Wednesday, June 7, 2017

An Angry Post

This was the post that I wrote as an angry response to that guy who's memorial (not quite a wake or a funeral) I went to this past weekend.

He had his leg amputated last year, but had virtually no sick days left, because they had been used up due to his earlier problems leading up to the amputation. If memory serves correctly, he had 10 days left of his sick days for the rest of the calendar years. That's it. Two weeks off from work to recover from a leg amputation.

Not surprisingly, he was scared, felt lonely and uncertain for the future. Losing his leg was traumatic enough, but not having nearly enough sick days remaining to recover from this whole thing added not only more fear and uncertainty, but a sense of anger. A sense of being cheated, of being viewed as a case to be processed, rather than as a human being facing something huge, something that would take a while to recover from. Something that does not normally happen, and which clearly takes time to recover from.

When you are dealt only in terms of how much money, how much profit, others can get from you, these are the types of stories that will emerge, time and time and time again. And in our very flawed healthcare system here in the United States, these are the kinds of stories we then have to deal with, time and time and time again. 

It made me very angry, as well as sad for him. He is gone now, but I hated just how he was being treated. And then, neither of the two major party presidential candidates last year had answers. Trump's answer so far is to make healthcare still more bureaucratic and unaffordable, and the latest estimate suggests that that 23 million people will lose their health insurance. Hillary Clinton's solution was basically to tinker with the obviously far from perfect, and frankly seriously flawed, Obamacare. 

What angers me about that is the fact that every other developed nation in the world, quite literally, does it better than we do. It marks one of the biggest failures that this country has not been able to overcome, year after year, election after election, and now decade after decade.

The following is what I wrote in response to this situation, but never quite got around to publishing:

There is something that has been really bothering me the last couple of days.

For a long time, I have railed against the for profit healthcare system that exists in the United States, and which a majority of people seem generally and genuinely unhappy with. Yet, because of scare tactics used to discredited any other alternatives by those who profit the most from this system, the system has, against all odds, remained not only in place, but has actually been entrenched even further over the course of decades. The fact that Obamacare was not so much a massive overhaul, as it was a tinkering of an unfair system, serves as proof that the healthcare system in place in the United States is bordering on evil.

Yes, I say evil. After all, my definition of evil would be when people literally profit from other people's pain, and thus make a point of continuing such a system. If that is not a definition of evil, then I do not know what is. Quite frankly, that is what we have here in the United States, the poor excuse of what passes as a healthcare system.

It is the only industrialized country in the world that fails to provide it's citizens an affordable, universal healthcare system that keeps prices of medication and medical care in check. Again, this bears repeating: every single other industrialized nation in the world has such a single payer healthcare system in place except the United States, where the people seem to want major reforms to the for profit, privatized healthcare system, although the political machinery and corruption continually denies the possibility of real change.

Just the thought of this is staggering, quite frankly. here, according to NerdWallet Health Analysis,
are the official numbers of people who go broke each year because of medical bills:

Britain - 0

France - 0
Japan - 0
Germany - 0
Canada - 0
Netherlands - 0
Switzerland - 0

Here's the kicker:

United States - 643,000

Quite frankly, those are conservative number of countries. Here are some (and just some) of the other countries that you can add to this list: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Israel, South Korea, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Hungary, Albania, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Andorra, Monaco, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico (yes, Mexico has more affordable medical care than is offered in the United States), Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and quite a few others, including Russia, India, and China. All of these countries have far more affordable healthcare than what is offered to American citizens. As you can tell, we truly stand alone in this regard, and that is one of the reasons that the rest of the world looks at us strangely and wonders why we do not simply come aboard with such a medical system of our own, because it would be a step up for a vast majority of people. Indeed, it would be to the great benefit of a vast majority of people to get more affordable and accessible, quality healthcare.

It bares repeating: the United States stands alone in the world as the only industrialized country that fails to provide it's citizens with universal, affordable healthcare. I word it that way because, to me, there really is no other way to describe it, other than as a failure.

Yet, far too many Americans are not aware of this fact. For too long, Americans have been fed a steady stream of loud, over the top pats on the back about how great the country is, how America is #1, how it is the leader of the free world, and the unspoken message in this crush of symbolic patriotism is that we do things better here, that everything is better here than elsewhere. Americans truly believe that their country is the most free, most wealthy place in the world. Statistics often are used to bear this fact out, that it is the wealthiest country. And indeed, it could serve as a source of pride, if you conveniently forget about how so much of that wealth is held in very elite hands, to the point that the top 1% of Americans own something near half the wealth of the country.

In this day and age, however, when access to information on the internet is flying like never before, ignorance appears to be very much on the rise. That might account for the rise of someone like Donald Trump, who actually, rather unbelievable, could become the next president. When you get fluff news all of the time, and when you get used to hearing only what you want to hear, that is what happens.

As I write this, the news is on. Here is one major "news" piece that has been on frequent rotation: Taylor Swift has broken up with her manager.

This is a perfect illustration of what I mean by Americans being fed a steady does of softball news pieces that never hint at any of the real problems facing this country. How does this "news" piece about Taylor Swift affect my life, or yours? Why are we not hearing about the inadequacies of our healthcare system, or why it seems to be so much better and affordable in other countries? Or, how our infrastructure is crumbling, how our schools are failing our children? How there seems to be a spike in oil leaks in our seas, and how some of our other practices keep affecting real people, like the hundreds of thousands in West Virginia who found their water sources undrinkable and obviously dirty.

Those are real news stories that can give a proper diagnosis of how the country is doing.

The story about Taylor Swift does not. Nor do any of the other "news" stories focusing on fluff, such as celebrity news. But we get such a steady diet of these kinds of stories that matter not at all, that stories that actually do matter, such as the inadequacies of our healthcare system, or the growing inequality and income gap, stagnant wages and the attacks on our benefits, none of these ever seem to be reported.

Okay, so here goes the more personal story that got me on this particular subject matter at this time. A few weeks ago, I saw a Facebook post from a college friend who had a very bad situation going on with his right leg. It looked pretty banged up, although the post did not say what had happened to him. I expressed sympathy and hoped he would do well, but did not think of it too much more, until the same leg was pictured much more recently, earlier this week.

This time, the guy added that he was feeling emotional, and taking a picture of that same leg, because he was about to lose it the due to an amputation that was to take place the next day, just under the knee.

To my understanding, he used up the time allocated to him for recovery, which was ten weeks.

Now, just a few months later, he needs to have his lower leg amputated, but only has ten days remaining for recovery time.

This, to me, is outrageous to the point of being infuriating! How can Americans continually stand by and do nothing, when we hear such horror stories over and over again? How is it that so many Americans are willing to hear the horror stories (which amount to rumors) about just how bad the European model of healthcare is, and how this is inevitably a step towards a communist/fascist (as if those two things were one and the same) dictatorship? After all, even Americans - who's collective ignorance of anything outside their own borders is the stuff of legend these days - yes, even Americans know that countries like Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are not communist or fascist dictatorships. That, in fact, these are free countries, and yet their people, given the option of choosing their healthcare systems or the American model, consistently choose their own, without fail!

Yet, we are where we are because enough Americans allow themselves to be convinced that the system in these other countries is apparently evil, and indeed a first step towards ruthless, bloody tyranny, and that America will always be the exception to this. In the meantime, many of the same opponents to a fairer healthcare system are also in favor of reducing salaries and benefits, of supporting corporations (often because they are funded by them) that outsource good paying jobs off to third world countries and, quite often, these same people (who of course, always consider themselves true patriots and wear their patriotic colors on their sleeves, to make sure everyone sees them) are too often in favor of wars that prove costly in every way.

Our values and our priorities as a country are all screwed up here in the United States! That is how we get where we get. That is how we have reached a point where so much of the rest of the world observes us and can only scratch their head, failing to understand certain phenomenon, which are, indeed, truly, uniquely American.

Think about how the rest of the world sees us presently. We choose to deny ourselves a single payer healthcare system that would make it more affordable and equitable for all. We seem to allow our politicians to scrap our salaries and workers rights by eliminating collective bargaining, and yet we allow some politicians (such as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker) to claim that Americans are growing lazy and falling behind the rest of the world. Our infrastructure is crumbling, our education system is failing, and we are buried under tremendous debt. Yet, we always have enough money to go to war. Now, we are perhaps on the verge of electing Donald Trump. Even if he does not get in, the lesser of two evils in the upcoming election is Hillary Clinton.

Not exactly the gold standard, our collective behavior and political thinking has been here in the United States.

A lot of the same people that moan about a lack of common sense in this country also allow certain crimes to continue, and crucial facts to be overlooked or glossed over. There are better alternatives for healthcare, but we choose to reject these, because they are not American, essentially. There are better infrastructures, but we choose to spend our tax money instead on expensive wars, tax breaks for the rich, and on corporate subsidies. We are the only major industrialized country where many prominent politicians reject science itself, so that polluters can continue to pollute, without pesky environmental regulations to try and keep this planet as clean and healthy as possible.

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