Book Review: Racism and Not-So-Hidden Profit Define ‘American Healthcare’ Disease :: NPI’s Cascadia Advocate

The other day, Facebook reminded me that a little over a year ago I wrote: “Why are we still having televised debates when the American president will not even accept a handover? peaceful?

Thom Hartmann, author of The Hidden History of American Health Care, was in the same mood when he wrote the preface to his book, establishing that his publisher had said no changes could be made to it after November 3, 2020, although it is slated for spring 2021.

“If Donald Trump was reelected or managed to remain president after January 20, 2021, then we have to take to the streets. This is quite possibly the last fight of democracy, ”wrote Hartmann, trapped as he was behind the shroud of the past awaiting an election.

Either way, we know what happened instead. After four years of repeatedly reporting that he would try to ignore the outcome of the presidential election if he loses, in the fall of 2020 Trump did exactly as he said.

Now, with the president’s powers, he has pressured state officials to get him the votes he needed to proclaim himself the Electoral College winner, including changing the totals, making Republican lawmakers state ignoring the popular vote and pursuing everything everywhere to raise funds and sow. mistrust.

When all of this failed to achieve the result he wanted, Trump called a popular crowd to come to the United States Capitol where he encouraged them to lynch the Vice President (then Mike Pence) and the members. Congress who were asserting Joe Biden’s position. presidential victory.

The flaws of asymmetric media polarization have never been more glaring than how “liberal media” did not treat a violent coup attempt with the same level of interest as the private mail server of a Democratic presidential candidate or the fruits of Russian email hacking. of a national political organization.

Now that’s a lot of introduction for a book that’s less than two hundred pages, and even shorter than that considering it’s a 5 “x7” paperback.

Hartmann moves quickly. He spends the first section of the book describing how bad the American healthcare system is, focusing on Joe Lieberman’s decision to join Republicans in the Senate in killing the public option of the Patient Protection Act and what resulted: a Rube Goldberg machine that kills and bankrupt people so that insurance companies can make profits and pay premiums.

The Hidden History of American Healthcare: Why Illness Is Bankrupting You and Making Others Insanely Rich, by Thom Hartmann (Paperback, Berrett-Koehler Publishers)

After forty pages, Hartmann returns to the origins of the American for-profit disease system, contrasting the trajectory of the United States with that of imperial Germany.

And this is where the author’s warning, given the hindsight, really resonates as Hartmann describes how Otto Von Bismarck, the “Iron Chancellor”, was the main government figure responsible for promoting the German universal health care system in the 1880s, as well as workers’ compensation and old age pensions.

This became the model for the rest of Europe and later the liberal democracies of East Asia. But the reason Bismarck, the arch-conservative Junker that he was, pushed for such measures was because the pragmatist had no other choice.

Bismarck “did not develop the program out of an enlightened sense of human dignity or workers’ rights,” Hartmann writes.

“The street workers pushed him there.

The Social Democratic Party of Germany was banned, but they, the anarchists and other socialists were still active and so threatening in their appeal to the German people that a Prussian minister in an autocratic regime felt obliged to them. appease and prevent the revolution.

Although their explicit reasoning is very different (eg “the real America”), reactionaries in the United States seem to have recognized this same dynamic much more than the American liberals and the left. Decades of organization, of weekly political meetings (although they call it “the church”), and yes, also masses of money have led to a time when all manner of unpopular ideas can dominate federal politics. . This was true even before politicians and crowds began to collude to take over capitals, and in fact this time I’m talking about Oregon.

Because there is never a “return to normal” happening to us.

Of course, unlike Germany, the United States had and incorporated anti-noir as a fundamental structure of society and government.

Hartmann writes how scientific racists, and one in particular – Frederick Hoffman – justified the conditions of deprivation and mistreatment of black Americans in the late 19th century by saying that without the “protection” of slavery, black Americans would die naturally unless supported by artificial and ultimately unsuccessful health services.

When segregation in law ended in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, utilities like swimming pools were simply closed or privatized rather than integrated. This malicious and self-defeating hatred has motivated and continues to motivate many poor whites to work against their economic and bodily interests. Because, for them, their “real interests” are to keep their place in a racist hierarchy and to continue to receive the psychological salary which is paid to them.

But for the rich, who are also disproportionately white, there are also a lot of very real wages paid to them. And stock options. And bonuses.

You can make a lot of money from the services people need to stay alive and keep their families alive, and you can use that money to “exercise your right to free speech” by influencing politicians to think. that the best thing for everyone is to maintain a system where you keep making that money and they keep getting elected. It is very hard to believe that a system does not work well when you see that it is working well for you and for those around you.

It’s not a particularly ambitious book, I don’t think so. Its purpose seems to be that it can be read from one comfortable seat and be understood while providing you with the minimal scaffolding needed to make sense of healthcare as an industry in the United States, which is wrong and how this could be corrected, as other nations have solved some basic problems. Hartmann makes a compelling case for a simple but counterintuitive solution to health problems in the United States: just ask the government to buy the insurance companies.

At around $ 1 trillion, this may sound stupendous, but it’s still what the United States is wasting in overpay for health care every year.

But it will not be done by voting, and it will not be done by signing petitions, or being allowed to walk from here to there.

The days when that meant impressive organizational skills, involving the ability to accomplish other things, are long gone.

Instead, we will have to start treating our lives and our health as precious as it really is, and, for whites, start choosing this as a more important interest than the racial solidarity that allows relative privilege.

You want to believe we can handle this after seeing how willing our bosses, landlords, and governments have been to treat us and our health during COVID-19, but sadly the reactionaries in the United States seem to be the ones who have it all. urgency, and they certainly do not mistakenly believe that future power transitions will be peaceful.

Like leading a debate amid persistent threats of political violence or publishing a book on healthcare when you see signs of a coup unfolding, it’s hard to talk about universal healthcare. as you see a fascist movement gaining momentum and being treated as half-hearted as if no one has learned any lessons since 2015.

But if we don’t organize and mobilize seriously enough to counter a violent white nationalist movement that intends to take control of government by force, not only will we lose a chance of being bribed with universal health care to appease us, we are likely to lose a lot of other things too.


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