The FBI defines terrorism as “Acts dangerous to human life…intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.” Much of the behavior of our current health care system meets that definition. The facts show intention on the part of corporations to intimidate the population by using market strategies to charge whatever they like for their medical products and services, and an effort to coerce the public into accepting the current system as the only option.
The Average American Family Pays $4,000 for Medical Fraud and Subsidies
Medical billing fraud is estimated at 10 percent of all health care, or about $270 billion, while patent monopolies raise the price of prescription drugs by another $270 billion a year. Combined, this represents an astonishing annual cost of over $4,000 to an average American household. As The Atlantic puts it, “The people most likely to bilk the system are doctors and medical providers, not ‘welfare queens.'”
Intimidation by Outrageous Markups
In a recent analysis of 50 hospitals (49 for-profit) with the highest charge-to-cost ratios in 2012, the average markup was 1,000 percent, which means that a procedure costing a hospital $100 is marked up to $1,000 for us.
In early 2015 Stanford University’s updated CREDO Report concluded that “urban charter schools in the aggregate provide significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading compared to their TPS peers.”
This single claim of success has a lot of people believing that charter schools really work. But there are good reasons to be skeptical. First of all, CREDO is funded and managed by reform advocates. It’s part of the Hoover Institution, a conservative and pro-business think tank funded in part by the Walton Foundation, and in partnership with Pearson, a leading developer of standardized testing materials. CREDO director Margaret Raymond is pro-charter and a free-market advocate.
The 2015 CREDO study received much of its input, according to a Louisiana source, from the New Orleans Recovery School District and charter promoter New Schools for New Orleans, who together had “embarked on a bold, five-year journey to standardize, validate and export the New Orleans charter restart model…addressing the problem of failing schools by restarting them with schools operated by charter operators.”
Regarding national findings, a review of the CREDO study by the National Education Policy Centerquestioned CREDO’s statistical methods: for example, the study excluded public schools that do NOT send students to charters, thus “introducing a bias against the best urban public schools.”
Charters Are Underperforming
The inadequacies of charter schools have been confirmed by other recent studies, one of them by CREDO itself, which found that in comparison to traditional public schools “students in Ohio charter schools perform worse in both reading and mathematics.” Another recent CREDO study of California schools reached mixed results, with charters showing higher scores in reading but lower scores in math.
by Paul Buchheit, published June 22, 2015, mirrored from Common Dreams
In 1931 the New Republic reported on a lynching in Mississippi: “Jim [Ivy] was staked with heavy chains and dry wood was piled knee-high around him. Gasoline tanks were tapped for fuel. Three men set the wood and Jim on fire. I saw the flames climb high on Jim. Jim screamed, prayed and cursed; he struggled so hard that he snapped one of the log chains that bound his ankles to the stake. I was looking into his eyes that second. They were popping with pain and terror…the flames reached up and burned his screaming voice into silence. The mob turned to go. It was about time for supper.”
In Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963, four 11- to 14-year-old girls were in the basement restroom of the 16th Street Baptist Church when a bomb went off. The ground floor collapsed on them. As shocked and bloodied churchgoers wandered through the smoky aftermath, community members began to gather outside, and Governor Wallace sent the police in to disburse the crowd. Two young black men were killed that night, one by the police and one by white thugs.
The most militarized states (1/4 of the total) received almost 2/3 of America’s arms transfers (i.e., the 38 most militarized of 148 nations, plus Taiwan, which did not have a militarization ranking). This, of course, prompts a question about cause and effect: Do our arms sales contribute to increased militarization of other countries, or does the militarization encourage more business with the United States? Either way, our behavior is unconscionable. Over a quarter of all our arms sales goes to five “Non-Free” countries: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Oman (Democracy Index calls three of them “authoritarian regimes,” and Iraq and Egypt “hybrids”). The U.S. share of global arms sales is anywhere from 31 to 75 percent of the total, depending on the source and method of analysis. Adding to our shame is that our #1 arms recipient through 2013 — India — has a median net worth of $1,000 and one of the highest Gini Coefficients (i.e., high inequality) in the world.
Weapons for ISIS — from US!
It has been reported that ISIS has confiscated large numbers of weapons from Saudi Arabia, which has become the Number 1 U.S. customer for arms sales, as well as the world’s Number 1 importer of weapons.
It’s a vicious circle of hypocrisy: Americans dependent on the safety net are urged to “get a job” by the same free-market system that pays them too little to avoid being dependent on the safety net.
Theft, Part 1: The Average U.S. Household Pays About $400 for Safety Net Programs for Low-Wage Workers
According to the Economic Policy Institute, $45 billion per year in federal, state, and other safety net support is paid to workers in the bottom 20 percent of wage earners. Thus the average U.S. household is paying almost $400 to employees in low-wage industries such as food service, retail, and personal care.
Blame: Accusing the Poor
Paul Ryan said that social programs “turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” But 63 percent of eligible working-age poor Americans are employed, and 73 percent are members of working families. Yet in a show of hypocrisy by some of the leading safety net critics, Congress has killed or blocked or ignored numerous attempts to create better jobs for underemployed Americans.
Greed: Profits for Stockholders, Poverty Wages for Workers
A Demos study found that raising wages to $25,000 per year (about $12.50 per hour) for full-time retail workers would lift 734,075 people out of poverty.
It would probably help a lot more. An analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals that about 22 million workers are underpaid (about a sixth of the total), over half of them in food service, cashiering, personal care, and housekeeping.
by Paul Buchheit, published June 1, 2015, mirrored from Common Dreams
Elder abuse is defined as “harmful acts toward an elderly adult, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect.” Financial exploitation comes from the banking industry; neglect emanates from the halls of Congress; and emotions are stirred through the stories of impoverished seniors:
From Reno, Nevada:Here I am at an age when I should be thinking about retiring, desperately trying to find a job. I have used my savings…I’m seeking a court injunction to try and save my home.
From Laurel, Maryland:I am over 60, and I was pushed out of my job because of my age. My rent, car note, and electricity are all two months behind. I can barely get food. Utilities will be cut off soon.
From Bend, Oregon:I exhausted all my 401(k) retirement savings…I’m one month away from losing everything and am now on Food Stamps. I’m an unhappy Republican…
In Detroit, Michigan: 74-year-old Willie Smith saw her monthly SNAP benefits cut from $73 to $57. Also in Detroit, 63-year-old J.B. Hillman-Rushell and her 83-year-old mother were going to four different church food pantries for nearly all of their food.
“The Greatest Retirement Crisis in the History of the World”
That’s what Forbes calls it. Most retirement-age Americans have little or no savings.
$30 trillion in new wealth has been gained in the U.S. since 2009, six times more than the amount spent on Social Security during that time, and most of it went to older Americans, as it has for the last 30 years. But most of it went to a relatively few people who were already rich. According to the Economic Policy Institute (Figure 20), “the median retirement savings…for all households is close to zero since nearly half of households have no savings in these accounts.” Even the upper-middle class (2nd highest quartile) is in trouble, with a median retirement fund, by one estimate, of only $6,000. The National Institute on Retirement Security puts the median retirement account at $12,000 for near-retirement households.
by Paul Buchheit, published May 18, 2015, mirrored from Common Dreams
An emotional response to any criticism of the Apple Corporation might be anticipated from the users of the company’s powerful, practical, popular, and entertaining devices. Accolades to the company and a healthy profit are certainly well-deserved. But much-despised should be the theft from taxpayers and the exploitation of workers and customers, all cloaked within the image of an organization that seems to work magic on our behalf.
1. Apple Took Years of Public Research, Integrated the Results, and Packaged it as Their Own
Apple’s stock market value of over $700 billion is about twice the value of any other company. It is generally regarded as innovative, trendy, and sensitive to the needs of phone and computer users all around the world. Many of us have become addicted to the beautifully designed iPhone. But the design goes back to the time before Apple existed.
Steve Jobs once admitted: “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” And reaping most of the benefits. As economist William Lazonick put it, “The iPhone didn’t just magically appear out of the Apple campus in Cupertino. Whenever a company produces a technology product, it benefits from an accumulation of knowledge created by huge numbers of people outside the company, many of whom have worked in government-funded projects over the previous decades.”
In her revealing book, The Entrepreneurial State, Mariana Mazzucato explains that “Apple concentrates its ingenuity not on developing new technologies and components, but on integrating them into an innovative architecture.” She goes on to describe 12 major technologies that have their roots in government research, including memory and hard disks, displays, cellular technology, GPS, and all the Internet protocols. Much of it came from the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, NASA, the Air Force, and other U.S. agencies. The biggest expense in the iPhone is the touchscreen, which was developed at the CERN laboratories in Europe.
The “stealing of ideas” has not been accompanied by a reciprocal contribution to research. Apple spends much lessthan Microsoft and Google on R&D as a percentage of revenue.
It gets worse. Apple effectively takes all the credit for much of our public R&D by invoking the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, which allowed publicly-funded work to be patented by companies. In 2011, for the first time, Apple spent more on patent purchases and lawsuits than on R&D. And worst of all, patents can make it extremely difficult for other researchers to continue work on the ideas behind newly developed products.
2. Even After Taking Our Research, Apple Does Everything in its Power to Avoid Taxes
In 2013 Apple CEO Tim Cook proclaimed, “We pay all the taxes we owe – every single dollar.” Delusion teams with denial. When questioned about the “Double Irish” scheme that allowed Apple’s Irish subsidiary to pay ZERO taxes from 2009 to 2012, Apple executive Tony King said he had “no idea” what the questioner was talking about.
by Paul Buchheit, published May 11, 2015, mirrored from Common Dreams
Many of us wonder what possible reason could exist for the failure to invest in American infrastructure, to create millions of jobs as a result, and to help everyone in the long run. Analysis reveals personality traits and beliefs and misconceptions that might account for such behavior. Here’s a look inside the billion-dollar brain:
1. It’s All About Me
Several studies by Paul Piff and his colleagues have revealed that upper-class individuals tend to be narcissistic, with a clear sense of entitlement. Worse yet, they believe their talents and attributes – genius, even – have earned them a rightful position of status over everyone else.
Scarier yet, according to one study, the American sense of entitlement has been growing over the past 30 years, despite the fact that most of us have lost ground to the super-rich. And most disturbing is that ‘upper-class’ individuals tend to behave more unethically than average citizens.
This “all about me” attitude means that the wealthy don’t have to depend on others, and that they have less need to understand the feelings of others. This directly impacts our daily lives. The greater the concentration of wealth, the less a society invests in infrastructure. Our investment in infrastructure as a percent of GDP dropped by 60 percentfrom 1968 to 2011.
As the super-rich take their helicopters to and from work, they’re having multi-million-dollar bunkers built under their houses to sustain them when the middle-class revolution comes.
2. It’s All About Lazy People Who Refuse to Work
Congressmen and CEOs don’t normally see the people affected by their actions. This leads to a resentment of the poor, and imagined abuses in the minds of people like Paul Ryan and Scott Walker, both of whom likened the safety net to a “hammock,” and Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, who decried the purchase of crab legs by people on a $5-a-day food stamp budget.
John Boehner daydreamed: “This idea that has been born…that, you know, ‘I really don’t have to work…I think I’d rather just sit around.'”
Almost all healthy adult Americans, of course, want to work. But in 2011 Senate Republicans killed a proposed $447 billion jobs bill that would have added about two million jobs to the economy. Members of Congress filibustered Nancy Pelosi’s “Prevention of Outsourcing Act,” even as a million jobs were being outsourced, and they temporarily blocked the “Small Business Jobs Act.” In April, 2013 only one member of Congress bothered to show up for a hearing on unemployment. When asked what he would do to bring jobs to Kentucky, Mitch McConnell responded, “That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet.”
by Paul Buchheit, published May 04, 2015, mirrored from Common Dreams
Law enforcement, education, health care, water management, government itself — all have been or are being privatized. People with money get the best of each service.
At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand ‘freedom’ unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf.
These privatizers have a system:
1. Convince Yourself that “I Did It On My Own”
The people in position to take from society seek to rationalize their actions, and many have accomplished this through the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the author of The Virtue of Selfishness. She rejected community values, saying “Any group…is only a number of individuals…If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”
Post-Ayn-Rand, in the growing era of neoliberalism, with Ronald Reagan blurting “government is the problem” and Margaret Thatcher proclaiming “There is no such thing as society,” once-respected institutions like public education and public transportation were demonized as “socialist” and “Soviet-style.” The message has been repeated so often by the business-backed media that the general public began to believe it. Said The Economist with regard to product development, “Governments have always been lousy at picking winners, and they are likely to become more so, as legions of entrepreneurs and tinkerers swap designs online, turn them into products at home and market them globally from a garage. As the revolution rages, governments should stick to the basics…Leave the rest to the revolutionaries.”
But as Mariana Mazzucato points out in The Entrepreneurial State, “In reality it is the State that has been engaged on a massive scale in entrepreneurial risk taking to spur innovation.” There is much evidence for this, in a multitude of disciplines, especially in technology and pharmaceuticals, both of which have seen corporate research labs diminishing if not entirely disappearing.
In the burgeoning new field of nanotechnology, says Mazzucato, industry cannot justify applications that require 10 to 20 years of development and which demand a coordination of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, engineering, and computer science.
2. Insist that the Removal of Government Will Benefit All People
The removal of government is equated to a vague demand for “freedom” which is hyperbolic if not meaningless. It gained momentum with Milton Friedman, who said: “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” The Cato Institute went on to preach that “Free markets create a future promoting integrity and trust.” And Forbes Magazine founder Steve Forbes blustered: “You can’t create prosperity without freedom!”
by Paul Buchheit, published April 27, 2015, mirrored from Common Dreams
Because of irresponsible reporting by conservative sources, many Americans have been led to believe that social programs are bankrupting our nation. The mainstream media fawningly concurs, with statements like this from USA Today: “The massive deficits…[and] chronic underfunding…are largely the result of Washington’s habit of committing too much money to benefit programs.” States are now beginning to attack imagined safety net abuses, such as the use of food stamp funds to pay for fortune tellers and pleasure cruises.
But hungry people rarely waste their modest benefits, and most are eager to work to support their households. Almost three-quarters of those enrolled in food stamps and other social programs are members of working families. And according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 1 cent of every SNAP dollar is used fraudulently.
The real threat is the array of entitlements demanded by the very rich. As they get richer, they’re gradually bankrupting the greater part of America, the middle and lower classes. The following annual numbers may help to put our country’s expenses and benefits in perspective.
The Safety Net: $370 Billion
The 2014 safety net (non-medical) included the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Education & Training, and Housing. These few programs, collectively termed “welfare” by those fortunate enough to survive without them, amount to a lot less than the $1 trillion per year publicized by the conservative press.