want to read and understand the cost sharing group's guidelines before signing on since many of them are not like a traditional insurance plan at all.

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thc0655
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Posts: 1293
If you think health care is expensive now...

... wait until it's free!

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VeganDB12
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Posts: 702
end of life care

I pray I never become an outlier on someone's hospital budget at the end of my life and that I have the good fortune to die at home like 2 of my grandparents did. High cost of "end of life care" is profit oriented but also driven by the current malpractice environment and perhaps should be addressed by managing people's expectations etc....

I hope we can be careful about complaining about costs for seniors; I have met more than one elder who thought they should just die to make room for younger people when they hear this kind of talk. I think that is wrong headed and that we need older people around. The administration that is now departing didn't see it that way but we shall see what the new crew thinks and what their attitude towards the elderly is. 

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ChandOne
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Thanks for the

Thanks for the reply efarmer.ny

That makes sense. An 'ideal' healthcare system is somehow going to encourage members to be as healthy as possible, so having small items paid out-of-pocket is reasonable. Heck, you might even be motivated to search for the best price for treatment, which absolutely makes sense.  The cap of 250k is probably unavoidable, since the only alternative would be for the healthshare to go bankrupt.

Overall I'd say the healthshare approach looks quite nite and affordable, considering where how ACA costs have grown/ $24k per year for a family of 4!!?!?? That's insane

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Edwardelinski
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You can thank Grover Norquist amomg others:

He is celebrating the defeat.Senate.gov has the breakdown by state of those that voted against the public wishes.none of this is a mystery,If you care,pick up the phone and raise hell.Also,Union workers,Koch and company has successfully managed to cannabalize and weaken the unions.For the environmentalists,Paul Ryan rolled back the regulatory practices on fracking,emmisions and environmental regulations Jan7th .So y'all keep defending your choice.Watch what they do,not what they say...That is why everyone made money last week..Oh and healthcare,you are in deep s>>t.....

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sand_puppy
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Supporting Big Pharm

I have heard it said that the job of the politician is tough:  They must appear to represent the common voter, but actually represent the Big Money that funds their re-election campaigns and owns the media that creates their public image.  Quite a tight-rope act.

Such is the beauty of regulatory capture.  Big Money funds congress-persons and they make laws to further increase the advantage of Big Money in the market place.  Crony-capitolism.  The opposite of a "free market."

Big Money donations --> Congress Tweaks Laws --> Big Money makes More Money.

Politician must always be testing the winds:  How much corruption can I get away with on this issue at this point in time?

Oops.   They went too far.  Bernie Sanders introduces a bill proposing that consumers be allowed to purchase less expensive drugs from the Canadian market.  This is widely popular with the public.  Yet 13 noteworthy Democratic Senators opposed this bill while, of course, pretending to represent the people. 

The Pharma 13 will be remembered by the pissed off voter.

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Time2help
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Big Pharmacy 13

The two Washington State Senators are bought and paid for soulless sacks of shit.

An opinion, of course.

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skipr
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today's cream puff days

Do you think people are really pissed off now?  Just wait a few more years for the real hell to kick in, like when food, water, etc. shortages and the longer term environmental destruction becomes reality for our delusional bread-and-circus majority.  The Mexican mafia will look like a bunch of pussies when survival supersedes abstract concepts like profits.  Where do you think the environmental refugees will go in just the lower 48?  The aquifers and soil in the West and Midwest will have been depleted by then due, partially, to peak oil being a not so distant memory and the peak oil curve being much steeper on the post peak side.  Need some fuel to stay warm?  Let’s clear cut every damn tree out there.  While we’re at it lets convert most of it to ethanol so that we can continue driving our precious little cars some more.  Then again, maybe we will be smart enough to use that fuel to power the trucks that deliver our food (and water?).  How long will that last since the delivery routes are becoming longer and longer.  In an effort to become more “efficient” there will be a mass migration to the remaining sources of not so fresh water and soon to be depleted soil.  Rural living will no longer exist in these areas.  And let’s not forget our ever increasing population.  Its growth will eventually reverse in a more or less painful way.  Unfortunately, the more painful way is less painful in the short term

Sorry for being such a gloom and doomer.  I hope I didn’t “piss” anyone off.

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Cream puffs and not so fresh water?

Vested interests are always the subject of pissed off tax payers and can be found in many areas of the US and other developed countries. Identifying key players in industry related political appointees is always a good place to start. Whether it be Big Pharma, Health insurance, or what have you, always look to see who’s praising whom in the media. Incestuous relationship abound if we’re astute enough to notice. A recent development in Canadian jurisprudence demonstrates that practically anything can be rigged in favor of special interests:

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled Jessica Ernst can’t sue the powerful and controversial Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) over alleged violations of her Charter rights.

The split ruling Friday — five justices rejected her claim, with four supporting it — is a setback for the protection of groundwater and the rights of landowners dealing with provincial energy regulators, often funded or captured by industry interests, say many critics and lawyers.

EDMONTON - Some critics are worried the Alberta government’s new regulatory body for oil, gas and coal could result in weaker, less transparent application of environmental protection laws. Energy Minister Ken Hughes is trying to soothe those concerns, saying a new government branch, the Policy Management Office, will monitor the Alberta Energy Regulator to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest energy company, praised Alberta's province’s regulatory process for bringing critical regulatory "functions under one umbrella...[the AER]...decreasing duplication and costs and increasing efficiency." Tillerson argued that the U.S. energy policy has not "kept up with rapid changes in the sector."

If you live in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas or other tight gas areas, new developments could be coming soon to an area near you. Check with your local Secretary of State for details. Sparkling water you say? 

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rhare
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Pissed off - but not putting the blame where it is due

Chris, while I highly sympathize with the massive fraud, blaming the drug companies, heath insurance companies, phone companies just deflects the blame from the real culprit, the governments that limits your choice and competition on their behalf. They are simply playing the game rigged by our politicians and bureaucrats.  Shinning a spotlight on this half of the problem does nothing but prompt people to call for more regulation, more bureaucracies that created the mess in the first place.

After all, the ACA was the call of the people to save them from the evil health care companies, how did that turn out?  The problem is more regulation = less competition = higher prices = more violence.  Before ACA the federal government was already close to 70% of the health care market (Medicaid, Medicare, VA). There is no incentive for any type of cost control when you can simply steal from everyone (taxation) to cover the promises made.

Let's take your tirade against United Health, from above you show they had $46.3B in revenue and ended up with $1.98B in profits, that's 4.2% profit - not exactly stellar?  As a shareholder I would be upset that the C* executives make so much, but from an impact to everyone else it's pretty minimal unless your trying to rile people up.  Lets also take United Health Group CEO, from above his compensation was $66M, with 70M subscribers, that means if you took all his pay away and distributed to those subscribers, they would each save a whopping $0.94 (94 cents). 

Healthcare is one of those areas where we are living well beyond our means.  We have let the politicians tell us that we can have it all, nothing but empty promises because we can't afford it.  It's another of the illusions where we are borrowing from the future for today.

Sorry most people won't be able to have an organ transplant, or the latest high tech drug and treatment.   If you don't make a lot of money, sorry, your not going to be able to afford the best healthcare, just like you can't afford a top of the line car.  Tradeoffs have to be made, and only patients are able to properly make that tradeoff decision - so that decision has to be placed back in the hands of the patient.  It has too include who to see, what treatment they are willing to pay for, and what insurance (if any) they want to carry.  

cmartenson wrote:

Obama’s main failing in the ACA was in not going directly after the powerful insurance industry and forcing its players to participate in the reduction of waste, and sharing in the costs. 

Please stop calling for more help from those that caused the mess in the first place!  

In the second part you call for a new narrative, here's one, "Choose to either use violence or not use violence, but do so knowingly."  Right now we hide the use of violence against our fellow human beings via euphemisms.  We call them taxes, laws, regulations, elections, etc.  It hides that fact that we are using violence (via proxy) against another person to get our way.  Every time you say, "we need a law" or "we need to stop...", what you are saying is someone must behave the preferred way or they will be harmed up to being killed. Stop hiding that fact and perhaps we would start to view voluntary cooperation and changing the world by example instead of coercion a bit more preferable. 

So I said the blame was not placed where it was due, and most of the people here probably think I meant the government, but I don't, it's just a reflection of the choices we have made.   We can change the narrative, but first we have to change our belief that we need rulers and the violence that enables them to rule in order to change the narrative and live peacefully with our fellow human beings.

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davefairtex
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crony capitalism

Crony capitalism is the logical endpoint of capitalism.

A company with a great product that ends up dominating its market segment will gradually realize that investment dollars that might be spent keeping ahead of the competition would have a better ROI if spent stifling competition, rewriting regulation to its own benefit by bribing politicans, buying up potential competitors, and ultimately colluding with the other big players to fix prices at a mutually high-and-profitable level.

This is common sense.  Its also borne out by real world experience.

Here's the only way out I see:

1) prevent companies from having "too much" of a given market.  centralization of money = centralization of power = direct threat to democracy.  Fewer players = collusion on prices becomes vastly easier.  More players = collusion becomes much harder.

2) remove money from politics - eliminating bribery.

3) forbid politicians or people who have served in government from then serving in the companies they regulated - eliminating ex post facto bribery.

The worst possible outcome, given the cartels now in place in most industries, is to deregulate a market that is dominated by only a couple of monster players who completely control Congress via campaign contributions as well as revolving-door rewards after "public service."

I would ONLY be in favor of a "free market" (deregulation-oriented) solution if the cartels were first broken up, if money was removed from politics, and if the revolving door was closed.

Until then, a single payer solution is our only hope for healthcare.

So all you "free market" proponents - if you want your plan to have a chance, focus on breaking up the cartels and getting money out of politics.  Any "free market" approach that leaves the cartels intact, and thus able to easily collude on prices, and also leaves their channels for bribery in place so they don't get arrested for their collusion, will simply ensure ongoing monopolistic pricing practices that have healthcare at 18% of GDP.  And growing at 10% per year.

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Posts: 1396
Obama's last days

Ron Paul is also noticing confrontational acts aimed at Russia from the Obama administration in its last week in office. 

Not Just Poland: US Marines Deployed to Norway

Poland is not the only European country into which United States military forces are being inserted in the final days of the Obama administration. On Monday, about 300 Marines arrived in Norway. Reuters reports that the Marines, who will be the first foreign troops stationed in Norway since World War II, will be stationed at Norway’s Vaernes military base about 900 miles from the Russian border.

I went to bed last night wondering if Obama's team still had enough time to precipitate a war with Russia and awakened to find gold spiking.  Maybe someone else was worried about this too?

-----------------------------

Charles Hugh Smith writes about the 2 groups that are apoplectic with all things Trump:

1.  The liberal progressive community, and,

2.  The "Eastern Establishment" (Washington DC, NY, Harvard, Yale, CIA and the Deep State Cronies).

CHS doesn't expand on specifics in this essay, but points out that "the establishment" has a lot to lose should their skims and scams be disrupted.  They hold the social roll of gatekeeper / toll-collector enabling them to siphon off wealth from the productive.  Trump threatens their grip.  They are not happy.

This "Eastern Establishment" also owns the MSM.  Thus the evidence-free efforts to link Trump with Current Bogeyman Numero Uno (Mr. Putin) continues.  It is no wonder that Trump wishes to bypass the MSM, and remove them from close access to the presidency.  They ARE the opposition party.

The brilliant strategists of the "Eastern Establishment" will encourage the angst and outrage of the liberal progressive community in an alliance to oppose Trump.  For humanitarian purposes.  Alas, the beautiful and kind-hearted GREEN Meme doesn't usually catch on that compassion can be used as a handle-for-manipulation in the Game of Thrones by those whose goals are actually power and profit.

-----------

Mish points out that Merkel's Human rights speaker, Erika Steinbach, resigned today over immigration policy.

Steinbach went further, accusing the government of deliberately promoting illegal migration.

“At the Federal Office for Migration, thousands of thousands of passports have been identified as counterfeit, without the legal consequences for the respective migrants being drawn. There is a political will behind it.”

Who is it that seeks to flood Germany with migrants?  What goals does that serve?

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Big Government / Small Government

I will reinforce what DaveF just said about Crony Capitalism.  This is my understanding too.

The oligarchy can centralize control in both ways:  by moving towards Big Government or towards Small Government

1.  Big government increases oligarchic control by regulatory capture.   This includes regulation over such laudable issues as ensuring quality, public safety, fairness and non-discrimination.

2.  Small government increases the control of the oligarchy through mergers, acquisitions, monopolies (and dirty tricks).  For example, when General Motors, Standard Oil and Firestone Tire & Rubber buy up the right-of-way for the LA trolley lines for the purpose of shutting them down.  Or when a conglomerate buys up all the smaller independent newspapers giving it a high degree of control over the public discourse.  Or when a large hospital purchases a smaller competing hospital for the purpose of closing it creating a monopoly.  Or when market-forces push unemployed inner city youth into military service.

Increasing the oligarchy's control through "free markets" has been called Neo-Liberalism.

3.  And then there are the awesome combination control structures blending both Big and Small Government such as the war on drugs.   The public is protected from harmful street drugs by the DEA's multi-billion dollar war on drugs.  This produces floods of inner city youth criminals which fill the for-profit prisons which are funded by the taxpayers to protect the public.  It also keeps drug prices high so that CIA / organized-crime joint operations remain fantastically profitable and can be used to fund unauthorized, covert paramilitary operations (such as staging coups and assassinations) to promote freedom and protect the public.

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
Status: Diamond Member (Online)
Joined: Apr 13 2011
Posts: 1396
Big Government / Small Government

I will reinforce what DaveF just said about Crony Capitalism.  This is my understanding too.

The oligarchy can centralize control in both ways:  by moving towards Big Government or towards Small Government

1.  Big government increases oligarchic control by regulatory capture.   This includes regulation over such laudable issues as ensuring quality, public safety, fairness and non-discrimination.

2.  Small government increases the control of the oligarchy through mergers, acquisitions, monopolies (and dirty tricks).  For example, when General Motors, Standard Oil and Firestone Tire & Rubber buy up the right-of-way for the LA trolley lines for the purpose of shutting them down.  Or when a conglomerate buys up all the smaller independent newspapers giving it a high degree of control over the public discourse.  Or when a large hospital purchases a smaller competing hospital for the purpose of closing it creating a monopoly.  Or when market-forces push unemployed inner city youth into military service.

Increasing the oligarchy's control through "free markets" has been called Neo-Liberalism.

3.  And then there are the awesome combination control structures blending both Big and Small Government such as the war on drugs.   The public is protected from harmful street drugs by the DEA's multi-billion dollar war on drugs.  This produces floods of inner city youth criminals which fill the for-profit prisons which are funded by the taxpayers to protect the public.  It also keeps drug prices high so that CIA / organized-crime joint operations remain fantastically profitable and can be used to fund unauthorized, covert paramilitary operations (such as staging coups and assassinations) to promote freedom and protect the public.

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Michael_Rudmin
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CIA MLK DJT and more

I still suggest people should watch Netflix' "14th", closing their eyes as appropriate.

Now, that said:

Just a thought: MLK was heavily investigated and tailed by the FBI and CIA, with definite ties to the KKK. Then he was shot. Malcolm X, same story. Many other PEACEFUL activists, same story. JFK, arguably same story (the KKK also hated the Irish).

Now, the FBI and CIA have been in control of the mainstream media for some time, since Reagan at least. And they have been coming out against Trump the same way, perhaps this time because they percieve a threat to their power.

More than that, the mainstream media, ignoring things like Trump's civil rights support, and awards were pushing for MLK's heirs to come out against Trump; MLK's heirs have been saying "nonsense, we VOTED for the guy."

So I'm getting to the point where I'm starting to think FBI/CIA ~ KKK ~ deep state.

My level of disgust with them is extreme.

I hope I'm wrong.

Time2help's picture
Time2help
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16 years later and...

...the Overton window has definitely shifted.

Bonus: Anti-drone surface-to-air missile system deployed at Standing Rock...

https://twitter.com/_Native_Life/status/821349842354077696/photo/1?ref_s...

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Hotrod
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Posts: 158
The Skimming and Scamming Economy

I believe it is appropriate to assume that most every government action is orchestrated behind the scenes.  What you see as debate is simply window dressing.  The recent vote on importing Canadian drugs is a perfect example.  Just enough Democrats voted against, and just enough Republicans voted for the bill to make it look like a "bipartisan" action.  It was all a show for our benefit. Spread the temporary anger around until it dies down and continue to allow concentrated industry to harvest the massive profits from the populace. 

The ACA was the only healthcare reform that could get through Congress because it continued and extended the ability of insurance and pharma pigs to feed at the trough.  What it did for the people was  of minor consideration. The ACA is horribly flawed, but may have been the only possible legislation to come out of a corrupt Congress. Don't hold your breath waiting for a better alternative.

In a true free market there would be many willing buyers, many willing sellers, and equal access to accurate information.  NONE OF WHICH CURRENTLY EXIST.  Dave F is exactly correct, trying to institute a free market without breaking up the cartels would lead the sheep directly to the slaughter. 

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Waterdog14
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Posts: 104
Health care in Intentional Communities

A permaculture website recently had an interesting discussion of health care in intentional communities.

https://permies.com/t/54650/communities-tackle-problems-arising-medical

Eventually we will all need to take personal responsibility for our own health.  It may not be easy to break our additions to sugar, processed foods, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and other "inputs" that harm our health.  But we cannot depend on any outside entity (government, insurance company, pharmaceutical company) to ensure our health.  We can, however, band together and help each other maintain (or obtain) health through eating, exercise, mental support. 

Quote:
Joseph Lofthouse

So after invoking David Holmgren the other day, I thought that I'd visit his web site and grab a quote: "By adopting the ethics and applying these principles in our daily life we can make the transition from being dependent consumers to becoming responsible producers."

So what would that look like in the context of medical care? Perhaps something like this, "By adopting the ethics and applying these principles in our daily life we can make the transition from being dependent consumers of medical insurance to becoming responsible healers in our own lives, in our families, and in our communities."

So how about it?  Are you producers of health care or consumers?

Although I don't currently live in an Intentional Community, I live in very small city where many of us are working toward resiliency.  If and when the current SickCareIndustry breaks down, I hope to be ready with an alternative which includes healthy local food.  It's do or die time. 

Waterdog14's picture
Waterdog14
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 18 2014
Posts: 104
Health care in Intentional Communities

A permaculture website recently had an interesting discussion of health care in intentional communities.

https://permies.com/t/54650/communities-tackle-problems-arising-medical

Eventually we will all need to take personal responsibility for our own health.  It may not be easy to break our additions to sugar, processed foods, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and other "inputs" that harm our health.  But we cannot depend on any outside entity (government, insurance company, pharmaceutical company) to ensure our health.  We can, however, band together and help each other maintain (or obtain) health through eating, exercise, mental support. 

Quote:
Joseph Lofthouse

So after invoking David Holmgren the other day, I thought that I'd visit his web site and grab a quote: "By adopting the ethics and applying these principles in our daily life we can make the transition from being dependent consumers to becoming responsible producers."

So what would that look like in the context of medical care? Perhaps something like this, "By adopting the ethics and applying these principles in our daily life we can make the transition from being dependent consumers of medical insurance to becoming responsible healers in our own lives, in our families, and in our communities."

So how about it?  Are you producers of health care or consumers?

Although I don't currently live in an Intentional Community, I live in very small city where many of us are working toward resiliency.  If and when the current SickCareIndustry breaks down, I hope to be ready with an alternative which includes healthy local food.  It's do or die time. 

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Snydeman
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Posts: 306
Just when I think

Just when I think I can't possibly get angier, there goes the world making me angrier-er. The second-lowest paid CEO in those pictures makes more in a day than I do in a year. They will make more in a year than I will in my lifetime. I'm not sure I have an explicative strong enough to even cover my response to such inequity.

I agree with DaveF and Sand_puppy: free-market capitalism only works if the system is free of collusion and political bribery. If you look back at history, too, you'll find that the word "works" was also greatly dependent on which class you were in, which industry you were in, etc. A rising tide rarely lifts all boats equally, or at all.

rhare's picture
rhare
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Posts: 1308
davefairtex wrote: Crony

davefairtex wrote:

Crony capitalism is the logical endpoint of capitalism.

I disagree, it's the endpoint of government/capitalism collusion, and you agree:

davefairtex wrote:

A company with a great product that ends up dominating its market segment will gradually realize that investment dollars that might be spent keeping ahead of the competition would have a better ROI if spent stifling competition, rewriting regulation to its own benefit by bribing politicans, buying up potential competitors, and ultimately colluding with the other big players to fix prices at a mutually high-and-profitable level.

This is common sense.  Its also borne out by real world experience.

Notice you went from capitalism to government intervention.   Without government to squash smaller players, whether that be via laws (including patent/copyright), regulations, direct financial support, or monetary system manipulation, large players would face competition. 

davefairtex wrote:

1) prevent companies from having "too much" of a given market.  centralization of money = centralization of power = direct threat to democracy.  Fewer players = collusion on prices becomes vastly easier.  More players = collusion becomes much harder.

2) remove money from politics - eliminating bribery.

3) forbid politicians or people who have served in government from then serving in the companies they regulated - eliminating ex post facto bribery.

You can never eliminate any of these - that's human nature.  Just accept that it's going to happen, but you can eliminate money from politics by removing the ability for governments to steal via violence.  Governments should operate like charitable foundations, total voluntary contributions.  Don't like what one is doing, don't give it money.  If a govenment can't steal, then #3 becomes a non-issue as well since the only reason to do so is because you can funnel of tax money or enforce policies against competition.

davefairtex wrote:

The worst possible outcome, given the cartels now in place in most industries, is to deregulate a market that is dominated by only a couple of monster players who completely control Congress via campaign contributions as well as revolving-door rewards after "public service."

would ONLY be in favor of a "free market" (deregulation-oriented) solution if the cartels were first broken up, if money was removed from politics, and if the revolving door was closed.

Until then, a single payer solution is our only hope for healthcare.

Large companies don't survive long with true competition.  For those who think they will, just look at the list of largest companies throughout history,  Really, a nice single payer system brought to you by the same people who brought you the same mess we have now? Because they've done such a good job?  Since when has hading a single payor ever provided better support, oh I see we are getting great deals on military hardware. :-) Also, are you really sure you want someone in charge of your decisions about your body and what you can do with it?

davefairtex wrote:

So all you "free market" proponents - if you want your plan to have a chance, focus on breaking up the cartels and getting money out of politics.  Any "free market" approach that leaves the cartels intact, and thus able to easily collude on prices, and also leaves their channels for bribery in place so they don't get arrested for their collusion, will simply ensure ongoing monopolistic pricing practices that have healthcare at 18% of GDP.  And growing at 10% per year.

If you really take money out of politics, ie, get rid of forced taxation, the bribery issue no longer exists.  The problem is most people think more regulation is the way to solve the problem, which is exactly what got us here.  Time to really try a different narrative.  We don't need rulers.  We need leaders and there is a difference, a leader you will follow and donate to voluntarily, a ruler requires force.

thc0655's picture
thc0655
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Posts: 1293
Properly identifying the enemy of the people

http://www.vocativ.com/390175/liberal-preppers-stock-up-on-guns-food/

Ok, I think liberals becoming afraid of the government and becoming "preppers" is progress.  Now if we can just convince the liberals and conservatives that the enemy is not the liberals and conservatives, but the government, the Federal Reserve, and the Deep State, then we'll firing on all cylinders.

Colin Waugh bought a shotgun four weeks before November’s election.

An unapologetic liberal, he was no fan of firearms. He had never owned one before. But Waugh, a 31-year-old from Independence, Missouri, couldn’t shake his fears of a Donald Trump presidency — and all of the chaos it could bring. He imagined hate crimes and violence waged by extremists emboldened by the Republican nominee’s brash, divisive rhetoric. He pictured state-sanctioned roundups of Muslims, gays, and outspoken critics.  [So far, all we're getting is violence by the left.]

“I kept asking myself, ‘Do I want to live under tyranny?'” said Waugh, who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and later backed Hillary Clinton. “The answer was absolutely not.”

With Trump now days away from assuming the White House, Waugh’s preparing for the worst. He’s made “bug-out bags” stuffed with ammo, energy bars, and assorted survival gear for his wife and their three cats. He’s begun stowing water and browsing real estate listings in Gunnison County, Colorado, which he’s determined to be a “liberal safe-haven.” Last month, Waugh added a 9mm handgun to his arsenal.

His advice to others on the left fearful of the next four years? “Get ready. Pay attention. Keep your wits about you...” 

Even as Letos and other liberals brace for bedlam, some longtime preppers worry that others in the movement have let their guard down. Michael Snyder, author of The Economic Collapse blog, recently warned against those on the right who seemed overly optimistic about a Trump presidency. “Everyone is feeling so good about things, very few people still seem interested in prepping for hard times ahead,” he wrote, raising the specter of financial instability in Europe and a potential trade war with China. “It is almost as if the apocalypse has been canceled and the future history of the U.S. has been rewritten with a much happier ending.”

For Waugh and his liberal peers, the apocalypse may have just begun. “Fear is an unfortunate catalyst for a lot of folks,” he said. “But there are still too many caught up in the idea that the system is infallible and that it will persevere and prevail.”

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Posts: 1396
Trump vs The Deep State

I imagine the captain on the bridge of a massive oil tanker yelling "STOP!" 

No such luck.  The tanker carries momentum. Lots and lots of momentum.  It takes most of a day  cruising in large circles to bleed off the momentum of the hundred thousand ton behemoth.

Similarly, Trump takes office opposed to several entrenched elements of the deep state, including the CIA, a group that kills people and stages coups professionally.  This has the potential to degenerate.

James Howard Kunstler wonders how Civil War 2 will play out.  What is left in the CIA bag of tricks?

I dunno about you, but I rather enjoy watching the praetorian Deep State go batshit crazy as the day of Trump’s apotheosis approacheth. I imagine a lot of men and women running down the halls of Langley and the Pentagon and a hundred other secret operational redoubts with their hair on fire, wondering how on earth they can neutralize the fucker in the four days remaining.

What’s left in their trick-bag? Bake a poison cheesecake for the inaugural lunch? CIA Chief John Brennan has been reduced to blowing raspberries at the incoming president. Maybe some code cowboys In the Utah NSA fortress can find a way to crash all the markets on Friday as an inauguration present. What does it take? A few strategic HFT spoofs? There will be lots of police sharpshooters on the DC rooftops that day. What might go wrong?

... There’s not much Trump can do until Friday noon except tweet out his tweets, but one can’t help but wonder what the Deep State can do after that magic moment passes. I’ve maintained for nearly a year that, if elected, Trump would be removed by a coup d’état within sixty days of assuming office. ...

Perhaps it befits this particular Deep State to go down in the manner of an opéra bouffe. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, old Karl Marx observed. What does the Union stand for this time? The rights of former SEC employees to sell their services to CitiBank? The rights of competing pharma companies to jack the price of insulin up from $20 to $250 a vial? The rights of DIA subcontractors to sell Semtex plastic explosives to the “moderate” jihadis of the Middle East?

...

I guess the big question is whether the Deep State... will tear the country apart in the attempt to defend all its ill-gotten perquisites and privileges. The public at large is restive, eager to get on with the job of deconstructing the matrix of racketeering that adds up to the immiserating culture we live in, a society where health insurance company presidents make $40 million a year while ordinary people lose their homes because a $5,000-deductible health insurance policy doesn’t cover the cost of treating a routine tonsillectomy.

I didn’t vote for the Cheeto-head sonofabitch, but it will be interesting to see what he does between noon and six p.m. Friday, if he survives the festivities.

Snydeman's picture
Snydeman
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Worst case scenario

Would be something akin to this:

Woe unto us if that is the Deep State's solution.

davefairtex's picture
davefairtex
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historical success required

rhare-

Governments should operate like charitable foundations, total voluntary contributions.  Don't like what one is doing, don't give it money.  If a govenment can't steal, then #3 becomes a non-issue as well since the only reason to do so is because you can funnel of tax money or enforce policies against competition.

I insist that an acceptable solution be selected from the group of "things people have tried before."  Furthermore, I insist that the trial must have been successful.  I'm simply not interested in gambling on unproven theories of "what would be simply wonderful if we only tried it."  Communism was like that.  It ended up being a poor choice for a whole lot of people who had to endure a lot of crap for decades.  I suspect the whole libertarian model would also end up on the ash heap of history, but I'll let someone else take the risk.

So, since you don't have an example of where such a thing has worked out well in the past, I'll pick something less revolutionary that has actually worked elsewhere.  Lots of countries have implemented a single payer healthcare system and they have better outcomes and lower expenditures than us.  I don't require perfection.  Good enough will do.

The libertarian solution would either be a fantastic success, or it would be a catastrophe.  Given it hasn't been tried before, my money is solidly on "catastrophe".  I can virtually guarantee there's something wrong with the theory of operation, but until the theory is tried in the real world, I have no idea which of the parts would end up failing.  Furthermore, I'm happy to let someone else pay the costs for experimentation.

With the already-tried-by-someone-else single payer system, we could cut our costs in half, and increase our outcomes all at the same time.  Boy, would the healthcare stocks suffer though.  Winners and losers, nothing comes for free.

You know, Thailand has a basic, government-run healthcare system running right alongside a vast collection of private hospitals, all of which offer varying levels of service with all sorts of price points.  Its a total free market.  You're telling me they can do it, but we can't?

All the arguments against such a system are, I believe, entirely about keeping the obscene profits in the healthcare industry.  There really are better ways - that have actually been tried other places, and have proven satisfactory.

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rhare
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A recipe for more of the same.

davefairtex wrote:

I insist that an acceptable solution be selected from the group of "things people have tried before."  Furthermore, I insist that the trial must have been successful.  

That not how you get a new narrative, that's how you get more of the same.

As far as all these great places that have this socialized healthcare, show me one that is not running large deficits?  Sure looks good until it blows up.

We are bankrupt and living way way beyond our means in this country (as well as most of the world).  In the not too distant future we are going to be forced to make very hard tradeoffs.  Medical care will be one of those.  I certainly would prefer  patients make those choices than some bureaucrat who has no skin in the game.

But beyond all that, the problem is I find it morally wrong to use violence to force others to comply with any system.  If it's so great then it will work if it's voluntary.  You want this great shared healthcare, then you can participate, put your money into it, but when you have to use violence to force those who disagree with you to participate, how great is it really?

As for examples of things that work, look at any successful charity or small business.  Are you forced to give or do business with them?  No, they succeed only by voluntarily interactions.  They provide a service at a price that those giving or buying find fair.  Why is it healthcare has to be forced, something as important as healthcare should certainly be in demand.  Perhaps because when it's forced you can provide $5 of healthcare and charge $1000!

davefairtex's picture
davefairtex
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more of the same

rhare-

That not how you get a new narrative, that's how you get more of the same.

As far as all these great places that have this socialized healthcare, show me one that is not running large deficits?  Sure looks good until it blows up.

Definitely, I'd prefer more of the same thing that has worked passably well elsewhere, rather than trying something new that will almost certainly go horribly wrong in ways we can't anticipate because we've never tried it before.

My suggestion: you guys go off and try it on a small scale somewhere first.  Its called prototyping.  (Of course, communes work great on a small scale, so that's perhaps not the perfect test).  Regardless, I don't think the first shot out of the gate should be on 320 million people.

If you've ever rolled out a never-been-tried-before software system, you would know they are typically chock full of unanticipated issues.  That's why we have "beta" tests with small communities - so we don't blow up the lives of millions of customers because we arrogantly believe we couldn't possibly have done anything wrong.

Currently, we're spending 18% of GDP on healthcare.  A large-ish number of other places, with socialized healthcare, spend half that much, and get better outcomes.  Why not just clone what they do and deploy it here?  Seems like it would lead to an immediate 9% savings.

One thing about great software engineers is that they're incredibly lazy.  Instead of rolling a new system from scratch, they steal what works from other places, modify it a little bit, and then deploy. 

But beyond all that, the problem is I find it morally wrong to use violence to force others to comply with any system.  If it's so great then it will work if it's voluntary.  You want this great shared healthcare, then you can participate, put your money into it, but when you have to use violence to force those who disagree with you to participate, how great is it really?

I encourage you to go prototype your moral society, and then come back in 10 years and tell me how it went.  Being the lazy engineer, if it works great, I'll be totally behind your efforts to get it deployed.

UNTIL it has been shown to work well...I'm just not interested.  That's the other side of that coin.

rhare's picture
rhare
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Laziness or how to be a perfect sheeple

davefairtex wrote:

My suggestion: you guys go off and try it on a small scale somewhere first.  Its called prototyping.

I would love to go off and try it, but oh wait, I can't because I'm forced to join your solution.  You seem to have missed the point.

davefairtex's picture
davefairtex
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chained to the CONUS?

I'm really sad to hear that you have been chained to the Continental US by some dastardly person and so you have no option but to stay here and suffer.

I don't think anyone has ever called me a sheeple before, but there's always a first time.  Is that better or worse than being a shill for the bankers?

I notice that people only tend to engage in name-calling when they run out of more substantive things to say.  I take it from that, we're done here.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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Mennonite beliefs insurance

The conservatives self insure,,, the liberals use the Corinthian plan which is a sorta self moderated aca approved group. rhare has an experiment that has been going for years.

Snydeman's picture
Snydeman
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Posts: 306
I'd like to know...

...what "golden age" of laissez-faire capitalism and economic growth the people who say things like "Make America Great Again" or "back in the golden years" are referring to. Yes, the 50s and 60s were economically awesome for the United States, but even that story isn't without its darker sides, and our prosperity seems to have had more to do with our postwar economic position of dominance coupled with the era of cheap and easily accessible energy supplies rather than some inherent "greatness" of our people or our system. There seems to be only one way to get back to that level of prosperity, and all the numbers on oil/nat gas/coal supplies indicate it just isn't going to happen. The "Golden Age" came from the Black Gold, and that Black Gold is going, going...gone.

Regarding free-market solutions to every problem, if one looks at historical records, including the writings by (usually interviews of) members of the working classes, it is clear that whether laissez-faire capitalism "worked" greatly depended on who you were, what class you belonged in, what nation you found yourself a citizen of - oh, wait, most of the little people didn't have a say in their societies until late in the industrial game - what family you were born into, etc. Yes, the Rockefellers, Morgans, Carnegies and Krupps of the world thought it was spec-freaking-tacular, but I'm not sure all of the millions of working class people felt the same. They definitely did not profit near as much. There are also enough historical, economic, and sociology studies that show that wealthy elite families tend to stay wealthy and elite (even despite less-than-capable offspring), to show the notion that a free market of individuals will always reward the capable and punish the inept is dubious at best. One doesn't need to read too deeply in history to discover the abuse that the wealthy and powerful put down on the rest of society, if limits to that abuse aren't encoded in communal law somehow. So, I'm doubtful that complete individual freedom and a completely unregulated market will actually solve our healthcare issues, because it hasn't ever solved any issue without also creating inequities (often massive ones) at the same time. 

By the same token, I'm not fond of complete and unfettered government regulation and interference in the marketplace either. Government tends to act with a heavy hand that is unresponsive to local community needs and conditions, however well-intentioned the actions of the government may be, and the larger and more complex the government the worse it gets. ACA is a fine example - do we really need laws that are hundreds of pages long? Where companies need to have full-time lawyers who can decipher all of the stipulations, restrictions, regulations, conditions, etc? Where people signing up aren't often certain of what they are signing up for? Where someone's premiums go up by 61% in a single year? Clearly government intervention in this case hasn't worked. I suspect it may be either that the system is too overly complex, or too warped by political considerations and lobbying, to be expected to work at all. History is pretty clear that systems based on complete government control of the economy don't work any better than ones based on unregulated free markets either, so having the government control every aspect of healthcare probably isn't the answer either. So there has to be a middle ground between government utilizing its power to insure the markets aren't abused and dominated by a few on one side, and governments allowing the market to operate freely on the other. The catch is where that sweet spot is.

As for single-payer systems - and I'm walking on less solid ground when I say this, since it isn't my area of expertise - my sense of what I know about the nations that have them is that their budget deficits have less to do with the costs of healthcare in those nations than they do with the costs of other social welfare programs and systems; such as extended holiday allowances, low retirement ages with high retirement benefits, and immigrant/migrant benefits, among others. In our case, the reasons we are in a budget crunch certainly can not be simply chalked up to welfare/medicare/medicaid without also giving a bit of a nod to defense spending, which by any measure is just insane. 

Overall, it seems to me that a core issue is not whether a government should tax its citizens - look, you're paying for membership in the community - so much as it is whether the citizens should have a say in, and control over, where those taxes go and what they are spent on. We are a communal species that survives and thrives as a group. There have always been "taxes," although these were not usually "economic" in nature so much as they were social obligations and community obligations one was expected to adhere to as part of being in that community. These have always been the cost of belonging to a tribe or a village, but such obligations were bilateral and designed to provide for the well-being of everyone in the community. This would explain why most Germans don't seem to complain about being taxed around 60% of their income, since most Germans seem content with a system that so obviously provides so many services cheaply and in such a transparent manner (For reference, I lived in Germany as an exchange student for a year, have been back many times, and still have many contacts in Germany with whom I discuss these kinds of things).  

In any case, I'd be fine paying for a national single-pay system if it was transparent, simple, and benefited the many rather than the few, which is what it seems to be doing right now. I'm tired of getting a cucumber while a small few other monkeys get a bag of grapes. I mean, the CEO of my healthcare provider  makes more in a DAY than I do in a YEAR. That's f'ked up.

Uncletommy's picture
Uncletommy
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Posts: 324
Colo care?

How can I sign up for her plan? Seemed to work for her.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/colo-oldest-gorilla-in-u-s-celebrates-60th-birthday/

RoseHip's picture
RoseHip
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Posts: 143
Dave

Dave, I don't think name calling is what just transpired, you are important contributor here and for you to understand is very important. Let me try and explain and if I'm way off, someone please let me know.

This system we have currently have has been corrupted at every stage, yet not corrupted in a traditional sense, like follow the facts and numbers then zoom in and you have a bad apple acting poorly, separate them out and healing occurs. More like the system is the bad apple, only suggestions of idea that the bad apple thinks are good are moved to the front of the line. Which means you won't be able to query the systems in traditional terms, like you suggest.  

Dave, simply put the systems and life itself has been habituated. So anything that gets run thru their gears get directly influenced by this habituation leaving it's habitual growth effects upon the potential outcomes. Thus Rhare is forced to join your solution, I didn't take that as an expression of being a victim more like a definite reality. Anything Rhare or anyone else bring back with be subjected to this habituation and rejected immediately. It isn't possible for it to be recognized, for it to be recognized means the end results will have to have a positive feedback loop of negative returns. 

Said another way, there is a time to do right and a time to do wrong. We've fallen into a trap of always trying to do right, thus we've lost the ability to discern right vs wrong cause there is no contrast. It would be like trying to make out the defined edges of a building in a room with only extreme light and no darkness. Confucius said The most difficult thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat. 

To contextualize this idea for you, all healthcare ideas must make profits! End of discussion! So if someone proposes an idea that actually works for the majority, yet it doesn't make money the idea can not and will not gain support. The system will collapse it. Apply this same situation to any aspect of the economy. You'll get the same results...The only possible outcome for our money economy is more scarcity and that scares me. 

Christopher H's picture
Christopher H
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Posts: 136
Is profit only monetary?

First off, RoseHip, I found this part of your passage to be incredibly insightful, especially in light of the recent visit by Shaun Chamberlin to Chris's podcast:

"Said another way, there is a time to do right and a time to do wrong. We've fallen into a trap of always trying to do right, thus we've lost the ability to discern right vs wrong cause there is no contrast. It would be like trying to make out the defined edges of a building in a room with only extreme light and no darkness. Confucius said The most difficult thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat."

And I do agree with this as well:

"To contextualize this idea for you, all healthcare ideas must make profits! End of discussion!"

But this is where we begin to part ways:

So if someone proposes an idea that actually works for the majority, yet it doesn't make money the idea can not and will not gain support. The system will collapse it. Apply this same situation to any aspect of the economy. You'll get the same results...The only possible outcome for our money economy is more scarcity and that scares me.

I actually find anything that promotes a greater role for our money economy to scare me, because our financial capital has squeezed out or destroyed our social, living, spiritual and cultural capital while perverting our material, intellectual and experiential capital to its own ends.  It's a concrete, living example of Gresham's Law, where the bad (capital) drives out the good.  I'm drawing here on both the work of Ethan Roland and Gregory Landau (The Eight Forms of Capital) and David Fleming in Lean Logic.

Does our current health care model depend upon financial profits, almost single-mindedly so.  But I believe that is part of its problem.  Just as a high-functioning ecosystem relies upon a diverse polyculture that allows every niche to be occupied by the elements best suited to fill it, a high-functioning economy allows all these diverse forms of capital to occupy their rightful place.  What we have now, however, is an economic monoculture -- the equivalent of an endless field of soy or corn in which the farmer is constantly battling declining soil fertility and increased pest pressure.  He fights against these forces, incorrectly seeing them as the problems, when in reality they are just symptoms of the problems endemic to the structure of the system itself.  Those problems cannot be resolved without abandoning the existing model, and instead embracing one that allows elements to occupy every niche and best perform their allotted function.

A more effective health care system would capitalize on all of these diverse forms of capital, starting at the lowest nested levels of organization (the village, town and county).  It might not do the same job of staving off the symptoms of dis-ease endemic within our unbalanced industrial society, but I think it might actually do a better job of promoting overall health.  But right now we're stuck arguing about government-managed vs. corporate-managed, like the farmer looking over his monoculture of soy or corn.  We fail to realize that both of these are only addressing the symptom instead of getting at the root.  And that root is that we are a decidedly sick society, increasingly devoid of deep human interaction -- in short, what recent guest Shaun Chamberlin characterized as a culture not of death, but of undeath.

I realize that this is slightly rambling and devoid of specifics on how to "fix" anything.  But I cannot help but see these kinds of discussions through the lens of arguing about the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin while the ground is opening up under our feet.  A large cause of that is that we have forgotten the Biblical admonition that the root of all evil is the love of money, and ours is certainly a culture fully enthralled with it.

Uncletommy's picture
Uncletommy
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Posts: 324
Who pays?

But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, 'Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.' Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?" (my italics)

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Realist123456
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Posts: 1
ACA

Interesting read.

Not being from the US, I've heard about the ACA but never understood what all the fuss and objections were about.

I presumed it was just Republicans doing their thing and opposing anything Obama did.

I'm sure there was an element of that.

But it's opened my eyes as to why people are upset with it. 

You'd think the Obama administration would have done a deal that benefited "The People" but I guess between powerful lobbyists and political obstructionism it all got derailed. 

I cant imagine that anyone who wants to leave this as his legacy would have deliberately set out to screw over as many people as he could.

And I thought my paying a couple of grand a year for top health cover was being ripped off. 

Here, the government provides free health care to everyone but you have to go on a waiting list (unless urgent) and also it's a strain on the federal budget. Not overwhelming but not inconsequential either. So that's why people such as myself who can afford it are encouraged to go with private insurance. 

That way you know you can get instant treatment (important if you're self employed and cant afford to sit around on a wait list), you get 100% of hospital costs back, choose your own doctor, private room etc.

The government also negotiates the cost of pharmaceuticals so they don't get out of control and subsidises high cost ones so that they are (relatively) affordable. Again at taxpayer cost which is why the pharma industry is held on a bit of a tight leash.

All in all, a better experience from the sound of it.

I gather that our politicians aren't as deeply in the pocket of big pharma as yours.

I can see why America has chosen Trump.

I hope he delivers for you.

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Waterdog14
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Posts: 104
Liberal Preppers - Look Before You Leap

Wow!  Thc's comment got my attention!

thc0655 wrote:

http://www.vocativ.com/390175/liberal-preppers-stock-up-on-guns-food/

Ok, I think liberals becoming afraid of the government and becoming "preppers" is progress.  Now if we can just convince the liberals and conservatives that the enemy is not the liberals and conservatives, but the government, the Federal Reserve, and the Deep State, then we'll firing on all cylinders.

Add CORPORATIONS to the list of enemies.  It's difficult to separate the federal government from corporations these days, since corporations (through ALEC, etc) write most of the laws that our police state enforces.  The state has a monopoly on violence, which is used to suppress and oppress its citizens while protecting the money and property of the wealthy and the state above all else. 

Why don't we see that?  Because pitting citizens against each other (liberals vs. conservatives, white vs. black, middle class vs. poor) has been very effective in diverting us from understanding who the real enemies are.

As for the "Liberal Preppers" - many liberals such as myself have been preparing for economic and environmental collapse in our own way.  It may or may not involve guns.  It certainly involves building community, energy independence, health, and food production.    Which is why this part of Thc's comment really got my attention:

Quote:

Colin Waugh bought a shotgun four weeks before November’s election.

An unapologetic liberal, he was no fan of firearms. He had never owned one before. But Waugh, a 31-year-old from Independence, Missouri, couldn’t shake his fears of a Donald Trump presidency — and all of the chaos it could bring. He imagined hate crimes and violence waged by extremists emboldened by the Republican nominee’s brash, divisive rhetoric. He pictured state-sanctioned roundups of Muslims, gays, and outspoken critics...

With Trump now days away from assuming the White House, Waugh’s preparing for the worst. He’s made “bug-out bags” stuffed with ammo, energy bars, and assorted survival gear for his wife and their three cats. He’s begun stowing water and browsing real estate listings in Gunnison County, Colorado, which he’s determined to be a “liberal safe-haven.” Last month, Waugh added a 9mm handgun to his arsenal...

"Oh crap," I thought, "he's moving where?"  I often read about other PPers and permaculturists' successes with homesteads and gardens and low-energy lifestyles, and I wonder whether my choice to live in Zone 3 is wise.  Our average January low temperature is -8 deg F in Gunnison.  (It was a typical -4 degrees this morning and we've got 3 feet of snow piled up on the ground.)  Will our wood stoves keep us warm if there's no gasoline to run chain saws?  Can we teach each other how to preserve enough food to survive with a 62-day frost-free growing season?  What is the carrying capacity of this valley?  We've got 15,000 people in the county, how many of us can survive here in a post-industrial society?   What happens when the truck stop running?  The quality of life is great here now, but how many of us can survive this harsh mountain environment without the conveniences brought in by cheap energy?

Incidentally, I'm getting more and more "nodding heads" when I bring up the concepts of cheap energy and "if the trucks stop running" in polite conversation.  It's time to turn those nodding heads into action.

Ok, gotta go to a meeting about building a Collaborative Community Commercial Kitchen, now....   

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