Social Economic Impacts
Health Care: Our growing addictions and dependencies to easy solutions have created a whole new set of issues for the sustainability of physical health. It’s already known that when populations eat less processed foods, they live longer and have fewer medical needs. That’s assuming their environment hasn’t been polluted by the refuse of consumerism. Not only are processed foods addictive by taste, but they are also addictive for convenience. We have become a world of lazy people who are addicted to mass media entertainment and convenience while sacrificing exercise and nutrition.
Did you know that, as a planet, we produce more sugar than all the fruits and vegetables combined? Check these statistics if you have any doubts. This one figure reflects the state and deterioration of human health and uncontrollable addictions. Why do we need so much sugar? If a food tastes either sweet or salty it is often considered good and desirable to the palette. Basically, everything comes down to the law of consumption. If a food tastes good, then people will consume it and the most convenient way to make something taste good is to add sugar or salt. The manufacturers of processed foods are well aware of this fact, but are still only feeding our own addictions and lack of self restraint.
Then take into account that much of nutrition is destroyed when food is pasteurized, processed, or cooked. This means that only some of a processed food is used by the body and the rest becomes waste and is often toxic. This is one more reflection on how a high percent of our natural resources become waste shortly after consumption. The bottom line is that our addictions to unhealthy and convenient diets are destroying the body’s ability to maintain a healthy state and are slowly killing us.
The primary cause for deteriorating health is the lack of a diet that supports the body’s ability to repair itself. Where does this put us on the health front? It means that we have become reliant on medication and the medical establishment because we are eating destructive rather than constructive foods. A perfect example is all of the prescription and over-the-counter digestive aids for those with that so called incurable disease “irritable bowel syndrome”.
Just as over consumption can only be fixed through drastic changes on an individual level, the same holds true for our health. No one can force you to eat healthier food, that’s up to the individual. This means that processed foods will remain the foundation of human diet and the medical establishment will remain a controlling force in people’s lives as long as a majority of the population eats unhealthy diets. No one is saying that we don’t need health care for catastrophic events such as random life threatening accidents, illnesses, or terminal conditions. If there is a long-term need for the medical system, this would certainly be it.
Of course stress is also a factor in the human body’s ability to maintain a healthy state and repair itself from ailments. Stress is not new to the world of human beings; however, it has certainly been amplified by growing addictions to competition, consumption, greed, and self-indulgence. There are numerous studies that prove stress has a negative impact on your overall state of health.
And let’s not forget about the impact on the body from environmental pollutants which are commonly referred to as causing everything from global warming to cancer. The Story of Stuff reveals just how toxic our environment has and continues to become, primarily at the hands of corporations and manufacturing.
Whatever elements are responsible for the break down of our physical health on a collectively and individually level is less of importance than the fact that the overall population is spiraling into an abyss of poor health. Until the general populous awakes up to their destructive habits or is capable of taking responsibility for their physical health issues, the medical establishment will remain a necessary evil.
Until we take full responsibility for our individual and collective health, we will remain dependent on a system that can never provide an adequate health care solution. Instead, we have become addicted to medical treatments and drugs, rather than addressing the body’s response to some external influence. As a result, the medical industry has grown to one of the largest and most powerful lobbies and institutions in modern times.
Whether you choose to blame the government for this trend, it is certain they are aware of the economic importance of maintaining the medical industry. The U.S. government created Medicare to support this industry, not your health. If the government wanted to help you remain healthy, they would ban 90% of all processed foods, manufacturing methods, and chemicals and provide educational programs about healthy diets and lifestyles. As we all know, this is not the case.
Now let’s discuss the consequences of our own lack of self-awareness to reverse our state of health and the governments’ deliberate actions to keep us addicted to medications and unhealthy lifestyles. The consequence is that we now have a medical industry that not only sustains our economic growth, but is absolutely necessary for our economic stability. Between the money from Medicare, insurance, and direct expenses and all the people who are employed by the industry, it’s no wonder the government is so eager to maintain it.
The governments’ attempt to reform health care isn’t about helping the population become healthier, it’s about maintaining an industry that drives our ailing economy and keeps people under control by keeping them on “controlled” substances. They aren’t even addressing the real long-term problem with the medical industry, but only how to keep it operating over the short-term. Why is that? Because they know that Medicare and Social Security can not be saved and once either of them fails, the result will be mass poverty, starvation, chaos, and ultimately revolution.
When the government talks about health care reform, they’re only talking about keeping it alive for the short-term. Did anyone notice that none of major presidential candidates in the last election addressed the imminent collapse of Medicare and Social Security? Instead they spoke of health care reform and universal health care. In other words, since they don’t have a way to fix the system, they only addressed a way to make healthy people pay for a system they don’t even use.
The government is very aware that Medicare is and has been collapsing for decades and essentially ever since it was created. According to Geoff Colvin, senior editor at large for Fortune Magazine, whenever he asked Alan Greenspan what he considers the greatest threat to the U.S. economy, he answered immediately and with a single word: Medicare. And the title of Geoff’s article on March 4, 2008 reads “The $34 trillion problem: Medicare is poised to wreak havoc on the economy. And our presidential candidates are avoiding the issue.”
By now, most people should be aware of the $34 trillion problem with Medicare, but few seem to understand what it really means? This is how much money isn’t in the Medicare account, but will be required to continue making payments for the next 75 years. In other words, the payments being made by every working person right now are only paying for those who are already collecting Medicare. This means that in order for those who are currently working and paying into Medicare to actually receive Medicare benefits, $34 trillion must be deposited into the Medicare account.
Medicare provides a wide range of services and subsidies to more than 40 million old and disabled Americans. That means that almost 15% of the U.S. population needs Medicare for their very survival. The $34 trillion under funding of Medicare, as reported in the Financial Report of the U.S. Government, even assumes that Medicare payments to doctors will be slashed drastically, by some 41% over the next nine years, as required by current law. But we all know that won't happen and in fact, every year for the past six years, Congress has overridden the mandatory cuts. In other words, by not making these cuts, the financial picture is much worse than $34 trillion.
In 2006, reports showed that Medicare was projected to go bankrupt in 2020 which was actually 20 years sooner than previous projections. In 2008, Medicare’s annual spending exceeded revenue brought in from taxes, forcing Medicare to begin spending its reserve funds. According to the Medicare Trustees, Medicare will now be bankrupt by 2017 and in order for it not to happen sooner, Medicare will have to cut benefits or payment rates by 19%. As you can see, in only the last two years, the projected bankruptcy of Medicare has gone from 2020 to 2017 and since nothing is being done to pay back the $34 trillion or make Medicare sustainable; it’s likely the bankruptcy will occur even sooner.
Before we consider how to make Medicare sustainable, let’s discuss what it will take to pay back this $34 trillion under funding balloon which is growing every year as the government continues to postpone the mandated cuts in payments to doctors. Depending on the source, there are approximately 310 million people in the U.S. including babies, children, teenagers, adults, and those who are retired. This means that in order to pay back the $34 trillion, each and every individual in the U.S. would need to come up with $109,677. That includes babies, the unemployed, and the retired. And how would the government raise that money? Can you imagine how many years and what kind of tax increases would be required? Now can you see why nobody wants to talk about the $34 trillion problem with Medicare?
Paying back the $34 trillion does not even address achieving sustainability with Medicare, but it’s absolutely necessary if Medicare is going to provide for our children and future generations. So how do we make Medicare sustainable? It’s a good question and surprisingly the answer is not that difficult. All you need to understand are the basics of sustainable economics. In other words, the only way that an economic industry remains sustainable is if it receives the money it needs to maintain itself and/or expand. There lies the problem.
The only way to make Medicare sustainable would be to take drastic measures. This would include a combination of cutting recipient benefits, cutting payments to the medical industry, and raising taxes. A 19% reduction in benefits has already being discussed by the Medicare Trustees. Congress has been mandated by law to cut payments to doctors by some 41% over the next nine years; however, every year for the past six years; Congress has overridden the mandatory cuts. Tax increases are inevitable, but how do you raise taxes in order to make Medicare sustainable and also recover the $109,677 per person to pay back the $34 trillion. And let’s not forget that any measures to make Medicare sustainable must also include the future realities of increasing health expenses, inflation, and increasing demand for medical treatment due to the lack of healthy diets. This is why Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, one of the Medicare trustees, warned of a “fiscal train wreck unless something is done”.
Now here’s the kicker and the real reason why the Medicare issue is being whitewashed. Whether the economy is ailing or not, raising taxes to fix the problems with Medicare will destroy our economy. There is no way to raise taxes slow enough or fast enough to fix Medicare and save the medical industry simultaneously and the government knows this.
If the government reduces benefits or abolishes the Medicare program, it would need to do so for both existing and future participants. The ripple affect from such a plan would cause the destruction of personal livelihood, as well as the medical industry. Basically, any possible solution will destroy the medical industry, our economy, and the lives of all people who are currently utilizing these programs, but this is not the main reason why governments are avoiding the issue.
The main reason is how this will look to the global markets. Just as the bond market is affected by how other countries perceive the viability and strength of the U.S. economy, a collapse in Medicare will shock the world markets and their faith in the ability of the U.S. economy and government. Therefore, the collapse of Medicare will have a ripple affect that circles the globe as countries lose faith in the U.S. stock markets, U.S. Bonds, and the U.S. economy.
Medicare is failing and along with it, the U.S. economy. The government has no choice, but to prop them up for as long as possible until they can no longer postpone their imminent failure. By all the recent news and debate on health care reform, it appears the "Powers That Be" are creating the temporary illusion of addressing the issue, but all along, they are simply trying to buy more time. The time bomb is ticking as they play a waiting game until the world economies collapse and they no longer need to deal with the issue of health care reform at all as they are forced into the implementation of a socialized medical system.