Blog Archives

Our Hopelessly Dysfunctional Democracy

Democracy in America has become a hollow shell. The conventional markers of democracy–elections and elected representatives–exist, but they are mere facades; the mechanisms of setting the course of the nation are corrupt, and the power lies outside the public’s reach.

History has shown that democratic elections don’t guarantee an uncorrupt, functional government. Rather, democracy has become the public-relations stamp of approval for corrupt governance that runs roughshod over individual liberty while centralizing the power to enforce consent, silence critics and maintain the status quo.

Consider Smith’s Neofeudalism Principle #1: If the citizenry cannot replace a dysfunctional government and/or limit the power of the financial Aristocracy at the ballot box, the nation is a democracy in name only.

In other words, if the citizenry changes the elected representation but the financial Aristocracy and the Deep State remain in charge, then the democracy is nothing but a PR facade for an oppressive oligarchy.

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Why Is the Cost of Living so Unaffordable?

The mainstream narrative is “the problem is low wages.” Actually, the problem is the soaring cost of living. If essentials such as healthcare, housing, higher education and government services were as cheap as they once were, a wage of $10 or $12 an hour would be more than enough to maintain a decent everyday life.

Here are some examples from the real world. In 1952, it cost $30 to have a baby in an excellent hospital. If we adjust that by official inflation as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s inflation calculator to 2017, the cost would be $275. ($1 in 1952 = $9.16 in 2017).

What does it cost to have a baby delivered in a hospital today? $5,000? $10,000? Who even knows, given the convoluted billing process in today’s sickcare system?

The pharmaceutical cartel jacks up medication costs per dose from $3 to $600, even when the medication has been around for decades: the Pinworm prescription jumps from $3 to up to $600 a pill Parents, doctors angry over drug price gouging (via John F.)

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Want to Bring Back Jobs? It’s Impossible Unless We Fix these Four Things

If there is any goal that might attract support from across the political spectrum, it’s creating more fulltime jobs in the U.S. But this laudable goal is dead-on-arrival (DOA) unless we first fix these four things. Why is job growth stagnating? Many point to automation, and yes, that is a systemic dynamic that will only expand going forward.

But much of the stagnation is the direct result of the high costs and structural failures in these four inputs to the job market. U.S. healthcare costs more than twice as much per person as healthcare per person in our advanced-economy competitors. Why would anyone open a business in a nation so poorly run that healthcare costs twice as much as it does everywhere else?

The American people are not healthy. Obesity / obesity-related diseases and opiate addiction are both epidemic. Workers struggling with lifestyle-caused chronic diseases cost more to hire and to help.

If you set out to destroy the nation’s ability to create jobs, you’d impose the unaffordable healthcare system we have, and the overly complex and costly tax / regulation system we have. And you’d push your students to get useless credentials instead of the real-world skills, moxie and values they need to get ahead and fulfill their potential in a fast-changing economy.

You want to create jobs? First fix these four things, or your goal is DOA.

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Be Your Own Medicine

I recently saw a slogan that encapsulated what’s wrong with the U.S. healthcare system: Be Your Own Medicine. To Be Your Own Medicine is the essence of prevention, and a way of taking full ownership of one’s health, body, mind, diet, fitness and daily habits.

Alas, being your own medicine strips the $3.5 trillion healthcare system of profit, power and control, so the last thing the healthcare cartels want is for us to be our own medicine, as that would reduce our reliance on highly profitable pharmaceuticals, tests, procedures and high-cost facilities.

Note the slogan isn’t “take your own medicine” or “make your own medicine”–it’s be your own medicine, which suggests that health is a way of being, not just a way of consuming, though what we consume is integral to being your own medicine.

Our materialist-consumerist culture focuses almost exclusively on data, so “health” is quickly reduced to FitBit readings, test results and an obsessive monitoring of calories and diets, to the general exclusion of the mind-body as an integral system.

The importance of what we put in our mouths is expressed by the old Chinese saying: disease comes in through the mouth, i.e. what we consume. But what we consume is not limited to food (or what is sold as “food”): it also includes what our minds consume in the way of “news”, entertainment, knowledge, etc., and what inputs we experience as stress.

There is also what we might call a spiritual component that includes beliefs but also purpose, meaning and positive social roles. People who have lost (or been stripped of) positive social roles, goals and purpose are prone to a Devil’s brew of psychological and physical ailments that cannot be understood or treated as separate from being.

Yet this is precisely what the U.S. healthcare system does: separate conditions into specialties that can each be treated by medications or procedures. What cannot be “fixed” by medications or procedures–for example, a loss of purpose and positive social roles–are ignored: these realities simply do not exist in the U.S. healthcare system.

Any physician or nurse who attempts to understand and co-treat (with the patient themselves) a patient’s entire state of being will encounter multiple layers of institutional resistance or even active hostility.

There’s no time or money to address the state of patients’ being; treatment is defined by tests, data and diagnoses that then trigger “standards of care” that rely heavily on medications, for a number of systemic reasons: drugs satisfy the patients’ demands for the system to “do something” that “fixes” their condition instantly; it enables overworked physicians and providers a ready treatment that can be defended in the courts as current standard-of-care, and it enables every cartel in a system of cartels to reap huge revenues and profits.

What would a healthcare system based on prevention and be your own medicine look like? Such a system would still be called upon to treat diseases such as brain tumors, genetic conditions, traumatic injuries, etc., but the front line of the system would be designed to help individuals be their own medicine, not just in the context of provider-patient but within the day-to-day contexts of households, communities and enterprises.

The idea that actions have consequences is not alien to us, yet our healthcare system is based on giving lip-service to the causal consequences of what we put in our mouths, what we do with our bodies and minds, and what we consume in the material, spiritual and psychological worlds.

Treatment of atomized individuals in a setting of atomized symptoms and treatments is by any measure the opposite of a system that encourages and enables everyone to be their own medicine.

My new book is in the top 20 of Amazon’s Kindle ebooks > Business & Money > International Economics: A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All. The Kindle edition is $8.95 and the print edition is currently discounted to $20.82.

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Why The Status Quo Is Doomed: Income Stagnates, Costs Rise

Even if nothing else doomed the status quo, the widening gap between household incomes and costs will push the corrupt contraption over the cliff by itself. The status quo (whatever you wish to call it) requires “growth” to sustain itself–growth in consumption, spending, sales, debt, asset valuations, profits and of course taxes, and ultimately all of those “growths” depend on household incomes.

Incomes even for the most highly educated workers are stagnating:

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A Fatal Accident Waiting to Happen: U.S. Healthcare

Many of the systems we take for granted are historical accidents. Either based on legacy systems hundreds of years old (higher education) or assembled in a short-term, ad hoc fashion (post-1940 national defense/ national security), these systems have expanded into vast patronage systems that are completely out of touch with 21st century needs, costs or realities.

The U.S. healthcare system was not planned; it is largely accidental.

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The Critical Difference Between Rentier Wealth and Wealth Creation

If you want to understand why our economy is stagnating and wealth inequality is rising, look at the rise of rentier skims and the resulting decline in wealth creation.

To understand why the real economy is stagnating, we have to understand the critical difference between rentier wealth and wealth creation. Rentier wealth is skimmed by fees that provide little to no value to the to the person paying the fee.

The classic example is a fee collected to pass from one fiefdom’s border to the next: no value is provided to the person paying the border fee; it is a rentier skim that transfers wealth from serfs to the fiefdom’s landowning nobility.

In the modern economy, rentier skims take a variety of forms.

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Sorry, Fed Inflationistas: Technology Is Deflationary

Technology, like Nature itself, has no emotional stake in what is creatively destroyed.

We all know the Federal Reserve is terrified of deflation, because they keep telling us that deflation is the equivalent of death and inflation is the equivalent of oxygen. What they fail to mention is that inflation is only oxygen for debtors barely able to service their debt and those who profits from debt, i.e. bankers and financiers.

For everyone earning a wage or salary, inflation is the equivalent of death by a thousand cuts and deflation is the elixir of life. When prices decline, our money goes further, i.e. our purchasing power increases.

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Greed + Cartels = U.S. Sickcare/ObamaCare

Sickcare/ObamaCare is fundamentally broken at every level.

The incremental nature of change makes it difficult for us to notice how systems that once worked well with modest costs have transmogrified into broken systems that cost a fortune. Exhibit # 1 is higher education: 40 years ago, four-year public universities were affordable and two-year community colleges were almost free. Now students have to borrow $1 trillion to pay for the exorbitant privilege of higher education.

Longtime correspondent Ishabaka (an M.D. with 30+ years experience in primary care and as an emergency room physician) responded to this article with an insider’s account of what happens when greed and cartels take over healthcare.After reading What’s wrong with American hospitals?, a scathing deconstruction of for-profit healthcare, Ishabaka submitted this commentary:

I could have told you what was wrong with our hospital system by 1989 – nobody would listen to me back then.

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Our Middleman-Skimming Economy

The Internet is enabling sellers and buyers to bypass the predatory State and the parasitic middlemen the State enforces.

Why do we read commentaries and analyses? To understand why the Status Quo is dying and to have a hand in shaping the new way of living that will replace it.Longtime correspondent Zeus Y. recently encapsulated the core dynamic of our era:

“Here’s the deal between the two worlds right now: the Status Quo is dying but trying to take everything with it and the other is trying to hold the old world up enough to avoid complete collapse, buy time, and construct the airplane of the new world, all while flying.”

Humans avoid changing current arrangements until there is no choice left but to change them–usually when the arrangement collapses in a heap. Greece is an interesting example of just this dynamic: the political parties left, right and center are desperate to keep the corrupt Status Quo intact, while those whose slice of the swag has vanished have already moved on to new arrangements that no longer depend on Central State swag or the many layers of middlemen that skimmed off most of the wealth for various monopolies, cartels and Elites:
After Crisis, Greeks Work to Promote ‘Social’ Economy.

Here’s the Status Quo arrangement: the Elites trying to take everything they can before their vast skimming arrangement finally collapses:

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America’s Make-Work Sectors (Healthcare and Higher Education) Have Run Out of Oxygen

We can no longer afford the expansion of healthcare/education or their out-of-control costs.

If we strip away obscuring narratives, we can clearly see that the two employment sectors that have expanded rain or shine for decades have functioned as gigantic make-work projects. I refer of course to healthcare and education, specifically higher education.

We can see the outsized gains in these sectors by comparing total population growth to the number of full-time jobs and the number of jobs in education/healthcare since 1990. Here is total population: a 27% increase since 1990:

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Our Two Most Onerous Taxes: College Tuition and Healthcare Insurance

It is not coincidence that these two unofficial taxes–healthcare and college tuition–are soaring in cost, outpacing all other household expenses.

I have long argued that to make an apples-to-apples comparison of real tax rates in the U.S. and other equivalently developed advanced democracies, we have to include two enormous expenses that are funded by the central state in countries such as Denmark and France: healthcare and college tuition/fees.

In The Real-World Middle Class Tax Rate: 75% (July 5, 2012), I estimated that healthcare insurance (if paid out of gross income, as we self-employed workers do) in the U.S. is roughly equivalent to a 15% tax.

Now that the Orwellian-named Affordable Care Act (ACA) is raising costs and deductibles, the true cost of healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare, because being chronically sick is so darned profitable for the cartels) is more like 20% in America.

Correspondent Tim L. (whose daughter is attending a prestigious STEM–science, technology, engineering, math–university) recently called $40-$50,000 per year college tuition what it really is: a tax:

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