Monday, June 18, 2007

Global Universal Health Care

Whenever the topic of health care comes up in a news article, as it has in the premature US presidential nomination campaign, Americans can be seen falling all over themselves to explain why a universal health care system is impossible in the United States. I came across such an article at the DMRegister last month and posted some optimystic words to the pessimystics, reproduced here before it flushes out of the internets tubes.

As a late, late, late adopter, America has the advantage of having dozens of societies with successful universal health care programs to study while crafting her own. This includes Thailand, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina, as well as the whole of Europe. Take a look at the top 20 happiest healthiest societies and find one to model your own system on. I recommend you take a look at how it is done in Japan. Free choice, no wait, but you typically do pay about 10% of the cost.

Many of these societies have had it for half a century now and would never ever go back, just as few Americans want to discard public education or social security in favor of a profit-based system. If you look at it, you will see that as the GDP of a country approaches $10,000 US, the probability of them creating a universal health care system becomes inevitable. Like education, health care is a nearly universal human value, but requires more money than education (which just needs chalk/slate/logs/lanterns). Nobody in the world believes that those with money should be able to buy health and life, except perhaps America. Why is that? I guess Truman blew it in '48 due to the Korean war. The anti-communist '50s were a waste. By the Democratic '60s, they had Vietnam and other problems. Carter wasted his chance. The '80s were like the '50s. The Clintons blew it again for the '90s. It seems you only have one chance to make a health care system in a decade, and the US is on a losing streak. It has to be more than that; why haven't more states done it? It is really hard to make sense of, but I guess it is an irrational ideological and spiritual decay like the racist hatred of the KKK or the Taliban not wanting to educate girls. Perhaps the system works well enough for the ruling class and the 2 business parties that have sewn up the political system. Maybe the problem is paradoxically BECAUSE the US is so developed and has developed a big for-profit business around people's lives. If we could just fall back to 1940s conditions, we could do it over and get it right. (?)

It's also funny how somehow there is always enough money around for weapons systems and invading foreign countries. American values are expressed very starkly in this contrast.

Certainly all could agree that children should not die because of their parents' inability to pay, nor should the parents be impoverished for decades or for life by a random medical condition suffered by their child.
There is also no benefit and tremendous costs to not treating communicable disease; shouldn't at least all communicable disease be treated free as a starter, to save the tremendous costs to society? You want a nose job, or a heart transplant that will let you live two more years, you are on your own.

I think that by now, fifty years into the era of universal health care, it is time to make a truly universal system for all people on Earth, and forget about messing around with national systems for those failed states that could not manage to care for their own people yet. Those places are chiefly sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab autocratic crescent, India, and a handful of others such as the United States. A universal world health care system could be financed by a small tax on trade.
Negativists criticized that as one-world government socialism. I guess health care is socialist if you consider Japan, Germany, the UK and Canada to be socialist countries. I suppose next I'll say that people without money have a right to eat or that there should be equal educational opportunities for all.

World military expenditures just surpassed 1.2 trillion dollars, an astronomical amount comparable to eXXonmobil's asset appreciation in the Bush era, and roughly US$200 per person on Earth.
STOCKHOLM, June 11 (Reuters) - Global military spending rose 3.5 percent last year to $1.2 trillion as U.S. costs for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan mounted, a European research body said on Monday in an annual study. The United States spent $529 billion, slightly less than the entire GDP of the Netherlands, on military operations in 2006, up 5 percent over the previous year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its latest year book. "Taking both immediate and long-term factors into account, the overall past and future costs until year 2016 to the USA for the war in Iraq have been estimated at $2,267 billion," it said. Military spending in China, which is modernising its People's Liberation Army, climbed to an estimated $49.5 billion last year from $44.3 billion in 2005. "China's military expenditure continued to increase rapidly, for the first time surpassing that of Japan and hence making China the biggest military spender in Asia and the fourth biggest in the world," the institute said. The institute, which conducts independent research on international security, armaments and disarmament, said Japan cut military expenditure in 2006 for a fifth year running and was focusing its military budget primarily on missile defence. China and Japan, Britain and France accounted for about 4 to 5 percent each of global military expenditure last year, SIPRI said. The five biggest spenders' share of global military expenses was nearly two-thirds of the total.
With the US spending 571 billion of that, (41% of the 2006 tax burden) and 44% of the world's expenditure for human extermination, where the hell would we ever find the 50 billion for a national health care system? Meanwhile, the entire operating budget for the United Nations and all of its agencies is 20 billion a year, or $3 per person on Earth. The US spends $2000 per man, woman, child, and transgendered inhabitant. What do you say we reverse those spending priorities, and see how that goes? Spending the military budget on actual defensive measures and paying the soldiers a decent wage would be much cheaper. What credible military threat is there to the United States? If 300 million Americans cannot control 27 million Iraqis, it would take over 3 billion attackers to have similar results in the United States. In other words, to be occupied as successfully as Iraq has been, it would take at least 3 billion attackers at a much higher level of industrialization and wealth. There is no such power, and there is no such danger to the US. military contractors should be weaned off the pork and put to work investing your personal $3000 plus in building equipment for purposes other than human extermination, such as windmills or wave energy generators.

Here is an editorial with similar sentiments. (But watch out! It's by those commie Canadians!)
The United Nations aspires to cut dire global poverty in half with a $100 billion program, helping many of the 1 billion people who live on less than $1 a day. As things stand, global aid grew by just $8 billion from 1990 to 2004, to $73 billion, according to the Reality of Aid Network. And the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria had to go begging at the Group of Eight summit for $6 billion to save some of the 6 million people who die from these diseases each year.
We cannot even get the national governments to throw in some money to fight contagious diseases like AIDS, TB, and malaria before they become endemic worldwide? We are all connected. It's just self-interest, nothing socialistic about that. Ah, well, have it your way. Stick a leech on it and call me in the renaissance morning. We'll get that Earth OS upgrade to you some other time.

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