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The Wealth Gap and the Collapse of the U.S.

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  • Tue, Aug 18, 2009 - 10:00pm

    #91
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    Re: The Wealth Gap and the Collapse of the U.S.

Strabes – I dislike McDonalds and Starbucks for being on every street corner of the world as much as anyone I know.  I cant stand exploring parts of rural China only to turn the corner and see Starbucks and KFC on the corner.  These companies, although not financial, are the poster children of Wall St leverage, expansion, and power.  These giant corporations do have lots of power in Congress.  But, the masses we are talking about here…the middle and lower class – LOVE these companies.  Take away the morning latte from Starbucks and the masses are 2x likey to riot than if you skew the wealth a few more percent toward the wealthy….thats my guess.

There is no reasonable way to try to dismantle giant corporations.  The best idea on this thread to me is the term limits.  There is no reason anyone should be able to serve longer than a two term president, and even that is pushing it.  Take away that, and power is disseminated.  The rich as a whole are not guilty.  Many rich people are fantastic, hard working, educated, giving citizens.  What we should focus on is corruption and power – which is obviously built around our political parties.  Limit their terms, dilute their power, reseparate executive and legislative branches and I think we would be on a path that looks a lot better – one where the rich that are evil cant infiltrate as easily.

Xraymike…redistribution of wealth – thats an aggressive idea and imo would be more likely to cause division and riots in the US than the current wealth skew.  Lets all remember that our lower class still has way more wealth than most of the world.  Because of that, redistribution of wealth is as corrupt an action as what we are seeing from politicians in power now.   Your redistribution makes no distinction between an investment banker setting up ways to make money on inflation (I think someone on the thread called this type of business parasitic) vs a local business owner who risked his house, worked 80 hours a week for 5 years and now makes 500k per year at his corner store.  Doesnt that guy who makes 500k a year deserve it for the extra risk and hours he worked?  Sure, if the lower class really had it like the lower class in Africa does then maybe we would say there is a moral issue here, but thats not nearly the case.  Surely if this country repressed the poor, didnt have education for the poor, didnt offer tons of scholarships and were as poor as the children in Africa we could have a different discussion.

Tax the small business owner any more and you will find that people will not be willing to take the risk anymore.  Starting small businesses will not make as much sense as the profit margins per unit of risk will vanish due to higher repressive taxes.  Take away a decent percentage of the smaller business man, and what you have left is more giant corporations and more government run entities – which is what we are trying to avoid no?

I would encourage anyone who thinks the poor in our country are impoverished and repressed to travel to central Mexico, or to northern inland China and take note of what poverty means – and what living under bad government and being truely poor is like.  I would be quite surprised if you would still feel taking money away from those who built their own businesses by taking great risk and taking great time (relative to most – not all – people) was justified.  I think things need to get way worse in the US before we see any violent social unrest do to unequal wealth distribution.  I think that simply because there are lots of examples in the world right now were the wealth is more skewed and the poor are far more poor.

So, my points being – kill power of politicians by creating short term limits.  Allow more freedoms and smaller government via reduced taxes and burdens, and trust that the masses are inherently good, because they are.  Lets also remember that regulating equality is a big part of what got us into this housing bubble – with Barney Frank and others forcing banks to extend credit to the poor who previously didnt qualify, followed by the fed created the lowest interest rate mortages in our country’s history.  Be careful of giving to those who dont truely need just because it should be more “fair” as this has backfired over and over againg throughout history.  Programs designed to equalize the playing field, ie socialism, have never lead to prosperity.  I agree that the last two decades have not either, however lets not go down either path again – – lets learn from history and try not to repeat

 

  • Wed, Aug 19, 2009 - 01:08am

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    Re: The Wealth Gap and the Collapse of the U.S.

Rickets,

 I invite you to travel the rural roads of Alabama or Mississippi, or take a drive down Middlefield Road from Redwood City to Atherton California, and then tell me if you still think the US has such a high standard of living.

At the very bottom, the working poor and the illegals, they are either unemployed, hanging by a fingernail, or just plain went back to Mexico. The middle class is just treading water and scared witless about becoming unemployed or losing their home

 Once globalization has completed the decimation of the American middle class, and the standard of living of the working stiff becomes demonstrably lower as a result of these policies, there will be a big rush towards protectionism and isolationism. These have always been part of the DNA of America as a nation…just slightly suppressed in the post-Nixon era to enrich the few on the backs of the Chinese poor…(read, the American oligarchy in cahoots with the Chinese communist apparatchiks).

From day one of this mess, despite the ensuing chaos, it would have been better to let all these companies fail. In fact they DID fail, but there are multiple able companies around the world that would have been able to survive, become stronger, and fill the void left by the failed companies. It would have been a sudden drop in US presence in the world’s economic landscape, but such is reality. Just as the US automakers have lost presence to everyone else, like Boeing has lost presence to Airbus, then the US financial sector would have lost presence too, as they should. They have proven to be a bunch of greedy incompetent clowns. I’d rather do my banking with BNP Paribas than BofA, and buy my insurance from Mitsui and not AIG. The bailouts are nothing more than a humongous act of statist capitalism like that practiced by the dictators of Russia or China that essentially is keeping the American people hostage behind a wall so they continue to be raped by these corporations that have proven incapable of sound decision-making.

 Sorry for misspelling you name on an earlier post, Strabes

  • Wed, Aug 19, 2009 - 01:29am

    #93
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    Re: The Wealth Gap and the Collapse of the U.S.

Guys, let me preface this with “I’m thrilled you both are talking about this…awareness of the problem!!  So this post is in no way meant to slam you.”

But you’re leaving the solution in the hands of the current power structure, putting it at the national level, leaving the cancer in place…the Fed.  That’s exactly what they want…keep trying to tinker with the given system, but don’t fundamentally change it.

– Xray, tinkering with the national tax code as a way to solve it only gives in to their strategy.  First, it gives into their strategy that a few enlightened harvard/yale types can design the right code to manage 350,000,000 americans.  Second, there’s a big assumption underlying your recommendation–that the national level income code should exist in the first place.  It only exists because we have a debt-based monetary system that requires sucking dollars from the masses to payoff the creditors–the Fed and its cartel of Wall St banks and foreign central bankers.

– Rickets, sure the masses buy from corporations.  That’s hardly a justification to keep the unsustainable system as is.  If the masses keep empowering the mega banks and multi-nationals, they will find themselves enslaved on a planet that can’t support them.  But I don’t think I recommended shutting down corporations as a govt policy.  I simply recommend taking back the control of our money supply–end the Fed.  That will naturally kill the mega-bank mega-corporation model and allow us to shift back to local communities with sustainable models.

– Term limits is dangerous in my view.  The reason the Rockefellers, the “corporatocracy,” the CFR has all the power in the country is because they have long-term lasting power through their institutions whereas presidents come and go.  A showman politician who gets the office for 4 years can hardly fight the real power. Instead, he has to go along with it so the history books treat him well, otherwise they bring him down.  Term limits would kickout Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich…2 of the only guys that get it.  Again, the solution is taking over the monetary system and ending the Fed.  Rather than disempowering Congress, ending the Fed disempowers the real power structure in the country and government would start to operate the way the Constitution designed it.  Another step in the right direction would be giving states back the power to appoint senators.  Changing them to popular election gave the power to the corporate-controlled media that manipulates the left/right paradigm.  Letting governors appoint them brings the power back to states.

– I would not look for a natural evolution to small banks.  That is precisely the opposite of what’s occurring throughout this collapse.  The smalls (and the bigs that aren’t part of the power game) are being vacuumed up as government hands it all over to the few approved bigs, especially the most bankrupt bank in the world–JPM Chase.  JPM Chase is the primary power arm of the big controlling banking families.  The response to the collapse is designed to give it as much power as possible over the people (if one can’t comprehend how it’s building a fascistic economic model, just look at its logo…they’re broadcasting to everybody who they are, if we’d only notice).  Of course the natural evolution of the market would be that all these institutions would fail.  That will not happen as long as DC is run by CFR/Wall St.  DC is putting in place the consolidation plan of the big bankers.

 

 

  • Wed, Aug 19, 2009 - 09:06am

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    Re: The Wealth Gap and the Collapse of the U.S.

Strabes,
     Maybe we should proceed with baby steps to reach your goal. We need to cut out the dead flesh that’s around the tumor before we can remove the tumor. Clearly our current economic model is going to consume us out of existence.
We now have now a global footprint of 1.4, meaning that we consume 1.4 times what the earth can produce in a year.
 
“At present, 85 countries exceed their domestic “bio-capacities”, compensating for their lack of local material by depleting stocks elsewhere, in countries that have “surpluses” because they’re not consuming as much.”
“We need to learn to live within the means of nature,” says William Rees of the University of British Columbia. “That means sharing and redistribution of wealth, and for that we need leadership at the highest level to understand that the competitive instinct and the drive for power and more resources is mutually destructive, so governments must act in our collective interest.”
“Although we like to think of ourselves as civilised thinkers, we’re subconsciously still driven by an impulse for survival, domination and expansion. This is an impulse which now finds expression in the idea that inexorable economic growth is the answer to everything, and, given time, will redress all the world’s existing inequalities.The problem with that, according to Rees and Hern, is that it fails to recognise that the physical resources to fuel this growth are finite. “We’re still driven by growing and expanding, so we will use up all the oil, we will use up all the coal, and we will keep going till we fill the Petri dish and pollute ourselves out of existence,” he says.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17569-consumerism-is-eating-the-future.html
 
To try and wrap your mind around what we here in America consume, you should check out Chris Jordan’s photography work: Running the Numbers
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/09212007/profile4.html
http://www.chrisjordan.com/current_set2.php
http://www.grist.org/article/2009-08-05-audio-slideshow-artist-chris-jordan-on-americas-coal-consumption

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f09lQ8Q1iKE

 

  • Wed, Aug 19, 2009 - 06:37pm

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    Re: The Wealth Gap and the Collapse of the U.S.

Mindless Consumption

CAN DEMOCRACY SURVIVE OVERPOPULATION?

Hyper-population growth dilutes our nation’s republic

http://www.examiner.com/x-3515-Denver-Political-Issues-Examiner~y2009m3d6-Hyperpopulation-growth-dilutes-our-nations-republic

By Frosty Wooldridge
In a laser-sharp column in the Corvallis, Oregon Gazette-Times, M.Boyd Wilcox presented readers with the harsh reality of hyper-population growth. “Population growth dilutes our nation’s democracy” brought a fresh understanding to our current dilemma.
“On March 27, 1972, this nation was given the benefit of a thorough and compassionate effort that would greatly assist progress toward long-term security and sustainability,” said Wilcox. “Tragically, the advice offered was ignored and we are still paying for this avoidance.”
What, you ask, were those words of wisdom?
“No substantial benefits will result from further growth of the nation’s population…we have not found any convincing economic argument for continued population growth…the health of our country does not depend on it…nor does the vitality of business nor the welfare of the average person…and that the gradual stabilization of our population would contribute significantly to the nation’s ability to solve its problems.”
“Environmental and natural-resources issues are constantly in the news,” said Wilcox. “Progress made seems to be counterbalanced by reports of additional discoveries, such as endocrine disrupters in water, the loss of farmland (2.19 million acres annually), and urban sprawl; the continuous, seemingly intractable conflicts over saving tiny remnants of ancient forests; and the ongoing efforts to prevent the loss of endangered species. The struggle persists to define a truly sustainable relationship with the natural world.”
Wilcox continues, “What about the man-made resources; the social-psychological-political glue that holds a nation and society together and allows it to cope? What about our most cherished operational myth, the one of democracy, the one we depend upon to assist solving our most difficult dilemmas?
“Alienation from the political process is at an all-time high. Voting in national elections has plummeted from 80 percent at the turn of the century to less than 50 percent today. A well written letter to one’s representative elicits a computerized form-letter reply designed for that ‘category’ of issue, with little personal attachment or acknowledgement of specific questions or ideas expressed by the constituent.”
The higher our population, the lesser one individual means in the mix of our civilization.
Isaac Asimov said that democracy cannot survive overpopulation, “It’s going to destroy it all. I use what I call my bathroom metaphor. If two people live in an apartment, and there are two bathrooms, then both have what I call freedom of the bathroom, go to the bathroom any time you want, and stay as long as you want to for whatever you need. And this to my way is ideal. And everyone believes in the freedom of the bathroom. It should be right there in the Constitution.
But if you have 20 people in the apartment and two bathrooms, no matter how much every person believes in freedom of the bathroom, there is no such thing. You have to set up, you have to set up times for each person, you have to bang at the door, aren’t you through yet, and so on. And in the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, but it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies.”
Wilcox said, “The original ratio (in Congress) was 1-30,000. Not only has our nation’s population increased over 270 times since the founding of the Republic. It would take 8,700 member of the U.S. House to restore that original ratio.
“How much more diluted can democracy get? Is there any credible argument that more people contribute to a workable democracy? If democracy is not working, what can we count on to solve our problems?
“It is time we revisited how population pressure affects overall quality of life in this country, including an investigation of forces that continue to push our population higher and higher. We need to get on with the business of establishing a National Population Policy designed to place the nation on the pathway to a stable population, at a level or range deemed sustainable for the long-term future.”

Finally, “What will our future hold if we cannot gain the political will to do this,” Wilcox said. “Will the already-attained size and complexity of our population prevent a consensus from being reached? Is it already too late?”
Wilcox asks the most important question for the United States in the 21st century. With present immigration-driven hyper-population growth in the U.S., this nation expects an added 100 million people by 2035, a scant 26 year from now. Our children face a daunting future if we fail to take action toward a stable and sustainable U.S. population.

—————————————————-

John from SunhomeDesign:

“As GM attempts to pull itself from the ashes of bankruptcy and politicians around the world promise the oxymoron of “sustainable” growth, nearly 7-billion humans are still mostly blind to the reality of ecological limits and harsh retribution of overshoot and collapse.  This is the ultimate hubris—the hubris of human exceptionalism.

“The whole human enterprise is a machine without brakes, for there are no indications that the world’s political leaders will deal with the realities until catastrophes occur.  The rich countries are using resources with extravagant disregard for the next generation; and poor countries appear to be incapable of acting to curb the population increases that are erasing their hope for a better future.  In such a world, declarations and manifestos which ignore the imperatives of the limits of growth are empty exercises.  All the available evidence says we have already passed a point of no return, and tragic human convulsions are at hand.” – Stewart Udall, Charles Conconi, and David Osterhout,  The Energy Balloon”

 

Dr. Albert Bartlett and the Dangers of Overpopulation

 

Dr. Albert Bartlett, emeritus professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, is one of the few voices of common sense when it involves the Earth’s carrying capacity of humans and dangerous levels of resource consumption which will surely lead to chaos in the near future.

Per Corrupt.org’s recent interview with Dr. Bartlett, humanity has lost all common sense with regard to consumption of the Earth’s resources and the dangers of overpopulation. Some highlights of Bartlett’s ideas, per our recent radio show interview, include:

• Every child should be a wanted child
• Petroleum usage at current levels is likely to exhaust all available supplies in the near future (<50 years)
• Policy makers and politically correct scientists insist that technology will save us and that there is no resource issue as it relates to water, petroleum, or food
• Zero-net immigration policies would help allow us to maintain, then reduce population
• At current population levels, even small percentages of growth will bring exponential increases in resource consumption, hastening the decline of petroleum as well as crucial natural resources on the planet (food, water, etc.)
• Many of the world’s current problems as they relate to mass starvation, resource exhaustion, increasingly difficult access to clean food and water could all be solved with a conscious effort to reduce population worldwide

We asked Dr. Bartlett if he felt his intense dedication to these ideas had resulted in any converts. He could think of no one in a position of scientific or political authority who has come around to these ideas, and states quite clearly that any politician running on a platform of population reduction could never be elected in today’s society.

This is obviously disappointing news. A population concerned about the future would consider 6.7billion consumers, and growing, unsustainable when viewing the evidence. Europe and the US – and their respective infrastructures – are being overrun by immigrants, partly because politicians know our native populations aren’t producing enough consumers to maintain economic superpower status. Our respective nations were already overpopulated and our economies had become debt and service-based instead of savings and manufacturing-based. The only way to feed such a system is with more consumers.

We come to two possibilities. Either humanity reduces its population willingly, finally returning to a future-oriented society and breeding below replacement levels, or we are forced into population reduction by continued mass starvation, decline in standards of living, and lack of available food and water to support even the ones who can now afford these resources. Hopefully, one of these two outcomes occur in time to save irreversible damage to the planet, so that the ones who survive and perhaps learn a valuable lesson will be able to start a new society from scratch.

  • Thu, Aug 20, 2009 - 03:22am

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    Re: The Wealth Gap and the Collapse of the U.S.

The Rich Get Richer: Top CEO Pay Up While Stocks Tumble

http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/article/306108/The-Rich-Get-Richer-Top-CEO-Pay-Up-While-Stocks-Tumble?tickers=aig,anf,dia,spy,bx,orcl

  • Thu, Aug 20, 2009 - 05:39am

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    Re: The Wealth Gap and the Collapse of the U.S.

The American CEO (old) way: Fixing companies to improve performance and make better products, providing excellent customer service, contributing to the economic welfare of their customer community, increasing share holder value in a meaningful and lasting way.:

 

The American CEO new way: Capturing egregious bonuses even when performance doesn’t merit, taking undue risks in leverage and asset-protection, taking giant fees for financial maneuvering, creating artificial short-term performance at the (and knowing you’re doing it) expense of long term performance, negotiating golden parachutes and receiving giant payoffs even when fired for mangling a company

 

 

David R. Loy: “The Nonduality of Ecology and Economy”
 
“…All the world’s economies are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the earth’s biosphere, but we still have great difficulty understanding what that implies. Yes, it does mean the end of business-as-usual. It means the greatest possible challenge to consumer capitalism, whose corporations must either mutate into something very different, or be replaced altogether. And this is a transformation that Buddhists should embrace and encourage, because it is also implied by the teachings of the Buddha.

The news media have been telling us that the financial crisis — which is far from over — is due to the excessive greed of Wall Street speculators and the unbridled spending of Main Street borrowers. Yet the problem goes much deeper, and our predicament is much worse. Greed is not a virus that has infected the economic hard drive; it has become the software that runs our economy.

Buddhism does not say much about evil itself, but it emphasizes the three roots of evil: greed, ill will, and delusion. The basic problem with our present economic system is that it institutionalizes the first of those roots. As George Lakoff recently put it, “the economic and ecological meltdowns have the same cause: the unregulated free market and the idea that greed is good and that the natural world is a resource for short-term private enrichment. The result has been deadly, toxic assets and a toxic atmosphere” (Huffington Post, 22 May 2009). Two sides of the same coin.

Greed also takes two forms, according to our means. “In a consumer society there are two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy” (Ivan Illich).

The Buddha’s first noble truth identifies dukkha “dissatisfaction” as inherent to the human condition. It is the nature of an unawakened mind to be bothered by something. We usually experience this as the feeling that “something is wrong with me.” Our economic system (which includes the media mega-corporations that make their profit from advertising) takes advantage of this and conditions us to understand our sense of lack as “I don’t have enough …” — especially not enough things and not enough money. The consequence is that we always want (”need”) more. This individual lack is institutionalized into a collective craving that can never be satisfied. Investors seek increasing returns in the form of dividends and higher share prices. This puts pressure on business executives, who must think this way if they hope to rise to the top. This general expectation translates into an impersonal but constant demand for evermore profit and growth, which requires evermore production-and-consumption, and evermore sophisticated advertising to make us want things that often didn’t even exist last year.

Here’s one way to point out the basic difficulty. Capitalism is about using capital (money for investment) to create more capital. Since the goal is to end up with more money, everything else becomes a means to that end. “Everything else” in this case includes Mother Earth (”resources”), human life (”labor”), and society itself (we must continually adapt to the changing requirements of the economy).

The ultimate irony is that money in itself is literally worthless: whether pieces of paper or numbers in bank accounts, money has value only because it is our socially-agreed medium of exchange. A $100 bill is just a piece of paper. We can’t eat it, drink it, ride on it, etc. We forget that money is a social construct — a kind of group fantasy. The anthropologist Weston LaBarre called it a psychosis that has become normal, “an institutionalized dream that everyone is having at once.”

This dream can become a nightmare. Psychologically, the danger is that means and ends become reversed, so the means of life becomes the goal. The philosopher Schopenhauer called money “abstract happiness” — that is, not genuine happiness but something that now represents it in our culture. Another way to say it is that money becomes “frozen desire”: not desire for anything in particular but a symbol for the satisfaction of desire in general. And what does the Buddha say about desire? Frozen or not, it remains the root cause of suffering.

Collectively, this means that what motivates our economic system is the drive to use anything and everything (now “natural resources,” including “human resources”) to create something that is really nothing. We don’t usually notice the absurdity of this because we are preoccupied with the more and more that the system produces. The fact that so many of us already have more than we need is addressed by manipulating our awareness, in increasingly sophisticated ways, so that we always want something else that we don’t yet have. It’s always the next _______ (fill in the blank) that will satisfy us.

Max Frisch said that technology is the knack of arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it. That’s why modern technologies fit so well with consumer capitalism, which works to transform the whole biosphere into consumer goods. Together they are making Mother Earth into a gigantic Walmart.

This system is unsustainable because it involves a growth obsession that, left to itself, will not cease until the whole of the biosphere has been converted into profit – which, of course, will then be useless. Capitalism made more sense a couple centuries ago when the Earth seemed infinite and capital was relatively scarce. Today the obvious metaphor is cancer on a planetary scale. Cells become cancerous when they mutate into uncontrolled growth and spread throughout the body to disrupt its healthy functioning. Unfortunately, that is not a bad description of our collective situation now.

Ultimately, does it come down to a choice between our present economic/financial system and the survival of the biosphere? Our current system is doomed no matter what, in the same way that a cancer is always doomed: if it’s successful enough to kill its host, it kills itself. If the biosphere gets sick, we get sick. When ecological systems collapse, so will human civilization as we know it.

Despite what the Presidents Bush declared, the “blessed American way of life” is negotiable – or it becomes a suicide pact….”
http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=11692
 

  • Fri, Aug 21, 2009 - 02:00pm

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    Re: responses to Wealth GAP and the way through the …

Hello Mike,

I forgot to respond to your question and have gone back to look–no, I am not Juliette Beck–although I would be honored to have that association!

I think we have worked in similar arenas, though–but I am a lot older!! LOL.

Thank you very very much for the thoughtful and insightful articles you post as well as your comments. Very enriching to the site here.

best,

juli

  • Sat, Aug 22, 2009 - 03:12am

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    Re: responses to Wealth GAP and the way through the …

Juli,

     Thanks for the kind words. I’m working on another posting for sometime this weekend hopefully. Have a nice weekend….

  • Sun, Aug 23, 2009 - 05:44am

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    Re: responses to Wealth GAP and the way through the …

     Today I want to shine a light on the health insurance oligarchs of this country. They are part of that Wealth Transfer seen on the graphs in “The Wealth Gap and the Collapse of the U.S.” The American Journal of Medicine recently reported that 62% of bankruptcy in America was caused by medical bills, and 75% of those families had health insurance. As this is happening, health insurance company profits are sky-rocketing. They’re making more money year after year by increasing premiums, raising copays and deductibles, and denying coverage. From 1999 to 2007, average insurance premiums have more than doubled, and the profits of health insurers have risen 428%! What we have is a system where the bottom line (profit) is nurtured, NOT the patient. For many Americans, their healthcare plan has been “Don’t get sick, ever.”  A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association argued that the “health care cost-wage trade-off” has resulted in relatively flat wages for 30 years.  This has resulted in the crowding out of discretionary spending or prevented the purchase of essentials like food and housing by American families. Below is a graph depicting changes in health insurance premiums, workers wages, and inflation from 2000-2006:
 
 
The non-profit, non-partisan group Families USA has begun releasing state-by-state reports comparing the rise in health insurance premiums against the rise of wages from 2000 to 2009. So far 18 state reports have been released, with the remaining states coming over the next few weeks.

Copies of reports for each state, in pdf format, can be found here.

The reports specifically look at premiums for families, and compare the increase in those family premiums with the rise in median income. And, surprise surprise, health insurance rates have skyrocketed compared to average wage increases. On average, for the 18 states reported on so far, family premiums increased 4.4 times as much as median wages between 2000 and 2009. The following is a spreadsheet put together to summarize the results of each report: 

  

When the information from this new report is added to the graph displayed at the top, the insurance costs will be shown to continue its skyward arc.

Debunking the myth that competition exists in the healthcare insurance industry:

How consolidated is the market?  Takes a look at the following stats for the 43 states listed.  The information is by state.  The first number is the market share of the insurance company controlling the largest portion; the second is the next greatest market share holder, and the third number is the total market share controlled by just the top two insurance companies per state.

Alabama               Blue Cross Blue Shield AL 83 Health Choice 5…88%
Alaska                   Premera Blue Cross 60 Aetna Inc. 35…95%
Arizona                  Blue Cross Blue Shield AZ 43 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 22…65%
Arkansas              Blue Cross Blue Shield AR 75 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 6…81%
California              Kaiser Permanente 24 WellPoint Inc. (Blue Cross) 20…44%
Colorado               WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 29 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 24…53%
Connecticut          WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 55 Health Net Inc. 11…66%
Delaware              CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield 42 Coventry Health Care Inc. 23…65%
Florida                   Blue Cross Blue Shield FL 30 Aetna Inc. 15…45%
Georgia                 WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 61 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 8…69%
Hawaii                   Blue Cross Blue Shield HI 78 Kaiser Permanente 20…98&
Idaho                     Blue Cross of ID 46 Regence BS of Idaho 29…75%
Illinois                   HCSC (Blue Cross Blue Shield) 47 WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 22…69%
Indiana                 WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 60 M*Plan (HealthCare Group) 15…75%
Iowa                      Wellmark BC and BS 71 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 9…80%
Kentucky               WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 59 Health Partners 10…69%
Louisiana             Blue Cross Blue Shield LA 61 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 13…74%
Maine                     WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 78 Aetna Inc. 10…88%
Maryland               CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield 52 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 19…71%
Massachusetts    Blue Cross Blue Shield MA 50 Tufts Health Plan 17…67%
Michigan               Blue Cross Blue Shield MI 65 Henry Ford Health System 8…73%
Minnesota            Blue Cross Blue Shield MN 50 Medica 26…76%
Missouri               WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 68 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 11…79%
Montana               Blue Cross Blue Shield MT 75 New West Health Services 10…85%
Nebraska            Blue Cross Blue Shield NE 44 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 25…69%
Nevada                Sierra Health 29 WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 28…57%
New Hampshire WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 51 CIGNA Corp. 24…75%
New Jersey         Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield 34 Aetna Inc. 25…59%
New Mexico         HCSC (Blue Cross Blue Shield) 35 Presbyterian Hlth 30…65%
New York             GHI 26 WellPoint Inc. (Empire BCBS) 21…47%
North Carolina    Blue Cross Blue Shield NC 53 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 20…73%
Ohio                     WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 41 Medical Mutual of Ohio 17…58%
Oklahoma          BCBS OK 45 CommunityCare 26…71%
Oregon               Providence Health & Services 25 Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield 23…48%
Rhode Island    Blue Cross Blue Shield RI 79 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 16…95%
South Carolina  Blue Cross Blue Shield SC 66 CIGNA Corp. 9…75%
Tennessee        Blue Cross Blue Shield TN 50 Total Choice 12…62%
Texas                  HCSC (Blue Cross Blue Shield ) 39 Aetna Inc. 20…59%
Utah                    Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield 47 Intermountain Healthcare 21…68%
Vermont              Blue Cross Blue Shield VT 77 CIGNA Corp. 13…90%
Virginia               WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) 50 Aetna Inc. 11…61%
Washington      Premera Blue Cross 38 Regence Blue Shield 23…61%
Wyoming           Blue Cross Blue Shield WY 70 UnitedHealth Group Inc. 15…85%

 Looking at the above data, anyone who is opposed to the single payer public option must not realize that we already have a monopolized corporate-run single payer system.

Its amazing to me that the populus is content with the crumbs that drop from the table of the Oligarchs, all while going bankrupt for the crime of “getting sick.” This is the equivalent of slavery, with the cruel twist that the slaves rally to support their masters and decry any attempt to help them(the slaves) as infringing on their “freedom.”

People have to realize that government levees are not the only form that “taxes” to the populus take. The most onerous, worthless, and costly taxes by far are the rents collected by feudal corporate parasites. They could be labeled as neo-medieval privatized taxes. Corporate political donations as well as the salaries of lobbyists are also the equivalent of tax upon us, since every cent of that plus more will be mined out of the peasants to grotesquely recompense the donor.

Senator Bernie Sanders wrote an article recently explaing another reason why American health care costs are spiraling out of control — FRAUD:

“…The rampant fraud is another reason why our current health care system, dominated by private insurance companies, is the most costly, wasteful, complicated and bureaucratic in the world. Its function is not to provide quality health care, but to make huge profits for those who own the companies. With 1,300 private insurance companies and thousands of different health benefit programs designed to maximize profits, our country spends an incredible 30 percent of each health care dollar on administration and billing, exorbitant CEO compensation packages, advertising, lobbying and campaign contributions. Public programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the VA are administered for much less.

In recent years, not only have we seen massive fraud by the health care industry, but we also have been paying for a huge increase in health care bureaucrats and bill collectors. Over the last three decades, the number of administrative personnel has grown by 25 times the number of physicians. Doctors and nurses in Vermont have described to me in painful detail the amount of time and money they are forced to waste negotiating with insurance companies about how they can treat their patients.

Not surprisingly, while health care costs are soaring, so are the profits of private health insurance companies. From 2003 to 2007, the combined profits of the nation’s major health insurance companies increased by 170 percent. And the top executives in the industry are receiving lavish compensation packages — averaging $14.2 million for the top seven companies.

On top of all of this, a review of court records and other public documents shows that billions more dollars are being lost to fraud and outright corruption. Importantly, this is not the case of “one bad player” acting illegally. This is a situation where fraud appears to me part of the normal business model. It is the rule and not the exception.

There is example after example indicating that virtually all of the major pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and private hospital chains have been involved in massive health care fraud over the past decade.

Health and Human Services Department investigators earlier this year found that 80 percent of insurance companies participating in the Medicare prescription drug benefit overcharged subscribers and taxpayers by an estimated $4.4 billion.

There also have been major criminal and civil cases against many of the leading corporate health care providers in the country, including:…”

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-bernie-sanders/we-must-stop-the-rampant_b_222510.html

 

The private health care insurance companies are skimming 30%+ of health care dollars off the top for “administrative fees” as well as to pay their CEO’s (oligarchs) and stock holders while the peasants get their claims denied or only fractionally paid. The profit motive needs to be taken out of health care and a single payer system needs to be introduced to cut costs and guarantee coverage for everyone. Private insurance could still exist to sell supplemental insurance or full policies for those that choose to support the lifestyles of the rich and famous health insurance CEO’s. Watch the following video for a case in point (1 out of every 700 health care dollars goes to pay United Health Care CEO):  

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKI9be55N00&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ehuffingtonpost%2Ecom%2F2009%2F08%2F06%2Fdenied%2Dclaims%2Dplaced%2Dat%2Dh%5Fn%5F253160%2Ehtml&feature=player_embedded

  

    

Sadly, it looks like the healthcare oligarchs are once again allying and coopting the regulatory and political process in order to shift everything in their favor. Read the following articles:

The Health Insurers Have Already Won
How UnitedHealth and rival carriers, maneuvering behind the scenes in Washington, shaped health-care reform for their own benefit
August 6, 2009
 http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_33/b4143034820260.htm

 

Why Are The Drug and Health Insurance Companies Smiling?

August 21, 2009

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/115365

 

If Private Sector Is Better at Solving Health Insurance Crisis, What’s Stopping It?

 

Some facts on Health Care:

Health care premiums are skyrocketing. From 2000 to 2007, the cost of employer-sponsored insurance jumped from about $6,400 to $12,100 for coverage of a family of four. Adjusted for inflation, that’s a 56 percent increase. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

Insurance deductibles and co-pays have also increased. Between 2001 and 2005, the average deductible for a conventional fee-for-service health plan doubled from about $600 to $1,200. [Kaiser Family Foundation] During the same period, patients were forced to pay larger co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

Employers are cutting back on the health care benefits they offer. Because health benefits are expensive, only 60 percent of American businesses offered them in 2007, down from 69 percent in 2000. [Commonwealth Fund] Employers are also passing more costs on to workers—the share paid by employees for their health insurance rose 68 percent from 2000 to 2007. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

More and more Americans are uninsured. The number of uninsured in America increased from 38 million in 2000 to 46 million in 2007. [U.S. Census Bureau] New research finds that there are 52 million uninsured as of January 2009. [Center for American Progress] Much of this increase is due to middle-income families losing insurance coverage.

An additional 25 million Americans are underinsured. The number of people who have insurance that does not adequately protect them from high medical expenses has risen dramatically. Between 2003 and 2007, the number increased by 60 percent. [Commonwealth Fund]

Health care costs are high in part because there is little competition among insurers. The vast majority of health insurance markets in the U.S. are dominated by just one or two insurers. The only way to bring down costs is to guarantee meaningful competition—which requires the creation of a public health insurance option. [American Medical Association]

Insurance companies continue to reap record profits. Just before the recession hit, insurance companies were raking in huge profits, with the top five health insurance companies grabbing a combined profit of $10 billion in 2007. [CNNMoney/Fortune] They accomplished this by cherry-picking healthy patients and denying needed care to unhealthy patients. In five years, insurance company profits rose an amazing 1,000 percent. [AFL-CIO]

The health insurance industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars to influence government policy. Insurers spent more than $380 million on lobbying in 2006 alone, and another $460 million on campaign contributions since 2000. [Center for Responsive Politics]

http://www.nchc.org/facts/cost.shtml

   

National Health Care Spending

  • National health spending is expected to reach $2.5 trillion in 2009, accounting for 17.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). By 2018, national health care expenditures are expected to reach $4.4 trillion—more than double 2007 spending.
  • National health expenditures are expected to increase faster than the growth in GDP: between 2008 and 2018, the average increase in national health expenditures is expected to be 6.2 percent per year, while the GDP is expected to increase only 4.1 percent per year.   
  • In just three years, the Medicare and Medicaid programs will account for 50 percent of all national health spending.
  • Medicare’s Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund is expected to pay out more in hospital benefits and other expenditures this year than it receives in taxes and other dedicated revenues.  In addition, the Medicare Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund that pays for physician services and the prescription drug benefit will continue to require general revenue financing and charges on beneficiaries that will grow substantially faster than the economy and beneficiary incomes over time.
  • According to one study, of the $2.1 trillion the U.S. spent on health care in 2006, nearly $650 billion was above what we would expect to spend based on the level of U.S. wealth versus other nations.  These additional costs are attributable to $436 billion outpatient care and another $186 billion of spending related to high administrative costs.

Employer and Employee Health Insurance Costs

Over the last decade, employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have increased 119 percent.

Employees have seen their share of job-based coverage increase at nearly the same rate during this period jumping from $1,543 to $3,354.

The cumulative increase in employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have raised at four times the rate of inflation and wage increases during last decade.  This increase has made it much more difficult for businesses to continue to provide coverage to their employees and for those workers to afford coverage themselves.
  • The average employer-sponsored premium for a family of four costs close to $13,000 a year, and the employee foots about 30 percent of this cost.  Health insurance costs are the fastest growing expense for employers.  Employer health insurance costs overtook profits in 2008, and the gap grows steadily.
  • Total health insurance costs for employers could reach nearly $850 billion by 2019.  Individual and family spending will jump considerably from $326 billion in 2009 to $550 billion in 2019.
  • The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that job-based health insurance could increase 100 percent over the next decade.  Employer-based family insurance costs for a family of four will reach nearly $25,000 per year by 2018 absent health care reform.

The Impact of Rising Health Care Costss

  • According to another published article, about 1.5 million families lose their homes to foreclosure every year due to unaffordable medical costs.
  • Without health care reform, small businesses will pay nearly $2.4 trillion dollars over the next ten years in health care costs for their workers, 178,000 small business jobs will be lost by 2018 as a result of health care costs, $834 billion in small business wages will be lost due to high health care costs over the next ten years, small businesses will lose $52.1 billion in profits to high health care costs and 1.6 million small business workers will suffer “job lock“— roughly one in 16 people currently insured by their employer
And before we leave the seedy world of the health insurance oligarchs, I have to turn the spotlight back at the scurrying cockroachs of the financial sector one last time.
 
If there was any doubt in your mind that fraud, corruption, incompetence, and coverups at the highest levels are at the heart of our current financial crisis, you might want to watch this video:
“…ideology enabled criminality and political failure led to economic crisis as Wall Street bought Capitol Hill…”

 

“It’s all a practical joke, I thought I knew how the world works, but it’s all just a big f*cking joke.”

 

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