CHAPTER 5: The Evolution of American Capitalism
Any society will tend to evolve along certain lines based on the dynamics and structures and philosophy contained in that society. We will examine how American society is likely to evolve if current trends are allowed to continue. We don't pretend to have a crystal ball or supernatural knowledge but are just extrapolating present tendencies to their logical limits. And then we will examine in Chapter 6 how we might evolve if certain changes are made in the social structure.
If present trends continue, there will be a concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands as workers are systematically replaced by automation, robotization and cheap Third World labor. As there is more and more widespread unemployment, workers will lose any power they once had as labor unions become impotent in the face of the fact that physical and mental labor has become expendable to a greater and greater extent. Eventually a political oligarchy and economic plutocracy comprised of the same people will replace the society that was once grounded in a large middle class. The fact that farmers are being driven off their land, that the family farm is becoming extinct, is another manifestation of the expendability of broadly based human labor power. Instead of a society composed of a large number of small farmers and independent small businessmen, a yeomenry, people are being stripped of their land, stripped of their independence in large numbers and forced to rely on the society as a whole for their wherewithal whereas formerly they could self-subsist. The society they are forced to depend on is a society ill-equipped to support them either in terms of jobs or social protection and support systems. Fewer and fewer human beings are necessary to turn the levers of production. Instead of this resulting in a utopia in which the work week for everybody is gradually reduced with all people sharing in the fruits of automation, most people will be put out of work altogether. A fortunate few will be necessary to run the automated machines and a number of others will take up menial service jobs which it will not have been deemed practical or cost-effective to automate. The means of production, the land and capital, will end up in fewer and fewer hands with the majority of the people subsisting on welfare if the democrats have control or from hand to mouth if the republicans have control. Meaningful work and good jobs will not be plentiful, and the person who previously made a living by virtue of his skilled or unskilled labor power will have a sense of futility as he realizes that the value of what he has to offer has been degraded and the only real distinction is between people who own the means of production and those who don't.
HOMOGENIZATION OF THE GLOBAL LABOR FORCE
In addition to the effects of robotization, the value of American labor will be further diminished by the industrialization of the Third World in which a vast pool of increasingly skilled but cheap labor will in effect drive down the price of labor in the US as American companies try to compete with more cost effective foreign companies who are able to effectively exploit Third World labor. American companies also will continue to export jobs abroad as they seek the cheapest cost for their labor input. Instead of rising wages in the Third World which would make American made products more competitive cost-wise, create additional markets, and take the pressure off of American labor, we will see falling wages in the US in order that American corporations can better compete with foreign competitors. In effect we will see a world-wide (in the capitalist world that is) homogenization of the value of labor with a shift toward the present value of Third World labor. The result will be the elimination of the American middle class and the development of a capitalist-world-wide underclass of cheap labor as well as a large industrial reserve army of permanently unemployed. The current Third World demographics of a small, wealthy elite class and a large poverty underclass will tend to suffuse the First World. The US will continue to lose its ability to exploit the Third World as natives continue to consolidate their control over their own resources and labor pools. This will do no good for the majority of Third World citizens as, rather than being exploited by US corporations, they will increasingly be exploited by their own countrymen. The US will lose the ability to access cheap foreign markets which is one of the means it had for supporting a large reatively well-off middle class. So the US middle class will be sacrificed in order to compete. The US government will come more and more to resemble a South American junta as the trappings of democracy can no longer be afforded. The rhetoric of democracy, however, will be retained as the substance of democracy is sacrificed on the altar of world-wide competition.
Michael Harrington, writing in the LA Times, May 17, 1987, in an article entitled, "Future Could Bring on Utopia-or Nightmare," says that, if current trends continue, the future looks bleak:
"The United States will then be a society of much greater inequality and pervasive insecurity. A majority of the children now in school will be leading adult lives with living standards much lower than their parents.
But there will be a well-off elite, perhaps as large as a fifth of the labor force, the prime beneficiaries of the information economy. However, even that privileged stratum will become more and more uneasy. In recent years, there have been increasing layoffs of white-collar and middle-management people.
As the generations of computers succeed one another, much executive work can be taken over by machines. Still, there will be some winners, and they are precisely the women and men who have done well under the Reagan Administration.
The middle class, defined in very broad terms to include well-paid workers, moderately successful professionals and the lower levels of management, will 'slide' down more and more, and the American dream will sink below its horizon....
And the poor will persist, and even increase in number, in the midst of the most technologically advanced society in human history. Why? A study by Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress last year documented that most of the new jobs generated since 1979 have been low-paying, yielding $7000 a year or less, well below the $8738 poverty line for a family of three in 1986.
Ironically, the main victims of this trend come from the traditionally advantaged category of white men. They have sufferred a huge net loss in 'good' jobs....
...the 'natural' tendency of the American economy as it now operates is to destroy relatively well-paid smokestack jobs, as well as middle-management posts, and to proliferate low-paid, unorganized service employment. Ultimately, this low-wage trend will lead, in one way or another, to an economic crisis. Here and now, it already points toward a depressed occupational future for this country."1
And what of the utopia Harrington says is possible? That would come about if the work week was reduced with wages remaining constant so that the requisite work was spread around along with giving labor, in general, a larger slice of the pie. This does not seem to be the way the present trend is going. With organized labor losing power, there will be no means to win the concessions necessary to give labor a larger share of the pie.
In an article in the LA Times entitled "Gap Between Rich, Poor Is Widening" (10-21-84 by A. Kent MacDougall) we find:
"Ever since the first band of nomadic hunters and gatherers settled down as farmers 12,000 years ago and started accumulating surpluses of food and goods, some people have managed to keep a disproportionate share of the surplus for themselves, while others have been left with only the barest necessities.
Today, despite 12,000 years of technological progress, an enormous increase in material production and consumption, bloody revolutions aimed at redistributing wealth and well-intentioned reforms aimed at ameliorating the effects of inequality, human society remains divided between haves and have-nots.
At a time when inequality has become a major issue in the current US election campaign, a hard look at inequality both here and in many capitalist and communist countries abroad shows that the ages-old gap between rich and poor is persisting and even widening throughout most of the world.
'Since the mid-1970s the winds have been blowing more strongly around the world against equality, as the general economic slowdown has given many people and many governments the feeling that they can no longer afford to mitigate unfairness,' observed Lars Osberg, a Canadian economist who has written books on inequality in Canada and the United States.
In the United States, the rich have been getting richer and the poor poorer for a decade, according to Census Bureau statistics. The figures show that whereas the most affluent one-fifth of American families averaged seven times more income than the poorest fifth in 1974, the gap was nine to one last year. Meanwhile, in Canada, the country closest to the United States in size, geography and economic development, the gap is six to one.
...The growing gap here and abroad would cause less concern if the absolute living standards of those at the bottom were being maintained or even improved. Unfortunately, in much of the Third World, where the worst recession in half a century has hit harder and lasted longer than in the industrialized First World, and where austerity programs designed to reduce huge debts to First World bankers have fallen heaviest on the poor, hardship and hunger are on the rise.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that even though the world now produces enough to feed its entire population of 4.7 billion, the number of Third World hungry rose from 401 million in 1969-71 to 460 million last year.
Even in the relatively prosperous United States, the amount of money required just to meet necessities has been rising faster than the paychecks and other income of low-income Americans, increasing the officially designated poverty population to 35.3 million last year from 23 million 10 years earlier.
International surveys show that the United States is among the least equal of mature capitalist countries in terms of income distribution. A 1976 survey of 11 capitalist countries found only France and Spain with less equal income distribution than the United States, while a 1977 comparison of eight countries found only France less equal.
Even Japan, which was highly unequal until post-World War 2 American occupation forces imposed land redistribution, wage equalization, unionization and education reforms, now distributes income more equally than the United States."2
It is hard to believe in the Reagan era that the US just a few years ago imposed all those left-wing policies on Japan. If Japan had just been beaten yesterday, I'm sure we would have given subsidies to the largest landowners, bailed out the large corporations, busted the unions and seen to it that education was available only to those who could afford to pay for it.
The illusion of upward mobility and opportunity will be kept alive by promoting a poor person to the top echelon periodically and then milking the PR value of this event to the hilt. The chances of this happening to any particular poor person will become increasingly minute. In the same way the illusion of government programs to help people will be kept alive by television commercials which show the government helping people through job training programs, programs which help handicapped people etc. An article in the LA Times on Feb. 22, 1986 headlined "Nancy Reagan's Party for Disabled Called Hypocrisy," stated:
"Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn) on Friday leveled an unusual attack at First Lady Nancy Reagan, declaring that 'hypocrisy is not a strong enough word' to describe a White House party Mrs. Reagan gave for handicapped children, given the Administration's repeated eforts to cut education funds for the disabled. ...
'Instead of advocating genuine opportunity for the disabled, this administration pushes nothing but photo opportunities,' Weicker charged. 'Despite glamorous displays of partnership with handicapped children, this Administration's true partnership is with the past, when the disabled were locked in institutions and out of the nation's schools and workplaces.' ...
"Witnesses at the hearing cited the results of a Harris Poll, which showed that, although life has improved for the disabled in the last 10 years, they are still poorer, less educated and have a higher unemployment rate that any other minority group in the country ."3
This same kind of ploy will be used to promote peace also by showing slick commercials for the Peace Corps while its budget is being gutted and playing down the role of the military while its budget soars towards 13 figures.
The illusion of fairness and non-prejudice will be kept alive by promoting a minority person a certain percentage of the time in proportion to the percentage of that minority in the population at large. The illusion that people can rise out of the vast underclass through hard work and merit will be kept alive by creating opportunities for a negligible percentage of poor people to escape their poverty. Again this will be done in a non-discriminatory way to create the illusion of fairness. In reality the chance of rising out of the underclass will be statistically negligible as will be the chance of rising into the upper class. A national lottery will attempt to buy off and co-opt any sentiment of injustice as the national PR attempts to buy a lot of goodwill for itself, create a cohesive populace through TV commercials and head off hysteria as people dream of (but do not act upon) escaping their situation. Capitalizing on lottery-mania and the capacity of the lottery for pacifying the population and draining discontent as long as the American people have some remote chance of becoming a millionaire for life, the government will be able to raise an enormous quantity of funds to finance a large military build-up while making .00001% of the American people millionaires for life. Even though the American public knows what their chances are, they are nonetheless eager to participate in the lottery and have their protest co-opted since it is a well-known fact that the public never takes statistical percentages to heart and would think positively about the situation even if the statistical percentages were a couple of magnitudes less favorable. It will come to be considered almost unAmerican not to buy lottery tickets as the considerable social pressure to conform and participate in the lottery will have been created by a whiz kid in the administration who thought up the idea of combining commercials for the lottery with beer commercials.
The middle class will disappear as the need for semi-skilled labor vanishes and more and more tasks are turned over to robots and computers. As production becomes more and more automated, ownership of the means of production becomes the critical issue. The small ownership class has been able to overcome the deficiency in capitalism which caused previous depressions: overproduction and lack of purchasing power on the part of large numbers of people. They have learned how to scale production way back to a small percentage of capacity producing only enough to meet the needs of the ownership class effectively excluding the vast majority of the people from the economic system altogether and circulating goods, services and money only among a very small part of the population. Among this small class, however, a bustling economy will be in effect albeit an economy on a small scale.
In the past, ownership of the means of production was offset by organized labor which was a necessary entity in the production process and hence represented a power to counter and balance the power of the capitalists. Now, since the need for labor in the production process has diminished, so has the power of organized labor, to the point where it has become completely inconsequential as a bargaining force. Labor is no longer exploited in the traditional Marxist sense of paying laborers just enough to keep them alive so they can perform their function. Laborers, people who have only their labor to sell, have become superfluous and are simply unemployed. At least in Marx's time it was necessary to keep them alive because they were needed for the production process. Now their presence is not needed even for that, and they are left to fend for themselves as best they may. A neo-Fascism of slow death through benign neglect, a death from poverty, malnutrition, exposure and lack of medical care has replaced the overt final solution of Adolph Hitler involving downright slaughter. In other words the situation as it has existed in the southern hemisphere will also become the norm for the northern or developed world. The more sophisticated neo-Fascists armed with their statistical analyses and computer print-outs are well aware that the poverty process -as it is called-will result in statistically so many deaths per year, statistically shortened lifetimes for the poor, so that the net effect is an elimination of so many people per year from natural causes without the stigma of having removed them by overt means.
Extensive research is done on the needs, wants, preferences, lifestyles and psychological profiles of the American people-not so that their needs and preferences can be provided for-but so they can be more effectively and efficiently manipulated. How to lull the people into political passivity and how to mold consumer and lifestyle characteristics to meet the needs of the ownership class are subjects which are extensively researched. Staffs of psychologists, marketing analysts and statisticians work tirelessly to guarantee a docile, sedated populace molded to suit the requirements of those in power.
As money is circulated more and more among fewer and fewer wealthy people, advertising will be increasingly directed toward luxury items and less and less toward basic necessities. Advertisers will have to keep track of the demographics as whole segments of society become ineligible for the "good life," removing themselves from contention, so to speak. As early as 1986, it was realized that yuppies had fallen from affluence.
"As a computer analyst earning more than $32,000 a year, 31-year-old Bill Mitchell could be your typical affluent baby boom professional. But, rather than enjoying the glow of his career success, Mitchell is increasingly frustrated.
After paying rent on his Hermosa Beach apartment and other expenses, he, his wife and two young children have little money left over to enjoy the good life, he said. They can afford to eat out only about once a week. And he has little left over to save or invest in stocks, bonds or what he really wants-a house.
I'm making more money than my dad did ever in his life. But I can't afford a home and he could," Mitchell said, noting that his car payments of $260 a month were more than his father's house payment at $150 a month. 'It's frustrating. I've got a good and stable job with potential for upward mobility, but yet with just one income, to get a real nice home would be a hard situation.'
Many of the 76 million Americans born during the so-called baby boom during the two decades following World War II would find Mitchell's case painfully familiar. The popular sterotype of baby boomers as free-spending, self-indulgent, affluent young urban professionals (yuppies) driving BMWs, buying video cassette recorders and taking Club Med vacations is far from reality for the bulk of the generation, according to economists, policymakers and other experts.
Instead, baby boomers are being squeezed by multiple economic forces: a labor market crowded by their massive numbers, the national shift of employment from manufacturing to service industries, slower economic growth, higher inflation, higher real interest rates, higher taxes and other factors.
Baby boomers are finding it harder to afford homes and, despite their image as free spenders, have been actually spending less on luxuries than their predecessors did a decade ago.
Many economic, social and demographic changes of the last decade-smaller homes, more women in the work force, later and fewer children per family, adult children leaving their parents' homes later, a lower savings rate and higher consumer debt-are attributed at least partly to baby boomers adjusting to their financial predicaments, many experts contend.
'While the middle class as a group is not disappearing, the young middle class (principally the baby boomers) has experienced a dramatic decline in its ability to pursue the conventional American dream: a home, financial security and education for their children,' said a December report prepared by the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank, for the congressional Joint Economic Committee.
'The whole idea of the baby boom as a group of super-affluent yuppies is a gross distortion,' said Sandra Shaber, a consumer economist at Chase Econometrics, a leading economic research firm.
In fact, a typical young family headed by a person between 25 and 34 hardly fits the yuppie stereotype, the Urban Institute report said. It consists of a husband and a wife and one child under age 12 earning a median pre-tax family income of $25,157, 'hardly enough to buy a BMW and eat out regularly,' the report said.
Despite a higher incidence of two-income families and higher educational levels, average income for such families fell 14% between 1973 and 1983, according to the Census Bureau. That makes baby boomers financially worse off than their counterparts at the same age 10 to 20 years ago, economists say.
Such a trend has far-reaching psychological, social, economic and political implications.
The inability of many baby boomers to quickly match their parents' status-suburban homes, providing for two or more children-is leading to a growing disillusionment in the generation and even might be a factor behind the growing divorce and suicide rate, some experts argue."4
So not only can't the baby boomers afford the luxuries, they can't even afford the basic necessities such as a home. The article goes on to say that the advertisers are coming to realize where the money really is and so to pitch their ads accordingly. "'Indeed, advertisers are increasingly recognizing that the Americans with the greatest spending power are pre-baby boomers between the ages of 40 and 60, who enjoyed the robust growth of the 1950s and 1960s and acquired homes before the big interest rate and price run-ups of the 1970s,' says Alan J. Gottesman, advertising analyst with the investment firm of L.F. Rothschild, Unterberg, Towbin.
"Baby boomers, the Urban Institute report said, have been spending less on luxury goods than people of similar age a decade ago. A typical young family in 1981 spent 14% less on furniture, 30% less on clothes, 15% less on personal care and 38% less on charitable contributions (adjusted for inflation) than a similar familiy in 1973, the report said.
"Key to this plight is the higher cost of home ownership, experts say. Home prices have increased faster than inflation in the past decade, while mortgage rates are near historical highs, adjusted for inflation.
"The Urban Institute report noted that in 1983, a typical 30-year old man needed 44% of his paycheck to cover a typical mortgage, compared to only 21% 10 years earlier. Accordingly, the rate of home ownership has declined to 63.8% of American households from 65.8% in 1980, which translates into about 2 million families that would have been expected to become homeowners that instead are renters, George Tresnak, economist for the National Assn. of Realtors, said."
Home ownership is the major way that property ownership has been distibuted among large segments of American society. As fewer and fewer Americans can afford to buy homes and instead are forced to become renters and as more and more renters can't afford to pay exorbitant rents and become homeless, the net result is the concentration of property ownership in fewer and fewer hands. As well paid manufacturing jobs dry up, workers are then forced into lower paid service jobs. The article goes on: "But many economists point out that there are few signs that robust productivity growth is returning. And even if it does, it may not translate into better times for baby boomers. That is at least partly due to the shift from high-paying manufacturing jobs to lower paid service jobs.
"'A laid-off steel worker in 1984 had very little prospect of quickly restoring his former wages through promotions in a new service sector job,' the Urban Institute report said. 'His plight was thus far more serious than a laid-off steel worker in the 1960s' who could find another manufacturing job that would eventually restore his old wage level."
The article goes on to cite the frustations of even higher paid yuppies: "'I have a lot more money than my parents had when they were my age...but it seems that my parents were able to put away more,' said a 28-year-old unmarried Los Angeles attorney making $52,000 a year, far above the average for his age. Despite his high income, he said, he has little left over for savings, cannot afford the down payment on a home and has run up four of his six credit cards to the maximum borrowing limit, factors that partly explain why he did not want to be identified by name.
"And, he said, his higher salary has come at the expense of long working hours, sometimes seven days a week, affording him little time to enjoy exotic vacations or other pleasures.
"'My parents definitely had a lot more free time to do a bunch of things, like take us kids on trips,' he said. 'If I had a family right now, I don't see how I could do half the things they did.'"
The high-tech society will be owned by fewer and fewer people with decreasing needs for labor in order to achieve tremendous productivity so economic indicators will remain normal. Production will be machine-intensive rather than labor-intensive. The ratio of machine labor to human labor in producing any given product will be extremely high. The vast underclass, hoowever, which will include more and more members of the former middle class, will be excluded from the economic mainstream. They will be available for low-paying service jobs such as janitorial work and as domestic servants for the wealthy.
As rents and housing costs continue to climb, there will be more and more homeless. Lack of low-cost and low-rent housing will be due to the fact that it is not profitable. The housing market will be aimed at the upper-middle class and above. Farmers will be forced off their land as the production of food requires fewer hands and the tasks are increasingly computerized and automated. The two underpinnings of the middle class, home ownership and the family farm, will have disappeared.
THE JUVENILIZATION OF POVERTY
As noted in a recent article ("Youngsters Share Plight of Homeless," 5/19/87), homelessness and poverty in general is increasingly affecting the young-what may be called the juvenilization even the infantilization of poverty.
"Exact counts are elusive, but the National Conference of Mayors reported in December that the fastest growing segment of the homeless population was families, comprising 28% of all the homeless.
The National Coalition for the Homeless, a private lobbying group, estimates that 500,000 of the nation's 2 million to 3 million homeless are children-with more than 20,000 homeless children in California and as many as 10,000 in Los Angeles.
...Despite growing concern about these children, no solutions are in sight. No federal program and only a few state and local government efforts are targeted at them. ...
But [the plight] of [homeless children] is fast becoming a national tragedy, a growing number of social workers, doctors and advocates for the homeless said.
'We're basically throwing away a whole generation of children, a whole generation of citizens when we allow children to grow up homeless,' said Maria Foscarinis, Washington counsel for the National Coalition for the Homeless.
In the last two years, a handful of social scientists has begun studying the effects of homelessness on children. Among the problems they describe
-Nutritional deficiencies from fast food diets or little food at all.
-Lack of schooling for weeks or months. Even if the children attend some classes in shelters or on the road, 'It's virtually impossible to do well when a child has no home, no place to study, no food to eat, and the incredible emotional burden of being homeless,' Foscarinis said.
-Poor hygeine and health problems, including untreated respiratory infections, head lice and chronic diarrhea.
-A parent-child bond that disintegrates in the shelters.
-Lags in behavioral development and severe emotional problems. In a study of 151 children at Boston shelters, Harvard psychiatrist Ellen Bassuk found that 47% showed serious lags in social, motor and language skills; 51% over age 5 were severely depressed and most of the depressed children over 5 had suicidal thoughts."5
There's one main reason why people are homeless: There's no profit in low-cost housing. Unless the government supplies the financial incentives, the free market just won't build it. The article continues: "The task of finding homeless families a permanent place to live has been difficult for several years. Since 1981, the Reagan Administration has sharply cut the money available to cities for federally subsidized, low-income housing, and cities have had a choice-pay for low-income projects themselves, or build little such housing at all.
"In Los Angeles, housing officials projected that the city needed about 230,000 new units of low-income housing from 1985 to 1988. So far, only 30,000 units have been built. The result? 'Low income families in the city do have a lot of trouble finding units,' said Steve Renahan, an analyst for the Los Angeles City Housing Authority. 'That's one of the reasons for homelessness.'
"Some government officials believe that the federal government should get back into the business of subsidizing most low-income housing. 'We've got to start building housing,' said Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), chaiman of the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families. 'The choice is whether we want to look like New Delhi-or the progressive high income country we are."
People at the low end of the spectrum are being written off in a neo-Fascistic, Darwinnian, Nietzschean survival of the fittest social ethic. The passive means of slow starvation and degradation of lifestyle have replaced the active means of the gas chamber. Statisticians can compute the differences of life expectancies among the various classes and those imbued with the survival of the fittest ethic can relish the fact that the weaker and less meritorious are being slowly but surely weeded out in a more natural way than overt elimination. Besides the problem with Hitler was that he was not fair. His methods only eliminated groups whom he was personally prejudiced against-not the truly weak as they existed among all ethnic groups. At the same time Hitler retained those who might have been eliminated in a true natural contest provided that they belonged to a favored group such as the Germans. It doesn't take long for a society imbued with a survival of the fittest ethic and a lack of compassion to zero in on the truly vulnerable, the ones truly lacking political power: poor children. If one were to believe Jesus, a society that neglects its children is one that is hanging a millstone around its neck. Bob Drogin writes in an article entitled "True Victims of Poverty: the Children":
"Across America, an increasing number of children also have no choice. Urban and rural, black and white, they are the true victims of poverty.
Between 1979 and 1983, the number of poor children soared by 3.7 million to 13.8 million, according to government reports. By the most recent estimate, 22.2% of America's children under age 18-the highest rate in two decades-live in impoverished families. Despite the increase, fewer children receive basic government aid, and what they do get is less generous.
'You're talking about more hunger,' said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, a nonprofit, Washington based, children's advocacy group. 'You're talking about more children being abused. You're talking about homelessness and poor health. You're talking about more kids with birth defects....You're talking about the difference between life and death.'
Hardest hit are the youngest and most vulnerable: One in four children under age 6 is poor. Family type is critical: Half of all poor children live in families without fathers. And race is crucial: Nearly half of all black children, more than one-third of all Latino youngsters, compared to one-sixth of all white children, are poor. All told, nearly 40% of America's 35.3 million poor people are children.
...More babies are dying. The death rate among infants aged 1 month to 1 year increased by 5.6% in 1983, while a 20-year decline in infant mortality has tapered off for the last two years.
...More children are at risk. Every state has reduced health services for poor mothers and children since 1981.
...More children are hungry or poorly nourished. Three million children have been cut from school lunch programs since 1981, while food stamp benefits have fallen.
...More children are failing school or dropping out. About a million fewer children are served by compensatory education programs, while most youth job training programs have been severly cut or eliminated.
...Reagan Administration budget cuts in 1981 caused an estimated 1 million children to lose AFDC eligibility, according to a May, 1984, General Accounting Office study. Between 1981 and 1984, federal spending for welfare fell by 19% while the average monthly caseload fell 14%.
Additional cuts in Medicaid, food stamps, maternal health, child nutrition, education and other social programs exacerbated the welfare cuts. All told, federal spending fell by 11% in about 25 federal programs affecting children since 1981, according to a study prepared for the Urban Institute last December.
'In general, the federal government has abandoned children,' said Madeleine H. Kimmich, author of the study. 'Where states have picked up the burden, they've done all right. But a lot of states haven't, and a lot of children have fallen through the cracks.'"6
From an article entitled "No Tactic Yet Found to Win Poverty War":
"At a time when one in seven Americans is poor-and the poverty rate is at a 20-year high-the government is doing less to help them. More research about poverty accumulates each year, but public policy is often shaped on the basis of myths about the poor and misconceptions about what the public wants to do with them.
An intensive study by the Times...shows:
-Although President Reagan has whittled back aid to the poor, the newest evidence is that the public would prefer that he do much more-not less-to ease the burden of the needy. According to a Times poll, 73% of the public favor government action on behalf of the poor and 57% would even be willing to approve a 1% federal sales tax to pay for it. About 55% say that Reagan cares most about the rich; only 2% say he cares most about the poor.
-...Nearly 40% of the nation's 35.3 million poor people are children. The world's wealthiest nation now has a growing number of children at risk of death and disease, hunger and cold, poor schooling and housing, abuse and neglect. The ultimate cost will come in higher medical bills, rising crime and other social ills.
-Although social programs are frequently maligned, the anti-poverty efforts that began with the New Deal and accelerated dramatically during the 1960s and 1970s largely have been successful. America's poverty rate was cut by half between 1960 and 1973, and it has only started rising sharply again since 1979. Social programs do not work miracles but they do work. They have provided protection against hard times-cash, food, housing, medical care, job training-a safety net that is still in place, if fraying.
-Despite the fact that most who suffer poverty stay poor only a short time, an underclass of welfare-dependent women, street hustlers, small-time criminals and the homeless festers in almost every large city. A group hard to define, let alone count, the underclass has been neglected by researchers and policy makers alike. The nation appears to have written off part of its urban centers as territory gone bad.
-Although the nation has fallen into one of its periodic fits of suspicion about whether the poor are lazy-and even wonders if public aid lures them away from jobs-their work ethic actually is quite strong. Poverty far more often is the result of things beyond individual control: the jittery economy, low wages, ill health or simple bad luck."7
Interestingly, the article delves into the history of attitudes towards the poor and what they come up with echoes the two major themes presented herein: namely, the Christian attitude that it is the duty of the strong to help the weak and the social Darwinist or Nietzschean attitude of survival of the fittest. From the same article: "That despair rises from disparity is a theme as old as history, and that the duty of the strong is to help the weak is an obligation as rooted as morality itself.
"Hammurabi, ruler of Babylonia almost two thousand years before Christ, listed the protection of widows and orphans as an essential part of his famous legal code. Ancient Hebrew doctrine made it a duty of the virtuous to give and a right of the needy to receive. Christians believe that Jesus, by his earthly example, sanctified poverty. To help the poor was proof of devotion to God and necessary to eternal salvation."
Even some senior citizens have remarked on the unfairness of bestowing large amounts of federal largesse on seniors while 20% of America's children live in poverty. Joseph A. King writes in an article entitled "The War Between the Generations":
"At 85 the chairman of the powerful Rules Committee, member of the Select Committee on Aging, fiercely defends federal supports for senior citizens even as young heads of households with mortgage payments of $1,000 per month try their damndest to get a solid footing in the work force and to raise their families. Even as college students with marginal incomes pay increased transit fares for the privilege of sitting next to Rossmoor residents in Guccis who pay 10 cents on the dollar. Even as a fifth of all American children live in households below the poverty line.
...The larger picture is not one of the young voluntarily helping the old, but on the transfer of income to the elderly. The fact is that 12 percent of the population, those 65 and older, receives 50% of all government expenditures for social services. We seniors end up with the cash, the disposable income, while our progeny are taxed and shortchanged. This is certainly a turnabout, something rather new, I think, in a society which believes that each generation should do better than the one before.
I'm uncomfortable about accepting all the perks that come to me, stashing increasing amounts of disposable income in banks and investments, cheering for Claude Pepper and deciding in kingly fashion just how much largesse should be bestowed on children working hard to pay $500 per month for one-bedroom apartments. No, I won't be able to vote for the Party of the Young. I have interests to defend. Yet I wonder if we are being well served by Claude Pepper and other advocates of the status quo. Would not more help be available for the real poor-old and young-if so many perks and exemptions did not go for the affluent?"8
The point is that in a society controlled by the affluent, government programs are set up to benefit the affluent and we will see more of that as this society continues on its merry way. The fact is that social security benefits to the elderly would have been cut by the Reagan Administration except for one fact: the elderly have political power. Nietzscheans only respect power. Since children have no political power, since they don't vote, the Reagan Administration was successful in cutting Aid to Families with Dependent Children. One might say it would make more sense and be more charitable for Government spending programs to help the poverty-stricken first, both young and old, but that would be missing the point. Farm subsidies help the big farmer relatively more than the small thus increasing the big farmer's power with respect to the small and hence further marginalizing the small farmer. Tax breaks help the rich. Virtually every government program is set up to help those who set them up, those in power, those in control or in response to an organized power bloc within the society. The poor are basically disenfranchised and as such do not have any political power. Therefore, when Reagan talks about cutting Government spending, what he really means is to cut spending on poor people, not cutting spending programs that benefit the rich and the large corporations. It is alright for those in power to use that power to benefit themselves in true Macchiavellian-Nietzschean fashion. Witness the activities of Michael Deaver, Lynn Nofziger and Ed Meese, high Reagan Administration officials all involved in illegal self-enriching activities, two of whom have been tried and found guilty, one of whose fate is still undecided. What is a sin in the eyes of those in power is for them to spend any money benefitting someone not in power, namely the poor.
Meg Greenfield writes in an article entitled "Arguing About the Poor": "We of means, now characterizing ourselves as the layers of the golden egg, have found a reason for hanging out a huge 'Do Not Disturb' sign on our wealth. We take it further. Our well-being, not that of the poor, becomes the moral imperative."9
Robert J. Samuelson wrote, "Four years of strong economic recovery didn't do much to thin the ranks of the poor.
"...Here's a statistical snapshot of a two-tiered society: a general prosperity sitting atop a stubborn poverty. The underlying message is that economic growth, powerful as it is, won't cure everything.
"...Four years of strong economic recovery should have lowered the poverty rate more. ...the poverty figures will be advanced to indicate that the American Dream-the promise of a better tomorrow-is bypassing a big part of the population. That's also true. It's a dispiriting picture."10
The illusion will be sustained that America is an opportunity society that cares for its poor by the use of the media for political propaganda. Economic indicators will be up and the illusion maintained that the economy is prosperous. It will be-for the rich-and economic indicators which apply statistically to the society as a whole cover up the fact that whole segments of society are excluded from the economy. In other words the economic activities of the rich buying and selling things among themselves in huge quantities accounts for the economic indicators while the economic activities of the poor being negligible figure very little in the accounting. As long as economic indicators are up, the myth that the people are doing well is upheld because the economy is doing well. There will be intense competition for the dwindling number of jobs with the winners of the job competition held up as examples and the losers made to think that they don't have the "right stuff." Tokenism will abound and the tokens held up as examples of what it's possible to achieve in a "free" society.
DEMOCRACY METAMORPHOSES INTO OLIGARCHY
The political arena will be confined to the wealthy who will represent the wealthy. Political debate will be limited within the framework of whether to give the vast underclass welfare money so that they can sustain themselves or to let them starve with liberals arguing for the former and conservatives arguing for the latter. The two class system will be defined by the issue of property ownership. The small minority of people who own property will compose the upper class. The vast underclass will be composed of people whose only possession is their willingness and ability to work for which their is little need in a fully automated society. Instead of government of, by and for the people, we will have government of, by and for the wealthy. Of course everyone will be allowed to vote, but their choice will be between tweedledee representing the wealthy and tweedledum representing the wealthy because only the wealthy or those who represent (and hence are supported by the wealthy) will be able to finance political campaigns. The absolute political genius of American society is to have created the illusion of democracy by means of the two party system and to have effectively achieved the ends of a one party system. The people will increasingly be manipulated using the methods of South African apartheidi.e.powers of political persuasion will be used to convince people they are living in a just society or that reforms are being made while in reality every seeming reform is just a ploy. The political process will offer the underclass the option of concurring in and ratifying a procedure in which they have totally lost any real voice.
Political Action Committees (PACs) who fund political campaigns and lobbyists control the political process which is to say that it is controlled by the wealthy who have the money to pay lobbyists' salaries and to contribute heavily to PACs. The fact that political campaigns are privately, rather than publicly, financed negates the democratic process. In an article entitled "Political Gifts, Fueled by PACs, Continue to Soar," Paul Houston writes:
"Contributions to Senate and House campaigns are continuing to soar, according to a Times analysis of candidate reports, and most incumbents are widening their already enormous financial advantage over challengers.
Fueling the spending spiral are special-interest contributions from the...[PACs] of business, labor and ideological groups. ...
[This funding of incumbents by PACs scares off challengers and hence discourages the democratic process.]
Why this sharp tilt towards incumbents? Pure pragmatism, PAC managers say. PACs, whose ultimate goal is influencing legislation, want to back winners, and incumbents usually win elections. In 1984, 90% of the Senators and 95% of the House members who sought reelection were returned to office.
'PACs seldom give challengers a break,' said David Cohen, co-director of the Advocacy Institute, a citizens group seeking tightened limits on PAC giving....
...As the cost of running for Congress soars ever higher and special-interest groups grow more and more important, pressure for overhauling today's financing system is mounting even among many of the incumbents whom it benefits.
'The role of money in politics is obscene and needs to be changed very fundamentally because for those of us who are in marginal districts, it just consumes too much time,' said Rep. Thomas J. Downey (D-N.Y.), the House's 10th-leading fund-raiser last year.
The Senate last year postponed action on a bill to curb PAC contributions. 'PAC money is destroying the election process,' contended retiring Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), a sponsor of the bill. 'PACs set the country's political agenda and control nearly every candidate's position on the important issues of the day.'"11
Who, then, can afford to be a challenger? Only people with extensive private money behind them; basically only the wealthy. Obviously incumbents die or retire and are eventually replaced by people who privately finance their campaigns. Once elected, they, too, become eligible for PAC money so the system perpetuates itself as a system of the wealthy and for the wealthy. According to the article, "sentiment is building in Congress for public financing of congressional elections." But it was pointed out that limitations on PACs would "merely encourage more 'independent expenditures'-direct spending by outside organizations on behalf of congressional candidates." Obviously, to make the playing field truly level, these outside expenditures would have to be restricted as well. However, the Supreme Court has decided that they are Constitutionally protected. So we run into a head-on conflict between democracy and individual liberty. In the interests of making the democratic process truly democratic, we would have to restrain individual liberty, and, if we don't do that, we end up with a process that is not truly democratic, which, in fact, is biased in favor of the rich. Is freedom to gain an advantage in the democratic process a freedom we want to protect or do we want to protect the democratic process itself? Ultimately, do we want an aristocracy of the rich or do we want a society in which each citizen, as much as is possible, has an equal voice? The answer should be obvious. Here is an example in which protecting a freedom provides the allowance for the strong to gain the advantage over the weak, for the rich to gain the advantage over the poor. Hence this freedom should not be protected. The freedom to gain an undue share of power in the political process should not be protected. Instead the right of each citizen to have an equal share of political power should be protected if the society is to be a democracy in reality as well as in name.
The other way the democratic process is subverted in today's America is through lobbyists. In an article entitled "One Day for Voters, Everyday for Lobbyists," Robert Conot writes:
"Elections are imperfect referendums because availability of information and accessibility of lawmakers are chronic problems for democratic government. The legislative process is complex and subject to a variety of influences. Newspapers have difficulty providing comprehensive coverage. Commercial television deals in pictorial headlines. Lobbyists contest the electorate for legislators' attention and voting power. Since voters have little comprehension of how to influence the legislative process, and most live at distance from the scene of action, the scales are tilted in favor of the lobbyist, an on-the-spot professional.
...The approximately 10,000 active lobbyists and 4000 political-action committees in Washington are a reflection of just how far the reaches of government extend; and while emphasis may shift from administration to administration, the total keeps expanding. The stereotype of the individual influence peddler knocking on congressional doors has given way to professional organization-lobbying firms grow to rival corporate law firms....
Adept at manipulating public opinion, lobbies also work behind the scenes to create seemingly spontaneous groundswells. During Senate Finance Committee debate on the current tax reform bill, Sen. David H. Pryor (D-Ark.) observed: 'I've been sitting here three years on this committee watching not only how the rich get rich but how they stay rich. And I think I have found the solution. We don't see out here in these halls the General Electrics and General Dynamics and the major corporations of America lobbying. What we see is hundreds of phone calls coming into my office from poor broke farmers that the Investment Tax Credit Coalition has told that if you bought a tractor a year ago you're going to get back $212. if you get Sen. Pryor to get these Investment Tax Credits back. So they're using the poor to do their work. They talk about the $200. the farmer gets back but they don't talk about the $150 million or $600 million that one corporation is going to get back.'...
Key legislators are thereby transformed into a new genre of power brokers. When Willie Brown, Speaker of the California Assembly, receives an average of more than $120,000 a month from 100 different contributors, the effect of the individual contributions on legislation may be marginal, but the impact of the total on the political system is substantial. Brown is established as a political banker with $1.5 million a year to parcel out to the reelection campaigns of sympathetic legislators. Such chits are not collected routinely, for power must be used circumspectly, and there are issues on which Brown and his supporters will engage in acerbic debate among themselves. But they are available whenever a piece of legislation comes along that Brown considers of particular importance.
Any politician will tell you, before you have a chance to ask, that money buys nothing except access. Yet that's like saying wire is only the conduit for electricity. Access is the means to influence and to obtain information. It leases a line into the legislative system.
The proliferation of lobbyists and political action committees indicates the American system's current evolution into a novel sociopolitical order, with effects infinitely more important than whether we have Republicans or Democrats in power, or spend $20 billion more or less on defense. The American Revolution was largely an economic rebellion against the then-dominant mercantile order regulating private enterprise and linking it to governmental policy. But the role of government has become so pervasive-and nowhere more so than in defense-oriented industries-that we are reabsorbing some mercantile elements into our political structure. The National Education Assn., the American Medical Assn. and hundreds of similar organizations are modern-day versions of the old guilds attempting to assure that governmental policies and actions are consonant with the interests of their members."12
No matter how civil the society seems to be, as long as there is the possibility for some individuals or groups to use the levers of power to tilt the playing field in their direction, they are able to gain advantages for themselves at the expense of other segments of the population. Then what typically happens after certain groups have accumulated and concentrated power to the disadvantage of others is that there is a revolution which breaks up the concentrations of power and readjusts the playing field to where it's approximately level again. This is precisely what happened in the American revolution. The process almost seems destined to repeat itself ad infinitum. However, once one has adopted the attitude that the important thing is not the construction of a level playing field on which certain players inevitably accumulate power but the construction of a social constitution which protects the weaker and more vulnerable individuals and correspondingly disallows the accumulation of wealth, power and control in the hands of an elite, one is ready to transcend the playing of the age-old game which results in the rise and fall of civilizations. The key element is that the "freedom" to accumulate power in the first place must be circumvented; the possibility for this happening must be precluded by constitutional law in order to stabilize the system. The system will become stable only when it is constructed to truly protect the rights of the weakest and most vulnerable individuals and the freedom to dominate the weak by the strong is removed. It's not that the resulting social system is necessarily any less free; it's just how freedom is measured and interpreted. It is freer for the weaker and more vulnerable individuals, less free for the stronger and more powerful individuals. Their freedom to exploit and gain power over others is taken away. The domain of individual freedom-that freedom surrounding each individual and on the scale of the individual-is protected and even enhanced as well as stabilized.
Continuing with the previous article:
"The difficulty is that, despite the multitude of lobbyists, tens of millions of Americans without professional affiliation remain unrepresented; and the unrepresented are subject to discrimination, not by commission, but by omission.
If, for example, 35 million Americans were organized into a specific group, elected officials would hasten to meet their needs. In fact, an estimated 35 million Americans have no medical coverage. The astronomical inflation of medical care, pushed up in part by governmental actions, makes them far worse off than the uninsured were 20 years ago. Yet 130,000 tobacco farmers, 600,000 lawyers, and 2.5 million public school teachers are able to promote their interests because they are organized; 35 million uninsured can't because they aren't.
Tens of millions of other Americans-temporary workers, housewives, single parents, the unemployed-are similarly relegated to second-class treatment because they lack advocacy. It is only human for legislators, pressured by lobbyists, to give some ground if there is no counterpressure. Although the electorate may vote ultimate approval or disapproval of their representatives, this is power so general and so limited by its either/or character that it pales in significance to lobbyists' ability to promote action....
...But honest democracy demands-to quote a currently popular political phrase-a level playing field. Reapportionment should not be a political football reinflated every decade. The party with the ball should not be permitted to put itself in scoring position before every election.
The late historian Will Durant remarked: 'Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government, since it requires the widest spread of intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves sovereign.' Yet when we have the best educated electorate in the world's history, it is not so much intelligence that is lacking as information.
Voters are turned off when they can't learn and don't understand what is going on, when campaigns are more and more reduced to cretin-style commercials, when they feel their vote can make no difference in the outcome, or the outcome any difference in their lives. When half the eligible voters don't participate, the system suffers a silent raspberry."12
Dissenters will not be heard from not because of overt centrally directed curtailment of freedom of speech but because it will not be profitable for a publisher to publish their views. Artists will not be able to function, not due to political repression, but because it will not be profitable for any private interests to subsidize them. Culture will continue to be debauched and degraded by the wealthy and powerful interests that control it so that what is produced and consumed will be a travesty of art and literature. Meanwhile, books with integrity and beauty, truth and meaning, will not be published because of their lack of profitability. True artists will never be heard from. Dissent will be eliminated not by centralized political curtailment but by the fact that the large, centralized economic forces which control the markets will find it more profitable and less threatening to their interests to produce and distribute pap. Musicians will find employment only in the making of commercials thus negating their independent, critical function totally. Musicians will increasingly, however, lose their jobs to synthesizers in the same way that other workers have lost their jobs to computers and robots. Commercials will have totally merged politics with consumerism so that cars, for instance, will be sold by appealing to our Americanism and political candidates will be sold by appealing to our sense of gusto which was first appealed to in a beer commercial.
Barbara Ehrenreich writes:
"Now that the Soviet dissidents have been roused from their Thorazine stupors and sent back to their jobs in the samizdat industry, it may be safe for me to reveal a secret about our own fair country. My attorney (actually a law school drop-out now driving a school bus) advises that I keep this to myself unless I want to see my future literary career restricted to the writing of bad checks. But you, the reading public, deserve to know the truth: Everything you read in the American media, possibly including this very column, has been censored.
Let me give you an example, a true story of capitalist censorship in action. (Only the details have been altered to protect whatever remnants of a career may remain to me.) It had taken the obligatory three-Perrier lunch to convince one of New York's leading magazine editors to let me write a story on the feminization of poverty. He had demurred through the cold pressed-duck salad, digressed through the medallions of baby veal, and scowled through the Death-by-Chocolate course. Finally, over the decaf espressos, he sighed, 'OK, do your thing on poverty, but be sure to make it upscale.'
From this I learned Rule 1 of capitalist censorship: You can write about any social problem-sweatshops, starvation, child labor-so long as it is a problem experienced primarily by the rich.
Here is another example, from back in the days when I was naive enough to believe that the 'marketplace of ideas' had room enough for everyone. I was trying to persuade an immensely powerful, dressed-for-success editor to assign a story on the plight of Third World women refugees. 'Sorry,' she said with a charming wave of dismissal, 'Third World women have never done anything for me.'
I'm sure that she didn't mean to deny that they had, in all probability, stitched the French seams in her cashmere suit, swept her office in the middle of the night, and chopped the broccoli for her salad-bar lunch. She just meant that they didn'tsell. And from this I learned Rule 2: You can write about any number of persons of color so long as they are Whitney Houston or Philip Michael Thomas.
...I pieced together a fourth rule from the dozens of manuscripts returned to me over the years with comments such as 'too angry,' 'too depressing,' and 'Where's the bright side?' This rule was first enunciated back in the '50s, by the prolific Herbert Gold, who had learned through bitter experience that the American media want only 'happy stories about happy people with happy problems.' In other words you can write about anything-death squads, AIDS, or the prospect of a Pat Robertson victory in '88-so long as you make it 'upbeat.'
Now no one in publishing ever comes right out with the truth-namely, that most magazines are beholden to advertisers who are interested only in reaching the yuppie overclass, and then only with articles that will not disturb the stupor induced by six straight pages of Calvin Klein ads. Instead they say things like, 'Darling, I'd do anything to run this, but you know it's never going to get past Katherine Graham (or whoever),' meaning, 'I've mastered the art of self-censorship; why haven't you?"
...The result is that most of our major women's magazines now have the intellectual texture of bread pudding. Ditto, I would add, for most of what you'll find in GQ, Vanity Fair, or M; and on a diet like this, the American reading public will soon be reduced to the state of slobbering, retarded narcissism that is so congenial to American advertising.
...I can imagine the editors I have 'worked with'-as the literary expression for having lunch together goes-reading this and snarling, 'That wretched ingrate, let her go to Russia and try out the tractor production beat at Pravda! ' Indeed, in low moments, I have thought of defecting to that land where the censorship is straightforward and aboveboard, and no one confuses bread pudding with 'freedom of speech.' It would not be so bad once I mastered the local rules governing the sayable and the printable. And in the case of conflict-why, at least the Thorazine is on the state."13
Also from an article entitled, "On Censoring the Sources-We Do It to Ourselves" by Barbara Cohen: "Censorship in this country (the US) is widespread, subtle and surprising. It is not inflicted on us by the government. It doesn't need to be. We inflict it on ourselves."14
Another way of looking at this phenomenon is that government has deferred and delegated to private enterprise the function of censorship which it carries out exceedingly well, arguably better than the government could do it itself. The government sets the tone. That tone is reflected in what publishers feel will sell well in the marketplace. Therefore, dissent never gets published because it is, by definition, only marketable to a small minority of people. What is marketable to the vast majority is that literature which reflects those views which the government has taken pains to cultivate and which in fact have rubbed off on a majority of its citizens. Of course the government controls, through its federal subsidy of the public school system, which views will be inculcated into the minds of the nation's children via school textbooks. Textbooks which entertain a view which is unflattering to the American government or way of life just never get published, and, if they do get published, never get selected by school principles who have to be concerned about not losing the federal subsidy as well as not offending their employers, the Boards of Education. There is too much money at stake to experiment or to deviate from the well-trodden, tried-and-true path.
There will continue to be a transfer of wealth from the underclass, the former poor and middle classes combined, to the wealthy as taxes are increased to pay the interest on the national debt. The rich will continue not to pay taxes by using tax shelters which increasingly consist of loans to the government on which they are paid whopping rates of interest, which interest is paid, of course, through the taxation of the poor. Welfare will continue to decline as more and more of the Federal budget goes to the military and interest payments. There is a need for a continual military build-up not only to control the underclass in different countries around the world but to prevent revolution in the US because, as the ratio of wealthy people to poor people becomes smaller and smaller, the rich have to increasingly rely on sophisticated, automated weapons systems of immense firepower, because of their smaller numbers, to keep the vast underclass under control. Precedents have already been set in this regard by South Africa which pioneered the techniques used by a powerful minority to suppress a powerless majority. We could refer to this phenomenon as the South Africanization of the US. The globalization of the poverty class will necessitate using America's military strength to repress the American underclass in the same way it has been used to repress the underclass abroad.
More and more services will be taken out of the public sector and privatized. Education will be for those who can pay for it privately. The quality of public education will decline to the point that only those paying for private education will get a decent education. Libraries, museums and public places will be increasingly privatized and made unavailable to the general public who will not be able to afford to become members or pay huge entrance and user fees. Whole shopping malls will be available to members only and the underclass will not be able to afford the membership fee. There will be no discrimination. It's just that most people will not be able to pay for the privilege of gaining entrance to recreational or shopping areas that will be effectively reserved for the rich. Vagrancy laws will be rigidly enforced and people suspected of not being able to make a purchase will be asked to move along. Public transportation will cease to exist. Only the wealthy will be able to afford private transportation as cheap foreign imports will have been effectively eliminated from the American marketplace by tariffs and quotas.
Even such a little thought about facility as the public restroom will have effectively disappeared. The public restroom was never truly a "public" restroom in the first place having been furnished primarily by American corporations who, when they came to perceive that it was not any longer profitable to them to provide such facilities, can chose to eliminate them. Beth Ann Krier writes in the LA Times (9-8-87):
"Return with us now to those great days in gas station history...when vandals were content with occasionally stopping up restroom toilets instead of stealing them outright, when attendants were not locked into kiosks behind bullet-proof glass...those thrilling days of yesteryear... when full serve was the only serve, when station attendants freely washed car windows, checked oil, water and tire pressure and handed out complimentary maps...yes, the days when service stations actually dared to provide service.
And gas station restrooms, typically clean and unlocked, had yet to join the endangered-species list.
'If somebody pulled in just to use the restroom, they [dealers] used to send attendants out to wash the windows of the cars in hopes that the people would come out and buy gas,' recalls Roy Bonham, a former Chevron representative who called on dealers. 'That was standard practice in company-operated Chevron stations in the '60s.
'The oil company also gave station proprietors a quarter-cent-per-gallon [of gas pumped] reduction in rent for keeping the restrooms clean and properly supplied. That added up to a lot of money so the oil companies quit doing that.'
Bonham, who concluded his career as a company rep in 1970 to become a Chevron proprietor himself, recently joined the new wave. His old station on the Santa Ana Freeway in La Mirada was demolished and a streamlined, computer-controlled 'pumper/foodmart' was installed, designed to minimize service and maximize sales of food and gas.
To Bonham's horror, not to mention that of his customers and those in similar stations, the public restrooms were removed and not replaced.
...While some oil companies say they generally build all new stations with public restrooms and ask their dealers to make them available to the public, several sent representatives to testify against the proposed Los Angeles County ordinance [that public restrooms be provided].
Says Ben Smith, Chevron USA's manager of dealer and consumer affairs, 'No oil company provides restrooms because we're benevolent organizations. We do it because it draws customers in. It's a commercial decision. We don't believe it's the role of government to dictate to the oil industry. We feel the legislation is highly discriminatory. Why single out the oil industry? We don't think we should be legislated into this. That just doesn't seem very American.
'Ninety-five percent of our stations in California have restrooms. The vast majority of them will continue to have restrooms. But we feel we have the right to determine whether it's appropriate or inappropriate to have restrooms at a particular location.'"15
I get it! Chevron, through extensive market research, has concluded that there is a diminished probability that people will need to urinate or defecate at certain of their locations, and, therefore, it would not be cost-effective to provide those facilities there. The oil companies feel they are being picked on since other industries are not also being required, according to the aforementioned legislation, to provide restrooms. An Arco representative said, "Have you ever tried to use a restroom in a bank?" Well, most people, when they go to a bank, are so frozen up by the thought of their financial situation that they couldn't use a restroom even if one were provided!
Charitable institutions will become tremendously inadequate to the demand as all services to the needy become privatized. Public Golf courses and recreational facilities will disappear having become privatized so that they can pay their own way. Public and national parks will have been turned over to private corporations who then will have effectively reserved their use for the very rich by charging exorbitant fees for their use. This is called the gentrification of the park system. (It is well known that the propensity to litter and vandalize decreases with higher socio-economic standing.) Recreation and club activities will be for members only. A Supreme Court decision will strike down any discrimination in becoming a member of a public facility except discrimination in the ability to pay. Thus we will rationalize that we are a truly open and democratic society. Private clubs, however, will reserve the right to qualify their members. Thus the distinction between what is public and what is private will be blurred. Only the rich will be able to avail themselves of either set of facilities. Any poor person trying to start a club or association will have to go through so much red tape and pay so many fees as to make the venture virtually impossible. The rich will have their lawyers take care of these details. Community pools will be replaced with privately owned pools that can only be afforded by the wealthy.
The military will continue to be employer of last resort and will be the only way that jobs are created by the Federal Government. There will be no need for a draft since there will be so many unemployed people clamoring to get in. In fact many will be turned away. The feeling of those lucky enough to be accepted into the military will be one of undying gratitude and loyalty to the government for saving them from a life of poverty. There will be a clamor from all sectors of society for larger and larger military budgets since people will intuitively understand that only in the military will there be any jobs. The upper class will also profit since it owns the large Defense Contracting Corporations, and the lower class will profit since they will gain access to jobs, training and travel through the military. Thus society will be welded together from top to bottom. The problem is that most people will not gain entrance into a participatory role at any level but they will be subdued since they lack both political and military power.
The government will give extensive tax credits and write-offs to business ostensibly for the purpose of creating jobs. Business will use those credits and write-offs to fully automate their plants thereby eliminating jobs. So the taxpayer will be asked to subsidize a policy that will result in his own disenfranchisement from the labor force and thus hasten his entry into the underclass. Experts on public policy will be people of very high IQ who specialize in the use of Doublethink to create rationales which go against the peoples' interests which are then sold to the people as being in their interests.
MEDICAL CARE: PAYING CUSTOMERS ONLY, PLEASE
Public hospitals will disappear. For profit hospitals will not treat patients who don't have insurance which will only be affordable by the wealthy. Thus with inadequate medical care, housing, nutrition, education, recreation and social services, life expectancy of the underclass will decrease as that of the elite class increases. Overall statistics which show that the US has unfavorable infant mortality and life expectancy rates with respect to the rest of the developed world will not alarm the upper class who know that their infant mortality rates and their life expectancy rates are improving while those of the majority of citizens continues to decline. Thus do overall statistics play a role in the doublethink process masking the actualities of situations of the various constituent parts of society-the various sub-societies.
Dumping of patients, the transfer of poor, indigent patients from for-profit hospitals to public hospitals has received a lot of attention in the media. So also has the decline in the quality of health care for the poor. In an article entitled "Escalating Expenses Push Medicine Beyond Reach of Many," Sheila Sobell Moramarco writes:
"About 35 million people (15% of the population) are without any health insurance, according to 1983 census statistics. Others have lost what medical coverage they once had-270,000 elderly and 700,000 children have been dropped from Medicaid. Six states have axed insurance coverage for families with unemployed parents. ...
Even workers lucky enough to have employer-financed health insurance are feeling the crunch as deductible payments rise. And each year, approximately 200,000 of those who are uninsured are refused emergency room care because of their inability to pay.
Many wind up 'dumped' on public hospitals. Before the 1985 enactment of legislation in Texas prohibiting flagrant patient dumping, some 200 patients per month were transferred to Parkland Memorial Hospital from other Dallas-area facilities unwilling to subsidize their care. That is three times the numbers of transfers the hospital received before the 1983 rise in unemployment.
And though it has no hard figures pinpointing a trend, UCSD Medical Center reports an increase of indigent pregnant women who show up in the emergency room ready to deliver, saying they have been turned away from other hospitals.
Could this be happening in America, the country thet spends more money (11% of its gross national product) on health care than any other country in the world?
'The cost of health care and the quality of its delivery are integrally related,' says Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe, director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group, a consumer advocacy in Washington, D.C. 'The first part has to do with access; not enough money is being spent for the disadvantaged patient who needs to be hospitalized beyond what Medicare is willing to pay.'
But the biggest problem in the [health] care system is waste, says Wolfe. Of the $400 billion spent annually, $100 billion goes for unnecessary and expensive procedures that include unwarranted hospitalization, surgery, prescriptions, X-rays and diagnostic tests, he claims."16
"'The idea that we can extend optimal care to the poor is a mirage,' says Dr. Angelo Taranta, chief of medicine at Cabrini. 'Incidence of rheumatic fever, for example, corresponds with square footage of floor space in a person's living quarters. I can give shots which cure the fever, but I cannot give a less crowded place to live. Even if you treat everyone equally in the hospital setting, the poor are still going to end up behind, since they start from a worse position.'"17
This is a classic statement of the position taken in this book that results in the marginalization of the poor even when a "good" is done on an equal basis to everyone in the population because the rich, starting from an initially better position, gain a relative advantage with respect to the poor, who are disadvantaged to begin with. Thus social programs which treat everyone equally can end up hurting the poor by putting them at a relative disadvantage with respect to the rich even though they may have been helped on an absolute basis. Therefore, social programs should discriminate in favor of the poor in order to bring the overall situation into more of an equilibrium. This is consistent with the principle of equality as expounded in this book which states that real social equality should consist of a situation in which the resulting state of affairs is one in which, on a psychological and spiritual level, everyone is brought to the same level of well-being and satisfaction. This is much different from the concept of equality of opportunity which favors the strong and insures unequal outcomes and further marginalization of the weak.
Continuing with the above article:
"Because Cabrini sits in one of the rare areas in America where rich and poor are compressed together-it is a short walk to Grammercy Park, a vestige of fin de siecle Manhattan elegance, and also to the Bowery-it is one of the rare hospital settings where everyone is treated equally. Public beds at Cabrini are a financial concept; in the halls, bag ladies mumble side by side with society matrons. ...
Here we find the catch in the changes at play in modern medicine. Basically, things are good. People are getting healthier; medical technology is improving; costs are stabilizing; there are plenty of hospitals and physicians. To the extent that the system is increasingly driven by market forces it can be trusted to serve the typical patient well, because the typical American is middle class and the American middle class commands a vast quantity of money that the market seeks. But by the same token, a market-driven medicine will flee from the poor. That's basic business logic. No seller of expensive goods would locate in the ghetto or the backwoods.
Not only do the poor lack money, they don't have much in the way of insurance either. Medicaid, the Federal program for the disenfranchised, covers only 21.6 million of the 33.1 million Americans under the poverty line. Much of the working poor and the lower middle class who don't qualify for Medicaid are 'medically indigent'-meaning that they can pay for their basic needs but that adding a medical expense wipes them out.
During the Reagan administration, spending for Medicaid has not increased as rapidly as that for Medicare; nothing at all has been done for the medically indigent. In 1985, for example, the federal government spent $70.5 billion on Medicare, $21.9 billion on Medicaid (about a third of which went to the elderly, since Medicaid pays long-term nursing care for the impoverished old) and granted to corporations tax breaks worth about $30 billion for private group-health insurance. State and local governments contributed an estimated $25 billion to Medicaid and to support of city and county hospitals. There are more senior citizens than poor people, but most senior citizens are middle class; so after you juggle those figures around you find that government devotes approximately twice as much to health-care assistance for people of means as it does for people without means. That doesn't make health-care assistance to the middle class bad. It just puts our priorities in perspective. ...
A logical and discrete free-market response is simply to have no emergency room for the poor to enter. Many hospitals built in recent years, particularly for-profits, lack them. Another logical free-market response is to dump poor patients, shunting them off to public hospitals. The first question asked in many emergency rooms is, 'Does he have numbers?'-meaning, does the patient have insurance?
Today a dumped patient is as likely to come from a nonprofit hospital as anywhere else. The Modesto (California) Bee recounted the chilling story of William Jenness, a 27-year-old man severely injured in a 1984 auto crash. Jenness was taken to Memorial Hospital Medical Center of Modesto, a nonprofit. When officials discovered he had no insurance and could not post a $1000 down payment, they transferred him to Scenic General Hospital, a public facility, despite the fact that he was badly wounded. As a result, surgery on Jenness did not comence until four hours after the crash. Jenness died on the operating table; the autopsy report noted almost a quart of blood in his chest cavity.
Disgraces like this are rare; that's why they make the papers. But dumping under less dire circumstances is, by all estimates, up. Dr. Robert Schiff, a physician at Cook County Hospital, Chicago's public facility, has found that 24 percent of patients transferred to Cook County from private (for-profit or nonprofit) hospitals are in unstable condition.
Private hospital executives often maintain that since the purpose of the tax-supported public hospital is to care for people who don't have resources, there is nothing wrong with transferring indigents to the institution created with them in mind."17
Except for the fact that public hospitals, in order to stay in operation, depend on a mix of indigent and paying patients, and are being forced into the red by the drawing away of paying patients to the more attractive for-profits while, at the same time, having their indigent case load increase thanks to dumping, the aforementioned executive's logic would be flawless. Eventually public hospitals faced with serving only the indigent population can not sustain their operations and go out of business leaving no one to serve the medical needs of the poor.
"On one level, this line of reasoning is hard to dispute. Unless America as a society is willing to determine that everyone should receive equal medical care-a determination the people's representatives in Congress have strenuously avoided-there exists no reason beyond pure voluntary choice why private hospitals should be expected to provide for patients when public alternatives are available. In fact, moving such patients to public facilities has advantages. Society can acquire a clear fix on how much indigent care costs, instead of hiding the figure in subsidies and write-offs."17
Actually there exists no reason why private hospitals should be expected to provide for patients whether or not public alternatives are available in the absence of any governmental regulations requiring them to do so. And when society does acquire a fix on the costs of indigent medical care, is it then going to provide the money for that care or is this to remain a statistical curiosity written up in some journal somewhere?
"But this reasoning works only as far as it goes, which is not far enough. The quality of care in most public hospitals is not as good as that in most private hospitals, and care delivered to the poor by most Medicaid doctors is abysmal compared with care delivered by most private physicians. If America were a society struggling to get by, this might be a necessary evil. But America is the richest and the strongest society in history. If with all our wealth we begrudge the healing of the poor, we are the stingiest society as well."17
The author misses the point that while the US may well indeed be the wealthiest society in history, that wealth is privately, not publicly, held and is not available for the poor. Those who hold the wealth are too busy trying to accumulate more and figuring out ways to avoid paying taxes rather than figuring out ways to help the poor. The point is that the ethic of pursuit of private gain does not predispose people who are in a position to help the poor to do so. The notion that America's wealth should somehow be used to help the poor or solve the world's problems is antithetical to the machinations of those who hold the wealth and are in positions of power who are busy acting on the world's stage in such a way as to further their own interests.
"A hospital 'anti-dumping' provision just approved by Congress would forbid hospitals to turn away emergency room patients or 'dump' them on other institutions for fear that they cannot pay....
The anti-dumping provision seeks to address a problem that has received increasing attention in recent years: Hospitals turning away women in labor and other patients needing immediate attention because they do not have a health insurance card or the cash to pay.
Last June, when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pete Stark (D-Oakland) introduced the anti-dumping and insurance continuation provisions, Kennedy said that because many people do not have health insurance: 'All across our country, emergency patients are being killed or crippled because they cannot find a hospital that will take them in....When one of our citizens arrives at a hospital emergency room with a potentially life-threatening illness or injury, he deserves a checkup and treatment, not a credit check and a trip down the road.'"18
"In Alameda County, Sharon Ford, a Medi-Cal recipient, was turned away from two private hospitals last December while in labor, because a hospital computer erroneously showed that she did not have insurance. Hours later, her baby was born dead at Highland General Hospital in Oakland, the county facility.
The Alameda County district attorney decided against filing criminal charges in the case, but concluded 'it is unmistakably clear that this transfer should not have been attempted.'
In San Bernardino last winter, a patient with a stab wound to the heart was sent to the San Bernardo County Medical Center after being examined and declared 'stable' by a cardiac surgeon at another hospital, according to Dr. Max Lebo, the clinical director of emergency services at the county hospital. The patient arrived moribund, had a cardiac arrest and died.
In each case, the patient was shifted from one emergency room to another not for medical reasons but for economic ones-the fear by the receiving hospital that it would not be paid for treating the patient.
Health care officials call such transfers hospital 'dumping,' and it is a problem that is drawing increasing attention in California and across the nation.
Attention will be focused on the dumping issue Tuesday, when the state Assembly's Health Committee meeting in Sacramento considers a bill that if enacted would give California one of the toughest 'anti-dumping' laws in the nation.
'Lives are being lost every month this goes on,' said Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles), who introduced the bill. 'It is a violation of every code of ethical behavior one can imagine.'
The patients who are 'dumped' are almost always the indigent, the uninsured and those on Medi-Cal. Hospitals are motivated to transfer out of fear that the patients won't be able to pay for their care or that the Medi-Cal payments won't cover the hospital's actual costs. In addition, some specialists, on call to back up the emergency room doctor, refuse to care for such patients.
The patients are usually transferred to public hospitals where their unpaid bills are absorbed by local taxpayers."19
Note the use of the word "fear" here. How does a corporation like a hospital "fear"? I thought only people like the ones who are being dumped could "fear." What is fear if not the feeling inspired when an emergency patient who could die is denied treatment and is told that he must be transferred to another hospital? That is enough to strike fear into anyone's heart. No, the hospital has made a strictly cold-blooded decision to maximize its profits by setting a policy of dumping patients. Fear has nothing to do with it. An institution supposedly devoted to "caring" for people actually doesn't "care" at all if they don't have the ability to pay. It was a case of mistaken identity-Oh, we thought you could pay so we were glad to see you, but actually you can't so toodle-loo. So "care" is just a product to be sold like any other, and don't bother asking to be "cared for" if you don't have the money to pay for the "caring." Notice how nonchalantly doctors and hospital directors are willing to transfer the costs for the care of the indigent away from their own interests and onto the public tax rolls-a transfer of payment from the rich to the poor.
As to the fate of Margolin's bill, we find that a doctor's lobbying group was successful in having the bill voted down. In the April 9, 1987 edition of the LA Times, Robert Steinbrook writes:
"Democrats on the state Assembly's Health Committee sharply criticized the California Medical Assn. Tuesday for opposing a bill that would penalize hospitals for shuttling poor patients from one emergency room to the next for economic reasons.
The committee discussed at length a proposal by Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles) to strengthen existing state laws that require hospitals to care for emergencies regardless of a patient's 'insurance status, economic status or ability to pay.'
The bill fell one vote short of the seven needed for approval and will be up for another vote next Tuesday.
The CMA opposes the bill unless the state can guarantee that physicians will be paid for their services to the poor and the uninsured, testified George F. Cate, a medical association spokesman.
'This is the worst example of testimony from a physicians' group that I have ever heard,' said Assemblyman Bruce Bronzan (D-Fresno). 'All [the Association] seems to be concerned about here is money."20
So what else is new? No pro bono work here. That's why doctors became doctors-to make money-and as every good businessman knows, they are just maximizing their profits by weeding out the deadbeats or potential deadbeats. Treating certain patients would be a poor risk due to their unfavorable credit rating. A prime requisite for a patient these days is to have a good credit rating. Any tradition of helping the poor is being weeded out not only of the medical profession but also of every profession and business as we move to a strictly impersonal, market-oriented set of ethics. Banks charge out of proportion service charges and hold checks longer than necessary in order to increase profits, and there is no law against it. Airlines impose outrageous penalties for changing or cancelling a flight reservation and make additional profits thereby. These are penalties and charges that are out of proportion to any costs actually incurred. Auto insurance companies in California and maybe elsewhere charge enormous surcharges if a person seeking insurance has had his insurance lapse for more than a month probably on the grounds that it is against the law not to have car insurance in California. However, they are not the government levying a fine. Here you have a private corporation acting in a punitive manner when someone probably poor and not able to afford insurance for a period of time, seeks to have their insurance reinstated. And this "fine" represents a windfall profit for the insurance industry-something that adds to their profits at the expense of the unfortunate person who couldn't afford their services for a period of time. There is no law against it.
In an article entitled "Hospitals Turn Away Rape Victims, Blame State Rules," Roxane Arnold writes:
"A new series of stringent, time-consuming procedures for examining rape victims has prompted more than a dozen provately owned hospitals in Los Angeles County to stop admitting sexually abused women and children, and has forced police to scramble to find emergency rooms willing to take them.
The hospitals, which are scattered throughout the county, include some of the busiest and most prominent in the region.
Although authorities say they are working on ways to ease the crisis, the dearth of examination facilities is so acute in some areas that police have reported delays of as long as eight hours, first to find a hospital and then to wait for medical personnel to see the victim.
'It's putting a hardship on the officer and more so on the victim,' said Los Angeles Police Detective Steve Laird. 'We had just gotten to a point where these victims were treated nicely...now they are becoming victims of this as well.
'It's destroying all the advancements we have made in the care...of these victims.'
...In effect statewide since July 1, the changes were instituted by California's Office of Criminal Justice Planning to make examination and reporting procedures more uniform. Officials said they drafted the changes at the request of state legislators who felt that sexual abuse cases would fare better in court if improvements were made in the way evidence is collected.
...The new procedures, called protocols, are characterized by state officials as refinements of already-existing exam requirements. Until the new protocols went into effect, most hospitals with emergency rooms were required to perform the exams. But the new rules permit them to drop them. And many have done just that.
Although some hospitals say they have discontinued the service because the new protocols are too complicated, some state officials suggest that the real reason is that medical centers are losing money on the examinations.
...Some hospitals that have begun turning away rape victims say they have always lost money on the examinations, and with the changes their losses would be greater.
...But most importantly, the law gives hospitals that are unable or unwilling to comply with the new standards a way out: they can refer patients to other hospitals. The regulations require only that Los Angeles County have eight hospitals that will treat the victims.
...'I can't think of any other kind of patient who is being turned away from emergency departments,' Abarbanel said. 'To be singled out and denied treatment is beginning again this whole process of attaching stigma to rape.'"21
In fact the hospitals, as they become more profit-oriented, will use any excuse, exploit any loophole, in order to eliminate patients and procedures on which they lose money. There is, therefore, a tendency to eliminate emergency room services altogether. All too often emergency room cases are people who are poor and without insurance who require a vast amount of expensive care. Where the money is to be made in medical "care" is not in the emergency room but in providing services using fancy and expensive equipment and procedures which are more geared to the well-heeled, affluent and insured. Increasingly, profit-oriented hospitals will specialize in those money-making procedures thereby creating gaping holes in the total blanket of necessary health services. That is to say, it will become increasingly hard to be treated for certain types of illnesses and injuries, if such treatment is inherently a money-losing, or even not a high profit center, proposition.
The health care system, like the rest of society, is becoming more and more an exclusive system. That is, it is not all-inclusive. It is coming more and more to serve the top 80% of society while writing off the bottom 20%. In an article in the LA Times entitled "20% of Californians Lack Health Insurance" and subtitled "Most Are Working And Their Children Study Finds" by Claire Spiegle and Harry Nelson, we find:
"More than one in five Californians under the age of 65-about 5.2 million people-had no private health insurance, no Medicare and no Medi-Cal coverage during 1985, according to the report by the UCLA School of Public Health.
...More than three-quarters of the uninsured population is made up of working people and their children. The rest are mainly homemakers, students and disabled or retired persons. About 2% are unemployed.
Nearly half the uninsured are living near the poverty line-defined as $10,989 in annual income for a family of four. But a large number are not poor. One-fourth have family incomes at least three times the poverty level.
People of all races lack health insurance, but Latinos face a 'substantially higher risk,' the report stated.
...[Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles) stated:] 'The report confirms that a crisis is building, a crisis that we must deal with in a collaborative effort by insurance carriers, major employers and state governments....It is indefensible to have a system that leaves millions of people unprotected and subject to financial ruin.'"22
The article goes on to say that a large part of the reason for this lack of protection is that the employers of these people don't provide health insurance as a subsidized fringe benefit. It might be pointed out that in an era in which deregulation and "getting government off of business's back" is the order of the day, we can expect to see an increasing trend of employers not providing this kind of protection. After all it reduces their profits to do so.
"E. Richard Brown, associate professor of public health at UCLA who directed the new study, said that people who lack insurance face 'substantial risk of being unable to obtain necessary health care....'
[Among the study's other findings:] "Younger people are more likely to be uninsured than older ones. Individuals 18 to 29 were most likely to be uninsured, followed by those under 18. California's children under 18 were at greater risk of being uninsured than were children in the county as a whole.
"Women between the ages of 45 and 64 are at greater risk of being uninsured than men of the same age. They are almost 50% more likely to be uninsured than their counterparts across the country."22
We are becoming a nation that is increasingly willing to accept writing off a certain percentage of its population whether in terms of employment, health care, housing etc. It is becoming acceptable to have a class of write-offs, people who are excluded from the benefits society has to offer. In contrast to this, consider the fact that other nations in the world, other societies, some very close to home, have solved these and similar problems in such a way as to provide all-inclusive social protection mechanisms, health care plans, for instance, that provide protection for all its citizens at costs far less than the hodge-podge system we have created. Also, ironically enough, they have created a system in which the doctors are roughly as well-paid as they are in the US with all the frantic lobbying that goes on in their behalf. Doctors don't want government regulating them which they see as a way of holding down their fees, but they are willing to live with a system in which private corporations, namely the insurance companies who insure them for malpractice, "tax" them exorbitant amounts thus driving some doctors out of business altogether and causing a lack of qualified practitioners in certain high risk areas. Ironically enough, the American consumer does not want government to tax him in order to provide a reasonable, sane and compassionate, not to mention cost-effective, health care program, but the American consumer is willing to let large private corporations, namely the insurance companies, "tax" them in order to provide this service.
Kenneth Freed writes in an article entitled "In Canada, Sick Never Turned Away":
"An American suffering from a heart condition recently visited a Canadian doctor for a checkup. After a battery of tests, he left with a smile. His health was sound and so was his bank account.
The last time he had received a similar examination from his Los Angeles doctor, the visit had cost $250. This time he paid nothing. There were no checks to write, not even an insurance form to fill out.
So it is for nearly everyone living in Canada. With a few exceptions, patients pay nothing for physicians' costs and basic hospital charges. Nearly all costs are borne by the government. The patient does not even need to send in a claim. The doctor and the hospitals simply bill the government.
...And even those bills are cheap, at least when compared to costs in the United States. For an appendectomy in Ontario, Canada's richest province, the government receives a bill of about $139, compared to the $890 that the California Medical Assn. says is the average fee for such an operation in California.
A $355 tonsillectomy in California is performed in Toronto for $84. And, according to the Ontario Medical Assn., a single coronary artery bypass that might cost $3,000 in the United States costs $535 here.
Because of one of the world's most complete public insurance programs, there are no stories in newspapers here of the sick and injured being turned away from emergency rooms and hospitals because they are broke or have no insurance. Nor do doctors refuse patients or refer them to charity facilities because they cannot pay. Medical and hospital care is deemed a right here-just as police protection is a right-that is not tied to the citizens' ability to pay.
The sense of security, not to mention superiorty over the U.S. system, that this gives Canadians was illustrated by Barry Callaghan, a Toronto editor and poet, who said in an interview that 'America may be the land of the free and the brave, but I wouldn't want to get sick and die there. That would take too much courage.'
Canada does not have socialized medicine in the way that Britain does, with government-owned hospitals and greater government control over fees and the practice of medicine in general. In Canada, the government's role is still essentially that of running an insurance system.
Patients are free to go to any doctor or hospital of their choice. Government regulation of the practice of medicine is no more intrusive than it is in the United States, with the medical profession essentially setting the standards.
At the same time, as measured by such standards as doctor-patient ratio, available hospital beds and available treatment facilities and techniques, the quality of medical and hospital care in Canada is generally acknowledged by international experts to be first-rate, particularly for a country with only 25 million people.
Even the doctors-some of whom still have reservations about the program-do as well comparatively as their counterparts in the United States. They have been the top-earning profession in the country for the last 25 years, and their incomes continue to grow faster than those of any other group."23
It is plain to see that eliminating the cost of red tape in itself, which accounts for perhaps as much as 20% of medical costs, not to mention the elimination of insurance company profits has been a chief measure in the reduction of medical costs in Canada. Another thing that is remarkable about the Canadian system is that the government has basically replaced the private insurance company and nothing more. Hospitals are still a part of the private sector. Doctors are still self-employed. It seems like a nice healthy balance between the public and private sectors.
The article continues:
"In 1962, the province of Saskatchewan instituted a medical insurance system that eliminated private coverage and guaranteed payment to doctors by the provincial government.
Seven years later, under the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the federal government expanded the national system to include doctors and medical care, with fees to be negotiated between the provincial governments and organizations representing the nation's 50,000 doctors.
...'It's a bloody good system, frankly,' Moran [a Canadian doctor] said. And a survey conducted last November found that 76% of Canadian doctors believe that Medicare, as it is called here, has been beneficial to the health of Canadians and that half of the physicians feel they have benefitted financially from the system."23
It seems like the best of all possible worlds. Canadians are all covered; no one is turned away. The quality is good. The doctors are making money.
"'I don't know of a better system,' said University of British Columbia Prof. Robert G. Evans, a Harvard-trained medical economist recognized as an expert in international health systems. 'I don't think I'd like to swap with the United States.'
...If the Canadian system is, as Federal Minister of Health Jake Epp said in an interview, 'as close to 100% as possible,' the only remaining issue is whether the country can maintain current standards.
Nearly everyone agrees here that it can.
'There is no political division over the system,' Evans said. 'Everyone is committed to it, and the government is willing to pay for it.'"23
Perhaps the Canadian private insurance corporation lobby wasn't as strong as it is here in the US because it would seem everyone gains from the Canadian system except the insurance companies. Is it then the insurance companies who are standing in the way of a more cost-effective, higher quality, more inclusive, more stable health care system in the US? One thing can be said for sure. In the US it is powerful corporate interests that determine which way the society is going to go rather than any kind of sane thought process even with a fully-functioning example sitting on our border. Private corporate interests dominate and drive the society down a road deemed best for those private corporate interests, not one that is best for its citizens. What the corporations cannot control with economic power, they use lobbyists and PACs to control with political power. As such the power of a few is multiplied many times over the power of the average citizen and the principles of democracy are subverted. Instead we have a plutocracy-a government controlled by wealthy private interests.
"There is little correlation between what a nation spends on health care and how healthy it is. The United States has significantly higher rates of mortality and morbidity than many countries that spend far less; our health-care system is full of fancy hospitals and miraculous technologies but it is highly inefficient and fraught with inequities.
"Medical history has shown us that a nation's health is more closely tied to its public-health efforts than to its doctors or hospitals. The great advances in health have been due to pasteurization, chlorination, sanitation and refrigeration. Similarly today, a nation's health has more to do with its smoking habits, its diet, its pattern of alcohol consumption, its lifestyle than with the number of doctors and hospitals per capita in the industrialized world; Japan spends less than half what we do on health care, yet is healthier."24
Are we admitting here that public health efforts are more effective than private medical practice in producing a healthy population? Are we admitting, in effect, that at least in the health care field socialism will get better results than private enterprise?
"We have money to treat lung cancer but not to help people stop smoking. [That's because there's more money in selling tobacco and treating breast cancer than in preventing it.] We announce that Medicare will pay for heart transplants, yet 20% of the children in America don't have polio shots and a third of the children have never seen a dentist. We never seem to ask ourselves how to buy the most health with limited dollars. [That's because there's more profit in selling highly technologized health care to a few rather than providing inexpensive health care at taxpayer expense to the many.]
We must realize that the miracles of medical science are exploding faster than the public's ability to pay for them. Americans have entered into a Faustian bargain with high-technology medicine-wise enough to invent marvelous machines, yet not wise enough to use them thoughtfully. America is today supporting 10,000 comatose people who have no reasonable hope of recovery on life-support systems, at the same time one in eight Americans have serious problems finding access to care. [It might be pointed out that hooking up a terminally ill patient to a life support system is a cash cow for the medical industry providing that the patient's family has the money to pay for it. If there were no money involved, the life-support systems would probably be turned off in a minute.]
Thousands of times a day some terminally ill person is brought back to life so that he or she can die tomorrow at great cost to the taxpayer [or to the patient's family]. Technological marvels have mass-media appeal but we too often forget that at least 1 million American families last year had at least one member who was refused basic medical care.
...How do we spend limited dollars to give the most health to the most people? [Answer: according to Reaganomics "we" meaning the public as represented by the government don't spend anything to bring health care to people. Private parties procure health care for themselves in accordance to their ability to pay for it. The question of how to provide health care to a maximum number of people is a moot point. In a completely privatized economy people buy health care for themselves if they can pay for it and that's it.]
Similarly, we must not be paralyzed if someone accuses us of setting up a 'two-level health care system.' Public policy has a two-level system for every other public function. We provide people public housing but do not buy them a house. We would do better to recognize that any system that denies some health care to 37 million people is already a two-level system, and concentrate on providing basic health care to the maximum number of people."24
Better yet, why don't we follow the Canadian model and provide high quality, cost-effective medical care to everyone?
Back to the future. Many of the poor will undergo tremendous hardship in an effort to emigrate, legally or illegally, to what has come to be called the "equal" world, those countries which guarantee employment, housing, medical care, education and food to all regardless of financial status.
We will have a neo-feudal, neo-totalitarian society. The class structures won't be entirely rigid with a few minor shifts between classes taking place from time to time, but the classes will remain essentially stratified. Racism will be officially non-existent as there will be a few black people in high positions. In fact it will be official US policy that the minorities should be represented at every level of society at approximately the same percentage as the percentage that minority makes up in the population as a whole. For example, if society is made up of 10% blacks, then the official policy is that 10% of the politicians, 10% of the bank presidents, 10% of the CEOs, 10% of the college professors etc. should be black. The society has gone to great pains to be non-discriminatory. Of course at the other end of the social spectrum the same statistics hold. 10% of the 50 million people beneath the poverty line are black. 10% of the 20 million homeless are black. Officials are proud of their "equal opportunity" society. A few lone voices crying in the wilderness question the justice of 20 million homeless and 50 million people in poverty regardless of the "fairness" of the racial distribution. But Americans are convinced that the system is fair. There are numerous examples of people rising out of the underclass to become movie stars and bank presidents. Why statistics show that blacks, who comprise 10% of the population, own 10% of the wealth! What could be more fair than that? Whites have relinquished their positions of privilege and taken their places in the underclass in proportion to their composition in the general population. The two-tier society with a majority (the underclass) being effectively excluded from participation in the dominant society goes unquestioned.
It will be unprofitable to publish magazines or newspapers with dissenting views, and, as it will only be possible for the wealthy to own newspapers because of the costs involved, only the views of the wealthy, dominant class will be transmitted. Likewise only speakers with established credentials, a euphemism for "approved by the dominant class," will be hired to speak on college campuses. Only approved politicians' campaigns will be funded. Non-profit, public benefit corporations will be non-existent because of the tremendous red tape and fees involved to operate and because the postal subsidy that allows them to do fund-raising will have been eliminated. This will make it even less possible for dissenting views and the views of the undeclass to be heard.
The dominant class will be very "middle class" in manners and mores. There is this very "democratic" feeling. Bank presidents and bus drivers use the same slang and greet each other with the same relaxed informality. Everyone is "free" if you know what I mean. Except for the nagging presence of the underclass, this would be an ideal society. Everyone is relaxed and outgoing-everyone in the dominant class that is. No one pulls rank. No one stands on ceremony. Everyone is cool and relaxed and "natural." They all speak a common language; they all share a common culture; they are all tanned and healthy. Everyone is so...American-except for the underclass. And they don't really count, do they? They are the "invisible men and women" whom the dominant class wishes would just go away, would just remove themselves from the planet. Then everything would be perfect!
Through advertising, the wealthy will shape the markets not only for commodities and consumer goods but for culture and information as well. TV commercials will subtly indoctrinate everyone to conform to the American way of football and political apathy. The concept of masculinity and Americanism will have been fused so that it will be thought unmasculine to appear to be unAmerican and vice versa. This will exert enormous pressure on everyone to accept the prevailing order. The culture and information that will be purveyed will be such as is favorable to the wealthy, politically in control power structure. The basic idea they will market about the poor is that America is a land of opportunity for those willing to work hard and that people in the vast underclass, the internal colony, the Third World contained within a First World, are lazy, good-for-nothing losers. Of course the impression will be created that the vast majority of Americans are not in the underclass at all, that there is actually a large middle class with only a few losers and malcontents at the bottom. People in other poor exploited countries of the "free" world actually believe this propaganda and some of them are willing to undergo tremendous hardship to illegally immigrate here only to find that they end up in the lower echelon of the underclass once here.
The underclass will be considered expendable by the power structure with the survival of enough of them to serve the elite and serve in the military being the only consideration for keeping them alive at all. Winning a nuclear war will be talked about more and more with the political leaders being more and more willing to sacrifice a percentage of our population in order to do so. As the elite class has grown smaller, it has become practical to build fall-out shelters to save them (privately owned of course), so it has become feasible to fight a nuclear war and still save the people worth saving. Similarly, with crime running rampant, only the poor are victimized. The dominant class is able to install elaborate private security systems and hire private security companies with armed response to protect themselves.
Capital punishment will become more prevalent as the tax-paying public becomes fed-up with paying the costs of warehousing criminals many of whom prefer the room and board in jail to be preferable to homelessness and hunger of the streets. A policy of exaggerated punishments for crime will be enacted in order to deter criminals from committing crimes much in the same way that we have a nuclear deterrent to prevent other nations from attacking us. Since about half of the world's nations will have nuclear weapons and delivery systems, we will have developed very sophisticated technology to pinpoint the exact location from which a ballistic missile is launched so we can retaliate against the appropriate country. We had to do this in order to maintain the "credibility" of our deterrent.
Anything publicly funded such as symphonies, theater, dance, classical music, jazz, anything funded by the National Endowment of the Arts or state art supporting agencies has disappeared. Cable TV with quality shows is only available because of its extremely high rates to the wealthy. An invention has allowed pay-as-you- go radio since the stations are jammed and only those who have purchased an expensive decoding device can tune in. This is an example of the spin-off technology from the military which is put to work supporting the overclass and discriminating against the underclass. Nothing is public any more in the sense that it is available to all.
Wilderness areas will be logged and exploited for oil and minerals. All government owned land will be privatized. Animal species will disappear as their habitats are destroyed. Environmental protection will disappear. There will be no such thing as public rest rooms or facilities of any kind as they would be monopolized by the non-paying underclass to relieve their basic needs. Only paying patrons of establishments will be allowed to use the rest rooms.
The public highway system will be privatized and a series of toll booths will be put in place so the corporate owners can collect their fees. Alternatively, a subscriber can pay a monthly fee and get a sticker that is recognizable to an automated toll collector thus expediting the passage through the toll booth. Increasingly, the poor will not be able to afford either the cars or the expense of the toll roads, not to mention the insurance, maintenance, gas and DMV fees.
Every time a purchase is made a person will be required to show a special ID which will allow an instantaneous computer search that will reveal the balance in the customer's checking account in order to see if the check is good. At the same time the client's arrest record and credit rating will flash on the screen. Many criminals and fugitives are apprehended in this way. Thus, private corporations, rather than government, have assumed the role of Big Brother.
INSURANCE-PRIVATIZED PROTECTION FOR THE PAYING PUBLIC
Auto insurance was the subject of a series of articles in the LA Times in 1986. In "Auto Insurance: Lobbyists Thwarting Bids at Reform," Kenneth Reich writes:
"The rising cost of auto insurance in California has fueled a strong public antipathy to the present system, generating mounting pressure on the Legislature and other state political leaders to do something to change it.
But because of political and economic considerations, the chances for substantially altering the system appear slight.
It is not unusual for urban drivers-particularly in Cenral Los Angeles and the Westside-to pay more than $2,000 a year to insure an automobile. If they have traffic violations or accidents on their record, the cost rises still higher.
At the same time, sharply differring rates and shifting territorial rating boundaries among the hundreds of companies selling auto insurance have caused confusion and bitterness. The rate structure is so complicated as to defy understanding, and efforts on the part of state insurance authorities earlier this year to publicize some comparisons seem only to have compounded the confusion.
As many as 70% of all drivers in certain East and South Los Angeles neighborhoods have chosen to ignore legal requirements that they carry insurance, and the problem of uninsured motorists extends to a lesser degree to every part of the state. About 2.5 million California drivers are believed to be uninsured-no one knows for sure.
But even as public anger mounts and the insurance laws are increasingly flouted, the political leadership has been failing to act decisively. Powerful insurance and legal lobbies stymied most attempts at legislative reform this year....
So the paradox is that although many agree that California's auto insurance system is failing, the political odds for changing it appear to be slim.
A recent Los Angeles Times Poll of 2,022 California residents 18 years of age and older found that 65% of those responding considered the pricing of auto insurance by neighborhood to be unfair and 85% believed that the rates overall are too high.
A plurality of those surveyed supported radical reform of the system. Asked if they favored a state-operated auto insurance company that would attempt to make all rates equitable in place of the present system that allows rates to be determined by the marketplace, 44% supported the state-operated system, 38% the private enterprise system and 17% said they were not sure."
[The basis of consumer disatisfaction according to the article is the following.] ...According to federal figures, auto insurance premiums nationwide were up 14% in 1985. In California, according to industry spokesmen, rates are up nearly 40% in the last three years.
California's newly tightened mandatory insurance law, under legal attack for allegedly discriminating against the poor, has been suspended by the state Supreme Court. The suspension, already nearly a year old, has put the number of uninsured motorists back on the rise.
The territorial system of pricing forces the poor who do buy auto insurance to usually pay far more for equivalent coverage than the rich. The same coverage that costs $2,000 or more a year in the inner city in Los Angeles may cost only $350 in many localities in Northern and Central California.
...Key legislative leaders say they think fundamental reform is in order.
'I think we have reached a point where there has to be dramatic change in the way auto insurance is handled in California,' state Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, said recently. 'If there isn't, the system is going to collapse on its own.'
The affordability problem, Robbins declared, is 'creeping from one where it's a problem for people at the poverty level to where it's a problem for the person who's lower-middle-income working class.'
If the trend continues, he said, 'you'll have pockets of the state where virtually no one will have insurance, which will create a situation where people from other areas would be afraid to drive into those sections....'
The retiring Insurance Committee chairman in the Assembly, Alister McAlister (D-Fremont), called the present system 'a disgrace.'
'It's serving the middlemen very well,' he asserted. 'It's serving lawyers, both for plaintiffs and defendants, marvellously well. It serves, for the most part, the insurance men well.... The ones who get hurt are the purchasers of insurance and the people who are victims of accidents and who file claims.'
McAlister said statistics given the Legislature indicate that 'well less than 50% of the premium dollar' is paid out in claims that wind up in the pocket of the traffic accident victim. He said most of the rest goes to insurance company commissions and other expenses and to lawyers' fees. This is not so different from other lines of insurance, but auto claims and litigation resulting from them make up a substantial and highly visible part of the insurance system, one that affects potentially every adult Californian."25
Now if we had a rational state-run auto insurance system, that 50% of the premiums eaten up by lawyers and insurance companies would still be there and the price of auto insurance would plummet. Incidentally, the Canadian system, which is equivalent to the US in benefits, costs, not surprisingly, about half as much. In addition, if the state provided insurance to victims of accidents, not just victims of auto accidents, but all accident victims, then the need for liability insurance would disappear altogether. Many societies, let it be noted many "free world" societies, provide this type of protection. In addition to saving the legal fees, providing insurance to all accident victims means that victims of accidents involving poor or uninsured people will be still covered. As it is today, if the perpetrator of an accident is poor or uninsured as is the case in most violent crime, the victim is not compensated at all since the only way he can be compensated in this society is to sue the person who victimized him.
In an article entitled "Canadian Insurance Reforms Cut Costs Sharply," we find:
"While political leaders in the United States propose comparatively mild changes in the automobile insurance system, much more sweeping reforms have been adopted in Canada and New Zealand, reforms that strike deeply at middlemen profits and offer consumers less expensive policies.
In Canada, three provinces-Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia-have state-owned auto insurance monopolies that provide coverage, even in the large cities of Winnipeg and Vancouver, at rates often less than half as much as in metropolitan areas of California. Quebec has a public system for liability insurance only.
By reducing administrative costs, sometimes doing away with commissions paid to agents, discouraging lawsuits, and cutting back lawyers' fees, these systems manage to pay a far higher percentage of the premium dollar to the victim of accidents than is the case in the United States.
In addition, Canada has a law banning age and sex discrimination in auto insurance. Unlike in virtually all US systems, the accident-free 19-year-old driver in Canada pays no more in basic rates than his or her 49-year-old father.
In New Zealand, a state-operated accident insurance plan provides automatic, 'no-fault' coverage to all people victimized by automobile or other accidents. Except for limited instances involving punitive damages, recourse to the courts is banned. In California and many other American states, by contrast, more than half of all civil liability claims involve automobile accidents.
Pain and suffering awards in New Zealand are far below those won by successful litigants in the United States, but what is awarded does not, as in the United States, often end up going to pay the lawyers' fees. And while the pain and suffering fees are lower, everyone who is victimized gets paid, and fairly quickly, rather than just those who litigate or negotiate successfully.
...The organizers of the Canadian public systems say that to them insurance is more than a business.
'It's a social program,' Gibson said. 'We make no bones about that. We used to be embarassed about saying that, but it's a government social program like medical care, or minimum public education.'
Part of the rationale for the government role, he explained, is that without affordable insurance, many of those injured in accidents end up on the welfare roles anyway.
The proudest boast in Canada is that the government bureaucracies have proved efficient.
'Our administrative costs are very low,' explained Pat Monk, spokeswoman for the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia. 'They're 15 or 16% compared to about 24, 25% in the private sector.'
The resulting low rates are what has sold public insurance to the public. In all four provinces that have adopted it, it was introduced by socialist parties, but has been retained by more conservative parties that succeeded them.
James Nielsen, the minister responsible for the British Columbia system, remarks, 'I'll never be a believer in a socialist system of any kind. (but) I'll accept it, because it's working, and it's working well, and it's being run in a businesslike way....'"26
Taking the lawyers, red tape, insurance company profits and middlemen out of insurance results in reducing the cost by about 50%. That seems clear. Also from the Canadian experience, we have the reversal of the cherished myth about government bureaucracy and inefficiency. Administrative costs are actually lower in the government run program than in the private sector. Of course for the system to really work, we have to give up our "right" to sky's the limit liability settlements. In other words we have to give up our "right" to make a profit off our injuries. If we have a social insurance program in which the society makes a committment to its citizens to provide for their needs in the event of accident, injury, disability etc., then there is no need for whopping insurance settlements. If one's medical needs are taken care of and one's material needs are taken care of in the case that one is unable to work, then there is no need for astronomical insurance claims and we save the price of lawyers.
Brian McCombie in a piece entitled "The 'Catch-22' in Insurance" writes:
"Clear in its 'spinning reasonableness,' Heller's rule is as elliptically precise as the new catch in liability insurance. As I understand it, you can buy affordable insurance if you don't need it or want it. If you want it, you can't afford it, and if you need it you can't get it. But if you'll never use it, and don't need it, you can buy all that you want.
This, of course, is just an updated version of the insurance industry's old catch. Years ago they said you were crazy not to have insurance and sane if you did, but if you used it , you were dropped. Your insurance would be gone after you used it, but at least it was there when you needed it-as long as you didn't need your insurance after you used it. Anyone who has ever made a claim on a policy against theft knows all about this catch.
The beauty of the new catch, however, is that it gets the 'drop' on those who have liability policies, dropping them before they can make a claim. In this way insurance companies hope to save money, but the irony of the catch is not lost on me. After all, how did insurance companies persuade people to buy liability insurance? By promising to protect individuals and organizations against the cost of accidents. And why are insurers dropping consumers of liability insurance? Because these consumers may become liable for an accident.
As Heller's protagonist says, 'That's some catch.' Indeed it is. What the insurance industry did was to convince us, as a society, that every entity, public or private, profit or non-profit, had to have liability insurance. Without it an organization was just waiting to go it alone on a $3 million lawsuit. And lawsuits can be scary. So, we were eager to buy their policies, and now we are convinced that insurance is a necessity.
But we, as a society, never asked how it was that people could sue for such huge dollar amounts. The answer is the insurance industry . As best I understand it, insurance companies wanted every owner or manager of a small diner or a multimillion dollar company to buy as much liability coverage as possible. More coverage meant higher premiums and bigger profits; that insurers, in effect, could be liable for the dollar amounts of these inflated policies didn't seem to bother them.
Everything was fine as long as the industry made lots of money. But in order to make even more money during the late '70s and early '80s, years of high interest rates, insurers began to slash their premiums so they could attract as much cash for investment as possible. By doing so they sacrificed their underwriting profit margins-at least that's what some of the financial journals I've been reading said. After a few years of solid mismanagement, it became apparent that something had to be done. And so to recoup their profits, property and casualty companies began to raise their premiums or drop their policyholders. Some of them can still buy liability insurance-but at two or three times what they were paying before.
Now that's some catch.
We became convinced that individuals and organizations needed liability insurance. The proof-huge lawsuits-was all around us. But these huge suits were made possible in part by the extensive and comprehensive policies written by the very companies that had promised to protect us from them-the insurance companies."27
So first the insurance companies create the demand for liability insurance creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of huge settlements while ushering in a growth industry for trial lawyers. Then they raise premiums wildly when their investments don't pan out and, wahla,we have the situation we are faced with today. So we can thank the insurance industry for first scaring the hell out of us, then pandering to our greed for collecting huge settlements and then creating a climate of strife where everybody is suing everybody. Of course the best thing to do is not to have either insurance or assets; then nobody will ever sue you. They will only sue if there is the possibility to collect, if their target has "deep pockets." Your chances of being sued are greater if you have insurance than if you don't have it.
In "The Lawyering of America" Robert J. Samuelson writes:
"We are now seeing the glimmers of a new legal crisis in America. It arises from the clamor over liability insurance and a vague unease that lawyers are exercising too much influence. The United States now has more lawyers (an estimated 675,000 of them in 1985) per capita than any other major nation. Since 1950, their numbers have grown twice as fast as the population. But our sense that lawyers are meddling too much sits awkwardly with the great American faith in law as a remedy for almost any ill. Or, as one book a few years ago put it, 'Sue the B*st*rds.'
The key to understanding this confusion-if not entirely dispelling it-is to grasp a basic truth. Lawyers and law firms are businesses, and their business is conflict. Creative lawyering often means exploiting or creating conflicts. Just as companies develop new products, so lawyers search for new legal theories on which to sue. Rights of action are lawyers' markets. But their economic self-interest-their legal innovations-may subvert their social usefulness. The civil-justice system's essential purpose is to resolve conflict, not to excite it.
It's often a pretense that lawyers represent other people's grievances rather than their own economic interests. There are thousands of cases where lawyers, not their supposed clients, are the main aggressors. In the early 1980s, for example, many new 'high technology' companies sold stock to the public. Many of these admittedly speculative stocks subsequently collapsed. Now there are dozens of suits against these companies, their officers, accountants, and insurance companies alleging that investors were misled. But the suits have been brought by a few law firms on a contingency-fee basis. The lawyers-who typically take 30% or more of a settlement or damages-stand to win the most.
...Since 1970, membership of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America has nearly tripled, to 60,000. (In the same period, all lawyers rose 90 percent.) To belong, half a lawyer's work must be representing people in personal-injury cases.
The number of product-liability cases filed in federal courts has risen from 1,579 in 1975 to 10,745 in 1984. Although most cases are settled before trial, the volume of jury awards in product-liability and medical-malpractice suits roughly tripled between 1975 and 1984, says Jury Verdict Research Inc.
...To be fair, the liability-insurance mess-complaints from doctors, cities, consulting engineers, day-care centers and others that insurance is too costly or unavailable-is not entirely the doing of lawyers. The insurance industry bears much of the blame. A few years ago companies lowered premiums to compete for business. They expected to earn lush profits by investing premiums at high interest rates. Declining interest rates wrecked that gamble and, combined with steep insurance losses, triggered premium increases and coverage cutbacks. But the insurers' blunder only mitigates the role of lawyers."28
The situation can even approach the theater of the absurd as witnessed by an article which tells about senior citizens having to pay ridiculous prices in order to work in a little community garden plot all because of liability insurance.
"For seven years, Cedar Community Garden has been an enclave of agriculture amid the offices and apartment buildings of Uptown. But now, the half-acre plot, which provides space for 30 residents without backyards to tend small patches of corn, zucchini or azaleas, faces the prospect of a barren future.
Soaring liability insurance rates have raised the rent on garden space from $12 to $50 for six months,
'At least four people have quit because they can't afford it,' said garden chairman John Parker, who added that the garden may have to close if new tenants don't join. 'That's a lot of money for somebody on Social Security. They can buy a lot of groceries for $50.'
The garden, at Front and Juniper streets, is operated by Senior Community Centers of San Diego, which leases the property rent-free from the San Diego Unified Port District. The root of the problem is a Port District policy requiring all lessees to have at least $1 million in liability insurance protection.
In the past, that coverage has been provided by a Senior Community Centers umbrella policy, said Anne Gillespie Brown, the centers' executive director.
'We always had $1 million,' Brown said. 'We paid $8,000.'
But when that policy expired March 31, the center was told by its carrier, Signa Insurance of North America, that new liability insurance would cost $16,000 and provide only $500,000 in protection, Brown said.
'They say we're high risk because we deal with senior citizens, we deal with transportation and we deal with food,' Brown said. 'It's been a very frustrating thing to deal with.'
To keep their garden growing, Parker and the other tenants had to buy an additional $500,000 of coverage- at a cost of $1,719. The gardeners chipped in $75 each to pay the bill, but not without some grumbling.
'I feel this is an unreasonable demand against us,' said gardener Carol Roskos. 'I don't like having to pay for coverage we don't really need.'
Center officials wrote to the Port District for an exemption, questioning why their small, neighborhood garden was subjected to the same liability insurance requirements as the large commercial operations that also lease property from the Port District.
'This is a patently absurd situation,' Parker said. 'That lease is designed for people with trucks loading thousands of pounds of cargo.'
However, port property manager Gary Page said an exemption for Cedar Community Garden would not have been fair.
...The garden was established in 1979 to provide fixed-income senior citizens with recreation and a respite from skyrocketing food prices. Now, those involved with the garden say much of its economic benefit to seniors has died on the vine."29
One of the worst aspects of the present US insurance system is the fact that the very people who need insurance the most are denied it. Anyone with a serious health problem is denied both medical and life insurance. Particularly, AIDS patients have been denied insurance. "...'virtually all' insurance companies now use multiple blood tests to screen certain applicants for AIDS. Some companies, Nance said, also engage in discriminatory practices such as redlining heavily gay areas such as West Hollywood and Laguna Beach, or excluding single males who list unrelated male roommates as beneficiaries. He would not identify any company by name."30
What happens when the insurance industry essentially opts out of a health crisis such as AIDS? Why the government has to step in and pick up the bill of course. Or, perhaps, the government will just write them off and let them die. Even if the government picks up the tab, it begs the question as to what good is an insurance industry that, when a real crisis comes along, says in effect,"Oh, this is too much for us. The government will have to handle it." If the government is going to have to handle the really tough situations, why not let government handle the easy situations too?
From "AIDS' New Cruelty: Impoverishment" subtitled "Patients Without Jobs, Insurance Fall Through the Health Net":
"Meanwhile, insurance companies, by using antibody tests or by searching for 'life-style' clues, have tried to reduce the number of risky policies they issue. They are near panic worrying how they will satisfy the claims of tens, even hundreds, of thousands of young working men who were supposed to be subsidizing the health care of older beneficiaries. According to the logic of insurance mathematics, the industry's retreat makes sense. But if the insurance industry flinches from paying for AIDS, who will?
The government should. But on the federal level.... Medicaid, the only major medical assistance program, requires recipients to be poor or to 'spend down' into poverty. This system prevents the wealthy from using illness to chisel the government. But it also forces some AIDS victims in the last months of their lives to leave their homes and sell their possessions, or forgo needed treatments.
...Although a huge chunk of AIDS treatment costs cannot be avoided, there are steps which can be taken to reduce costs and spread the burden more evenly. But the Reagan Administration has done virtually nothing to alleviate the crisis. In fact it tried to cancel $16 million that Congress appropriated last year to set up less-costly model treatment programs."31
The insurance industry exists to make profits not to protect people. As such every "risky" person it can exclude from coverage means that its profit margin will be that much greater. The less it pays out in benefits, the more money it makes. Therefore, it is in its interests to exclude all people with whom there is associated some liklihood that they might ever need the coverage and to insure only people, who in all liklihood, never will. As coverage becomes more and more expensive and as the insurance industry becomes more and more "zeroed in" on whom to exclude, we will have a society in which only the healthy and the wealthy will have protection. It will be strictly for those who can afford it and are well, not a social right guaranteed to all. Thus American society becomes more Nietzschean. Only the strong and the wealthy survive. The poor and the weak are written off. Covert genocide of the weak, which is the Nietzschean ideal, is all-pervasive. Of course the rationale for this is that this purifies and strengthens the society by eliminating the deadwood, the deadbeats, the weak sisters, the deadheads, the unmeritorious. So we cultivate an inhumane society of exemplary people: the strong, the brave, the intelligent, the beautiful, the socially graceful, the meritorious in general. And we are unflaggingly and unflinchingly fair about this. Anyone from any race, nationality or creed is welcome to play the game and emerge a winner. We're not racist, not sexist, not prejudiced. The blessings of liberty are available to all (who can survive.) There is no compassion in this society. Compassion favors the weak and so must be studiously avoided. We wish to discourage the weak and encourage the strong. Therefore, we give the strong every advantage and the weak every disadvantage. Tax breaks for the rich; taxes for the poor etc. We admire strength; we deplore weakness. If we wish to compete with the rest of the world, we must be strong. The weak, the vulnerable, the poor are a liability, a millstone around our neck, holding us back from our surge to the heights, bringing us down. We frown on them.
Freedom of religion will be touted as one of the Constitutional guarantees of the American Way of Life, but increasingly people will be discouraged from having any sense of brotherhood, compassion for one's fellow man or community. All of these notions will be considered to be insidious, subversive communist propaganda. Religion will be for the purpose only of promoting private spiritual interests-namely securing private wealth in this lifetime and a private berth in the afterlife. Separation of church and state will come to mean complete exclusion of spiritual concern from what goes on in the secular society, a "see no evil, hear no evil" relationship with societal life. Any sense of responsibility toward one's fellow man or any sense of social justice will be eliminated and considered the work of the devil or of communist sympathizers (who pretty much amount to the same thing.) The right wing religions will concentrate on keeping people in line by promising them salvation if they conform and damnation if they don't. The left wing religions will concentrate on encouraging people to be, do and have all they can be, do and have without feeling guilty if their neighbor is, does and has nothing.
The underclass will be taught to believe that they can make it into the elite if only they are good enough-intelligent enough, strong enough, beautiful enough. And exemplary specimens will be selected from time to time by private interests to gain entry into the elite and be held up for public display as examples of what is possible for all of us to accomplish if only we would work hard enough. These tokens will be used to convince the underclass that they are really living in a just and fair society and that it is only their own private failings that keep them where they are.
Manufacturers will stop producing items the poor can afford since it will be more profitable to cater to the elite. The costs of carrying on a political campaign will be so enormous that only the rich can afford to do so. Thus the underclass will be both politically and economically disenfranchised while continually being bombarded with propaganda that they are free and powerful and have wonderful opportunities and that it is unmanly, not to say unamerican, to think otherwise. Sure they will be able to vote but the candidates will be handpicked for their ratification by the elite and it does not matter much who wins. It is just another ritual which the underclass is asked to participate in which in effect represents an acquiescence in and ratification of their own exploitation by the prevailing status quo. Part of their exploitation consists in the fact of their being convinced that they are not actually being exploited at all but that their lot in life, if less than satisfactory, is due to their own inadequacies.
All industries and enterprises will have been deregulated and entire government departments will have been privatized. The only department not to be privatized in fact is the military. Deregulation will mean that consumer and environmental protection will go down the drain. The conventional wisdom is that the animal species going extinct are just naturally losing out in the struggle for survival, and, therefore, that this is in accordance with nature's laws and should not be deplored. Toxic wastes will be dumped with impunity. Nuclear wastes will be used to preserve food.
In "Zap, Crackle, Pop," Gary Gibbs writes:
"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has predicted that 10 per cent, and possibly as much as 40 per cent, of our diet will be exposed to such radiation in the near future. Food irradiation is already a growth industry; if the HHS forecast proves true, it will soon be a multibillion-dollar one.
...What's worse, consumers may have no way of knowing whether they are buying irradiated food. Bowing to food-industry fears that consumers will reject irradiated foods, the FDA has ruled that they may remain unlabeled.
...Who is pushing to expand food irradiation? One of the biggest promoters is the Department of Energy, the makers of nuclear weaponry and reactors.
'The DOE wants to play the fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin with a new twist,' says Kitty Tucker of the Health and Energy Institute in Washington, D.C. 'Rumpelstiltskin turned straw into into gold; the DOE wants to turn nuclear wastes into a saleable product by using them for food irradiation."32
The perfect solution for nuclear waste disposal: shove it down the throats of the American people.
The transportation industry has been drastically affected by deregulation. From "Debate Still Rages Over Deregulation":
"Deregulation has affected, sometimes harshly, the lives of tens of thousands of people who work in transportation, especially in the airline industry. In almost all cases it has led to smaller pay raises than had previously been the case or, in some cases, to salary decreases.
For example, American Airlines, one of the nation's most profitable post-deregulation carriers, has been putting newly hired workers on lower, market-rate scales. The number of employees on the lower wage scales has risen to 40%. And, in the last two years, American has cut its work force to 39,600 from 48,000.
Also, communities of hundreds of thousands of people and businesses no longer have the caliber of bus, rail or air service that they once had. Since bus deregulation in 1982, for example, 3,763 communities have lost bus service and 751 other cities have suffered a reduction of service, according to the Interstate Commerce Commission.
...And the cuts continue. Dallas-based Trailways Inc. has announced that as of April1, 1987, it will discontinue all bus service in Nebraska. That will mean that communities like Imperial and Beatrice will be left with no intercity transportation-bus, rail or air.
Before passenger railroads were deregulated with the creation of the National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak) in 1971, a huge network of passenger railroads served the country. Today, train service-though heavily subsidized by the federal government-has shrunk dramatically.
...True, fares are generally lower, but many small communities have lost all passenger airplane service and there are fewer amenities in the air, long delays, crowded airports and overbooked flights. What's most serious, some observers say, is that the dramatic cost-cutting tactics by the airlines will inevitably lead to diminished safety standards.
...Rep. Gene Taylor (R-Mo), who, like Byrd, laments his vote in favor of deregulation, predicts that the resulting consolidation in the airline industry will create an onerous oligopoly. 'Once it falls into the hands of about six carriers, we'll be paying $1,000 to travel from St. Louis to Los Angeles,' he said.
Avmark President Norton Beyer recalls that when President Jimmy Carter signed the deregulation bill, both Carter and Kahn predicted that the airline industry would become a 'peaceable kingdom.' Instead, Beyer said recently, the industry 'has become an ugly jungle where the big and powerful carriers prey relentlessly on their weaker, smaller competitors. The confusion and uncertainty are overwhelming and the casualty rate from bankruptcies, mergers, acquisitions and outright collapse is appalling.'"33
In "Fear of Flying Frequently," Paul Stephen writes:
"Ten years ago flying was a relatively civilized experience. The airways and airports were not as congested as they are now-and we could often fly to our destination nonstop. But getting from here to there is much more difficult today. Except for flights between major cities, air travel is almost certain to mean a change of planes at a hub airport. ...As we enter the 10th year of airline deregulation, the hub-and-spoke system of distributing passengers has been adopted by every major airline. And this structural shift in scheduling has become a major, if underreported, cause of chaotic conditions in the air-traffic system.
...A decade ago the proponents of deregulation assured us that if we freed the airlines from the shackles of government, consumers would enjoy a utopia of price and service competition. But the promised paradise never arrived. Indeed, with the unprecedented wave of mergers and acquisitions that followed deregulation, the airline industry has evolved into an oligopoly. Today six megacarriers transport more than 80% of the nation's domestic passengers.
...Hubs and spokes have changed the structure of scheduling aircraft but, by multiplying the number of takeoffs and landings, they have caused the airways to become more crowded than they were before. Couple this with the desire of each airline to serve the businessman's peak-demand times and the traffic problems are compounded by what transportation experts call the 'waves' of aircraft scheduled in and out of a hub during the early morning and late afternoon. Too many aircraft passing through too narrow a window of time and space means frequent passenger delays and missed connections, not to mention an erosion of the safety margin.
...Flying is such a stressful experience today that it is easy to forget how we used to get from here to there. We once had a coordinated system of national transportation that allowed us to get from point to point at a fair price and in reasonable comfort, without travelling halfway to hell and back. Deregulation has given us the worst of all worlds-a significant deterioration in the quality of service provided by a handful of huge firms that are now raising prices as they funnel America through 'hub and choke' bottlenecks. We deserve better."34
The merchandising ethic will have suffused all of society: art, culture, politics, religion. It's only what can be sold that is considered to have any value, and anything that can't be marketed effectively and efficiently will be discarded as worthless. The art of safely dead men like von Gogh is sold for tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars which is ironic since, when von Gogh was alive, he couldn't sell a painting at any price. Meanwhile the art of young artists struggling to make a living goes unsold. There is something perverse when an artist cannot reap any value from his work monetarily but that work becomes a repository of value for wealthy persons who neither appreciate it nor subsidize living artists. Politicians will be packaged and sold, their image having more value than their ideas. Religion will be sold the same way: only those clerics who can market a "charismatic" enough image of themselves will make it in the mass media. Even our First Amendment rights will be usurped as private property rights take priority. In an article entitled "Just Shut Up and Shop," Keenen Peck writes:
"I gave the woman a leaflet, but before she could read it a uniformed guard ran up and snatched it from her hand. The women turned to face the guard and asked, 'Isn't this America?'
Indeed, it was Madison Wisconsin. The offending leaflet contained the full text of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights. But the guard was unimpressed; his instructions, issued by a corporation headquartered in Ohio, were to tolerate no distribution of leaflets.
The company eventually sued me and four others for passing out copies of the Bill of Rights. To the corporate owners, we were nothing more than trespassers in their shopping center. To the woman who wanted to read my leaflet, we were neighbors disseminating a message in today's version of the village square.
Our small skirmish, we soon discovered, was part of a much larger struggle being waged in the nation's courts-a conflict over the importance of free speech, over the relationship between the states and the Federal Government, and ultimately over the place of private property in a free society.
We didn't go to East Towne Mall looking for a fight, and it wasn't our idea of the most pleasant place to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon....But the mall's owners had recently sought a court injunction to prevent Nu Parable, an anti-nuclear dance troupe, from performing there. The company's claim that it could impose an absolute ban on all forms of public discourse in its shopping center offended our civil-liberties sensibilities, so we prepared a handbill reminding the mall's owners and visitors that freedom of speech is essential to democracy and, we thought, protected by law.
It turned out we were wrong about the latter point.
Just a few weeks ago, more than three years after we first distributed copies of the Bill of Rights at East Towne, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the mall's proprietors could exclude Nu Parable or anyone else who set foot on their property to disseminate a message rather than to shop. Anyone else presumably includes those who have the effrontery to distribute the Bill of Rights."35
The article goes on to explain that the US Supreme Court has found that the First Amendment restrains only the government and not private-property owners from interfering with the exercise of free speech. That being the case and since the Reagan Administration and presumably its successors are determined to turn every speck of real estate into private property, this means that a citizen's right of free speech is essentially in the hands of private corporations. They can determine what is said and what is not said on their property.
The article continues:
"Today, like it or not, these climate-controlled complexes are marketplaces of ideas as well as merchandise. The only question is whether the ideas purveyed in the mall will be subject to approval by the mall proprietors. At the East Towne Mall in Madison, Wisconsin, the owners allowed military recruiters to set up displays of firepower, but they sued Nu Parable, the group that wanted to perform a brief dance against nuclear war. The owners hosted a Junior Miss Pageant, but they sued Friends of the Bill of Rights (as we called ourselves.)
...But then a majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that private-property rights trump free-speech rights. As a result, an Ohio corporation can now determine which voices will be heard in a popular Wisconsin gathering place. Patrons of East Towne Mall can be told that they must leave one of their constitutional rights in the car.
...In Wisconsin, the state supreme court decided that the state constitution's free-speech provision unambiguously restrains government only. Owners of private property can engage in censorship if they wish."35
Again and again we see private corporations given a free hand in controlling the society. We have a society in which not government is Big Brother, but private corporations are. They control the media. They control the political process. They control the art world. They produce the propaganda, not the government.
Erich Fromm writes: "In an alienated society the mode in which people express their will is not very different from that of their choice in buying commodities. They are listening to the drums of propaganda and facts mean little in comparison with the suggestive noise which hammers at them. In recent years we see more and more how the wisdom of public relations' counsels determines political propaganda. Accustomed to make the public buy anything for the build-up of which there is enough money, they think of political ideas in the same terms. They use television to build up political personalities as they use it to build up a soap; what matters is the effect, in sales or votes, not the rationality or usefulness of what is presented,"36
So corporations determine what items are to be merchandised. Corporations determine what ideas are to be merchandised. Corporations determine what politicians are to be merchandised. Protest is not tolerated. Censorship is alive and well as long as it is carried out by private corporations and not the government, and propaganda is churned out in advertising message after advertising mesage-regardless of what's being advertised be it a product, a person or an idea.
Naturally enough the two-tiered society has a two-tiered justice system. In a way similar to the education system in which the public school system serving the underclass has been allowed to deteriorate while the dominant class is schooled privately, the public justice system has been allowed to deteriorate while the dominant class settles their disputes in a privatized justice system. While the undeclass waits years just to get a court date, the elite hires not only the best lawyers but also the best judges to hear their case. They also rent a private courtroom. All proceedings are conducted in private without the intrusion of nosy onlookers or the media. Some media are sometimes let in if they are willing to pay a stiff price for the right to enter. In an article entitled "Rent-a-Judge-A Shortcut Through the Legal Muck" we find:
"Harper and Lorimar [the two contestants] will jointly pay the $250 hourly fee for retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William P. Hogoboom, who will conduct the fully legal trial in a courtroom not regularly assigned to a sitting judge. Although the judge will make far more than his active colleagues' $350 a day, the jurors from the county's regular jury list will draw their standard $5 a day, which will be paid by the loser, as in all civil jury trials.
...The Los Angeles County Superior Court, where the movement has had the greatest impetus, now lists 90 available rent-a-judges, a 34% increase from last year.
...The movement is growing, say rent-a-judges and the people who hire them, because civil courts have become overcrowded, slowing litigation to a crawl and prompting litigants to seek alternatives.
•Hearings are conducted in secrecy, excluding the public and press from public business.
•The option of hiring rent-a-judges detracts from the need to improve public courts.
•The system lures judges into early retirement with the promise of $200 to $300 hourly fees, creating a 'brain drain' for courts.
•Rent-a-judges, unlike sitting judges, are not required by law to disclose their financial interests or any relationship (such as frequent employment) with parties or lawyers.
...[Robert] Gnaizda [attorney for Public Advocates of San Francisco] and [former California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth] Bird have repeatedly criticized the system as 'elitist.'
They claim that the rent-a-judge system is unconstitutionally discriminatory because it permits those able to pay for judges to get to appellate court, where precedent is established or cases finalized, five years faster than those who must wait for a public courtroom.
...'You cannot allow the powerful to abandon the system when it is near collapse or it will go further down,' Gnaizda said. 'The only way to correct it is when the powerful band together to do it. Otherwise the court system will be like our education system. If the powerful were forced to send their children to the public schools, Los Angeles would be a model school district."37
Judges can make so much more in "private practice" that the more able judges are retiring as early as possible from the public judicial system in order to go into private practice. They aren't required to reveal their financial dealings so that their objectivity as judges is called into question. Privatization in all realms of life results in further marginalization of the underclass and the protections once afforded by the public educational system, the public judicial system, the public library system, public shopping areas, public parks and public recreation have been eroded as these systems have been allowed to deteriorate.
END OF CHAPTER 5