Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Category Archives: Health Care

400,000 Brain-Injured Veterans a Fair Price for American Empire

Bush and veteran burn victim

In addition to the trillion dollar price tag, 600,000+ dead civilians, 1 million orphans and 6,100 dead American soldiers, we can now add 400,000 brain-injured veterans to the cost of our latest wars of aggression:

 Independent experts suggest that more than 400,000 American service members will return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries that could lead to severe personality disorders, and little is being done to help them.

Having wasted countless billions – trillions, in all likelihood – on our five concurrent wars and exposed hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to the dangers of the battlefield, our gifted military leaders have identified the true culprit behind our reckless spending:  health care for soldiers.

Afflicted veterans have every reason to expect their government to continue to treat them as expendable waste, as the Pentagon actively opposes formal diagnoses of the condition, known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and denies the validity of treatment that its own researchers have said could help. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for a cut in the military’s $50-billion-a-year health budget, saying “health care costs are eating the Defense Department alive,” according to a Huffington Post article in January.

And that in a nutshell is the very essence of American empire.  Exploit the little guys for all they’re worth, using them in any way necessary to reap maximum profits.  Because war is, after all, little more than a business venture for the giant corporate entities within the military-industrial complex.  Just as the private sector throughout America has little interest in providing health care for the workers it underpays and overworks, so too does our for-profit military increase it profits for its shareholders by cutting corners on such luxuries as medical care for the severely wounded.

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Adventures in Modern Capitalism: Man Robs Bank of $1 to Obtain Prison Health Care

James Verone robs bank for health care

The only surprising thing about this incident is that it hasn’t happened more often:

Uninsured Man Robs Bank of $1 to Gain Prison Medical Coverage

A North Carolina man who had no health insurance has admitted to recently robbing a bank of one dollar in order to be sent to jail to get free medical coverage. James Verone, a laid-off employee of Coca Cola, recently noticed a protrusion in his chest and had developed arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Without health insurance or money for private care, Verone concluded his best option would be to go to prison. Verone told a local newspaper, “The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept. I kind of hit a brick wall with everything.” Since being held in jail he has seen several nurses and has an appointment with a doctor Friday.

The story communicates much about our society.  A giant, multinational, multi-billion dollar corporation laid off an employee, leaving him without income and without access to medical care.  Verone was then sentenced to prison for stealing $1 from a bank, an ironic development considering that banks prosper by stealing money from people in any way they can.  As an ordinary law-abiding citizen Verone was not afforded the access to health care, but somehow criminals are deemed worthy of this most basic of human rights.

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FDR’s Second Bill of Rights: Nearly 70 Years On, Still Exactly What We Need

It’s rather shocking to think just how much we’ve devolved socially in the 67 years since FDR first proposed his Second Bill of Rights:

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

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Massive Protests in Spain Offer Lessons to U.S. Leftist Movement

anti-austerity protests in Spain

As 1 million people turn out for the Stanley Cup parade in Boston, hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across Europe to decry proposed austerity measures:

 Anti-austerity rallies have been held across Europe – in Spain thousands marched to protest against high unemployment and their government’s handling of the economic crisis.

It was the first major demonstration since the end of the so called Indignant campaign in which Madrid’s central square was occupied by activists for several weeks.

A protest movement called “The Indignant” is leading the way in Spain:

 More than 100,000 protesters took to the streets in cities across Spain on Sunday, accusing politicians and bankers of implementing economic policies that led to the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone.

In Spain’s capital, Madrid, protesters converged near the parliament building where 500 police were deployed to maintain security. The police estimated that between 35,000 and 45,000 people joined the demonstrations with no reports of violence.

I’m here because this is a con,” Juanjo Montiel, a 26 year old who works in information technology, told the news agency Reuters. …

Since its founding in May, the protest movement has fanned out across Spain with protesters on Sunday reading a manifesto calling for a general strike and for a revolution.

The capitalist system does not work, it only benefits a few and harms the majority,” a young female protester told the news agency dpa. …

“The banks and the governments that caused this situation must know that we do not agree with the measures and the budget cuts, that we intend to be heard,” the “indignant” movement said when calling for nationwide protests.

With the official unemployment rate in Spain exceeding 20%, the rage felt by ordinary citizens is quite understandable.  Their situation is in many ways similar to our own; after years of reckless profiteering by the banks and other corporations, ordinary citizens are now faced with the prospect of slashing social services to bail out the very entities that caused the crisis in the first place.  There are, of course, crucial differences between them and us – perhaps the most notable being that people in Spain are actually turning out en masse to protest the latest proposed austerity measures.

But beyond that, the situation across Europe is different in that they actually have meaningful social services at risk of being lost.  Universal health care, free or reduced college education and comprehensive unemployment benefits are the norm throughout the EU, meaning that normal citizens actually have a lot to lose if the proposed measures are implemented.

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EWG’s Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Toxic Fruits and Vegetables

farmers applying pesticide spray

From Mother Jones:

Every year, Environmental Working Group sifts through USDA testing data and figures out which “dirty dozen” fruits and veggies deliver the largest doses and the widest variety of pesticides. This year’s winner, announced Monday: apples. According to EWG, 92 percent of the apples tested by USDA carried two or more pesticide residues. And even as supermarket shelves feature a pretty narrow range of apple varieties—Red Delicious, Granny Smith, etc.—farmers are spraying them with a stunning diversity of poisons. Altogether, USDA picked up no fewer than 56 distinct pesticides on the apples it tested, EWG reports.

And the full list from EWG:

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Breakthrough in Melanoma Treatment Highlights Innate Flaws of For-Profit Health Care

melanoma cells

It’s always gratifying to see breakthroughs in the ongoing struggle against cancers of all kinds:

A newly developed pair of drugs has been shown to be successful in the treatment of the deadly skin cancer melanoma.

Designed by Bristol-Myers and Roche, to work in different ways, the drugs vemurafenib and Yervoy have successfully treated late-stage patients who, according to WebMD had precious few options in the past.

Dr. James Larkin worked on the trials of both drugs and said this is the first advancement in melanoma treatment since the 1970s.

This makes these the first drugs to prolong survival from a type of cancer that claims the lives of more than one in 10 of its victims. … Once the cancer spreads from its original mole-like lesion, metastasizes, the mortality rate climbs to 85 percent.

Clearly, the creation of two groundbreaking medications in the fight against melanoma is a refreshing development in our epic battle against one of the world’s biggest killers.  We should all be thankful that the precision of science allows us to accomplish such tasks, as without science we would be lost in the face of such lethal afflictions.  But it is also important to recognize that our current system of research, development and administration of medical care just isn’t good enough.

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First in the Nation: Vermont Enacts Single-Payer Universal Health Care

Vermont single-payer

The state of Vermont has taken the first step towards bringing the United States back on par with the rest of the developed world:

 “We gather here today to launch the first single-payer health care system in America,” began Shumlin, a Democrat who has been governor barely four months. “To do in Vermont what has taken too long: have a health care system, the best in the world, that treats health care as a right, and not a privilege.”

Moments later, the governor made history, signing a law that sets Vermont on a course to provide health care for all of its 620,000 citizens through a European-style single payer system called Green Mountain Care. Key components include containing costs by setting reimbursement rates for health care providers and streamlining administration into a single, state-managed system.

The necessity and practicality of creating a single-payer universal health care system is a common theme here, and it is wonderful to see the people of Vermont taking the initiative here.  It may seem a small step, but it is an important and historic one; after all, we must begin somewhere.

The issue of universal health care is relatively straightforward, but a person’s stance on it speaks volumes about one’s character.  The fact that, in our society, it is considered acceptable to obtain profit from the illness and suffering of another human being says perhaps all one needs to know about American-style capitalism:  no matter what the consequences, if I can make a dollar everything is a-okay.

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By the Numbers: Universal Health Care is Attainable Without Any New Taxes

The U.S. is notorious for being the only developed nation on earth without a universal health care system, a fact which leaves tens of millions of Americans without access to medical care.  The U.S. health care system also  holds the dubious distinction of being the most expensive:  we spend more per capita than any other nation on earth, yet we routinely attain only mediocre results.

Clearly, something is wrong when the wealthiest nation in the world cannot provide adequate medical care to its citizens.  All ethical considerations aside, the evidence strongly suggests that our the privatization of our health care is the cause of the massive inefficiencies that characterize it.

A single-payer, not-for-profit health care system is the ideal solution.  But given our current economic woes, can we afford it?  Opponents of a public system contend among other things, that the costs would be prohibitive, and that such a system is simply not feasible.  The purpose of this post is to challenge that supposition, and demonstrate that not only is a public, universal health care system possible, it is in fact far more pragmatic than the current state of affairs.

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America’s For-Profit Health Care System: #1 in Costs, #36 in Results

Take a moment to examine the following chart, which displays approximate per capita health care costs for 16 developed nations:

Of course the first thing that one notices is the fact that the United States is the biggest spender per capita – the biggest in the world, to be precise.  The U.S. total is more than 50% higher than number 2 Norway, and twice the average of the remaining 15 countries in the chart.  A common – and perhaps natural – assumption is that we pay more because we get more.  After all, the American medical system is the best in the world, right?

Measuring the performance of a nation’s health care system is a relatively tricky endeavor, but in my mind one need only look at the absolute bottom line: life expectancy.  What, after all, is the purpose of health care if not to maximize the number of years of life?  And here is where we find a shocking realization – shocking, that is, to most Americans:  life expectancy in the United States is lower than every other country in the chart.  And not just these fifteen countries –  the U.S. ranks behind or ties with no less than 37 countries, including, of all places, Cuba and the U.S. territory Puerto Rico.  That’s right, folks:  Puerto Rico has a higher life expectancy than the United States.

But look more closely, and the absurdities continue to mount.   Read more of this post

Save the Rich, Pay Your Taxes

As if anyone needed it, further evidence that the system is rigged heavily in favor of the rich:

Payroll taxes (deductions for Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance) are mostly paid by the bottom 90 percent of earners. When they’re factored in on top of income tax, the gap between the tax rates at the very top and everyone else shrinks even more—so much that the effective tax rate for people earning more than $370,000 is nearly the same as for those earning between $43,000 and $69,000 a year.

As Martin A. Sullivan of recently calculated, a New York janitor making slightly more than $33,000 a year pays an effective tax rate of nearly 25%. And the effective tax rate for a resident of the Park Avenue building named after Helmsley, earning an average of $1.2 million annually? A cool 14.7%.

Bear this in mind as you witness the purely fabricated debate unfolding in Washington about our spiraling national debt and the necessity to make drastic cuts in domestic spending.  All the bogus statistics you hear about the wealthy being charged a higher income tax rate – while true in a very technical sense – are grossly distorted in order to portray an element of fairness which simply doesn’t exist in the U.S. tax system.  The bottom line is that working and middle class Americans pay a higher tax rate than the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

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