Over the weekend, I took a rainy walk down Wall Street and through the financial district in lower Manhattan. As I navigated my way across the busy intersections and between the arrays of decorative sidewalk bollards, I noticed something really strange.
None, despite the fact that within that very space, the near destruction of the world economy was detonated, igniting one of the deepest recessions in American history and accompanied by 500,000 job losses every month.
Not only was the district free of protesters, but I spotted a gaggle of grinning tourists merrily gathered on and around the famous "Charging Bull" statue. One woman was having her picture taken while crouched down and cupping the bull's gigantic watermelon-sized brass testicles. Actually, you could say that there was at least one tea bagger downtown. But, you know, the wrong kind.
As I marveled at the incongruous serenity of the financial district, I couldn't help but to wonder if all of this talk about massive job losses and a near-meltdown was an elaborate hoax, or whether Americans by-in-large simply don't give a rip, choosing instead to continue on their merry way, acquiescing to a failed system rather than lashing out against the horrors of deregulatory Reaganomics, and, consequently, taking action against the real killers. In other words, while political participation appears to be cresting a wave, there's still a considerable level of apathy about demanding accountability from the crooks who nearly screwed us all.
This apathy is especially evident in the health care crisis.
The president likes to say, "If you like the health insurance you have now..." The problem is that much like your utter lack of financial security in a system that's been gamed by corporate criminals, the health insurance you have now... sucks.
From the early 1980s, when Reagan began the systematic deregulation of corporate America and declared war on the middle class, and lasting through and including the 2008 economic meltdown, the American economy has always been a ticking time bomb held together mostly by trickery and gambling. We were always meant to pick up the filthy mess when the meltdown occurred. And we did. Not just through the bailouts, but also through the loss of our jobs and the loss of our personal financial security, both of which helped to keep the culprits in business -- bonuses and golden parachutes included.
Likewise, the health care system is in the process of melting down, and for too many Americans it already has. And as for the rest of us who think our health insurance policies are excellent and secure are, in reality, in serious denial. Even now, we're paying more and more of our own money towards keeping this broken system afloat, and when the health care crisis kicks into high gear soon, who do you think will be obligated to pay for the greed and corruption responsible for the crisis?
Meanwhile, your premiums are being systematically jacked up until, one day, they'll extend beyond your financial means. It's only a matter of time before an injury or illness isn't covered due to, perhaps, a mistake on your application or the whim of a corporate bureaucrat. It's only a matter of time before your policy is suddenly rescinded in lieu of your insurance provider's profit margins which, by the way, have increased by upwards of 350 percent in the last decade. Your premiums, meanwhile, have more than doubled over that same ten years while middle class wages have remained flat. Reaganomics illustrated. Health care costs are destined to finish off what remains of the American middle class. Around 60 percent of all bankruptcies are due to health care debt with 78 percent of those bankruptcies filed by people with health insurance. Again, the insurance you have sucks and it's only the beginning of the bailout. We're nowhere near the high water mark.
At the very least, and at this very moment, we're all paying a 30 percent private tax to our insurance companies. This tax isn't being spent on our family's medical care and general wellness, but instead on corporate bureaucracy and profit. For the average family contributing to around half of an annual $13,000 employer-based premium, this private tax amounts to more than a thousand dollars a year (and rising) for nothing. No guarantees against rescinding our policies. No guarantees of coverage in the event of a serious illness. No guarantees that we'll be covered for a pre-existing condition. No guarantees that our rates won't be randomly jacked up for no reason. Nothing.
Even if you work for a health insurance company, your health care sucks. WellPoint is in the process of entirely stripping a "small number" of employees of their health insurance via pink slips, and the remaining employees will have to kick in more of their paycheck towards their monthly premiums (along with the obligatory 30 percent private tax, of course). It's worth mentioning that WellPoint is under investigation for coercing their employees into lobbying Congress against health care reform. Oh, and the CEO of WellPoint earned $10 million last year. Good people.
I sometimes wonder how bad things have to get in order for us to demand real change in this country. It didn't take long after 9/11 for shark attacks and celebrity scandals to dominate the very serious establishment press again. And judging by the empty sidewalks (and the festive molestation of that bull statue) in lower Manhattan, a near economic meltdown wasn't quite enough to rally us into the streets with pitchforks and torches, demanding accountability from the banks and financial institutions responsible for it. (ACORN and the "czars," on the other hand, must be destroyed!)
Likewise, the list of very obvious grievances against the health insurance cartels apparently isn't lengthy and awful enough to spark much more than tepid popular support for reform even though 3,750 Americans die every month from a lack of health care. That's more casualties than 9/11 every 30 days. Maybe if we nicknamed the health insurance companies "evildoers" who need to be "smoked out" we'd make a little more progress. We'd certainly get a reform bill a lot more quickly, based upon the PATRIOT Act express lane turnaround time.
But Republicans don't want to do a damn thing if it means a victory for the president, while too many congressional Democrats would be happy to pass a shoddy bill put forth by a mostly unknown senator from Montana who is proudly attempting to legally require us to buy insurance from the criminal cartels responsible for this mess and without any public insurance option as an escape hatch. Naturally, this is the result of the fact that the health care industry is contributing millions to key senators including Mr. Baucus from Montana. Oh, and the Supreme Court is poised to allow corporations unlimited financial access to political campaigns -- a move that will surely exacerbate the health care crisis, among other things.
This is about as serious as it gets. The health insurance you have now sucks. And it's only going to get suckier as time wears on unless serious change happens now.
Adding... Quick plug for this video. It's an undercover video shot at a gun show revealing the massive loopholes in gun control laws. It's a must see.
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