Only a complete turnover of politicians will do.

                  

By Jack E. Lohman

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that health care costs will reach 20% of GDP by the year 2017, driven by increased prices and greater demand for care.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s the way health care and insurance interests want it, so that’s the way it’ll be. And they’ve got the cash to make it all happen, at least under our current moneyed political system.

Free marketers argue that they’ll control medical costs, and indeed they will. They’ve driven them up — and they’ll continue pushing them up instead of down. As they say, “there’s gold in them there hills.”

Medical costs do not have to keep rising faster than the rate of inflation, and there is every reason why they should instead decrease as new technologies catch diseases in their earlier stages and new miracle drugs cut hospitalization and treatment costs. Those savings are already estimated to be 17%, and they should improve as new drugs and technologies are developed.

But our mindset is locked into believing that a disproportionate increase in cost is inevitable, and it gives politicians cover for their malfeasance. They are giving away the country’s assets for personal gain and to stay elected, and it’s got to stop. Now!

Energy and petroleum are taking a bigger share of our household pie because of (a) campaign cash and (b) politicians taking a hands-off position on the exorbitant profits reaped by the Big Oil companies. Over $36 billion per year for Exxon even after deducting for high research costs and outlandish CEO salaries.

Like the postal service has tempered delivery costs, the U.S. should introduce competition into the energy arena and not leave it to the OPEC conspiracy and willing American co-conspirators to decide our fate. FedEx does quite well against taxpayer-funded competition and so would Exxon.

Food is now demanding a bigger share of the household budget because of (a) campaign cash, again, and (b) bigger farm subsidies to the corporate farmers who drive the smaller farmers out of business and eliminate competition. And as well, the higher energy prices they pay to transport their goods to market, and the diversion of corn to ehthanol, which also results from campaign cash flowing from the petroleum industry.

We are not talking about commodities that are elastic, such as TVs that you can avoid buying when priced out of your budget. Health care, energy, and food are all “inelastic.” You pay the price or starve, and that means cutting back on other family needs. Cutting discretionary spending.

These interests are all after a bigger share of your pocketbook, and they are winning because they’ve got political help.

Surprisingly, the right-wingers see this as “competition” rather than gouging, and they seem not to know how to follow the dominoes as they fall. It may well have taken a George Bush to make the rest of the country understand our deadly direction, and pushed a right-leaning electorate back to the center. We’re lucky in that vein.

Politicians of all stripes should be absolutely ashamed of the corruption and greed in their profession, and frankly, the voters should force a complete turnover in 2008. Republicans should vote for Republican challengers in the primary, to get the incumbent Republicans out, and the Dems should do likewise. Or vote for independents, but vote for change.

Importantly, we cannot have an efficient government if the political campaigns are funded by interests that want exactly the opposite, and taxpayer-funded elections can reverse the nose dive at a hundredth of the cost of the current system. Corruption comes at a price.

Voters must demand a clean government or continue watching their assets being transferred to someone else.

Unfortunately, it appears that we’ll need a complete turnover of politicians every year until we have an optional system for public funding of elections. If they know their job lasts just two years without it, maybe then we’ll see action. Voters must not waver on this.

As U.S. healthcare costs hover around 16% of GDP today, Canada’s are under 10% even while they cover 100% of their population. But they do have wait times, and those could be eliminated with a 10% increase in spending (to 11% of GDP). They’ve accomplished their savings not with cutting care but by eliminating the 31% of waste the U.S. spends on its insurance bureaucracy.

Even conservatives should be disgusted with our corrupt cash-and-carry political system, as it drives taxes up and the economy down. And politicians? You’d think they’d have difficulty laying their heads on the pillow at night, but I give them this: they are tough and immovable.

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