Blog Archives

Costs Are Spiraling Out of Control

If we had to choose one “big picture” reason why the vast majority of households are losing ground, it would be: the costs of essentials are spiraling out of control. I’ve often covered the dynamics of stagnating income for the bottom 90%, and real-world inflation, i.e. a decline in purchasing power.

But neither of these dynamics fully describes the relentless upward spiral of the cost basis of our economy, that is, the cost of big-ticket essentials: housing, education and healthcare.

The costs of education are spiraling out of control, stripping households of income as an entire generation is transformed into debt-serfs by student loan debt. The soaring costs of healthcare are a core driver of higher costs in the education complex (and government in general), and to cover these higher costs, counties raise property taxes, which add additional cost burdens to households and enterprises as rents rise.

(more…)

Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Are Profit and Healthcare Incompatible?

As I have been noting for a decade, the broken U.S. healthcare system will bankrupt the nation all by itself. We all know the basic facts: the system delivers uneven results in terms of improving health and life expectancy while costing two or three times more per person compared to our advanced-economy global competitors.

U.S. Lifestyle + “Healthcare” = Bankruptcy (June 19, 2008)

Sickcare Will Bankrupt the Nation–And Soon (March 21, 2011)

How Healthcare Is Dooming the U.S. Economy (Three Charts) (May 2015)

You Want to Fix the Economy? Then First Fix Healthcare (September 29, 2016)

This chart says it all: the global outlier in low life expectancy and exorbitant cost is the U.S.

(more…)

Tagged with: , , ,

Inflation Isn’t Evenly Distributed: The Protected Are Fine, the Unprotected Are Impoverished Debt-Serfs

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation is bogus on a number of fronts, a reality I’ve covered a number of times: though the heavily gamed official CPI is under 2% for the past four years, the real rate is 7% to 12%, depending on whether you happen to live in locales with soaring rents/housing and healthcare costs.

Revealing the Real Rate of Inflation Would Crash the System (August 3, 2016)

The Disaster of Inflation–For the Bottom 95% (October 28, 2016)

But the other reality is that inflation is not evenly distributed throughout the economy or populace: many people have little exposure to the crushing inflation of healthcare and higher education. For these people, inflation is a non-issue or a minor impact on their wealth, income and lifestyle.

Those fully exposed to the skyrocketing costs of healthcare insurance and higher education are being reduced to impoverished debt-serfs.

(more…)

Tagged with: , ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Our Society Is Sick, Our Economy Exploitive and our Politics Corrupt

In noting that our society is sick, our economy exploitive and our politics corrupt, I’m not saying anything you didn’t already know. Everyone who isn’t being paid to deny the obvious in public (while fuming helplessly about the phony cheerleading in private) knows that our society is a layer-cake of pathologies, our economy little more than institutionalized racketeering and our politics a corrupt auction-house of pay-for-play, influence-peddling, money-grubbing and brazen pandering for votes.

The fantasy promoted by do-gooders and PR hacks alike is that this corrupt system can be reformed with a few minor policy tweaks. If you want a brief but thorough explanation of Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform, please take a look at my book (link above).

If you want an example of how the status quo has failed and is beyond reform, it’s instructive to examine the pharmaceutical industry, which includes biotech corporations, specialty pharmaceutical firms and the global corporate giants known as Big Pharma.

I hope it won’t come as too great a surprise that the pharmaceutical industry isn’t about cures or helping needy people–it’s about profits. As a Big Pharma CEO reported in a brief moment of truthfulness, We’re in Business of Shareholder Profit, Not Helping the Sick

(more…)

Tagged with: , , , ,

Be Your Own Medicine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged with: , ,

The Coming Great Recession, Brought to You by the Healthcare Cartel

Why the coming Great Recession is brought to you by the Healthcare Cartel is painfully simple: in an era of stagnant household incomes, every additional dollar devoted to rising healthcare insurance, outrageously unaffordable medications and soaring co-pays is one less dollar that’s available to be saved, invested or spent on something other than healthcare.

Recent headlines tell the story: off-patent medications suddenly leap in price, healthcare premiums jump 25+% in a single year, co-pays increase and the deductibles on many insurance plans are so high that the coverage is more phantom than real: if you have to spend $5,000 before your insurance plan pays $1, what value is the coverage?

(more…)

Tagged with: , , , ,

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

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

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

(more…)

Tagged with: , , ,

The New Shackle of Serfdom: Clinging to Healthcare Insurance

One of the more remarkable characteristics of American life is our passive acceptance of systems that are so obviously completely insane. Yes, I refer to our healthcare system, a.k.a. sickcare because in America sickness is profitable and health is not, and healthcare profiteering that would be the envy of pirates and warlords everywhere is the norm.

What warlord wouldn’t jump on the opportunity to jack up the cost of a medication from $13.50 a tablet to $750 overnight, or as the article highlights, jack up the cost of an off-patent med from $1 a pill to $750 a pill in a few years?

This piratical pillaging is not an outlier–it’s the norm in America’s parasitic pharmaceutical industry:

(more…)

Tagged with: , , , , ,

Junk Fees and Debt: The Funding Template for American Cities

As many of us have observed over the past few years, local governments in America are caught in the pincers of rapidly rising pension and healthcare costs and stagnant tax revenues. The only “fixes” that don’t alienate vested interests or tax-burdened voters are dramatic increases in junk fees, i.e. “fees for use,” and borrowing money by selling bonds.

(more…)

Tagged with: , , , , ,

Being Healthy Is Unprofitable

That good health is insanely unprofitable was highlighted by a staggering statistic in the recent research paper The Concentration of Health Care Spending:

(more…)

Tagged with: , , , , ,

How Healthcare Is Dooming the U.S. Economy

Three charts crystallize the healthcare dynamics that are dooming the U.S. economy. The first depicts the runaway growth of healthcare costs–a rapid expansion that is a permanent feature of U.S. healthcare, regardless of which party is in office or what reforms are instituted.

This expansion of costs has many drivers, most of which result from the system’s perverse incentives for fraud, overbilling, marginal treatments and defensive medicine.Technological and medical advances offer more options for treatment, and can push costs up–but advances can just as readily push costs down, too.

The primary drivers of rapidly increasing costs are:

(more…)

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,