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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

April 26th, 2011 3:22 PM

Until Death Us Do Part: Wedded to Wealth We Don’t Have

Perhaps it’s the media fever over the Royal wedding in Great Britain or perhaps it’s my own disgust about hearing that Exxon Mobil makes $100M a day in profits, but either way I am pretty certain many Americans would rather go to their deaths believing in fairy tales than fighting reality.

Most of us will never celebrate weddings like that of William and Kate and most of us will never make $1,000 a day in profits much less a million or 10 million or $100M.  I think we all get that somehow – even if we watch and wonder and even sometimes plan how we would spend our millions.

But I also know a significant number of people who really believe they are somehow closer to having those millions and being among the ultra-wealthy.  And many who believe and even convince themselves to identify with the ultra-rich actually live paycheck-to-paycheck or worse.  It’s an interesting cultural phenomenon that is an extremely effective way for those who actually have the money and power to control those of us who do not.  Sometimes the control is quite direct when owners and bosses hold power over our jobs, and other times the control is more subtle as corporations, advertisers and the news media create images and imaginings of what it means to be a success in America in 2011.

It is mind control and action control on steroids that makes millions and millions of Americans trust their lives to those who value them so little.

My primary issue is still in achieving a progressively financed, single standard of high quality healthcare for all.  Many of us call that a single-payer system; some prefer to call it a Medicare for all system.  Whatever folks choose to call it, creating that system is not a leftist idea nor is it the takeover of our healthcare system by a communist-like mindset.  It just pools the resources effectively and spends them on what they were pooled for – healthcare.  Our current system wastes a lot of money keeping people from getting healthcare and also providing profit incentives for treatments and procedures that may make lots of people rich but leave lots of patients sick.  Yet, how many times to do hear and cling to the idea that we Americans have the best healthcare system in the world?

The American dream spinners in healthcare have been brilliant.  They’ve spent decades selling us on some fairy tale medical system in which Marcus Welby, MD, stands at the ready to deliver loving and intelligent doctoring while Gregory House, MD, and his diagnostic team, are on call to fearlessly get to the bottom of our medical issues – spare no expense, please.  It hasn’t been just the obvious villains white-washing the truth – the for-profit insurance giants, the large hospital corporations and the big pharmaceutical firms.  No sir.  No maam.  When we spin our dream healthcare system in America and set about selling it as reality to millions of people, we make sure we create all the messages necessary in every media venue to reinforce the fiction.

We want to believe so badly that we are the smartest, the best looking and the strongest – and thereby the most successful – that we allow one another and even our own families and ourselves to suffer unimaginable trauma to keep the fantasy intact.  My mom used to use a phrase that wasn’t too elegant to describe it.  “He wouldn’t say %#@! If he had a mouthful,” she’d mutter.  And, man, do we have a mouthful today in healthcare in America and in almost every other area of our daily lives.

We hear that think tanks work to muddy our reality and turn it into rage against one another as working class people instead of righteous anger against the real criminals and tax dodgers and thieves of our work, health and retirement security.  We hear that insurance profits are up and pharmaceuticals pay huge fines to keep doing business as usual even when business as usual means treatment denials and suffering and death. 

And when today I heard that Exxon Mobil will announce profits of $100M a day when American families are facing enormous gasoline price increases.  I heard yesterday that some of our leaders tried to deflect the anger of average citizens by saying that our focus on pump prices is a distraction from the long-term energy policy changes needed.  Please.  Just this time could we all please honestly acknowledge that we’re getting hurt and hurt and hurt again at the pump and everywhere we pay for something impacted by pump prices while the energy corporations are getting bigger and wealthier?

I also heard CNN do their level best to spin with the politicians about the good that is coming from the huge oil company profits.  Public employees – yup, those same ones we are supposed to stop allowing to collectively bargain -- often have their pension funds heavily invested in the oil stocks, so says CNN.  So, high oil profits, said the wise and omnipotent news folks, are actually of great good to public employee pension funds.  I am not making this up.  This is the same CNN that couldn’t hear or see 150,000 people in the streets of Madison, WI, screaming to protect the rights to bargain for, among other things, retirement and pension benefits.  This isn’t an alternate or parallel universe, folks.  This is blatant and bold and brazen (another word my mom loved) brain-washing of the masses.

If the gas pump prices are hurting you, it’s simple.  That is because oil prices are high and oil companies profits are obscenely so.  If you cannot access healthcare because of financial barriers (insured or not), that’s because the system is wired for profit first and little else.  Let’s start there and reframe the message in sound bites.  If it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck and looks like a duck, well then it quacks.  Didn’t your mom teach you that?  Mine did.  And if you watch that royal wedding, at least remember it’s just that.  It’s for royalty, and we’re not it.

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