Sam Uretsky

When All Else Falls, Try the Obvious

It’s not that the United States is beyond repair, it’s just that too many people have a reason for not wanting it fixed. The American economy is a mess, just at a time when we need a strong economy. The Baby Boomers are nearing retirement, and after a lifetime of work, they’re seeing their savings, in whatever form, disappear. Many trusted that the equity in their homes would see them through retirement. Others had money in the stock market. Both types of investment are taking a nosedive. Traditionally, you didn’t have inflation and a recession at the same time, but we have it now — so that if you put your money in an insured account, it loses value, and if you put it in other investments you just lose money faster.

The dollar is in decline, which cuts its purchasing power, and unemployment is up. If the Federal Reserve Board and Congress try to jump start the economy by putting more money into circulation it’s inflationary. If they don’t, things get worse because only the super-rich have any money. Our president says that the way to fix this mess is to extend his tax cuts for the rich beyond 2010, which is his way of saying that he expects to have a legacy akin to that left by Herbert Hoover.

Let’s try again. First, there’s plenty of money around; it all depends where you spend it. Ayn Rand may be a terrible example for a progressive solution to the economy, but in Atlas Shrugged she described the impact of maldistribution of Rearden Metal, the marvelous new metal that’s lighter and stronger than steel, and how, because of attempts to be “fair” the wonder metal is used to make golf clubs, but the people who need it for heavy industry can’t get enough. George W. Bush has given us the reverse — the people who need money for education and nutrition are left broke, while those who just want bragging rights about their position in the Fortune 400 are doing fine. Robin Hood would know what to do, reverse the priorities of the tax cuts. After all, if those super-rich people aren’t using the economy, why can’t we have it for a while?

Part 2: Get out of Iraq. Mr. Bush’s war has been a terrible example of hubris that has cost more than we can ever afford.

Part 3: Come to our senses about health care. The Republicans are living in some fantasy where Adam Smith still applies, and where Mitt Romney shouts “European Socialized Medicine” as an epithet. It’s time to trot out all the usual statistics: Western European nations spend half what we do on health care, and live longer. So do all the other modern nations since they all have national health plans, all save money, and all offer longer, healthier lives.

The Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination have offered largely similar plans for increasing the number of people with health coverage, but because these plans kowtow to the political realities of insurance company advertising, they’ll cost more money rather than save. There will be benefits to having previously uninsured people have coverage, whether private or public, but these plans won’t result in the money savings we so desperately need. There may be other means of saving money, but they won’t go as far in dealing with an essential social need. A national health service is an idea whose time should have come long ago, but the insurance companies have too many politicians cowed. Proposals for universal health care that assist people in buying insurance seem more like a subsidy than anything else. In a 2006 study of over 294 areas, the American Medical Association found that in 95% of markets, a single insurer had a market share of 30% or greater, and in 56% of the markets, a single insurer had a market share of 50% or greater. The benefits of free markets aren’t working, the benefits of oligopoly are.

The Bush legacy will be one of tragic, wasted years, deteriorating infrastructure, needless war and a fractured economy. We’ve mortgaged the future and, the way things are going, we’re selling the present. If we’re going to save the economy and the country we have to start by saving money, and the health-care system is the most obvious place.

Sam Urteskey is a pharmacist from Long Island, N.Y.

From The Progressive Populist, March 15, 2008

Home Page

Subscribe to The Progressive Populist

Copyright © 2008 The Progressive Populist.