Today I read some Catholic priest discussing the oft-repeated phrases about even Atheists finding religion “in times of need, if they look way, way down in their souls”. It’s the old “no one dies an Atheist” malarkey, and is as self-serving as it is wrong. People like this confuse belief with desire.
It’s no different than when a gambler has “good feeling” about the next roll of the dice, or tomorrows Lotto numbers. It’s no different than when we believe that the guy we voted for will be elected President, even though we haven’t seen the polls. You see, he’s just got a feeling. It’s not actually that different from the fact that we marry, at least 50% of the time, the wrong person. We want him/her to be the right one, and so we begin to believe that he/she is. And we’re wrong, roughly half the time.
Sometimes desire turns to belief when we know we’re being told a lie, but it is too painful to acknowledge, like when a teenager tells us that they’re not taking drugs, even though we think they are. It’s easier to believe that which comforts us, rather than the painful truth.
I can honestly say that, in times of severe crisis and distress, even I have certainly wished that there was a God. During times when I was falling from an emotional cliff, I certainly wished that there was some mystic supernatural entity which would catch me, dry my tears, pat my head and tell me that everything is alright. I guess the difference between those like me and others is that I can separate want from belief. No matter how hard I close my eyes, click my heels three times and say there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, when I open my eyes, I’m still in the same place-not back in Kansas. Some will open their eyes and see wheat fields where there are parking lots and cows where there stand only cars.
In the Journal of Organizational Behavior (Mohammed, & Dumville, 2001) it is suggested that “the relationship between belief and knowledge is noteworthy. A subjective form of cognition exists when belief structures are defined as desired states of nature that one prefers or expects.” Hmmm…
I can understand when children create little micro-worlds where everyone loves them, they have lots of friends, and they have grown up to become whatever they think is a good thing to become, be it fireman, army guy, nurse, actress, rock star, doctor, or ambulance driver. They will tell their parents that this is what they are going to be when they grow up, because it is what they want to be. It has no basis in reality, but is as real to them as is the present day. We look at them, pat them on their heads and marvel at their vivid imaginations, hoping that they get everything they want, yet barely acknowledging that they probably won’t.
Although they believe these things, we still want them to go to school and learn all the things that rock stars and opera singers and football players don’t really need to know, like algebra and English composition. You see, desire shouldn’t be confused with belief.
Then we go to bed, secure in the knowledge that there is a guy with a long beard above the clouds who is just waiting to give us a big hug and take care of us forever, as long as we spend our lives believing it.
In 1993, most health insurance companies in the country spent about 95% of their premiums paying claims (this is called their Medical Loss Ratio). During that same time, Medicare paid almost 97% of their premiums on claims. Since then, by denying claims and cancelling policies of those who get sick often, we have arrived at the following:
Blue Cross/Blue Shield-medical loss ratio=82%
United Health Care-medical loss ratio=82%
Aetna-medical loss ratio=81%
Humana-medical loss ratio=84%
So, our health insurers have found a way, in a suspiciously lock-step manner, to decrease the amount of their premiums which go to pay claims by as much as 14%. On total premiums in excess of $500,000,000,000 ($ one half trillion) that means that, on average, health insurance companies are pocketing an additional $75 billion per year over and above their normal profits. For comparison purposes, Microsoft made $20 billion last year-total. Apple made about $24 billion.
Now, as good capitalists, we would normally say, “good for them”. There’s nothing wrong with success, right? Well, sure, but I think it’s time that we determine what, exactly, these companies do for us.
Insurance companies are aggregators of risk. That’s it. They don’t provide any other services that we can’t provide on our own. They don’t give us advice on how to stay healthy, find good doctors, or determine if a recommended treatment is or isn’t called for. We do that all on our own, in conjunction with our doctors. Insurance companies simply hold our money, pool it with the money they get from others, and presumably pay it out to those who make us well. The concept makes sense because, like all insurance we buy, we expect it to accumulate enough money to pay for our needs should a medical issue arise.
But now, we have the ACA, (Obamacare). What the ACA does is gather together numerous insurance companies in one central location, or Exchange (that’s what the web site is for). It gives us a place to pick from numerous insurance companies, presumably find the one with the best coverage at the lowest price, from which we can then buy our insurance. Seems simple, huh?
Well, it’s simple until you look at it from 30,000 feet. The ACA is, in effect, aggregating the aggregators. They are sweeping up a group of insurance companies and putting them in a bank, much as the insurance companies sweep up our premiums and put them in a bank. The government, in an effort to ensure that Americans have health care, is making us pay, not for the health care itself, but for insurance. And by forcing us to buy insurance, they’re forcing us to give anywhere from 16%-18% percent of that money to these insurance companies in pure profit. This is, in actuality, a form of Corporatism, used largely by the Fascists in Italy before WWII. (I use words like “Fascists” quite sparingly and, due to the fact that these words are so often used by those who do not understand them, I affirm very strongly that I’m not accusing anyone of being a Fascist).
So, the question remains, what are insurance companies doing for their profits? They’re helping us to bank some money for future medical bills. That is what they do, in totality.
Now, there are some other entities which do the same thing. One, Social Security, takes money from our paychecks every week and aggregates it, paying out money to us when we get old. (Contrary to what some in certain political parties will say, Social Security is fully funded through 2050 and is not even remotely going bankrupt. I’ve been hearing about its impending bankruptcy for the last 20 years). Another is Medicare. A small amount gets deducted from your paycheck and put in a big ole’ account, paying for your medical expenses from when you’re 65 until you die.
With all the Tea Party protests over the years, especially when Obama was running for re-election, I have never, not once, heard of a rally, protest or national candidate which advocated abolition of Social Security and Medicare. Not one! Although some, like GW “Cowboy” Bush advocate privatizing it (he quieted down, murmuring to himself, after the stock market tanked) and badly hair-plugged Rand Paul says the same, I have yet to hear anyone, anywhere claim that either of these programs are failures.
Oh, and to repeat: Medicare spends 97% of its revenue on claims. That’s, on average, 16% more than the collective insurance companies.
Your tax dollars at work…
So friends and neighbors, I hope you’re seeing where I’m going with this. Since our government has proven itself quite competent at managing health care (they’re a little slow on websites, I’ll give ya that one) and have a decades-long track record of helping to keep Americans healthy, why aren’t we simply bypassing the highly profitable health insurance companies and sending it all to the government?
It’s called “Single Payer”. Barack Obama did not attempt to get it through Congress and I can now see why. The herculean effort to pass the ACA proved to be so difficult that I believe his refusal to go for single payer was prescient, if not visionary. It would have failed, and I think he was smart enough to know it.
But single payer has to be the next step. The resistance to it, however, will be much more transparent in its mendacity than toward the ACA. Once the ACA is fully in place and functioning, the only argument against single payer must be made on the part of insurance companies. There is no one else who will suffer, once we have a fully functioning ACA, from the complete dismantling of our current risk-aggregation-for-profit system than the companies who add more to the cost of it than any other single entity.
What must be remembered is the inevitability of the need for health care. There is no question but that we will all get sick. The medical industry and all its component parts have a monopoly-like hold on humans. We will be forced to use their services sooner or later, yet we let them determine how much to charge us, knowing full well that we have no place else to go.
The use of auto insurance is not inevitable. The use of flood or fire insurance is not inevitable. Many of us go through our entire lives without a car accident or an overflowing river damaging our homes. Life insurance, although inevitable, is not for us-it is a gift for our heirs. There is no comparison to health care in any other aspect of life, or of insurance.
Governments exist to do for people what they cannot do for themselves, like protecting borders, fighting wars, damning rivers and repairing the damage from earthquakes. Virtually every other industrialized country provides some method for their citizens to have the health care they need. There are no alternatives to health insurance for us. We have no place else to go.
Americans, some of whom quite vaingloriously describe themselves as “exceptional”, do not seem to think that that exceptionalism should extend to the goal of majority of its citizens being healthy.
The Supreme Court will, once again, take a shot at dismembering the ACA (Obamacare) when it reviews the suit by Hobby Lobby (and others) regarding whether the religious beliefs of a corporation should be considered when deciding if they should be forced to provide insurance that covers birth control.
Yes, as incredible as it may seem, there is actually a successful company as uncreatively named as “Hobby Lobby”, but I digress.
The CEO of this company, David Green, is convinced that his fundamentalist Christian beliefs should be imposed upon his 21,000 employees, even though no polling has been taken among them regarding this issue. He is trying to use the fact that corporations have been given First Amendment rights regarding free speech to expand that right to…I’ll say this slowly now..THE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OF CORPORATIONS.
Yes brothers and sisters and children everywhere, corporations have religious beliefs!, They, collectively, believe in Christianity, Judaism or, potentially, Islam. I guess its all a matter of how they were raised by their corporate parents, you know, back when they were just little Sole Proprietorships in short pants.
Apparently the employees of these corporations have, unbeknownst to us,(or them) given over their personal religious beliefs to their corporate masters, fully trusting these isolated individuals to protect them from the evils of, err, ah, birth control.
Green has gone on the record as having said, “The Green family’s religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices”. Funny, I don’t remember any passage like that in the bible, such as “Thou shall not participate in, provide access to, pay for, train others to engage in…yada, yada, yada. That must be in the In Between Testament, or solely in the mind of David Green.
I’m just waiting for the company owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses to refuse their employees blood transfusions, or one run by Scientologists refusing psychiatric care, or some other wing-nut fundamentalist who doesn’t believe in medical Marijuana. The possibilities are endless.
Yes, apparently Mr Green, a small government advocate and right-wing nut job, doesn’t want the government controlling when a woman can or can’t give birth, but he’s perfectly happy if his $2.5 billion corporation does.
Praise Jesus and pass the scrapbooking kits, we is all gonna be saved!
The word Christmas is defined by multiple sources as a mass honoring Christ. Yeah, Jesus Christ. That guy.
I’m reminding you of this in a somewhat facetious manner in order to bring to your attention that which you are not really celebrating as you stand in line at Walmart/Target/Kmart/Best Buy or whatever big box super center in which you are currently, or are soon to be, for that piece of merchandising brilliance made by starving workers on the other side of the world for the sole purpose of your having the latest iteration of whatever meaningless garbage that you’ve decided you not only must have but must have at 50% off plus another 10% off for early-bird shoppers.
Or an iPad.
Now, for some reason, that starving worker in Jakarta, Bejing or Mumbai probably wasn’t thinking of honoring Christ with a mass when he assembled it. The trucker who drove it from the ship to the warehouse probably wasn’t thinking of honoring Christ when he did his job. Neither the forwarding company who brought it to the store, nor the minimum wage earner who put it on the shelf, and certainly not the pimply-faced kid with the really stupid looking uniform vest who sold it to you. Nope, I’d be willing to bet that none of those people intended that you would buy that shining example of our rampant banality for the purpose of holding it on high and praising the birth of Jesus.
But some of you ostensibly claim to be doing just that.
At the same time that conservatives are honking their red plastic horns at the prospect of a “war on Christmas” and other such blither, they are pushing one another aside, drawing weapons, overrunning the less athletic, the aged and the infirm among us to get inside those glass-encased big-box monuments to imbecility for the simple purpose of getting an Xbox One or Play-Station in the name of honoring he who, according to many comic books, died for our sins.
Now, folks, I don’t believe a word of that garbage. I’m sure Jesus was a heck of a nice guy and probably wanted to save some souls. But I’m not, shall we say, of that tribe.
What I do know is, those of you who do believe in that stuff and spend your days worshipping and praising him, stoning non-believers and prostitutes, burning homosexuals and subjugating your wives (you know, good Christian stuff) had better go to confession this Sunday and say something like, “Bless me father for I have sinned. It’s been _____ years since I completely forgot that nowhere in the New Testament does is say, ‘go forth and buy, buy, buy’”.
Because if you don’t, you will be a hypocrite. A big, snarly, unimpeachable hypocrite. And it turns out that another guy from that book (Matthew, 15:7-9) said, quite succinctly, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
Smart guy, that Isaiah. But I hear he’s more of an Android guy.
Today I joined the Tea Party.
I’m tired of all those losers who take whatever handouts they can find.
I’m tired of the leaches who never work a day in their lives, living off all the rest of us hard working folk.
I’m tired of having to be responsible for people who are too stupid, lazy or ignorant to know what their future needs will be.
So I signed up for the ACA (Obamacare) and so should all those deadbeats, leeches and losers who think its perfectly OK to go around without any means of paying for their health care needs.
You see, I’m tired of those losers who figure that they’ll just wait until they get sick, go to the emergency room, get free help, and stick the bill with people like me, whose health insurance costs will go up as a result.
I’m tired of people complaining about their insurance going up and blaming the government for it.
I’m tired of people who won’t “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” and buy their own health insurance, instead of expecting their employers or the government to do it for them.
Yup, I’m a rootin, tootin, rugged individualist who thinks we should stop relying on others to take care of us. We, as Americans, don’t believe in Big Brother-we take care of ourselves.
Not like in Europe or Sweden where the government provides health care and all you have to do is walk in to a clinic and get treatment. That’s not who we are here in America. We take care of ourselves and pay our own way.
Nope, here in America, we buy our own health insurance so that we don’t have to rely on big, controlling, socialist governments to provide it to us.
Yup, I just became a self-reliant Tea Party Republican. I signed up for Obamacare.
Interesting how Dubya was seen as a no-compromise, tough guy cowboy. Remember, when asked about future terrorism, his response was “Bring it on”? He started two wars and left us with an economy in the toilet, but he can’t think of anything he did wrong.
Yet, the guy who is ending both of those wars and struggling to fix Dubya’s economic mistakes, as well as bring health care to us all, is manly enough to admit when he screws up.
The latest ACA (Obamacare) controversy is over the fact that some are being forced to dump their non-conforming health insurance policies (AKA garbage policies) for those that comply with the minimum protections required by the ACA.
Some are saying that Barack Obama lied when he said, repeatedly, that any of us who like our current coverage could keep it. This may or may not be true. But for the purposes of this post, I’ll assume that it is.
Although it is possible that he was mistaken, I am willing to give in to Repub admonishments that Barack Obama lied in order to make the ACA more palatable for those among us who were on the fence. I’m willing to accept that Barack Obama may have blatantly and purposefully lied about the ACA to get it passed.
OK now, catch your breath; because I’m not going to let you Repubs celebrate this too much. There’s more to this, and I’m about to explain it to you. Let’s discuss when Presidents lie…
Richard Nixon lied about Watergate, which was an effort to steal information from the DNC (Democratic National Committee) for the purpose of ensuring Nixon’s victory in 1973.
Ronald Reagan claimed that he didn’t know that we were illegally selling arms to the Iranians (one of our premier enemies at the time, if you remember the Iranian hostage crisis that put Reagan into office) and then funneling the money to the Nicaraguan Contras to help them overthrow their dictator (which Congress had specifically forbidden).
His Vice President, George HW Bush, besides claiming to be “out of the loop” on the above Iran/Contra matter (an incredible statement, since he had been the head of the CIA in previous years and could not possibly have been unaware of it), also stated, without equivocation, during his campaign for President, when asked about the deficits that had been left by Reagan and the need for a tax increase, “Read my lips, no new taxes” and then went ahead and raised them anyway.
Even Bill Clinton, when he said, “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms Lewinski”, turned out to have been lying.
Then of course, we have Cowboy Bush, son of HW, who told us, both by himself and through the shadow President, Dick Cheney, that Iraq had WMD when they didn’t, and he knew it. He also let millions of less-than-well-informed Repubs believe that Saddam had some hand in 9/11. He also allowed torture at Guantanamo when he knew that it was illegal. There are parts of the world where he and Cheney can never again travel, since there are warrants against them for war crimes.
Now we have Barack Obama, who may have lied about the ACA.
So, to recap, three Repubs, Nixon, Reagan, daddy Bush lied to avoid potential impeachment since they had performed blatantly illegal acts.
One additional Repub lied and thousands died because he wanted to get the Iraqi dictator who threatened his daddy, and apparently thought water boarding was jumping off a long, springy board into your backyard pool.
Then, the Democrat lied over, wait for it…oral sex, which had no effect on anyone and, although ill advised, hurt no one, other than his own family.
And now we come to the worst liar of all, Barack Obama, who LIED US INTO BETTER HEALTH CARE!
It’s true, folks. We are complaining that this guy might have lied about something that will make us all healthier. He might have lied to us to ensure that the deadbeats of the world who don’t carry health insurance then stiff the hospital when they have to go to the emergency room, forcing all of us to pay for their medical care, now have to hold up their end of the bargain! (That was what the Heritage Foundation, a Repub think tank, strongly recommended in the early 90s. It was also the main selling point of Romneycare in Massachusetts).
This miserable politician lied through his teeth to make sure that all Americans can now have the peace of mind that, if they get sick, they won’t lose their houses trying to pay the hospital bill. That people with serious illnesses won’t have to file bankruptcy when they can’t pay for treatment.
He lied so that a guy like me, late 50s and rather healthy, can save over $300 per month on his new policy under the ACA, (I am already signed up and start paying my lower premiums in January) for the EXACT SAME COVERAGE WITH A LOWER DEDUCTIBLE THAN I HAD BEFORE. It’s even through the same insurance company!
Yup, looks like that son-of-a-bitch really put one over on us…