Foolin’ the People About America … It’s About Creeping Corporate Insertion Into Every Aspect of Your Life. Better Off Than Fifty Years Ago?
Peaking in the Sixties, Starving for Prosperity, The Compassion Gap, Starving the “Beast,” Humbug for the Poor, Democratizing the Hate … Your Money or Your Life
Culture War, Class War, Chapter Fourteen: Better Off Than Fifty Years Ago?
Better Off Than Fifty Years Ago? Part One: Peaking in the Sixties
- Americans are innovators and problem-solvers.
- There’s nothing Americans can’t do, no problem we can’t solve, once we put our minds to it.
- Things just keep getting better in America
- Republicans are for small business.
So unfortunately, after Reagan instituted “voodoo economics,” with prices on health care and pharmaceuticals going through the roof along with the sudden unexpected increases of other necessities of life, you had that lowered standard of living we have now become accustomed to for the great majority of Americans. You had a population that was poorer, in relative terms, and got increasingly poorer.
Over time, over the course of my lifetime, though we might ostensibly have appeared to prosper we did not. The apparent rise in standard of living was a result of the glut of new consumer items produced in an increasingly technological and complex culture. You might be able to afford plenty of cheap trinkets and toys, but for things that pertained to your well-being and quality of life, such as health and medical care, good schools, wholesome food, higher educational opportunities, a clean environment, recreational opportunities, fuel and energy, leisure, family, and quality time, and so on we were ever more wanting.
Peaking in the Sixties
In retrospect I can see we prospered in the Fifties and Sixties. The records show that Americans achieved a peak of affluence in the Sixties and that since then, and rapidly accelerating since the Eighties, we have been on a downward slide.
Poor Mothers Could Afford to Stay Home and Take Care of the Kids.
I can see the ways we, living in the Fifties and Sixties, were as a culture fairly well off, though personally my circumstances were anything but that. My father made only fifty dollars a week for a time. But my mother never had to go to work. She actually did get a part-time job much later in life for the enjoyment of it. Can anyone today imagine that?
How Much for That House? Ok, Let Me Get My Wallet.
My father never made over a hundred dollars a week until later in his life he actually started his own small trucking outfit…that’s another story about who are the real job creators in America that I get into elsewhere. Yet he bought his home with cash he had saved up. Eight thousand dollars smack on the barrelhead in 1953. He never had to work three jobs to get by either, like some folks have to today. No mortgage on his house and he bought every car he owned—roughly once every five years—also with cash he had saved.
College Educations for Free in the Sixties and Seventies. #occupycollege today
No loans, never in debt and yet five of his six children attended at least some college and two attained at least Master’s degrees. I was talking with my older brother about his college education, which mirrored my own, and we both remember getting by with very little or no debt afterward. We both received enough to cover all college plus living expenses most years just on scholarships and grants—mostly state and federally funded—yet we both attended private, somewhat prestigious, colleges.
I know, millennial generation, but don’t blame us, we’re on your side. #occupycollege.
What’s Health Insurance?
My family didn’t have any health insurance, had never even heard of it. We were not well off, but we like most people could afford to go to the doctor. And similar to others we could even normally pay hospital bills, for maternity and so on. If anything very serious developed that required more money no one ever imagined that they would be turned away at a hospital. The Mercy Hospital in my city, run by a religious order of Catholic nuns and funded by contributions, was a place one could always go regardless of one’s means. Sounds unbelievably quaint, doesn’t it? I know. I can hardly believe it was once that way myself.
Better Off Than Fifty Years Ago? Part Two: Starving for Prosperity
Foolin’ the People About America
There is an abundance of food in America
There is a huge problem with obesity in America because folks actually have too much to eat.
People are overweight because they eat too much.
Starving for Prosperity
“Have Some More, There’s Plenty!”
And my family never starved back in the Fifties and Sixties. The dinner refrain was “Have some more, there’s plenty.” Though we were fairly poor by the standards of that time, I never, ever, ever imagined there being a lack of or limitation on food. There were big restrictions on sweet treats and goodies, but not on wholesome food. So it shocks me to see how much more concerned parents are today about how much their children will eat, as well as how precisely they mete out their gustatory offerings when entertaining.
“You’re Not Leaving This Table till You’ve Eaten All Your … Ketchup.”
When not long ago I worked in a group home for troubled boys I was shocked and distressed to see the controversies over the food portions given and the restrictions on when they could eat. This was a government-funded group home and had to abide by all kinds of minimal standards in nutrition. Still, ever since Reagan determined that ketchup qualified as a vegetable serving, I have noticed this public stinginess about food.
Where I worked, sugared-water drinks qualified as juice, and peanut butter consumption was limited to a thin layer like that of butter that’s spread on bread. Cheap sugar this and thats and nutrient-low, colon-clogging baked goods, noodle dishes, and pizza were the at-hand substitutes for wholesome, more substantial offerings. The resulting blood-sugar swings and erratic, aggressive behavior were handled with drugs and listed within their case histories.
“Please, Sir, Some More?”
There was much more like this but suffice it to say that I could hardly believe the happenings in this Oliver Twist world. My heart went out to those young boys who in this once wealthy land and still surrounded by plenty in this post-millennial, rich suburban California stood near the kitchen with plate in hand, their eyes pleading if they might “please have some more.”
This miserliness about food seems a prevalent thing throughout the culture as it is evident in school lunch programs also. Whereas at the grammar and secondary schools I attended while growing up I enjoyed complete wholesome meals on a par with and sometimes surpassing the enjoyable repasts at home and even seconds were allowed, what is considered a decent school lunch today is shocking. Corporations have taken over as suppliers. Can you believe we had a Joe the Cook in grade school who concocted home-style offerings, which were ladled out by those of our mothers, including my own, who had volunteered?
The Beloved School Cook–Pepsico
Today the school meals are akin to that in fast food restaurants and just as monotonous … pizza, chicken nuggets, spaghetti, greasy burgers, hot dogs, fries. They are not “cooked.” From what I understand, they are taken from freezers, popped in microwaves, and dealt out to pupils like one would cards. The epidemics of obesity and diabetes in our country attest to how much worse is the nutrition for young folks today.
Aren’t America’s “Extermination Policies” Just More Undetectable Than Nazi Germany’s? Starving the “Beast”—That Means You: Your Money or Your Life
Foolin’ the People About America. Better Off Than Fifty Years Ago? Part Three: Starving the “Beast”
Your Medical Payment or Your Life
What else is different now than fifty years ago? Well, there’s people who can’t pay for health care… can’t get health care? …. Now that’s something new for me too. Can’t get health care. Wow. You mean you’re sick, you’re gonna die, but you can’t get help in the medical system? Unbelievable. That used to be unheard of.
I know. You’re thinking, “But we passed universal health care in recent years.” Remember though, we passed universal health care “coverage” … not care. Everyone has to be insured does not mean everyone gets taken care of.
At any rate, none of this “universal health care” has “trickled down” to the very needy as far as I can tell. Now, I don’t know if folks are being turned away from hospitals like they were before it was passed. Folks got refused care for lack of coverage in recent decades. And sometimes they died. (I wonder how many others died while struggling to fill out the forms to apply for health care for the needy? *sarcasm*)
Regardless, health care that is delayed, rationed out, or cut back and denied for certain conditions can be just as much a death sentence as being turned away at a hospital door. Example? After we passed “universal” coverage Governor Jane Brewer of Arizona allowed a change in policy in their state-funded health care to deny organ transplants to those folks who could not afford it otherwise. These were organ transplants needed to save their lives. These people would have received them under some other coverage, but falling through the cracks and being poor—some of them born too disabled to be able to work at a job—they were essentially told, “We can’t afford to keep you alive (we’ve got tax cuts for the rich to pay for).” So they did. They died. Republicans clamored about “death panels” beforehand; then promptly implemented one as soon as they could.
Isn’t this the kind of health care the opponents of “socialized medicine” say we would get if we went to single-payer? Well, we’ve got it folks—delays, rationing, denials, complications … and stress!—without any of the benefits of “socialized medicine.” I’ve watched it take two weeks to get a prescription in Riverside County, California, when it should have taken 45 minutes or less. The folks there handling health care for people who include poor folks on Medi-Cal are so overworked and stretched thin that you need to stand in line, literally stand in line for sometimes four hours or more to get a prescription filled. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m aware of at least one elderly gentleman who collapsed while waiting and was removed on a stretcher. I felt like I was in a scene from the movie Soylent Green, wondering where they were taking this one who had fallen by the wayside.
And the answer is no. No to the other question in your mind: “Don’t they have places you can sit down?” I know of no other place where you have to stand to get your prescription, you’re REQUIRED to stand. But then this is a huge county hospital catering to the poor. It handles many poor people…and it does it poorly. The unwritten rule is, “You’re asking for health care at a discount!? Well, WE’LL MAKE YOU PAY…ONE WAY OR THE OTHER, DAMN YOU!”
You don’t think this attitude trickles down to the masses from policy on high? Well, you tell me what the policy makers of the 1% are thinking when they say they are going to “starve the beast” of government … continually cut back funds for government services…as a back door way of making government smaller. This is the exact wording they have used, since Reagan, for their policies of tax cuts for the rich that require massive spending cuts on services for poor and middle income folks.
But think now: Just who do they imagine is really that “beast”? And why use the word, “starve”? Yes, the “beast” of the masses, the riff-raff, is being “starved”—being made to suffer for lack of sufficient money for systems and workers so folks can be served faster. With money stretched thin for humane processing systems and employees to implement them, people are refuse…”beasts”…having to stand and suffer.
I wonder how this is not simply a more undetectable way of eliminating in America the handicapped, disabled, and/or mentally challenged than the way the Nazis did it to the same sort of “riff raff” when they got to power during the time of the Third Reich.
Universal Health Care in America? Don’t Make Me Laugh… You Get an “Assumed Doctor” and Like it or You Choose to Die.
Foolin’ the People About America. Better Off Than Fifty Years Ago? Part Four: But Do You Get a Doctor?
And Do You Get a Doctor?
Do you get a doctor, though? Not in this decade you don’t. When I was a child we went to the doctor’s office and paid $7 for a doctor’s visit. Even on my Dad’s $50 a week, that was affordable; and that was the least he made. When you now have doctor’s visits that cost a hundred to three hundred dollars if you pay out of pocket (or more), do you realize how much you’d have to make for it to be as affordable as it was for my Dad? Figure $700 to 2 to 3 thousand a week. Some people make that nowadays, but not the poor. Remember, my father was dirt poor, getting by on $50 a week with six kids.
House Calls in the Past; “Pretend” Doctors Today
But we got to see a real doctor. We even got a doctor who made house calls. Today? Well you get a pretend doctor who confers, along with a gaggle of other pretend doctors, with an actual physician, then gets back to you as you wait…and wait some more.
And You Wait
Recently, it took four hours for the visit and another four hours to get the prescriptions at the same hospital in another place…and the prescriptions didn’t all come through until after two weeks and a number of phone calls, as at one point they had to order a common prescription and then lost the order (had no record that it had ever been made; though on several phone calls they referred to it) and had to make it again. And this experience has been common. I’ve experienced it a number of times. I’m trying to acquire health care elsewhere, believe me.
You Get an “Assumed” Doctor
Did I get a doctor? No. Oh, they call themselves doctors. The last one was more honest and announced when he came in that he was so and so who was a “student doctor.” I didn’t hear him correctly. My mind scanned thousands of files in an instant and what it came up with I just had to ask. I said, “Did you say you are an ‘assumed doctor’”?
And You Like It
And being “processed” like a piece of meat this way, you get a different “assumed doctor” every time. There is no continuity. You don’t bother to keep track of their names, for it doesn’t matter. You start all over on every visit. The only thing they know of you is what has been electronically recorded from previous visits; nothing human or relational is carried forward. They will tell you it is because all the “assumed doctors” are equally competent and qualified, so it doesn’t matter. Of course that is a rationalization for a system so “starved” of funding the personal touch has long ago been squeezed out in favor of assembly-line efficiency.
Or You Choose to Die
So what is the upshot of all this. It is that many folks have to weigh getting health care in America—which is claimed to be “available”—against the complications and time of getting it. I don’t have a job, so I was able to persevere. What of folks who have to work full time or more? I was well enough to stand around and coherent enough to make notes and make phone calls. What of folks who are sicker than that?
The Unspoken Costs of Health Care
The upshot is that many folks are weighing THESE costs of health care when choosing whether or not to seek help. And their decision is leaving many of these folks dead. I know of a number of people who have made such a decision; many of you also do.
Some Are Choosing a “Soylent Green” Escape
I know of one instance where it was even done consciously, for the person did not want to spend what might be her last time on Earth struggling with an insensitive and mean-spirited medical system, so she just opted to let her cancer take her in the serenity of her home and surrounded by loved ones. (Why am I thinking of that movie Soylent Green again? Well, maybe you remember that scene as well.)
Others Are Risking It
I know I myself weigh these costs in time and suffering and inconvenience whenever I feel I might need to be looked at for something. And very often…most of the time actually…I put off being looked at. I postpone doing tests that are made more time consuming and painful for poor folks (don’t get me started on that); and I often give up in pursuing the treatments and medications that I am prescribed…figuring that putting up with the suffering of the ailment is better than the suffering incurred in its cure. And I am not alone. Will it cost me my life? Perhaps.
Universal health care in America? Don’t make me laugh..
America—Best Health Care in the World
Now, compare all this with the way it was fifty years ago. A friend of mine on Facebook shared how her brother was treated when he had a life threatening injury. This was that long ago and she relates they were poor. She says, they flew in a specialist from Australia to perform the delicate operation. I repeat, they were poor. But then this was all before Reagan…and Nixon. I’m getting to that.
With the Excuse of “The Game,” Small-Hearted Folks Can Now Flaunt Their Mean-Spiritedness – The Compassion Gap
“Stop War? Now, Don’t Go Gettin’ All Kumbaya on Me!” … Foolin’ the People About America. Better Off Than Fifty Years Ago? Part Five: The Compassion Gap
The Word’s More Important Than The Life
So the word has become more important than the person, and better that people sleep in the gutters or lie out in the park than to lend them a hand. And god forbid when you have children, that one of them get sick, someone have an accident, or someone get killed….
Rules (Made Up to Benefit the Wealthy) Are Now More Important Than Life
Goddamn it. Y’know, here you’ve got Rick Santelli saying, well they must have put in a kitchen or else they wouldn’t have gotten foreclosed on. Where does he get that? That’s not a fact. That’s a made up thing, just to get people angry.
And that’s the game. A game that’s not founded on any facts, only played to be won, and it’s won by making the best argument to arouse the most passions, the most negative passions in people, and to find scapegoats.
Stop War? Don’t Be Silly.
And this is the kind of thing that was brought up year after year over the decades to the point where it became that the things that I heard being valued growing up were laughable: compassion, if you were caring about people, or not wanting people to die.
Say, there was a war or something and there was agony over the loss of life. And all these people would gather together out of their concern. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. People anguished and horrified by other people’s deaths and sufferings…reaching out to help them, help each other, comfort each other, pray together…hope…weep.
Oh My Lord, Kumbaya.
Yea, a great big kumbaya moment! Wow. And I’m sure that’s what you heard, too. So I get it. Ok, so you shouldn’t have any feelings toward your fellow suffering brother or sister. Is it, what, silly? Uncool? Weak? Wussy? Sappy? What?
What is it you’re hiding about yourself?
… What would Jesus have said to that…
It seems more than the standard of living was lowered since those days. And I’m sure they are in many ways connected…. I’ll get into that later.
Health Not-Care: Democratizing the Hate, Humbug for the Poor, and The Middle Class Is the Last Bastion of Who You Can Give a Damn About
Foolin’ the People About America…The Middle Class Is the Last Bastion of Who You Can Give a Damn About. Better Off Than Fifty Years Ago? Part Six: Health Not-Care
Getting back to the change in the physical standard of living that Reagan wrought, though, let’s take for example the increase in health care costs. This is one of the necessities of life, and it’s been climbing out of reach, putting a burden on people, ok? …
Humbug for the Poor
As I explained in Part Two of “Obvious Truths,” Nixon addressed that problem in the Seventies. He was supposedly helping out the people, the poor…. Uh. But, no, he would never say that. He would never say he wanted to help the poor! Previous to him, in Johnson’s time…The Great Society and all that, yes. That was surely a time when you would hear talk like that. There was actually a War on Poverty then.
But by the time of Nixon….
So, I guess that’s when it started happening.
You couldn’t say you were actually going to help out the poor anymore. Because the truism, which I’m sure you all agree with, whether you admit it to yourself or not, is that the poor people deserve to be punished because obviously they’re lazy. Think about that; isn’t that the same stuff that, back in the day, they were saying about African Americans? …
Democratizing the Hate
So isn’t it kind of like that racism has become classism? It’s kind of like a hatred that’s not been eliminated because they’re still saying that about people of color, but it’s been expanded. It includes more people–whites and blacks…and all other kinds of colors. All the poor, they’re all now lazy, deserving what they get.
The Middle Class–The Last Bastion of Who You Can Give a Damn About
So instead what you hear today is like the “middle class”! Well, supposedly the middle class are ok people. They’re not deadbeats; they didn’t put in that kitchen they can’t afford…. Actually they’re the ones who are owning homes so some of them actually are the ones getting those new kitchens.
Nixon Cared About Health…Healthy Profits.
So Nixon’s answer to health care, to help the middle class, he started the move toward HMOs. And remember how it came about. There were actual White House tapes, an actual taped phone conversation of it. You hear Nixon talking to Ehrlichmann. And they are discussing the matter, health care. Nixon is told that Kaiser, and this is the guy who started Kaiser Permanente, one of the top HMOs. He is told that Edgar Kaiser is proposing a “for profit” system of health care.
Now here we have people who can’t afford health care and now you want to have a system that’s going to add to the costs of it. How’s that you say?
Some People Just Wanting to Get Sick Again and Again!
Also, Kaiser pointed out it would discourage “overuse” of medical treatment. Wow! So, here we go again.
So now we see that people who need medical treatment are just like those deadbeats, they’re like poor people, they’re overusing medical care. My god! They’re getting sick too much. And if you had a for-profit system, well, they could deny people coverage. And they could deny people medical treatment, no doubt, because they would naturally want to increase their profits.
GOP-Think. GOP, Think! GOP…Think?
Well not long afterwards, Nixon gives a speech to present his sweeping new health care proposal. What does he say?
Remember, there is this obvious disdain for certain groups of people who might be getting too much health care. On the other hand, Nixon is wanting to see that certain other groups of people will make out big time from profits that will be involved.
But his speech doesn’t go like that. Nixon is recorded giving a speech, proposing a big solution, purportedly to answer the problem of the rising health care costs that are beginning to be felt at that time. He will emphasize that his proposal would be a great benefit to the middle class. [Footnote 1]
Make It to the Middle Base and You Score.
Keep in mind as I was saying in Part Two, there was a time in which influential groups would consider they “had a home run” when they could make a case that their proposal was going to benefit the American people. But by this point, because of the culture war and mean-spiritedness being stirred up in the country by Republicans, it had become necessary to single out the middle class as the only ones receiving the benefit, because, y’know, poor people…they’re not Americans.
Foolin’ the People About America…”Thanks for the Health Care Savings, Dick!” Better Off Than Fifty Years Ago? Part Seven: Hit Men for the HMOs
Foolin’ the People About America: Nixon’s Big Idea—HMOs
Thanks for the Health Care Savings, Dick.
So Nixon says he is going to lower health care costs. Well, you can see how right he was about that. Just look at Michael Moore’s movie on American’s health care system if you can handle knowing how bad it got. The documentary, “Sicko,” lays out in brutal detail how devastating it was to inject the profit motive into health care.
“I Was a Hit-Man for the HMO.”
There is one especially disturbing example of this. A former employee of a huge HMO testified before Congress. Crying and tearful she related how she was rewarded for denying an operation that would have saved a man’s life. It would have cost the HMO a half million dollars. Instead, he died; they increased their profits.
In another situation an HMO employee received bonuses upwards of $20,000 for cancelling coverage on people who were costing the insurer a lot of money. She cancelled hundreds of policies, including for those who were scheduled for life-saving procedures. In one “particularly good” year for this person, she saved her employer $6 million. I don’t know offhand how many folks died in exchange for her dutiful and lucrative actions and am not sure I want to. This is hard to look at, isn’t it?
The upshot is these HMO-persons were rewarded for taking people’s lives; and they are in no way untypical. Linda Peeno, the physician who testified before Congress, admitted as much; she admitted her action amounted to a murder, for which she should have been charged but wasn’t. She pointed out how perverse it was that instead the system rained rewards up her. Now you show me the moral dividing line between theses actions of professionals of the HMO and “professional” assassins…mafia hit men. For I don’t see it.
Pay Us Now. We’ll Think About Covering You Later.
Now you might argue that saving money on costly care means there would be more help for others.
But, no. That’s not the rationale. That’s another part of it. They can deny health care on any basis. They can deny it on any basis but they went out and they found more ways to make even greater profits. If you were going to cost them a lot of money, if what you needed to live was medical treatment that they might consider too expensive, well what they would sometimes do is hire people to look into you. These people would be paid to research your background, to see if they could find something that could be used as an excuse to deny your costly procedures to you.
Michael Moore records in his documentary at least one such researcher who explains, with remorse, what he had been paid to do and how he would go about it. He, and people like him, would pore over your records to look for something, even slight, that they could hang a denial of coverage on. They would in particular look into your childhood for any care that they could say indicated the presence of a medical condition for you at that time.
When they found something, they would be able to say that you had a pre-existing condition and so they were not liable for your care now. They would claim that you lied on your application in not listing such an ongoing ailment so that they could drop you from coverage and let you die.
So people were being left to die, killed in this manner. Does this not amount to more “hits” put out on people by the HMO?