March 17, 2010

Insurance Rackets, Lost Reform, and the Process


The final push on a health rackets bailout and stickup puts me in mind of Eric Hoffer’s lines:

The well-adjusted make poor prophets. On the other hand, those who are at war with the present have an eye for the seeds of change and the potentialities of small beginnings.

A pleasant existence blinds us to the possibilities of drastic change. We cling to what we call our common sense, our practical point of view. Actually, these are but names for an all-absorbing familiarity with things as they are. The tangibility of a pleasant and secure existence is such that it makes other realities, however imminent, seem vague and visionary. Thus it happens that when the times become unhinged, it’s the practical people who are caught unaware and are made to look like visionaries who cling to things that do not exist.

On the other hand, those who reject the present and fix their eyes and hearts on things to come have a faculty for detecting the embryo of future danger or advantage in the ripeness of their times. Hence the frustrated individual and the true believer make better prognosticators than those who have reason to want the preservation of the status quo. “It is often the fanatics, and not always the delicate spirits, that are found grasping the right thread of the solutions required by the future.”

Those who call themselves “pragmatic” really want the status quo. To have ever said demanding single-payer was “not politically possible”, when it obviously was if everyone who claims to want reform had simply stuck together and demanded reform, has always been code for not wanting single-payer, for not wanting reform, for wanting the status quo only.
In the case of these status quo-mongers, they don’t actually feel secure, and things don’t seem to be very pleasant for them. But at least, and at most, they have the pleasure and the security of the status quo itself. Thus, as Hoffer described, they are completely blind to the realities of a radical kleptocracy and a revolutionary situation, with such vast potential for the best and the worst, but with nothing but failure and shame falling upon those who still dream of “incrementalism”, the “process”, their spineless, contentless notion of “pragmatism”, which is the least truly pragmatic stance imaginable, as it has no present and no future. 
The only measure of wanting something is demanding it and fighting for it. if you don’t fight for it, that’s proof you didn’t want it. Indeed that you oppose it.
If you want to fight, there are two options. You can stand on principle and judge prospective results according to it, or you can define the acceptable result and fight with the intent of accepting nothing less than that result.
But liberals with their “pragmatism” do neither of these. They claim to either hold a principle (like “reform”) or demand a result (like the “public option”), but they really care only about going through the punctilious motions of a process solely in order to reach the formal end of that process (getting a bill, any bill, which has the word “reform” on it), without reference to principle or result.
This process of enacting legislation which deals with the health insurance system has been extremely messy and deranged right from the start. The combination of a president’s heady but vacuous rhetoric, his incompetence and spinelessness in action, his absolute failure as a leader, leaving the process in the hands of a cesspool of gangsters and psychopaths, resulted in something like the medieval Dance of Death. Especially once the scam political bubble of the “progressive bloc” popped itself, it seems like the tension released itself in an orgy of racketeering and vandalism. Everyone competed to root out any aspect of the bill which could have been any good while loading it up with as many thefts and assaults as possible.
The result is clear. No sane person thinks any of its “regulations” or “subsidies” will ever be effective. It contains loopholes to ensure rescission will continue, while its complete lack of cost control will render the vaunted ban on discrimination against pre-existing conditions de facto void.
Every restraint on the thugs has been removed. The centerpiece of the bill, the real reason the whole process was set in motion, is the individual mandate, the roundup of a conscript market to ensure extortionate profits for the insurance racket. They have no market competition as it is, and no regulatory restraints on the protection money they demand. The talk of removing their antitrust exemption, a no-brainer from any sane point of view, is just empty talk. The ONLY restraint upon them, other than the limits of economic reality itself, has been people’s refusal to pay this protection money. But under this mandate the rackets will no longer have to compete even with non-participation.
Meanwhile, in an environment where Medicare itself is under assault, no sensible person thinks the promised “subsidies” for those who can’t afford this mandate to buy a worthless policy (another toxic asset) will ever sufficiently materialize. Hacks like Krugman who say so are just conscious, brazen, damned liars. The bill has also become a vehicle to gut the hard-won insurance benefits of many union workers. These benefits are part of their wage, every bit as much as the nominal wage itself.
(It will even try to gut access to abortion. Though it’s obviously true that there’s no difference between Republicans and Democrats on the economy, war, or civil liberties, abortion is the kind of thing where the voter supposedly has an immutable choice.
Well, apparently not. Apparently the Dems will happily sell out on this as well. That’s where liberal cowardice and the process mentality gets you. Women’s groups who sold out on single-payer have rightly been reminded of the bitter lesson, “First they came for the communists, and I did nothing because I wasn’t a communist….” As always, if you’re willing to compromise one core value to preserve another, you’ll end up with neither and deserve neither.)
So in a nutshell: The bill has zero value, while serving as a weapon of union-bashing. Most of all, it would greatly add to our already miserable servitude. I’ve said before, we have to vow to refuse to comply with this vile roundup. It’s already guaranteed that tens of millions will be financially unable to comply with it. So this bill, if it goes forward, will create a vast class of literal outlaws, existential criminals. Such people are then at the mercy of the wayward tyranny of a capricious system. Any of them, through bad luck, personal vendetta, or arbitrary enforcement, will at any time be vulnerable to the equivalent of debtors’ prison.
[This is the way things will be, unless we turn it into civil disobedience and an underground economy on an organized scale. The informal economy is the answer to every other problem as well, and is going to have to vastly expand regardless. The more that people are conscious of this and resolve to do it systematically, the better off we’ll all be, both in providing for ourselves and defending ourselves against any sort of criminal, including racketeering government.]
So that’s where the “process” mentality gets us. There was nothing unpredictable or accidental about the way this end has been reached. It was hardwired into the system right from the start, given the toxic alliance of kleptocrats and “progressives” who were carrying out this process. This guarantees that reform will be gutted and replaced by crime varnished with flimsy, ugly lies.
We see the process mentality in action today as embarrassed supporters of this wreck struggle miserably to parse how its features add up to a marginal improvement. Even an electron microscope would only highlight with greater definition the fact that this bill is a vehicle of corporate tyranny. That it will do nothing but further entrench the racket and further empower its assaults upon us.
That’s the core issue here, freedom versus tyranny. A real reformer resolved to fight would have started with the principle that decent basic health care is a human right, and that such basic decency is a core reason we even have society in the first place. Our freedom is inextricably bound up with our humanity. For the sake of both we must resist and destroy tyranny.
So real reform would never accept anything which fell short of that imperative, let alone this bill which fights on the side of the criminals, against our freedom and well-being. Given this outcome, there’s no way one can deny that either the claimed reform principle was a lie from the start, or else “progressive” fecklessness abdicated this principle along the way and surrendered to “process”.
As I said, this outcome was preordained given the personnel. To bloodless wonkery, the very idea of a philosophical and moral objection to a gangster stickup is incomprehensible. Instead, they’re paid, or they force themselves, to parse the process, assuming dogmatically that if a process is called “reform” then it is reform (since no other measure of reality is available to the process mentality). Given that congenital mindset, there’s no conceivable outcome on whose behalf they couldn’t come up with a pack of lies to justify it. And so it is in this case.
They don’t (can’t) understand that wonkery can only ever be a means to what should be a humanist end. The moral objection, the refusal to pay off these rackets, goes to the core of what it is to be human. Process is never anything more than a tool. The goal is supposed to be reform. But as we’ve seen, the process/wonk mindset is far more easily converted to the ends of crime and tyranny.
To their eternal shame this is the fact: If everyone who wanted reform would’ve demanded single-payer, we’d have it. But when they unilaterally caved in, when they commenced by negotiating themselves down (and of course they could only negotiate with themselves since there was no strong opponent), all the enemies of reform starting with Obama had them right where they wanted them. Everyone knew that once they started out so spinelessly, they’d never put up a real fight on any line.
Again the lesson is clear. Activists, reformers must break completely with the Democrats and with the liberal “leadership.” We must recognize the absolute, permanent failure and moral dishonor of the “process” mindset and the Orwellian “pragmatism” lie. We must shun all who still propagate such lies.
The way ahead is clear. The principles are freedom, economic self-determination, socioeconomic community self-reliance. The enemy is corporatism in all its forms – economic and political.
Since the human ideals and the great cause no longer exist within the system, it follows that we can fight it out only on fronts outside the system.


  1. As usual, I find many aspects of your analysis and interpretations on the mark in a context which can be understood by reasonably rational human beings in American culture. On the other hand, in many parts of America, the power elite utilize irrational, obfuscatory (but tried and true) techniques for mind control; without going into the details (with which you and your readers are quite familiar) such strategies are perfectly adequate to control large segments of the local populations.

    Think about what sort of view of the world was provided by the media in the USA 50-100 years ago; Hearst-run papers have been known to provide sensationalism which was influential in initiation of the American conquest of several, formerly Spanish colonies. More recently, one finds this country tolerates the conservative MSM control by Rev Moon (Washington Times) and/or control of the Wall St Journal, Fox news, and many newspapers, etc. by R Murdoch (a couple of really clever, well-connected fellows who actually have little in common with most Americans) who have managed ‘crowd control’ on an almost national level. These are just few (of the very many) examples indicating that there are a lot of American citizens who depend upon misinformation and other people’s values. How about A Greenspan’s dependence on the screwy ideas promoted by Ayn Rand; how about the Nobel Prize award to B Obama? Why do your express surprise or dismay; why not offer a viable alternative? For that matter, to whom would you appeal? The people who hold the power (money) could care less, as they are satisfied with the their current situation. The ambitious people who manage to convince the moneyed classes that they will agree to act as compliant shills are the ones who usually get to be president (though there are obviously exceptional cases when a G W Bush manages that task with the assistance of the SCOTUS). While I, like most of your readers, appreciate knowledge and wit; it would be helpful to provide a view of the future which might be possible should TPTB finally figure out that the current trends are not going in a desirable direction. For instance, why do the wealthy residents of Cape Cod object to the placement of wind mills off shore; why are certain influential Californians proposing drilling for oil off shore in currently protected areas, versus a variety of alternatives including doing little or nothing with regard to environmental conservation?

    Comment by William Wilson — March 17, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  2. William,

    While I, like most of your readers, appreciate knowledge and wit; it would be helpful to provide a view of the future which might be possible should TPTB finally figure out that the current trends are not going in a desirable direction.

    If you think it’s possible that TPTB will see the light or something, and you’re asking how we can help bring that about, then I don’t have any suggestions, because I don’t think that’s possible.

    I’ve said many times and I say here today that my first suggestion is to renounce all hopes and expectations that TPTB will ever do anything good.

    At the very most, we can maybe hope to forestall some added assaults.

    Why do your express surprise or dismay; why not offer a viable alternative? For that matter, to whom would you appeal? The people who hold the power (money) could care less, as they are satisfied with the their current situation.

    Do I sound surprised? I personally haven’t been surprised by anything in a long time. Although I imagine there are lots of people who are surprised and outraged by the way things are going, and they have a right to be.

    To whom would I appeal? I appeal to people like me who don’t, as individuals, have power; but if we came together, if we rebuilt our communities, relocalized our economies, organized for community self-help and self-defense, then we could build new power, from the bottom up.

    You say I don’t offer an alternative? Relocalization, decentralization, is the alternative. I say it all the time. Maybe you don’t like or believe in it, but it’s wrong to say I don’t propose it.

    Regardless of what anyone does, deflation and relocalization will happen of their own accord. The absurd bubble-debt system is unsustainable, and the level of energy use is unsustainable. The whole thing’s a Tower of Babel, and an extremely top-heavy one, which must come down. It’s been tottering for almost three years now, and their props have only made it more unstable.

    So the only question is will the energy descent and relocalization happen according to the laws of chaos and violence, or can we start building from the bottom up to face the storm.

    Maybe I misunderstand you, William, but it sounds like you think we’re just in a temporary political jam we can reform our way out of. I don’t think that at all, and nothing I write is from that point of view.

    Comment by Russ — March 17, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  3. To the extent that I understand the ‘absurd bubble-debt system’, I tend to agree that it ‘is unsustainable’; I also agree that ‘the level of energy use is unsustainable’. However, there is much more going on in the world which comprise biased, poorly conceived policies and actions taken by the government of the USA
    which, if recognized by the general public, would be recognized as destructive to our culture and environment.

    This is your blog and I don’t wish to write anything which might be interpreted as a negative sort of criticism. If you wish to advocate ‘energy descent and relocalization’, I, for one, would like to learn how you suggest that such be done. Any idea that it may be possible to reform our way out of a temporary political jam would not be coming from me as I tend to currently see the obstacles to reform to be overwhelming. Rather, I am searching for strategies which will have some potential to facilitate our dealing with the situation in which we currently exist.

    In the autumn of 2006 (while living in Texas) I became interested in learning more about the awsome events surrounding the destruction which occurred on 9/11/2001 in NY and Washington DC. My earlier lack of curiosity may have been the consequence of my scientific interests in other areas, however, I eventually looked into the writings/blogs of others and became aware that people (particularly, at the level of our political office holders) are incredible naive when it comes to physically impossible events. In retrospect, it was clear that the people in charge (Bush administration) had an agenda quite different from that which was presented to the general public. Over the next few years, I read enough to know that the even the usually designated educated ‘elite individuals’ who manage to fill the highest posts in our government appear unable to understand basic scientific principles of physics and chemistry. When I learned of the mis-understanding of basics of modern economics by the people who advise the president, it finally dawned that the situation is much worse than I might have ever imagined. I had been aware of the awsome corruption in the military establishment since D Eisenhower’s warnings in the latter 1950s; however, D Rumsfeld’s demonstrations of what a rabid ideologue could do in the interval between 2001 and 2006 when allowed to run the military was obviously over the top. In view of B Obama’s extension of so many of GW Bush’s administration policies it seems obvious that there is some invisible group other than the president which provides the guiding hand which is running the show.

    It it also seems that the argument stated years ago by N. Rothschild to the effect that the one (group) who issues the nation’s money gets to make the final/critical decisions. From this perspective, ideas promoted by the S Zarlanga’s organization AMI (American Monetary Inst) seems interesting; Ellen Brown’s suggestions regarding issue of money by state banks seem to represent a variant of that theme. LR Wray and Bill Mitchell are proponents of MMT (modern money theeory) which is designed to facilitate fiat currency utilization/flows and (to this non-economist) would appear to have some relevance in the context of proposals by S Zarlanga’s AMI proposal that the banks be converted to utilitarian institutions and that the federal government be responsible for issuing the currency/money. If this were possible, it would likely occur by a superior educational program or after some sort of event which would allow free exchange of important ideas in the society.

    I realize that environmental issues are being overlooked because everyone is focusing on matters of greed/ lawlessness /survival/etc. However, it would appear that the only way public attention could be refocused is to try to come up with a way to re-prioritize things in our culture. If that cannot be done, then perhaps we will have to hope there are still remote geographical locations to which one might escape as America morphs into one of those banana-like republics which were subjected to such ‘kind’ treatment by past American ‘elites’.

    Comment by William Wilson — March 17, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  4. William, I’m glad there are others who want to think of courses of action we can pursue. It’s very hard to do, with the deck so stacked against us. As you said, for the time being a few small blogs are overmatched up against the corporate media scream machine. But I’m gonna do my best.

    I agree completely that we need to relocalize the currency (among many other things). I haven’t yet written about state banking although I intend to (just haven’t gotten to it yet).

    I would like the idea of the federal government directly creating money, except that as I said I think this government is incorrigible and will never engage in any worthwhile reform, let alone one so extreme relative to the status quo.

    But for states, regions, towns to innovate utility-based alternatives to the dollar and the Fed is the direction we’re heading and should be heading.

    There’s lots of good ideas for alternative currency and barter, time-banking, etc.

    These ideas are bound to get more currency, and their practice to become more widespread. We just have to spread the word and, as much as possible, put them into practice. Wherever we can attain critical masses of people who need and want to reorganize our lives and communities.

    I’m sorry I don’t have the whole plan ready to lay out for how to do this, but I figure I’ll work on it. We’ll do the only thing we can do – slowly, surely build.

    Comment by Russ — March 17, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  5. To add a reference to my comment above, I suggest you take a look at Michael Hudsons discussion with respect to ideas proposed by classical vs neoliberal economists in the recent article:

    Orwellian Doublethink: `Nationalize the banks.` `Free Markets.`.
    February 23, 2009


    Here, he describes the point which I attempted to mention above; however, he is a trained economist who provides proper historical context. He also has some relationship with the AMI mentioned above which the reader may wish to pursue.
    I read Michael’s book ‘SuperImperialism’ several years ago and highly recommend it as a source for understanding American foreign policy throughout the 20th century. I have learned to overlook grammatical quirks which occasionally show up in Michael’s articles; his analyses tend to emphasize historical perspective.

    Comment by William Wilson — March 17, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

  6. Thanks William. I’ve seen that piece, and I agree that it’s excellent.

    Hudson’s one of the best. I’ve read lots of his essays (and linked to them). I haven’t read his book, though.

    (And I know what you mean by the grammatical quirks. 🙂 )

    To this day one of my favorite pieces on the whole mess is this one from over a year ago, “Bubble 2.0” :


    Also “The Language of Looting”.


    I don’t have time now to hunt down the link on Krugman’s blog, but did you see his sneering rebuttal of Hudson’s criticism of Khugman’s hero Samuelson? He couldn’t even bring himself to mention Hudson’s name – a filthy peasant, right? How dare he put his filthy hands on Samuelson’s majestic “neoclassical synthesis”!

    Comment by Russ — March 17, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

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