1.) A private healthcare system IS the problem.
Imagine that, tomorrow, women all over the world went insane and decided that they no longer cared for designer bags. What would happen? The lack of demand would crash the price of brands like Prada and Louis Vuitton, and soon, Walmart could afford to bag your groceries with Michael Kors. That's the private marketplace.
What most Americans don't realize is that the result of a privatized healthcare system effectively treats healthcare like Coach products, with the ASSUMPTION that—like fashionable accessories—demand for healthcare is optional. Only, it’s not.
People don't need wallets and hand bags with someone else’s name all over them; they need healthcare. And because getting sick or injured is a matter of "when" and not "if", unlike the demand for handbags and exotic sunglasses, private healthcare services don't have to be competitive in the marketplace. This is especially true when healthcare facilities and hospitals set big price tags with very little differences in cost. Ask yourself why your cable bill is so outrageous. It's probably because your area only has one or two providers. But it's ALSO because those few cable service providers have been known to work in collusion, agreeing not to enter one another's service areas in order to eliminate price competition. It's a pretty awesome thing when your ONLY enemy becomes an ally by refusing to lower their prices, too—good for corporate profits. For customers it means insane price hikes with no help in sight.
But that kind of stuff only happens in nonessential markets, right? People don't NEED cable, so it's okay to put a premium on luxury. Sadly, the situation is even worse when it comes to privatizing the necessities of a civilization—like water. Providing a monopoly service like healthcare and water not only drives up prices like crazy, it also degrades the quality of products and services, and destroys future investment in better technology. I know what you're thinking:
"Private enterprise are more efficient and better at driving research and development for better technology because that leads to making more money".
It's a popular sound bite from the capitalist dogma of U.S. economics. But big investments cost big money—the kind of money that eats into profits. Private enterprises delivering a monopoly service like water or healthcare won't make such investments so long as it can make money using the same 'ol tricks. And why would private industry want the MOST efficient healthcare? Creating that "wonder pill" or "miracle procedure" that cures everything in one visit would put you out of business the next day.
When I was living in Japan, my healthcare experience was ten times more efficient than in the United States. (Japan's healthcare costs are price controlled by the government.) When I went to have my chest X-rayed, the doctor simply walked me across the hall, only to show me the result on his computer screen a mere five seconds later! I didn't have to take a prescription to a separate imaging company and wait days for the results to be transferred over. Private healthcare in the U.S. actually promotes inefficiency by fragmenting services. There's ALWAYS got to be middle man—or five—because EVERYONE HAS to get their cut of the astronomical profits. When we say "efficiency" in private healthcare markets, we simply mean dedicated services that cut costs for healthcare providers who don't have to invest in imaging technology or labs. In this way, "efficiency" simply means bigger profit margins—not better healthcare.
If you're still skeptical, check out this research on the dangers of privatizing essential services, and then, ask someone from Europe about their water. In 2010, the U.N. declared water and sanitation as a human right. It only took a 25-year rule of private water contracts, astronomical prices, and nearly zero investment in water infrastructure by private industry to sway all of Europe to abolish privatization.
Like water, healthcare is a human necessity. And no privatized human necessity in the history of the world has EVER been the cheaper alternative to public control. PERIOD. Healthcare as a commodity of private enterprise is EXACTLY why healthcare costs are so high. It's also why healthcare outcomes in the U.S. are comparable or WORSE than other developed nations, where medical care is a human right for the public to invest in and not a matter for private markets to manipulate and neglect for the sake of profits.
2.) No. Guns are NOT like cars.
If I have to hear one more person compare deaths by cars to deaths by guns in an attempt to rationalize deaths caused by shootings, I'm going to scream.
The "cars kill just as many people as guns, therefore guns are no greater a danger than cars" argument is one used by pro-gun supporters to flatten data, creating the illusion that because the body counts are similar, death by automobiles and firearms are equal. (They aren't). But, by making the two data groups appear similar, the offensive attack becomes:
"If deaths by cars and guns are the same, why are you discriminating against guns? Should we then also get rid of cars?"
This is the same logic that leads NSA anti-terrorist efforts to arrest fiction authors who research "how to make a bomb" or "how to conceal a weapon" on Google—the raw data is there, but there's no protocol for making real-world sense of its relevance.
What the numbers lack are a discussion about intent and purpose—two extremely important factors when considering technology that kills, but requires human operators. As the saying goes: "guns don't kill people, people kill people". Gun laws are meant to govern people—not the guns themselves. But there's another subtle piece of the puzzle.
A pro-go advocate once told me that if gun deaths caused by gang violence and suicide were EXCLUDED from the statistics, the numbers would be negligible. I almost lost my damn mind when I heard this.
Essentially what this argument says is: "Let's only count deaths by firearms which include accidents by responsible, white, gun owners."
Disregarding gang-related homicide rates deliberately marginalizes racial minorities and reserves the discussion of gun control for whites only. The attitude necessary to exclude gun deaths related to minorities is one that says: "As long as the majority of gun deaths only affects non-whites, there's no need to protect everyone with tougher gun laws." This reasoning also marginalizes the losses families sustain when members take their own lives. By concluding that purposeful acts of homicide and suicide are not "real" firearm deaths we can pretty much exclude addressing the majority of problems concerning mass shootings and depression in men—which is exactly what the whole "Cars = Guns" campaign aims to do.
This marginalization of homicide and suicide by guns also discounts the nature and relationship of gun-related deaths versus their automobile counterparts:
Suggesting that deaths by automobiles and firearms are the same implies that each method has an equal chance of causing an ACCIDENTAL death. However, after examining the INTENT and PURPOSE of owning an automobile versus the INTENT and PURPOSE of owning a firearm, we begin to see a much different picture in which deaths by cars are much MORE LIKLEY to be an accident. It is MORE often the case that deaths by guns are a purposeful act.
I have yet to learn of someone purchasing a pogo-stick for the purpose of opening a can of beans. That's not the most efficient way to use one, nor is it an intended purpose of its creation. But, even if someone had managed to achieve such a task, it most certainly would be an anomaly and not the norm. Cars are not typically obtained for the INTENDED PURPOSE of killing another human being. Cars are made for transportation, but the ONLY purpose for creating or purchasing a gun is to harm or kill. This is a significant point, as it also paints a vivid portrait of the TYPE of person who buys a car verses someone who buys a gun.
Prior to purchasing a firearm, the buyer has already accepted the very grave responsibility that they may harm and possibly kill another person. More importantly, these people are WILLING to take a life, and intend to be ready to do so. These are truths which are necessary and self-evident in the purchasing of a firearm. They are not necessarily the experience of those who purchase cars. It is not the case that someone looking to kill plans to buy a car to carry out that intent; they seek out a gun.
A simple thought experiment can help to elucidate the core issue, as the car buyer and firearm buyer could very well be the same person. It's proof that cars and guns are NOT interchangeable at all.
Imagine someone who owns BOTH a car AND a firearm; which would they likely use to kill themselves or someone else if they had the intent to do so?
Now imagine someone who owns a car but NOT a firearm; should they have the impulse to kill themselves or someone else, do you think they would use their car, instead? In the absence of a gun, how much more likely are they to use their car to kill themselves or someone else?
Death by cars and death by guns have nothing to do with each other. We need stricter gun laws. Period.
3.) Providing birth control to women is NOT a violation of your religious freedom.
For a country founded on freedom, U.S. citizens sure have a hard time understanding just exactly what freedom means. And in recent times, Americans have seen a great tidal wave of sweeping perversion which has successfully turned our basic liberties into political tools of democratic subversion. Simply put: there are a lot of jerks out there with a lot of money, twisting the words of the constitution so that they can make even MORE money.
Religious freedom: the right which allows PERSONS to practice religious beliefs without fear of persecution. For those of us with a pulse, this means that in the eyes of government, religion is not a detail by which citizens are governed or judged. One cannot be thrown in jail or slighted for worshiping any particular invisible being of their choice. It's a pretty straight forward concept with little room for misinterpretation.
You'd think that the healthcare benefits an employer provides for its workers has little to do with religious freedom—but you'd be wrong. Corporations are now exercising their 1st Amendment right to deny female workers birth control through provided healthcare plans. That's right. Amazingly, private enterprise has found a clever way to save a boatload of cash by becoming self-appointed messengers of powerful unseen deities. In adopting an official religion, sleazy companies like Hobby Lobby can claim that having to provide birth control for women would be a violation of their religious freedom. Nice angle, bro.
How the hell are corporations, people, you ask?
Well, all of the insanity that eventually led to the perversion of religious freedom began when the political action committee, Citizens United, won a controversial Supreme Court case. The outcome of that victory determined that corporations were, indeed, "people". Take a moment to put that in your bowl and smoke it. Forget everything you know about human beings, folks: Corporations are now people.
Yet, even if you accept that corporations are people, even if you believe that corporations should be allowed to circumvent basic responsibilities to society by invoking the teachings of their chosen gods, there is still a problem with how the ideology of religious freedom is exercised within this context.
For a christian company, the case for preventing female employees from receiving coverage for birth control is that the deliberate aborting/prevention of a life is murder, according to a chosen set of beliefs. We could get into the scientific nuances of how contraception works or even how to define "when life begins", but the folly is much more simple and precludes the need for an MD altogether.
The argument against limiting access to birth control is this:
merely allowing the CHOICE for women to USE birth control is not the same as preventing/aborting pregnancies yourself. (The Bible does, however, emphasize the importance of free will, as in, the point of following the commandments is that one has the ability to MAKE the CHOICE to obey.) And yet, what corporate America has essentially done in exercising their "religious freedom", is deny females (who may not even identify as Christian), the right to CHOOSE whether or not to use birth control. This means that if a given female employee does not hold the same views as their employer, when it comes to exercising THEIR personal views, they are being discriminated against.
I saw an amazing post the other day that really summed up this dilemma, and I've tailored it to reflect this message:
"Claiming that someone else's choice to use birth control is against YOUR religion is like being angry at someone for eating a doughnut because YOU'RE on a diet."
Corporation or person—you don't get to make MY choices based on YOUR beliefs.
The inherent integrity of religious freedom requires the EQUAL chance for everyone to express their own views. If corporations can effectively create an environment which makes the practice of "unpopular" views more difficult, that my friends, is oppression—the very same religious oppression corporations are claiming to rally against.
4.) Raising the Minimum wage will NOT kill jobs. But it might grow them.
Don't even think about raising the minimum wage—you'll kill jobs.
This is the exact mantra that spews—uninterrupted—from the mouths of every PR machine representing private enterprise. Whether you're a right-wing political hopeful, or a Harvard professor of economics whose yearly income is partly derived from corporate funded "research", the rhetoric is the same.
Whenever you hear really hardline statements against change, ask yourself:
Who would benefit most if things stayed THE SAME.
In this case, the answer is clear: low wages means more money for big business and the rich elite, and less economic and bargaining power for the middle-class.
Labor costs are among the highest costs incurred by corporate entities; it's also one of the easiest costs to cut. All an employer has to do to cut labor costs and increase profits is demand that MORE work be done by fewer employees (pretty much everything we're experiencing today). That being said, it's no surprise that employee workloads have gone up. But no one gets double the pay for doing double the work.
Minimum wage has been inadequate for about three decades, and the economic recession of 2008 has become the proverbial monkey on everyone's back ever since. So why now has minimum wage become a national spotlight?
For a long time the debate over raising the minimum wage wasn't exactly a center stage event, primarily for two reasons:
A.) High employment rates and easy credit in the the 90's and early 2000's hid the true impact of declining wages.
B.) Previous raises in minimum wages were too small and far between for any impacts to be easily noticeable.
Whatever the origins of America's continued economic malaise, the debate over wage increases as a possible solution requires an enormous filter to clear out all the noise. Propaganda machines of the political right and private persuasions have pumped serious money into campaigns that hammer "wage increases = job cuts" mantras into the minds of average workers.
It's an effective tactic up until the moment wage increases actually spur job growth—then the jig is up. New data has delivered a huge blow to wage suppression rhetoric, as recent job growth since January 2014 has proven strongest in the 13 states that successfully increased their minimum wages. What's more is that nine out of those thirteen have posted growth above the median job growth of ALL states. That means that jobs didn't just grow faster in those states, they grew faster at a rate that was higher than the majority.
What? You mean higher pay to a majority of workers equals more spending, which leads to higher production that requires more workers?
5.) Vaccination is not REALLY necessary.
Immunization culture in the U.S. is pretty hot right now. But that's because vaccinating is presented more like a mandatory order than a precautionary choice of health. What's more alarming is the reaction to those who choose NOT to vaccinate; the call to vaccinate has taken on a "bully" kind of rhetoric where those who choose not to participate are vilified with charges of being stupid, or paranoid conspiracy theorists, etc. What I find interesting is that even when persons who do not vaccinate offer reasons that aren't related to conspiracy theories, exercising one's individual right to decide what goes inside their body, they are still met with hostility.
The one and ONLY line of defense that has gained traction against personal choice is "Herd Immunization." In fact, herd immunization is THE ONLY logical way to win the argument for vaccination use because when you use Armageddon as a deterrent, it's usually pretty effective.
Herd immunization is an idea that suggests that at an effective level of 95% immunization, a population can prevent a contagion from spreading. According to its advocates, if persons choose NOT to vaccinate, they put the entire population in jeopardy for an epidemic or pandemic as immunization levels drop below that 95% effective rate. Wow.
How would YOU like to be the reason the entire human race fell to small pox?
Better get vaccinated.
This is the general discourse by which anti-vaccinators are vilified, and it's very effective.
Few people understand that Herd Immunization is merely a THEORY—it's not a fact. But that doesn't matter because it's an extremely clever theory. It's clever because it's essentially impossible to disprove, which is exactly what anti-vaccinators would have to do in order to challenge the immense pressure to immunize.
Imagine that you were trying to find a shampoo that made your hair feel healthier, and you go to the store and buy 1,000 bottles from different companies. Then imagine that, in your desperation for beautiful hair you started using multiple brands at once. How would you ever know which brand really made the difference? How could you ever convince yourself that one brand performed worse than any other? Oh well, you'd have to just keep using them all, because at that point, it wouldn't matter which one did the trick so long as you've achieved the results you wanted.
Now apply the shampoo scenario to vaccination. Besides vaccination, there have been countless of other advances in medicine and hygiene which may have contributed to the reduction of communicable diseases.
Think about it:
The only way one could ever really question the truth of Herd Immunization is if there was an all-out epidemic/pandemic while vaccination practices exist. As long as there are no Armageddon-scale outbreaks, vaccination can continue to take credit for the "containment" of horrible disease. And with the profound leaps made in sanitation and hygiene practices, its unlikely that an outbreak would ever occur.
You see? Genius.
What success herd immunization claims in the battle against infectious disease can easy be explained as serendipitous accolades resulting from improved sanitation and hygiene practices. Hand washing and other sanitation practices which provide protection against bodily fluids, more than anything, have contributed to a decline in some of the most communicable ailments.
Evidence that Herd Immunization doesn't hold water exists in the details. In the 1960's, vaccination was proposed as a "one shot, immunization for life" by leading medical experts. That proposal is at the crux of Herd Immunization, as 95% population MUST be immunized at ALL times. This means that if, at any point, a population falls below that 95% effective immunization rate, there will be rapid outbreaks. Well, there's a problem with that.
In the 1990's, modern medicine revealed that, well actually, no, vaccinations didn't last for a lifetime and that people should be RE-immunized anywhere between 2-10 years (depending on each person's individual immune system response.) Now factor in illegal immigrants, foreign-born citizens, Americans who can't afford healthcare, and Americans who just don't RE-vaccinate. These populations combined with baby boomer numbers easily project vaccination and RE-vaccintation well below the 95% effective rate necessary for Herd Immunization to be valid.
Simply put: if Herd Immunization was a fact, we would be in the midst of a firestorm of epidemics. We aren't. And if you're keen on citing outbreaks in other third world countries, consider a lack of sanitation practices, access to clean water, and access to protective measures such as contraception and latex.
I'll decide what goes in my body, thanks.