Thursday, December 11, 2008

Health in America

This is titled Health in America instead of Health Care in America, because they are two different things. When I went to Obama's website to give my opinion on healthcare, most of the people were talking about providing health insurance for all, as if that would make Americans healthy. The argument was over single payer vs forced insurance company payments.

I pointed out that our system breeds unhealthy people. Although I am for a single payer system, we need to provide for American's health in other ways, coincidentally saving tax money in other ways than in paying insurance companies to cover payment for injury and sickness care, (what we in America think of as health care).

The car centered lifestyle that Americans are pushed into by public policy needs to change. Stop the subsidies to the auto industry, and I don't mean the direct bailout of corporations. Billions of dollars for decades have gone to build roads and highways, instead of rail. Zoning laws encourage suburban sprawl, with taxpayer subsidies to the developers to put in roads, sewers, water, electricity, and other public utilities, so that people live miles from where they work, and have no public way to get to their jobs. Their children grow up in isolation and unable to walk or take public transportation to school, play or entertainment. Thus, we have "soccer moms", a term invented for the private chauffeurs that each child needs to go to their programmed exercise. The rest of the time they play video games, because it is unsafe to play outside, due to speeding cars.

Much of military spending goes to secure and defend oil supplies, costing billions more to pay for the military, and costing billions more in health care for injured and disabled veterans.

We spend billions of dollars on police to enforce (ha) traffic laws, and paramedics to scrape people off the roads and pull their mangled bodies out of cars. Over 40,000 people a year are killed in car crashes, with hundreds of thousands more crippled and injured, including head injuries and spinal cord injuries, which cost billions for rehab. We spend billions on ERs to receive the wounded and pass them on to surgery or ICUs.

Cars are the number one cause of death in America until age 44. After that, it's heart disease, caused by the obesity and lack of exercise that dependence on the automobile causes.

Parents are terrified of kidnapping and murder, but if a stranger kills your child, the odds are that it will be with a car. If you kill your own child, it will probably be with a car. Two children a week are literally run over by their own parents, and hundreds more die in car crashes.

Then there are the corn subsidies. In 1973, Earl Butz changed Depression era policies of farm and price supports. Instead of the government trying to keep prices even by paying for fallow land during high prices and buying excess grain to store during low prices, the federal government began subsidizing corn production. The resulting glut of corn led to cheap feed for animals, leading to the cruel factory farming and industrial slaughter that billions of animals now suffer. The cheap feed also makes it cheap for fast food chains to sell the dead animals, chopped, shaped and deep fried in corn oil. It led to the bankruptcies of family farmers and the consolidation of agribusiness. It led to farms that are miles wide, with giant machines and the chemicals it takes to poison the land of native plants in order to plant miles of corn. And it has led to the obesity epidemic in the USA, which grew at the same pace that agribusiness did. I recommend the film "King Corn" which interviews an unrepentant Earl Butz. Seeing mountains of corn that 1970s silos are unable to hold, he sees abundance and celebrates the ease in which agrifarmers are able to grow it, unlike the backbreaking work that farming was in his childhood. (And you can see his point).

But. Obesity causes health care costs to skyrocket. There are people so obese in this country that they are unable to walk. Diabetes is skyrocketing, even in children. And, of course, the number one killer of Americans over age 44 is heart disease.

We could save money by stopping perpetual roadbuilding, cutting military spending, stopping the agribusiness subsidies and switching to single payer health care, instead of having 30% of all "health care" dollars go to insurance companies.

So, that's what I wrote on Obama's website. His answer? He announced that he will use Federal tax dollars to force states to build more roads, bridges and schools (by which he means building schools outside of town, and busing kids to them). If the states refuse to spend the money this way, they don't get it.

I conclude that it was a waste of my time to participate in this illusion of democracy. There are vested interests that want to keep their subsidies coming, and Obama was selected to keep the money flowing from the poor to the rich.


David G said...

Obama is a worry. He promised much but it appears that he will deliver little.

Australia has a fairly good health system though it has some minor flaws. I wouldn't like to survive in America (unless I was part of the rich elite).

I'll put your site on my Special Links this afternoon.

Take care!

ryk said...

I conclude that it was a waste of my time to participate in this illusion of democracy. There are vested interests that want to keep their subsidies coming, and Obama was selected to keep the money flowing from the poor to the rich.

I'm still holding out hope you are wrong about this. Although I'm not expecting big changes from Obama, I really think he'll try to start turning this country in a new direction. Even if he is successful in doing so, it will be a slow turning.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see a "sin tax" extended to soda and chips. Cigarettes and liquor taxes bring in a lot of money, so why not extend it to empty calories.

I wish I had some influence so that I could get more people to read your blog. It is so well written.

Flimsy Sanity

wagelaborer said...

Wow, thanks, Flimsy Sanity. That's so cool.
I think we should tax gambling and usury. A tax on every Wall Street transaction would have us solvent in no time!

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed reading this post. I've had a long-standing fantasy about a day per week (or even per month) when autos are not allowed to drive and the citizens of America can enjoy the outdoors free of the fear of some (prescription) drug-addled moron mowing down their family. Cars are necessary only because our society has been pushed this way for decades.
What about a town that does not allow autos within its borders? As much as I love cars and the convenience they provide, I want to live there.