I toyed with calling this Bookworm Beat the “May Day” edition, but because it was the ideology behind May Day that killed little Alfie Evans, just . . . no.
Yes, I went all doom and gloom yesterday. I worry that the pervasive corruption that the Democrat party has inflicted on the American government and on American political society does not bode well for an honest election outcome. Having said that, I realized that the most corrupt part of this entire election is the media’s successful effort to have us focus obsessively on the candidates, so as to obscure actual issues.
The two campaigns are driven by competing core visions of America: Globalism and patriotism. It is those ideas, not the two reprehensible candidates, that voters must address in the 2016 election.
Hillary’s globalist presidency will mark the finish line of the “fundamental change” that Obama has started. After her election, we will live in a post-constitutional America that
You know what those of us who are not opera fans really hate about opera? We hate the fact that, after the heroine has been dealt the fatal blow, it still takes her another half hour of frantic soprano singing before she dies. I suspect that the attenuated operatic death scene will be an apt metaphor for the last 27 days of America’s 2016 election cycle. Trump and his supporters are still singing as loudly and as strongly as they can, but the death-blow has already been dealt.
You see, it’s become very apparent that the American media has been sitting on information that might have affected the outcome of the Republican primaries. Had the media been genuinely interested in reporting the news and/or in ensuring that each party offered its finest candidate to the American people, the stories of Trump’s behavior towards women would have been in the news during the peak of the primary season.
The media, however, was not interested in serving America and its democracy. It was interested only in ensuring that Hillary, the most corrupt, incompetent person ever to run for president, would be facing the most vulnerable candidate possible. So, during the primaries, the media gave Trump all the airtime necessary to build him up and now it’s again giving him all the airtime necessary . . . only this time it’s releasing a steady stream of deadly poison that is the equivalent of the poison the precedes the last half hour of the soprano’s tragic, but lyrical, end.
Scott Adams, who has called the election with remarkable acuity, believes that this carefully planned coup (my phrasing, not his) means that the election is over and that Hillary wins:
If the latest groping/kissing allegations against Trump hold up – and I assume they will, based on quantity if not credibility – it won’t matter what Wikileaks says about Clinton. She will win easily.
Hillary Clinton is all yours, ladies. She and her alleged rapist husband are your brand now. Wear them well.
The same female cohort that brought us the scandal-ridden Warren G. Harding administration is on the verge of bringing us a Hillary administration that is mired in scandal even before it begins. I am, as I often have been in the last two decades, incredibly embarrassed to share XX chromosomes with so many morons.
Charlie Kirk’s hypothesis about millennials forces one to reach much the same conclusion about them that Adams reached about women: The young Bernie supporters who cannot get excited about Hillary have been trained like Pavlov’s dogs to get excited about accusations of men engaged in sexual misconduct. While they wouldn’t vote for Hillary, now that she fits into their hardwired victim algorithm, they will turn out in droves to punish Trump.
Two other things lead me to believe we’re in the last half-hour of an opera that ends with all the good people scattered about dead on the stage:
As this election year’s craziness continues, I keep trying to keep myself from getting upset. My mantra is that I should save my energies for things I can change, either directly or through my own small contributions. For everything else, I need to relax and watch the passing spectacle. That’s what this post is all about.
Socialism’s shortages kill people. One of the hallmarks of socialism is shortages, with Venezuela being the latest example. Canada has socialized medicine. (They also have cheap drugs, but that’s because American companies invest in R&D, costs they recoup by passing on to American drug purchasers, while the Canadian government helps supplement drug costs.) That’s why a teenager in Canada who could have had a stem cell transplant died — the donor was available, but the hospital beds weren’t.
Unemployment is a core feature of a centralized economy. The theory behind a centralized (i.e., government managed) economy is that everyone works and everyone benefits. The reality is that the more the government manages the economy through taxes and rewards to cronies, the more it stifles individual initiative — and the result is unemployment. With the Obama economy staggering into its eighth year, one can’t really blame millennials, who have never seen a functioning free market, for thinking that the best they’ll ever get is more government hand-outs, courtesy of Bernie.
The media is trying to ignore Ted Cruz to death, but he’s still the strongest conservative candidate. The media willingly gave Donald Trump free advertising by covering him endlessly. It wasn’t just that he was “so clever” that he played them. They wanted to be played because they believe that, outside of his core 35%, he’s unelectable.
Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is scary. After all, Rush anointed him the closest thing we’ll see to Reagan in our era. Since savaging Cruz hasn’t been working, the media is trying a new tactic: ignoring him. That is, they are deliberately denying the American people a chance to hear from a top-ranking presidential candidate. Gawd, but our media is corrupt.
Still, Ted Cruz plays the long game, and Fox News Latino thinks he’s still got game. Philip Klein also thinks that New Hampshire is anomalous, since it’s kind of like Europe in that even its conservatives are Leftists. Look at the rest of conservative America, and Cruz is still the last conservative candidate standing.
My college-age child introduced me to a website called I Like Bernie, But… which is particularly appealing to young voters. The website offers short answers to concerns pro-Bernie voters might still be harboring about his policies and his ability to win. With few exceptions, these answers are just plain wrong. You can see my rebuttals at a website I set up as a counterweight (I Don’t Like Bernie, Because…). I’ve republished those same articles here, at my own blog, addressing Bernie’s socialism, his tax plans, and his Second Amendment stance. Today I’m tackling everything that’s wrong with Bernie’s plan to socialize American medicine.
The I Like Bernie site imagines a worried Progressive voter exclaiming “I heard he wants to get rid of Obamacare!” Not to worry , says I Like Bernie. In fact, Bernie wants to make Obamacare even better by putting our entire medical system into government hands:
This promise — that everyone will get high-quality, free medical care, thereby saving American families thousands of dollars a year, while keeping them healthier — is false. There is no way Bernie can do this. The numbers don’t add up, and both the Obamacare experience in America and the socialized medicine experience in Europe show that the free market, not government, is the only way to bring costs down, making quality medical care available to everyone. If you have the patience, this post will walk you through the analysis, using what I hope is clear, simple language, making learning about the economics of medical care a relatively painless process. (Or, as the doctor with the big needle aimed at your arm always says, “This won’t hurt a bit.”)
I. What Bernie promises
Bernie’s campaign, in its ongoing effort to pretend that Bernie is not a socialist (he is, and that’s a bad thing), has titled his plan “Medicare for all.” When he talks about his plan, though, Bernie skips that cute Medicare euphemism and goes for the kill: “The only long-term solution to America’s health care crisis is a single-payer national health care program.”
The “single payer” to whom Bernie refers is the government. That’s a euphemism too. The government isn’t really paying for anything at all, because the government doesn’t have money of its own. It never earns money, it takes money. Thus, all of the money in its bank account is actually taken from every American who pays taxes.
So what Bernie really means when he talks about single-payer nationalized medicine is that he wants “taxpayer-funded” health care. He envisions using taxpayers to fund his grandiose plan of setting up a system in which the government takes those taxpayer funds and, after siphoning off vast funds for administrative salaries, waste, and graft, takes what’s left to pay for doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, hospitals (everything from janitors to floor clerks to surgeons), and pharmaceuticals. It will impose these prices from the top down, bullying doctors and nurses who spent years, or even decades, perfecting their skills; hospitals that have invested millions in infrastructure to provide patient care; and pharmaceutical companies that routinely invest millions in research that usually comes up dry, in the hopes of hitting it big with the odd medicine here and there.
Here’s the truth: Even if you love Bernie’s plan, it can’t work. The numbers won’t add up, just as they haven’t been adding up in Europe or in America (with Obamacare). In the rest of this post, I’ll explain why.
I was recently brought face to face with the nihilism that underlies the Left’s desire for socialized medicine, which they’re sure will bring with it the perfect statistics that routinely gladden socialist nations when the UN or WHO or some other Left-leaning world body compares healthcare statistics in various parts of the world. Invariably, those comparisons always show the U.S. health care system in a poor light. Who cares, of course, that the statistics are utterly bogus? They’re so beautiful to the statist eye.
My insight into this nihilism came during an evening with some friends and neighbors. The story is a bit long but, I think, worth it. It all began when my son expressed dismay at data from his AP Environmental Science text-book:
In 1900 the U.S. infant mortality rate was 165. In 2011 it was 6.1. This sharp decline was a major factor in the marked increase in U.S. average life expectancy during this period. The United States ranks first in the world in terms of health care spending per person, but 54th in terms of infant mortality rates.
(G. Miller, Scott Spoolman, Environmental Science, p. 100.)
My son didn’t want to believe that America, which he thinks is a great country, could rank so low in something as basic as infant mortality. As it happens, I knew that those numbers were wrong, so I immediately spoke up. I got as far as saying “Those numbers are wro…” when a far-Left physician in the room literally shouted me down.
“This is not political. We don’t need to hear any of that right-wing crap. You’re going to turn this in a political argument. This is science.” The other guests looked stunned.
I tried again. “I’m not talking politics. This is about statistics. You need to know that….”
Again, the Leftie physician cut me off. “Little Bookworm, don’t listen to her. She’s just going to go on with her political crap. The problem is with the U.S. medical system.”
I tried again. “Let me finish. This is a statistical problem.”
Leftie cut me off again. “No, don’t go there.”
I ignored him and went there anyway. “Stop!!!” I hollered at the top of my lungs. The room fell completely silent. I finally had my say.
On Monday, the surgeon told me that I needed to decide immediately whether my mother should have surgery to relieve pressure from a bleed on the brain. Time was of the essence, because the pressure was building so quickly she could die within the hour.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the decision was an easy one — my mother wants to live, she’s otherwise in good health, and the surgery, while risky, would most probably have a good outcome. I said yes and that was that — the hospital staff instantly swung into gear and my mother was in the OR within 30 minutes. Since the surgery, she’s been cared for in the ICU. This leads me to a couple of comments.
First, I am incredibly grateful that my Mom still lives in a world in which the patient and the family can make decisions about health care. Mother Jones, applauding the California legislature’s decision to grant patients a right to physician assisted suicide, was certain that the only real problem with the bill was that it failed to protect the dying from venal relatives (emphasis in original):
Brown might also feel that the bill’s safeguards against abuse still aren’t sufficient:
In spite of the bill’s provision about coercion, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, director of the medical ethics program at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, said that low-income and underinsured patients would inevitably feel pressure from family members to end their own lives in some cases, when the cost of continued treatment would be astronomical compared with the cost of a few lethal pills.
He pointed to a case in Oregon involving Barbara Wagner, a cancer patient who said that her insurance plan had refused to cover an expensive treatment but did offer to pay for “physician aid in dying.”
“As soon as this is introduced, it immediately becomes the cheapest and most expedient way to deal with complicated end-of-life situations,” Dr. Kheriaty said. “You’re seeing the push for assisted suicide from generally white, upper-middle-class people, who are least likely to be pressured. You’re not seeing support from the underinsured and economically marginalized. Those people want access to better health care.”
In other words, for the Left, every patient’s worst enemy is his or her own family. Reality, however, shows the opposite to be true. Barring statistical outliers, most people love their family members and want them to live, not to die. They don’t place an actuarial value on their family member’s life, they place a love, affection, duty, and moral value on that life.
What experience shows us is that, when it comes to making decisions about a person’s care (what to give, what to withhold), it’s the government that places an actuarial value on people. It decides that people are too sick or too old to be worth treating.
I have no doubt that, were my 92-year-old mother living under a socialized medicine regimen, I would already have buried her a couple of days ago. After all, we know that in England, the mother land of socialized medicine, the government both explicitly and implicitly refuses to treat old or sick people. Other countries with nationalized medicine do the same, although socialized medicine’s supporters try to dress this up as altruism, rather than cost-saving.
The reality is that I care about my mother, whereas a government actuary does not. I see her as a fully realized human being with a lust for life. The actuary sees her as an aged person with a history of falls. I want her alive; the actuary wants her to be less expensive. I love her; the state does not.
The other point I want to make is about the care Mom’s receiving in the ICU. Before I get to a substantive discussion, though, I have to give unqualified praise to Marin General for her ICU care. The ICU facility is lovely and every member of the staff is a star — they are all kind, attentive, efficient, and extremely skilled. They treat my mother as a person who needs tender loving care, rather than an old, difficult body occupying one of their beds.
And that leads me to the substantive point, which is that the care she gets is amazing: she’s in a state-of-the-art bed, designed especially to avoid bedsores. She’s hooked up to state-of-the-art machines that monitor all of her functions, which are watched over by a contract service in San Francisco that hires people to keep an eagle eye monitors all day long. She’s given state-of-the-art medicine to manage her pain and control her various age related health problems. In the 1950s, when American medicine was cheaper, none of this would have existed.
As long-time readers know, I believe that part of why American medicine is so costly is because we have too many middle men between the patient and the provider: the person who needs care doesn’t negotiate costs with the provider, nor does he or she shop around. There are, for example, two hospitals within a 10 mile radius of my Mom’s home, and three hospitals if you go out 16 miles.
Thanks to employer-provided health insurance, too many prices are fixed, and the negotiations too often take place between people who have no skin in the game. This is the same problem, of course, that we see in public sector unions, where the only person missing from the negotiation is the taxpayer, who actually foots the bill.
But the other reason American medicine is so costly is because it’s so damn good. In 1950, a hospital room looked like this:
It’s very pretty, with its lights, chairs, and television, but you’ll notice the singular lack of anything remotely related to health care, except for that pretty, smart-looking nurse. Nowadays, though, the average hospital room looks like this:
That room is a miracle of technology and efficiency. It’s not pretty, but everything in it is dedicated to improving the patient’s outcome. The average ICU room (which looks very similar to the one in which Mom is currently housed) is even more highly outfitted:
This is what we, as Americans have come to expect from our hospital care, but there’s no way it can come cheap. The same is true for all the medicines we use today from those much reviled pharmacies. We have pharmaceutical treatments today — arrived at very expensively, thanks to research and development, plus the endless FDA process — that doctors in the past hadn’t even begun to imagine could exist. That too doesn’t come cheap.
In other words, our care today is more expensive than it was in the past because it’s better than it was in the past. If we want past prices, we have to expect past care.
I continue to believe that some reasonable government oversight, combined with a free market, is the single best way to lower costs in an industry that has made extraordinary strides in the past 60 years, strides that should be celebrated, not reviled as the domain of greedy capitalists.
My Progressive friends are flooding my Facebook feed with posters dedicated to what they perceive as the “wit and wisdom” of avowed socialist and Democrat Party candidate Bernie Sanders. I thought I’d take a look at what passes for intelligence from Bernie Sanders and his acolytes on the Left. My comments are below each poster. Please feel free to chime and, most definitely, to correct me if I’m wrong:
You’ll constantly see Bernie use this type of “cause” and “effect” rhetoric. To Bernie, too many millionaires and billionaires equals poor children. In this, he is just as sophisticated as the Climate Changistas who attribute every weather event and every societal wrong to climate change.
Here’s the reality about those poverty stricken children, and it has nothing to do with the Koch Brothers (who are Bernie’s favorite bête noire and scapegoat). In a free(ish) market system, there is one sure way to become financially secure: study, marry, and have children, in that order. If you skip studying (and this is true no matter how useless America’s higher education system is), you’re less likely to have money. And if you skip marriage on your way to children, you’ve virtually consigned those children to poverty:
A dramatic rise in unwed births and the accompanying decline in marriage are the most important cause of child poverty in the United States. As Chart 1 shows, in 2009, 37.1 percent of single-parent families with children in the U.S. were poor. In the same year, only 6.8 percent of married couples with children were poor. Single-parent families were nearly six times more likely to be poor than were married families.
The overwhelming majority of poor families with children in the U.S. are not married. (Overall, a third of all families with children at all income levels are not married.) But a staggering 71 percent of all poor families with children are unmarried. By contrast, married couples comprise only around 29 percent of poor families with children. (See Chart 2.)
People seemed to enjoy my last foray into Leftist posters, all of which I found on Facebook, courtesy of Leftie friends. I thought, though, that after subjecting you to the insanity, I’d also include some smart snark from the sane side of the political spectrum. First, though, the crazy stuff, with my comments (if any) following each image:
I find amusing this defense of Obama’s myriad failures — that Republicans have been obstructing him — considering that (a) Obama owned all of Congress for the first two years of his administration and (b) Boehner and McConnell have been his lap dogs for the last seven plus years.
I include the above as an example of the incisive political analysis that characterizes the Left. When people are this ignorant about economics, it suddenly becomes understandable that they are perfectly happy to bypass the collective wisdom of the marketplace and to invest all of their faith in a government bureaucracy.
And speaking of economic ignorance, Bernie continues to amaze. I haven’t been able to find a wonderful poster making the rounds on the Left in which Bernie expresses bewilderment that student loans charge higher interest than mortgages. He seems unclear on the whole concept of security. If I don’t pay back my mortgage, the bank at least gets to keep my house, which may have some value to offset my default. However, when the gal with a major in Womyn’s Studies and a minor in Gender-free Puppetry defaults on her $200,000 student loan from Smith, the taxpayers are left with nothing. There is no value there to offset the default. And Bernie just can’t seem to grasp that when the risk is higher, so is the cost.
Oh, and about those tuition-free four-year colleges in Europe. . . . When I was in England, probably around 20% of English students went on to college. Nowadays, the average seems to float around 30%. In America, almost 70% of graduating students go on to some form of higher education. In other words, more than twice as many students in egalitarian America go on to college as to those in still-class-bound Britain.
In addition, American colleges and universities have become grotesquely expensive, in large part because infusions of federal monies over the past thirty or more years have created a tuition inflation far in excess of the inflation rate in the rest of America. The way in which schools teach calculus probably hasn’t changed over the years, but the necessity of a vast bureaucracy dedicated to lesbians, and another vast bureaucracy dedicated to women, and yet another for blacks, and one more for Hispanics, and a whole hierarchy for disabled people, and this “free” education has taxpayers funding, not education, but a hard-Left propaganda machine that is desperate to get its tentacles into every young person in America.
Once that happens, all of America will be like a college campus. This doesn’t mean that Americans will be learning things and basking in new experiences. It means that Americans will be living a Kafka-esque nightmare of political correctness, the tyranny of microaggression claims and trigger warnings, virulent attacks on men in an effort to destroy them, etc. I don’t want to fund that. Do you?
There are a lot of Bernie posters populating my Leftie friends’ Facebook pages, so I don’t have to hear the man speak to get an idea about his idiocy. In a world with ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other forms of radical Islam, is he really prepared to head a government that de-funds defense? Obama has already weakened America’s defense almost to the breaking point. Sanders, idealistic to the point of moronic stupidity, seems to want to finish the job, with our only defense against militant ISIS being his plaintive 1960s cry to “give peace a chance.”
Even worse than the fact that Bernie is mouthing this type of idiocy is the fact that so many of my friends — all of whom are college educated incidentally — think this is a great idea.
In other words, according to the Left, freedom of religion means that you are totally free to be religious in the privacy of your home and within the four walls of your house of worship. Otherwise, to the extent religion informs your values, you are a theocratic dictator in the making and you’d better shut up and shut up good.
I’ve tried to tell my Leftie friends that, if they had imposed this view of religious freedom on America in the 19th century, we’d still have slavery, child labor, the 7 day/80 work week, child brides, etc. America’s greatest humanist strides came when people of faith applied those teachings to the world around them.
The asterisk to that statement, of course, is that “It’s OK to change your opinion based on the newest evidence* . . . *unless that evidence proves definitively that the whole anthropogenic climate change mania is built upon theories that have been proven invalid every time they’ve had the opportunity to play out in real time.” Challenge AGW, and suddenly Tyson is all about “shut your mouth.”
Okay — even though I found this on a Leftie Facebook page, I have to agree with it. Even Lefties can be correct occasionally.
Here’s my rebuttal to the above poster:
Yes, my poster attacks the Left’s War on Women meme, but the argument is the same assuming it’s true that Planned Parenthood provides healthcare services for men: Now that we have ObamaCare, why do we still need to pass extra Federal funds on to Planned Parenthood? Isn’t that double-funding the organization. With ObamaCare, it becomes apparent that the only reason to fund Planned Parenthood is to pay for abortions which, theoretically, aren’t supposed to be part of ObamaCare’s funding.
Leftists are stuck in a perpetual time warp. The reason the rest of the industrialized world had free health care is that, for the entirety of the Cold War, America took care of the military costs for all those “free” health care nations. That was really nice of us, but it left us with less money for such self-indulgent things as “free” medical care that was actually funded by America.
In addition, medical care in the rest of the world sucks. Sure, everyone can see a doctor for free, but you might have to wait so long you die or, if you finally do see a doctor, the care is so bad you might as well have died waiting. In other words, the rest of the world gets the same kind of care we foist on our Veterans at the Veterans Administration.
And now, a few words and posters from sane people, none of which need any further comments:
I was cruel to a young Swede the other day when, without being at all rude, I told him unpleasant, unnerving truths about his country. First, I told him that his country never really had socialized medicine. Instead, it had “paid for by America” medicine. During the Cold War, Sweden was able to put aside a nation’s first obligation to its citizens, which is to defend it against foreign enemies, when America took on that role. With the money freed from defense, Sweden could have pretend socialized medicine.
The second thing I told him is that Sweden never had real socialism. (Yes, I’m sure this is a shocker to many of you, because Sweden is considered the ultimate socialist success story.) The reality, though, is that Sweden never truly had an all-powerful central government. That anomaly is due to something sui generis about the Scandinavian countries: In the years after WWII these countries were small, racially homogeneous, and comprised of citizens all of whose minds had the identical values. This meant that Sweden’s socialism was more of a societal collaboration. It never needed the strong arm necessary for socialization in countries lacking any one of those specific and unique factors.
Long ago in China, a boy coming home from school met up with his father, who was carrying on his back a basket holding the boy’s grandfather.
“Oh, father,” asked the boy, “where are you taking Honorable Grandfather?”
The father signaled that the boy should come closer, and then whispered in his ear, “I’m taking grandfather up to the waterfall. If I throw him over the edge suddenly, death will greet him so quickly, it will be painless.”
Aghast, the boy asked, “Why would you do that to Honorable Grandfather?”
“Because I must,” his father whispered back. “Honorable grandfather is too old to help in the field or around the house. Instead, he just sits in the corner, eating our food, drinking our tea, and requiring us to care for his needs. A quick, painless death will be better for everyone.”
The son nodded sagely upon hearing his father’s words. Then, as he turned to continue the walk home, the boy reminded his father of one thing. “Dear father, please make sure to bring the basket back, because I’ll need it for you one day.”
Although I was only around 12 when I first read that story, it resonated with me. Aside from admiring the boy’s cleverness, I was so grateful that I didn’t live in a country in which poor people had to make those kinds of choices. I didn’t realize back then that it would take a mere forty years for my country to creep ever closer to justifying the genocide of the old and the sick. Even more ironically, I didn’t realize that this ugly choice would come about, not because individual poor people could no longer afford to care for their elders, but because our own government has decided that the nation as a whole should no longer care for its old people.
Old people certainly requiring a lot of care. With every passing year, our bodies become more fragile. While we love seeing videos showing very old people doing amazing physical feats, the reality for most people is that the journey to old age is marked by one bodily system after another breaking down. Our skin’s breakdown is the most immediately demoralizing (“I look so old”), but the real damage from aging happens under our skin, as our joints, muscles, and internal organs just stop working very well. Eventually, every cold has the potential for pneumonia; every fall has the potential to end in a broken hip; every chest pain could be a heart attack; and the joint pains that slowed us down in our 50s can render us immobile by our 70s.
Modern medicine, thankfully, can do a lot to ward off some of aging’s worst effects. Putting aside plastic surgery, which heals the spirit not the body, modern medicine offers everything from quick diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia; to hip repairs so effective that the old person can be home in a day or two, rather than confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed for weeks; to an amazing array of heart treatments, whether pills, pacemakers, bypasses, or transplants; and joint fixes that range from pills, to shots, to surgery, to replacement. All of these are the wonders and miracles of the modern age . . . and all of them are very expensive.
If you’re a free market person, you think that the way to address the expense is through the market place. If you had your way, you would allow insurance companies to compete nation-wide for customers, without thousands of micromanaging regulations but, instead, subject only to a few reasonable anti-fraud regulations. You would also loosen the FDA’s shackles a bit, recognizing that the perfect is the enemy of the good, and that informed consent goes a long way when allowing experimental treatments on patients with fatal diseases. Doctors too would be relieved of some of the regulatory burdens that bind them, as well as the onerous burdens imposed upon them by insurance companies that are themselves straining under government’s strong hand.
However, if you believe that the marketplace is populated by idiots, and that paradise can be achieved only by putting every person’s health and well-being into expert’s hands, you would (1) make a push for single-payer (or “universal” or “socialist”) health care or (2), if you couldn’t go full socialist, you would push for a government-managed marketplace, one that seems to have private providers but, in fact, has the government dictating all aspects of medical insurance and health treatment. In the latter case, you would then tell the public is that this government-controlled market will force insurers and health care providers to lower costs. In either case, you wouldn’t tell the public that, when the government dictates completely how the healthcare market must be run, the available money in the healthcare marketplace shrinks rapidly.
In a purely socialist system, the government has no incentive to lower costs, because there’s no competition. And in a government-managed system, as we’re seeing with Obamacare, the regulations are so onerous, and the stifling government control over what should be a dynamic marketplace so incompetent, that prices go up and the system runs out of money. In either case, the provider is then left with only one solution: rationing.
My point about rationing is not hypothetical. In every country that has socialized medicine, there’s some form of rationing going on. What European countries have done to hide the rationing is to let people see doctors (because then people think they’re getting medical care), while issuing regulations telling doctors that there are certain treatments that, while do-able and available, cannot be given to people in the wrong demographic.
And what’s the wrong demographic? The very old and the very sick. Or in other words, the best treatments cannot be given to the people who need them most but instead, are reserved for those healthy young people who somehow stumble into the wrong disease. Even better, you can avoid treating the young people for the disease too if you argue that the disease’s rarity in their age cohort makes testing wasteful, no matter their risks or their symptoms.
When a government-run system runs into a work load too overwhelming to handle, it does something that would result in jail time for any private care provider: it ignores people to death. Just in the last year, we’ve learned about this passive genocide in both England and America. Both the National Health Service and the Veterans Administration simply stopped treating sick people because it was too much effort or because it cost too much to care for them without running over-budget (or, worse, without running the risk of wiping out bonus funds for the bureaucrats).
Because taxpayers paying for socialized (or semi-socialized) medicine dislike it when care providers give up the pretense of care and just kill people, governments that control access to medicine are always looking for alternative ways to trim the numbers of sick people that the system neither can nor wants to treat. The trend for the last decade or so has been to abandon active genocide (directly killing patients through maltreatment or no treatment) and to push what I call “passive aggressive genocide” — a health care system tells the patients to kill themselves.
The whole “you don’t want to live” push started innocuously enough — and reasonably enough — with those Do Not Resuscitate (“DNR”) directives by which patients tell hospitals that, if they have a sudden death incident while in the hospital, the hospital make only minimal efforts to revive them. The rationale is that, contrary to hospital television shows, most people aren’t miraculously saved by CPR — or at least, most old and sick people aren’t. Additionally, the process of saving someone from sudden cardiac arrest is quite brutal, involving as it does breaking ribs or ripping the chest open to get to the heart. Even worse, if only extreme measures will save someone’s life, there’s a good likelihood that the person will have suffered full or partial brain death or will be so frail overall that the life-saving procedure will stave death off for only hours or days, or will result in the person living as a vegetable.
The foregoing are all really good reasons to avoid resuscitation. Especially if one is elderly, it seems infinitely preferable to die peacefully under anesthetic (if something goes wrong), as opposed to having your chest beaten or sliced open, only to die soon after or to linger in a coma. It may have been malpractice that killed Joan Rivers in the first instance but, if her number was really up, it probably would have been easier had she died on the table than lingered, intubated, catheterized, and covered with wires for several days. Or at least that’s what they tell us.
Thus, for quite a long time, the medical establishment has told us “Old people, for your own good, if you suddenly die in the hospital, stay dead. It will make you happier in the long run.” And to be honest, I agree with this. For various reasons, I’ve seen or heard of a lot of people in their 80s and 90s who ended up terribly brutalized by CPR and who died anyway. That’s why I have a medical directive. Even good ideas, though, can be the beginning of a slippery slope, especially in a post-moral society.
For example, what do you do if old people start getting expensive before going to the hospital? Well, one of the things you can do is to have Ezekial Emanuel, the architect of Obamacare explain why it’s utterly useless to go on living past age 75 (which, according to the actuarial tables, is close to the average age of death in America anyway):
That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.
But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.
By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life. I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I will not have too many mental and physical limitations. Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy. Indeed, I plan to have my memorial service before I die. And I don’t want any crying or wailing, but a warm gathering filled with fun reminiscences, stories of my awkwardness, and celebrations of a good life. After I die, my survivors can have their own memorial service if they want—that is not my business.
After explaining why it’s so good to die relatively young in a time when lifestyle choices and available medicine mean many of us can live to be quite old, Emanuel hastens to assure readers that he’s not advocating any policy that actually denies medical services to the elderly. He just thinks that old people should all join in with him and aim for dying fairly young.
Emanuel does have a point that many extremely old people complain about how awful it is to be old. Their brains and bodies are breaking down, they’re often dependent on others, and all the tasks of ordinary life are very, very difficult. What Emanuel ignores, though, is that, even as these people complain about the burdens of age, the vast majority of them still prefer it over death. Given the choice, they heed the Biblical admonition to “choose life.”
This life force is why my father, on the last day of his life before dying from cancer, when asked by a doctor “What can I do for you,” gripped that doctor by the lapels and, in a fierce whisper, said “Make me better.” And this is why a friend of mine who had AIDS, and who had stockpiled all sorts of medicines so that he could commit suicide when it got too bad, didn’t commit suicide despite Kaposi’s sarcoma, pneumocystis pneumonia, giardia, pedunculated lesions all over his body, and every other indignity AIDS could visit on what was once a healthy, handsome body. Instead, he fought to the end.
Contrary to Emanuel’s blithe certainty that, when he’s not as smart and good-looking and active as he is now (ahem), then he’ll just walk away from life with no regrets. I doubt it.
But perhaps I’m wrong to doubt that the Emanuel’s of this world are incapable of weakening our will to live. In societies as different as the Bushido warrior culture in WWII Japan and the radical Islamists in today’s world, we see that culture can destroy a human being’s innate life force. Despite our (and every other living creature’s) will to live, we humans can be talked into ignoring that instinct. We can be taught to value death because it serves our society. In Japan, young men who were taught to deny their life force died in kamikaze attacks on Americans; and practically every day, in every place around the world, some young Muslim boy or girl straps a few bombs to himself and goes off to die for Allah.
It’s therefore entirely possible that, if Emanuel and his cohorts spend enough time praising premature death, people will start to buy into it. And you know what? I don’t even have to phrase this in terms of a hypothesis. If I just cast my eyes across the Atlantic, I can see the future Emanuel desires. Europe has had socialized medicine since shortly after WWII and has been pushing euthanasia for decades now.
WaPo columnist Michael Gerson has been looking at what’s happening in Europe. In today’s opinion piece, he uses the Belgian government’s willingness to grant a serial killer his requested euthanasia as a springboard to discuss Europe’s reverence for medical suicide.
Gerson begins by noting that Belgians opposed to the prisoner’s euthanasia request have pointed out that killing a prisoner who is serving a sentence for murder is remarkably like having a death penalty, which the Europeans find barbaric. Pro-euthanasia people dismissed this charge. To them, euthanasia is the ultimate act of individual freedom and self-determination. You have the power to cease being and the government will just make sure your decision gets carried out as painlessly as possible.
Put another way: Europeans will gladly kill you if you’re a good person who has harmed no one, but they draw the line at killing a bad person who has murdered others. Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? Anyway, back to Gerson….
The whole “your body yourself” shtick that pro-euthanasia types in Belgium boast about sounds very nice, of course. Gerson, though, points out the problem with this “free will” attitude, and the euthanasia system isn’t set up for total free will. In fact, it’s set up so that the old and the sick are subtly, and not so subtly, told that they’re a drain on society. Gerson explains that the Belgian government has all sorts of legal hurdles before allowing someone to commit legalized suicide and that all these hurdles turn on proving that the soon-to-be-assisted-suicide is mentally or physically defective. This negates the whole “anyone can cease to live if he wants” and starts to have an icky Nazi quality about it, except that this time the people march themselves to the gas chambers:
[T]he determination of certain societal classes that are helped in committing suicide is hard to separate from a judgment about the worth of those classes. The right to suicide adheres, in this case, not to all human beings but to sick and apparently flawed human beings. And such a “right” begins to look more and more like an expectation. A mentally or physically ill person can be killed, in the end, because they have an illness. A qualification can slide into a justification. This is a particularly powerful social message since people with cancer or severe depression sometimes feel worthless, or like a burden on their families, anyway. It is pitifully easy to make them — with an offer of help — into instruments of their own execution.
And suddenly, there you are . . . right back at the Chinese boy looking at his grandfather in the basket and warning his father that the father’s day will come too.
I’ll close with an anecdote I’ve told before because it deserves repeating. Many years ago, when Holland first enacted its euthanasia law, NPR ran an interview with a Dutchman who explained why euthanasia was a good idea in Holland, while it would be a terrible idea in America. The secret to Holland’s euthanasia, he said, was socialized medicine. The man explained that, in America, where medical costs could bankrupt families, those with terminal illnesses could be actively or passively coerced into turning to euthanasia in order to save their family’s finances.
Thus, both this Dutch man and the NPR host who interviewed him were both certain that Americans, when given the choice, would cheerfully throw Grandma from the train in order to save some money. Europeans, the Dutchman explained, with their cradle-to-grave care, would never be pressured into killing themselves. The beneficent state would pay all the medical bills, so money would not be an issue when it came to life and death decisions. The only thing that would matter in Europe, said this Dutchman, was the terminally ill person’s wishes.
I, being a good liberal back in the day, enthusiastically endorsed what he had to say. Clearly, euthanasia was a dreadful idea in America, where money was God, and people would be tempted to slip arsenic into their dying child’s broth in order to save the college fund for the next kid in line.
The intervening years since I heard that radio interview have revealed that the Dutchman was absolutely and completely wrong. In America, people have willingly bankrupted themselves to save beloved family members. Mammon becomes meaningless when an extra treatment might give your child or a young mother a few more days, weeks, or years of life. People have hearts and souls. They connect to others, especially to those in their families.
The reality is that, when it comes to end of life decisions, the state does not love you. It really does want you dead when you start costing too much. If it can’t kill you with the blatant hard sell, it will try to get you to kill yourself by reminding you relentlessly that your best years are having and you should do yourself and society a favor by offing yourself. Passive-aggressive genocide in a nutshell. (And somewhere in Hell, a bunch of Nazis are thunking themselves on the heads, saying “Why didn’t we think of that?”)
It’s Easter Sunday, and that means all family all the time. No complaints here, though. It’s been a lovely day so far and I anticipate an equally pleasant afternoon and evening. Full blogging will not happen today, but here are a few (a very few) links that intrigued me:
I’ve long known in a vague sort of way that Egypt is one grain of wheat away from a famine. Having read David Archibald’s article, though, I now know in a very specific way precisely what kind of famine may be facing the world’s most populous Muslim nation. While the Western world seems to have managed to stay one step ahead of Malthus, that’s not the case in Egypt, where bad things — overpopulation, underproduction, lack of diversification, political upheaval, and probable drought — are coming together to create a Perfect Storm of advanced hunger.
One of my favorite non-fiction books is Thomas Cahill’s The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. In authoring the book, Cahill has no ego. To the extent that he’s vastly well-informed, he wants to share his knowledge with people, not overwhelm them with his erudition. The result is a book that is simultaneously scholarly and accessible. I mentioned it here because Shmuley Boteach has written what could be the short version of that same book, describing how the Jews have contributed to the world’s well-being.
Two very specific things in the early 1980s taught me that socialism cannot work. The first was the fact that, when my father visited his sister in East Germany, shortly after she retired from her decade’s long career as a high level Communist Party functionary, he discovered that she had lived for nine years with a broken and unusable kitchen sink. Not to worry, this true believer told my father. She was “on the list” and was confident that the glorious Communist Party would one day get around to fixing her sink. I suspect that it was still broken when the wall came down.
The second thing that taught me that socialism cannot work was the story of two hip replacements. Back in 1974, my father got his hip replacement two months or so after he was told that it was the only way to keep him from spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He walked, albeit with pain for the next twenty years of his life, until his death.
Meanwhile, in 1981, while I was living in England, I met a woman who had been told back in 1979 that a hip replacement was the only thing that would keep her out of a wheelchair. When I met her, she’d been barely functioning for two years, although she’d avoided the wheelchair. After I left, she went into the wheelchair. I lost contact with her about two years after a left England (i.e., four years after the referral for hip surgery), at which time she was still in that wheelchair. I don’t know whether she ever got that hip.
Keep those realities in mind when you read about Sweden’s socialized medicine, which works wonderfully only if you live long enough to benefit from it.
The DiploMad may not be in the State Department any more, but he has friends who are. He’s learned from these friends that the State Department has a new initiative to ensure that something like Benghazi never happens again. Let me just say that I’m with the DiploMad in thinking that the movers and shakers in State are delusional — and to despair that they’re pursuing their delusions using our dollars and American lives.
A lawyer friend of mine is brilliant, informed, and an incredibly good writer. I hope those are adequate reasons for you to check out his post about the Free Speech (and Association) implications of the attack on Brendan Eich.
We all know that Obama and the Democrats committed fraud on a massive scale when the sold the public on Obamacare. I do not believe that, in the annals of history in any democratic country has a government ever committed fraud against its people in such a way.
Andrew McCarthy makes the case that the purpose behind this fraud was to pave the way for socialized medicine. The goal he says, was to knock everyone off their insurance, to destroy the insurance companies by bankrupting them, and then to have the government ride to the rescue. I have no doubt that this is correct. Indeed, I have never had any doubt, since conservatives, including those gathered at this blog, having been making precisely that argument since 2009.
What I’m wondering now, though, is whether the Democrats bollixed up their obvious goal through their own corruption and incompetence. In a couple of years, when everything collapses, will people see the government as the white knight charging to the rescue or, after having watched Obamacare in action, will they do everything possible to avoid having the government take over health care? If this plays out right, moving into 2016, won’t there be a rush to Republicans?
As always, the only question is whether the Republicans will offer a real market-based plan, or if they’ll just offer their own dreadful version of government-run medicine.
Incidentally, when it comes to government’s built-in incompetence creating large-scale technological projects, I cannot recommend this post highly enough.
The last time Congress considered a government medicine takeover, Harry and Louise beat it back. In that regard, IOwnTheWorld discovered a couple of prophetic Harry and Louise commercials.
Here’s a question for you: why were Americans and Congress resistant the last time around? Have we changed? Has the media become that much more powerful? Or was the fact that Obama was the president sufficient to lead Americans to embrace a pathway to socialized medicine?
Hat tip: Sadie
Many years ago, when Holland first enacted its euthanasia law, NPR ran an interview with a Dutchman who explained why euthanasia was a good idea in Holland, while it would be a terrible idea in America. The secret to Holland’s euthanasia, he said, was socialized medicine. The man explained that, in America, where medical costs could bankrupt families, those with terminal illnesses could be actively or passively coerced into turning to euthanasia in order to save their family’s finances.
Put another way, this man and the NPR host who interviewed him were both certain that Americans, when given the choice, would cheerfully throw Grandma from the train in order to save some money. Europeans, the Dutchman explained, with their cradle to grave care, would never be pressured into killing themselves. The beneficent state would pay all the medical bills, so money would not be an issue when it came to life and death decisions. The only thing that would matter in Europe, said this Dutchman, was the terminally ill person’s wishes.
I, being a good liberal back in the day, enthusiastically endorsed what he had to say. Clearly, euthanasia was a dreadful idea in America, where money was God, and people would be tempted to slip arsenic into their dying child’s broth in order to save the college fund for the next kid in line.
History has revealed that this Dutchman was absolutely and completely wrong. In America, people have willingly bankrupted themselves to save beloved family members. Mammon becomes meaningless when an extra treatment might give your child or a young mother a few more days, weeks, or years of life. People have hearts and souls. They connect to others, especially to those in their families.
It’s very different in socialist states, where euthanasia is the name of the game, often without the patient’s, or her family’s, agreement. In England, thousands of terminally ill people were hastened to their deaths by the Liverpool Care Pathway. It was meant to be a national hospice program that provided palliative care to the terminally ill in their final days. What ended up happening, of course, when the National Health Service started running out of money is that thousands (even tens of thousands) of elderly patients who were terminally ill, but weren’t anywhere near death’s door, were hastened to their deaths. They had become too expensive or just too difficult to manage.
It turns out that, twenty-odd years ago, when I heard that Dutchman speak, he had failed to consider two pertinent facts: First, socialist states invariably run out of money once they finally destroy their productive class; and second, the state has neither heart nor soul. To you, Patient X is your beloved mother, or brother, or child. To the state, Patient X is an unnecessary cost to an already strained system.
What frightens me is that, in Obama’s America, even before socialized medicine takes over, we might be losing the heart and soul that distinguishes individuals from the state. The Anchoress found at Salon an article in which Mary Elizabeth Williams, who supports abortion, finally comes out and said it: So what if abortion ends life? It’s almost refreshing to see this kind of honesty about one side of a divisive issue:
Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.
And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.
The Anchoress slices and dices the whole argument, but I found this point particularly compelling:
A point of order, please: One may certainly sacrifice one’s own life for another. That is what makes it a sacrifice. Sacrificing “another’s” life is not a sacrifice, unless that other person actually (like Jesus Christ or a soldier who has volunteered to serve, or a mother like this one) says, “yes, I will be sacrificed for the sake of others.”
Absent that permission, though, it’s not a sacrifice. It’s just an expedient, and wasteful killing.
In fact, the notion that someone else’s life is “worth sacrificing” for the furtherance of one’s own situation — the mindset that can advance that thinking — is precisely one that deserves the name “diabolical.”
Although both the Salon article and the Anchoress’ rebuttal focus on the beginning of life, the whole article is unnerving about life’s end too. The writer’s approach to human beings — we must sacrifice innocent lives for the greater good — has the same stark utilitarian logic found in the heartless and soulless socialist state that readily puts humans on a death pathway because they’re too expensive to care for.
Twenty years ago, I wrongly thought that a state’s magisterial power and wealth would be more pro-life than the human ties that bind people together. I’m now scared that, twenty years hence, both states and humans will cheerfully dispatch any expenses or inconveniences. And yes, it can happen here. It happened in Germany, it happened in the Soviet Union, it happened in Turkey, it happened in Cambodia, it happened in Rwanda….
Whether one believes that the Bible is God’s handiwork or man’s, it is a book of inestimable wisdom about humankind’s strengths and foibles. The constant exhortations to life stand as a reminder that man wears his civilization very lightly and that, beneath it, there is animal savagery, without any sense of morals, ethic, justice, or love. It would be interesting to see what that long ago Dutchman, or the representations of the National Health Service, or even Mary Elizabeth Williams would say about the Biblical injunction to “choose life.“