Column by Paul Hein
Exclusive to STR
I’ve said this before, with the usual worldwide repercussions that greet all of my pronouncements. I’m going to say it again, so prepare yourself. I do not want to frighten, alarm, or shock anyone, but there are some things that simply must be said, so here goes: THERE ARE ADVANTAGES TO BEING RICH!! I’ll go even further: There are even advantages to being moderately well-off, compared to being penniless.
Compose yourself. It’s amazing, I know, to hear such a statement, but the current political climate makes it necessary to understand that the wealthy, or even slightly wealthy, have an advantage over the poor. The current discussions of health care seem to overlook this fact.
Recently I saw a debate on TV between two people on opposite sides of the question of just who should pay for other people’s medical expenses. That, after all, is what the whole brouhaha is about: not health care, but paying for it. The person advocating Obama’s plan seemed horrified that there are some people without health insurance, and assumed they lacked it because they could not afford it. While his opponent was too diplomatic to say it, I did: SO WHAT?
I’ve noticed, and I bet you have, too, that rich people live in bigger houses than the rest of us. Rolls Royce automobiles are almost always purchased by the rich. You don’t find the poor taking the water at tony spas, or skiing at Aspen. Why do you suppose that is? Here’s the shocker, again: because the rich can afford things the rest of us can’t! So why should it come as a shock that the poor cannot afford health insurance? Is there some natural law that everyone should be able to afford everything?
Of course, advocates of tax-financed health care will be quick to point out that being unable to afford luxurious automobiles or homes or vacations hardly compares to being unable to afford health insurance. Perhaps, but I’ve noticed that the poor, or at least those we might reasonably assume to be poor, don’t seem to want for luxuries, even if they aren’t Rolls Royces, or penthouse apartments. For instance, you see automobiles parked in front of run-down homes in the poorest neighborhoods. Apparently the poor eschew tax-supported mass transportation while demanding tax-supported medical care. Everyone seems to have a cell phone, or some other electronic device or game. The poorest of the poor seem able, somehow to acquire makeup, hairdos, and even booze. Some of them might even be able to afford drugs, though not always government-approved and subsidized ones. One might conclude that poverty is a relative thing: the “poor” always seem to be able to afford what they want, or what they need, if someone else cannot be persuaded—or forced--to buy it for them.
If my viewpoint seems heartless it is because I am old, and remember what life was like before Medicare. Yes, Virginia, there was a time when the government wasn’t involved in medical care--except for the VA hospitals. And would you believe it--the streets were not cluttered with the bodies of the poor. For one thing, without insurance (relatively rare, then) triggering demand, prices for medical care were affordable for nearly everyone. And the truly poor could receive care at clinics. At the onset of my medical career, I volunteered my services at two clinics in different hospitals, and virtually all of my colleagues did the same. Charitable organizations also contributed to the care of the poor. Indeed, my internship was served at St. Louis City Hospital, which was dedicated almost exclusively to the care of the needy. Today it is being renovated into condominiums, with Uncle Sam taking care of the impoverished ill, except that, by his own admission, he’s doing a lousy job of it, and needs to spend a whole lot more to get the job done.
It’s strange, isn’t it, that after about 45 years of government spending on health care, and private insurance plans as well, medical care is regarded as too expensive for a large percentage of the population. Well, here’s an idea: medical insurance, whether private or government, has triggered a demand for medical services which results in higher prices. Much of the medical care demanded today would be characterized as trivial, or unnecessary, by standards of the past. But it occupies the time and facilities of doctors, hospitals, and assorted health workers.
In addition, the standard of living of Americans has declined in recent decades. In terms of pre-1968 dollars--the last year in which money was a tangible entity--incomes have risen more in terms of fictional dollars--inflation--than in real terms, but they are taxed on the fictional dollars. In other words, an income today of 45,000 “dollars” would have a buying power of about 4,500 1968 dollars, but would be taxed at a higher rate, since the number 45,000 is much larger than 4,500! Thus, with buying power reduced, everything becomes relatively more expensive, especially if some of the cost is subsidized.
So what to do about health care costs? For one thing, allow insurance companies to compete, across state lines, in providing bare-bones, no frills, low cost insurance for genuine medical emergencies. For checkups, non-essential surgery, medical screening, etc., you’d be on your own.
Secondly, abolish the income tax, and/or return to constitutional money; namely, gold and silver coin. This measure alone (mandated by the Constitution, incidentally) would eliminate inflation.
How likely are these things to happen? Better figure on Obamacare. Things will evidently have to get a lot worse before justice and sanity return to American life!