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18,000 Human Sacrifices per Year

Why did 12 year old Deamonte Driver have to die of a toothache? We know what we would have had to have done, as a country, to have saved his life. Nor are we talking just about his life. At any given time, 40,000,000 Americans lack any way of paying for even the most basic, low-tech, preventative medical care. As the Institutes of Medicine found out when they set out to study the health consequences of living without health insurance, very many of those 40,000,000 people suffer from degenerating health conditions that could be stabilized fairly inexpensively, but don't because the person in question is too poor to afford even those small sums. (10,000,000 of those are children roughly the age of Deamonte Driver.) Those medical conditions, which can be anything from undiagnosed cancer to diabetes to depression to an abscessed tooth that goes septic and poisons the whole body, kill 18,000 Americans every year who would otherwise not have died. (See Institutes of Medicine, Care without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late.) We've known this since the initial study came out in 2002, five years ago, and we've known what we would have to do to save those 18,000,000 lives per year: provide them with the same minimal level of taxpayer-supported health care that every single other modern nation in the world gives their citizens. It doesn't even have to be the best, most expensive, most state of the art health care.

So why don't we? We don't because we believe that if we were to stop killing those 18,000 Americans every year, our health care system would decline, and we would all get much sicker. We believe that if we were to remove the incentive to stay in school and work hard that is "or else your children and your parents will die of easily preventable diseases," our workers would become lazy and decadent. We believe that if we were to remove that incentive to make as much money as possible, our farmers wouldn't be as productive as they are now, and the crops wouldn't come in. We kill those 18,000 people per year in order to increase the prosperity of our nation, to make our children and women healthier, and so that the crops won't fail.

Sound familiar?

The Carthaginians ran a trading empire that stretched from Libya to Lebanon. Their neighbors traded with them grudgingly, because the Carthaginians had the monopoly on some very profitable and secretive trade routes in the North Atlantic. But they hated doing so. Whenever any of their neighbors came close to being able to try to conquer the Carthaginians, they tried. Eventually the Roman Empire succeeded, and at tremendous cost in Roman treasure and lives not merely slaughtered every Carthaginian citizen but then also plowed salt into the ground of the burned-out Carthaginian capital city so that nobody would ever build there again, as a reminder to the next 1000 generations of just what monsters the Carthaginians had been. Now, we don't know how true the following is, because we've found no archaeological evidence for it, so maybe it's war-time propaganda. But the one thing that everybody from the Israelites to the Romans agreed upon was that the single best proof of what awful monsters the Carthaginians were was their god, Moloch. Moloch statues were built with a hollow brass furnace for a belly. And year after year, every year, the Carthaginians shoveled some of their own children into the flaming belly of Moloch. They believed that if they didn't do so, the crops would fail, the country would go broke, their population would be wracked with plagues, and they'd be conquered by their enemies.

And every year, in America, thanks to the Republicans like George Bush, and to the right wing Democratic Leadership Council types like Joe Lieberman, we shovel another 18,000 uninsured American lives into the flaming belly of Moloch ourselves, for all of the same reasons. We do this even though it's absolutely not true that sacrificing those 18,000 Americans per year is good for the rest of our health; the more sacrifices of human lives we make, the farther behind the rest of the world our health slips. It's absolutely not true that sacrificing those 18,000 lives per year is keeping our crops from failing and our workers productive; the parts of the world that provide their people with that basic minimal health insurance are so much more productive than us that their workers live the same standard of living that we do on 2/3rds the number of hours per week of work and with two to four times the amount of time off, and their companies still dominate whole industries like mainframe computers, cell phones, automobiles, and commercial aircraft. Nor have those 18,000 human sacrifices per year brought us victory over our enemies, al Qaeda. Anybody who actually looked at the facts can plainly see that those 18,000 dead Americans per year are dying for nothing, that there's no reason why they have to die. But we keep killing them anyway. And when somebody refuses to look at the facts because they know that they can't possibly be true, what do we already know about them? That those are religious beliefs that are being challenged by those facts.

We, the American people, have been persuaded by the Republicans and by the right wing Democratic appeasers to sacrifice 18,000 American lives just counting the uninsured who die, for a religious reason, and that religious reason is, whether we call it worship of that same old Carthaginian idol or the worship of the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace, the worship of Moloch, the detestable practice of mass human sacrifice for the public good that has been condemned by every decent person in every decent country in every epoch of the history of the world.

It's sure as heck not any kind of Christian religious principle that teaches us to let those 18,000 people die, nor would it be any kind of a Christian principle that we should look for reasons to blame the sick person, so that we don't have to feel any responsibility for them. We don't have to guess about that. This is something that Jesus himself got asked. Jesus and some of his earliest students were out walking one day and came across a man who was begging, because he was unemployed because he was blind. Rather than give him any of the money they had, the disciples asked Jesus to validate their belief that obviously it was somebody else's fault, not theirs, that the man was unemployed. "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" That was the first thing I thought of when I heard people searching desperately through Alyce Driver's life history to try to figure out which sin she committed that was the reason why her son died. And yet, oddly enough, Jesus didn't help them find an excuse not to feel sorry for that blind beggar. What he said, instead, was, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him," and went to work himself on healing that man. (John 9:1-5) He said that that God made that man sick so that the world could judge us by whether or not we healed him. What's this "we"? Jesus said he had to heal that man, because he was the Light of the World, so this was a chance for him to show off his miracles, right? Bull. Because if you're a Christian, Jesus also told you that you're just as much the Light of the World as he is. (Matthew 5:13-16.)

But there you have it: the Republicans are, as I've suggested before, not any kind of Christian party, but the party of human sacrifice. The party that believes that letting 18,000 people per year die, including sweet 12 year old deeply religious Christian children like Deamonte Driver, is the price "we have to pay" (poor people have to pay) to keep our country healthy. They, and their appeasers in the Democratic Leadership Council, believe that keeping 5% to 6% not of our worst workers, but of our best workers, of hard-working people with the right skills and good work histories who are actively looking for work (because those are the only ones they count for these purposes) unemployed is the "natural unemployment rate" that "we have to pay" (the middle class has to pay) for the crops to come in. They believe that keeping 500 to 1000 of our veterans of the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq homeless is the price "we have to pay" (our soldiers have to pay) to keep our nation strong. They believe that continuing to send our troops into a hopeless war in Iraq just to get another 10 of them killed every day is the price "we have to pay" (our soldiers' families have to pay) to somehow magically protect our nation from evil-doers.

There seems to be no policy of the Republican Party, and of their simpering appeasers among the Libertarians, and of so-called "right wing Democrats" like the Democratic Leadership Council, that cannot be most clearly and adequately understood by keeping in mind the image of thousands of Americans per year being shoveled while still alive into the fiery belly of the monstrous Carthaginian god Moloch.


( 57 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 3rd, 2007 01:50 pm (UTC)
While I do agree with you in principle on at least the having the option for universal basic health coverage and that " It doesn't even have to be the best, most expensive, most state of the art health care.", the problem is that in this country, we have become so accustomed to the what we can to with medicine that everyone is demanding the best of the best. This is also fueled sometimes by unrealistic expectations that are emphasized on TV to make good drama. The problem that is there, is what happens when someone is going to need more than the "basics", how is that to be covered? What if you have someone who delivered a premature infant who needed additional care, obviously you're gonna find a way to take care of that child.

It might be useful for the average American to see what happens in other countries to get an appreciation for what we have. I know that I was shocked that in China, if they run out of ventilators and you're very poor, they take you off it let, you die and the ventilator goes to someone else. Their ER's have one or two treatment rooms and the rest of the people sit on benches with rods hung from the ceiling to suspend an IV bag.

I would like to see children and everyone covered. But as someone who has worked in the free clinics and in the ER, these are many that grossly abuse the system increase waste and fraud without understanding how their actions hurt others. Because it was "free" they didn't value it, just like in some of the cases you described with Pruitt-Igoe? the housing fiasco back in your journal. This is not so say that the majority of patients are not grateful, just a few to spoil the situation for others.

While even having coverage is an issue, making sure that coverage is worth anything is another issue. In our area, most of the pediatricians have caps on how many medicaid kids they can take. The reason being the reimbursement level is so low, it does not cover their expenses and despite wanting to see more indigent children, they cannot do this and keep their practices open.

Our health care system in this country is sick and broken. When describing your case, you clearly outline Ben Franklin's, "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The problem is our leaders don't see it that way. You're right about the insanity of paying a quarter of a million dollars for likely futile brain surgery when $50 of antibiotics and a timely visit to dentist may have stopped the inital problem.

Mar. 3rd, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC)
The system does want to take care of prevention, because it represents an upfront cost that is challenging to measure the savings. You said once that I was one of the best history takers and physicians you have met. I wanted to do primary care, but chose not to because of the strains of out patient primary care. (However, I do help provide continuity of care on an inpatient basis.) This is a sick system that does not reimburse you for taking good care of patients, just how many you can pump through in the course of the day. They do not pay you for you brain or how much you can save them with education, no, you get paid if you do procedures. That's why the pay of all the subspecialists have skyrocketed in the last few years compared to the cost of primary care doctors.

The specialists get to deal with only their problem and leave the task of coordinating the care to the primary care doctors who don't get paid for this at times challenging task.

The specialists primarily sit on the boards that help determine renumeration and given governmental guidelines, any changes have to be "budget neutral", that is if one specialty gets an increase it is at the expense of another.

The problem now is that few people want to do primary care. The hours are difficult sometimes 80+ hour weeks for significantly less pay with increasing overhead and paperwork. Compared to the more cushioned life of some of the subspecialists, it's not surprising to see why medical students all want to do dermatology or radiology. (Hmm, I get triple the money and a better lifestyle, e.g. more time off.) What would you choose?

If every one gets health care coverage, we need more people to be willing to see them. Too many of the subspecialists I meet that come out of training now, just want to deal with their specialty problem only. I agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics stance on everyone having a medical "home". If you are sick or complex, you need at least one person or practice that understands and knows you and your problems. I think this concept can be applied to all.

You case of Deamonte Driver would have exemplified this, if medical person could have helped him and his family navigate the system to get treatment sooner, much of his family's heartache might have been prevented. But his care was fragmented and not followed closely, it was left in the hands of his family to navigate finding charitable care rather than having someone experienced help them. It seems like it was always someone else's problem until it was too late.

So in addition to you statement about universal health care, I would also attach with that a medical home.

If you want more information about the cost to US care system about the problems with the way renumeration is handled, I refer you to the Annals of Internal Medicine February 20, 2007 volume 146, number 4 page 301. If you want a copy of it brad let me know. It is titled,' The Primary Care-Speciaty Care Income Gap: Why it Matters."

This matter affects everyone. IT is the reason why most people don't really get to talk to their doctors anymore, get rushed through visits and have such short appointments times to why it's hard to even find a primary doctor in some areas. Most of the people I graduated with who do primary care are so unhappy, they want to leave medicine all together and these are some of the most caring, idealistic people I know. The brain drain is on and good people are leaving primary care leaving the question as to who will care for every one when they are gone?

(no subject) - pope_guilty - Mar. 3rd, 2007 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alienne - Mar. 7th, 2007 10:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bradhicks - Mar. 3rd, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chipmunk_planet - Mar. 3rd, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - satyrblade - Mar. 3rd, 2007 07:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - theweaselking - Mar. 4th, 2007 04:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - velvetpage - Mar. 3rd, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 3rd, 2007 02:37 pm (UTC)
You haven't lived until you've fed a screaming child into Moloch's belly.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 03:26 pm (UTC)
I consider myself pretty right-wing on a lot of things, but I want a national health care system. I want it a lot. Why would someone who believes in market forces want socialized medicine?

Well, the other day I had occasion to go to the doctor, and they had a notice on the wall. It said that I was entitled to emergency health care in that facility whether I could pay for it or not.

This is not free market. You don't walk into a car dealership and see signs that say "By law, you're entitled to a car whether you can pay for it or not." If you're entitled to health care by law, the health care system is already socialized.

Now, I'm all in favor of that little notice. Dagnappit, health care just is NOT an ordinary consumer product. Damn me for free-market leanings if you want, but they only go so far. I will not put up with a country where, if someone shows up at the emergency room suffering from a heart attack, he gets shoved back out the door to die on the curb because he doesn't have an insurance card. Even if I were that cruel, even if peoples' suffering didn't hurt me at all, that sort of callous behavior is what violent revolutions are made of.

But it's just plain crazy that we'll pay $250,000 to try, and fail, to save a kid's life when a simple procedure, one that was well known to doctors back in the darkest days of the Dark Ages, could have prevented his getting very sick in the first place.

Socialized medicine bad? Hell, we ALREADY have socialized medicine. If you're entitled to care by law, that's socialized. What we have is stupid socialized medicine. We have socialized medicine that doesn't work.

And if we went over to that evil socialized medicine, it would be such a catastrophe, wouldn't it? We'd end up like.. like.. well, Canada, or Western Europe, where their health is better than ours at a lower cost per person than ours.

Ah, but think of all the poor advertising execs who'd lose their bonuses because there wouldn't be any TV ads for prescription medicines any more! Poor guys. Nope, it's MUCH better to keep a stupid system that doesn't work rather than make them and their ilk unhappy.
Mar. 3rd, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
Actually, I think that the Republican party is the party of human sacrifice which is the party of the contemporary conservative Christian movement.

Because evangelicals worship a God who demands blood sacrifice. The core of the conservative "gospel" is a deity who requires human death. If you took away God's lust for the blood of the sinful, there is no gospel ("good news") left, according to the way they see things.

Mar. 3rd, 2007 05:01 pm (UTC)
Which was always my problem: if you take away Hell, Jesus doesn't matter much, metaphysically. I'm not sure how you can have Christianity without that implicit threat of violence.
(no subject) - kynn - Mar. 3rd, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kimchalister - Mar. 4th, 2007 10:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pope_guilty - Mar. 4th, 2007 06:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kimchalister - Mar. 4th, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heron61 - Mar. 6th, 2007 11:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 3rd, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC)
My favorite criticism of Canadian universal healthcare is "Wealthy Canadians just go to America!"

As if they were coming here to see Medicaid-accepting doctors.
Mar. 4th, 2007 03:56 am (UTC)
I can name a half-dozen wealthy Canadians, who work in the USA a fair amount of the time, who abjectly refused to go to the USA for treatment after bad experiences with American "health care".
(no subject) - pope_guilty - Mar. 4th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 3rd, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC)
If you haven't already seen it, this is a very interesting article: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060213fa_fact
Mar. 4th, 2007 12:49 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah. We're all quite familiar with Million Dollar Murray over here, he's one of my periodic examples.
Mar. 4th, 2007 12:34 am (UTC)
We have a managed care industry that is sucking up billions of dollars each year, dollars that could go to treating people. We have a pharmaceutical industry that gouges us for the drugs we need, and they also have a strangle-hold on our political system, then we have a military-industrial complex that gobbles up 750 billion dollars a year.

The sad thing is, even after we throw all those billions at the above-named industries, we still have enough money to treat everyone in this country. In the Bush Administration's latest budget there is a call for 750 billion in military-industrial spending, and cuts to health care and other services for the poor.

It isn't just a matter of available dollars. These people are mean fucks who, for some reason, cannot just be happy with their wealth and power. They have to take from the poorest of the poor just out of spite. They have no logical reason to fuck these people over. The quality of their lives would not change. It's an attitude of; "fuck the Black, fuck the Brown, fuck the poor."

It's sickening and there's no excuse for it.
Mar. 4th, 2007 01:20 am (UTC)
They have no logical reason to fuck these people over.

That is the root of it, isn't it? Ask the simple question, why? There are those that benefit from having an underclass, you know? It's not the conservatives or the Libertarians.
(no subject) - bradhicks - Mar. 4th, 2007 03:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ponsdorf - Mar. 4th, 2007 06:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Not "wishful" thinking at all. - flewellyn - Mar. 4th, 2007 08:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - phillipalden - Mar. 4th, 2007 08:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pope_guilty - Mar. 4th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Mar. 4th, 2007 05:04 am (UTC)
Something important to note: Many of the people who think this "sacrifice" is truly necessary, _also_ honestly believe that countries with socialized health care are somehow leeching off of our system, and if those countries relied on the Free Market like we do, then our own country's health care situation would be better. Where drug prices are concerned, one could legitimately claim that countries with price controls "force" pharmaceutical companies to raise prices in countries that don't but these Free Market Fundametalists claim this is the case for other fees too.
Mar. 4th, 2007 10:58 am (UTC)
Where drug prices are concerned, one could legitimately claim that countries with price controls "force" pharmaceutical companies to raise prices in countries that don't

Except that if they aren't making any money on the drugs they sell to Canada, they can just not sell them. No one is forcing them to sell at a loss. If they are still making a profit, they are making a profit. There is no law of physics or economics that says they must make a high profit. Except, of course, that stock purchasers won't buy their stock if they aren't making too much money and constantly increasing the percentage of profit they are making. Isn't that why the bible forbid usery? and others have forbid profit without work?
(no subject) - chaotic_nipple - Mar. 5th, 2007 01:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 5th, 2007 04:02 am (UTC)
I have an argument with that natural unemployment rate link. They measure inflation as nominal increase in wages rather than increase in consumer prices. I'm not surprised that low unemployment would correlate with increase in wages, but it could be a real increase in wages rather than inflation. Wages could increase at the expense of profits or through improved productivity.

Apart from that though, the "natural unemployment rate" is a disturbing idea and I hope it's not true. I gather from your tone that you don't believe it?
Mar. 5th, 2007 04:36 am (UTC)
No, I don't believe in it at all. I think, as I've said over and over again, that the stagflation of the 1970s had more to do with the "Guns and Butter" financial policies of the Johnson and Nixon administrations, with the OPEC oil embargo and the resulting drop in economic confidence that the oil shock produced, and with the fact that American factories passed over the "Quality Revolution" being pushed by Deming and the newly rebuilt factories of Germany, Japan, and others didn't.

During the dot-com bubble, we saw some cities that had no dot-com investment to speak of still rise, through increased demand for goods among people who'd made money in stocks, to levels of full employment at which point the official unemployment rate number went negative, that is to say where not only was every "qualified" worker employed, but employers were taking "unqualified" workers and finding ways to make them qualified. The total "inflationary" effect of this was at most a tiny fraction of a percent in wage increases, while prices continued to fall.

Thanks to the collapse of the dot-com bubble, the consolidation of power in Washington by pro-unemployment Republicans, and then 9/11, unemployment has risen back to around 6%, where the Republicans and their right-wing Democratic allies want it. And yet, oddly enough, the economy hasn't recovered to anywhere near where it was when unemployment was negative. Oh, and despite weak recovery and "optimum" unemployment, the Fed is worried about inflation again.

Sorry, this theory that full employment and strong worker bargaining positions produces inflation has been tested, and while it may have sounded plausible to some people in 1980, it's just not true. I think we as a nation need to remember that there are no disposable Americans. We need all of us, and we need all of us back to work.
Mar. 5th, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC)
The Washington Post actually printed a letter to the editor over the weekend suggesting that poor boy's mother should be brought up on charges of abuse/neglect. It doesn't really shock me any more that someone could be so cruel and completely clueless (how is someone who can't even afford a place to live supposed to pay for a dentist? Just ask real nice and they'll work for free?) but I don't think the Post should have printed it as if it were some sort of reasonable idea.
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