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Opinion » Letters to the Editor

The Perils of the Private Sector

There's a tendency among the Right to bash government programs. We often hear accusations such as: "Medicare is a failure"



There's a tendency among the Right to bash government programs. We often hear accusations such as:

"Medicare is a failure"

The goal of Medicare is to provide healthcare services to the elderly and other selected groups. It does this - a recent survey of Medicare recipients (discussed on NPR) found that most of them are satisfied with their health coverage overall. Thus Medicare is succeeding in its mission. It's inefficient, big and expensive - but in this it differs little from the private insurance cartels.

"The minimum wage never worked and neither did unions"

Why do we have a minimum wage? The natural tendency of employers is to pay workers as little as the market will allow. History shows that "employers" are not averse to paying workers nothing (called slavery or serfdom) or next to nothing (as we see even now in some Asian, South and Central American and Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi situations) if they can get away with it. People must work and there are plenty of people available. All the cards are in employers' hands unless there is a minimum wage law and preferably also worker organization (unions). Unions exist to balance the scales of power that historically and undeniably favor the rich and powerful. Unregulated market forces will continuously drive wages down. Then poor people will need a second job just to make ends meet... . etc. We've all seen this happen, even in the US, over the last 30 years. Who'd have thought?It's time we all learned that "free market Capitalism" is not ethical enough, mature enough or compassionate enough to be used as a model to run a country because it assumes that businesses have ethical standards they don't have, that they have goals other than the accumulation of wealth (greed), that their increasing wealth will benefit the whole of society. Recent history has shown us what the "left" has always known - it doesn't work that way.

"The government can't be trusted to run anything"

The government both represents and reflects the voters. President Eisenhower warned us all that government has gotten into bed with the military-industrial complex. Now he would probably describe it as the military-industrial-media complex and it certainly runs things to the satisfaction of many industries, banks and media moguls; looking after their interests very nicely indeed. Why else do we have a ridiculous, impenetrable tax code and a wasteful, inefficient, ineffective and unfair healthcare system that despite costing more than any other system on Earth ranks 37th in terms of quality? But that cynical interpretation is not the one implied by the accusation. It implies (usually) that the government is too stupid to run a single payer healthcare system. This is not strictly true: the government manages to run the military and the police through their respective departments so "yes, they can" run healthcare, if the will is there. The will simply isn't there - most of the 20 top quality healthcare systems in the world are run totally or primarily by national governments so "government" per se is capable of running healthcare - except, uniquely, in America. Now I wonder why that is? President Eisenhower gave us the answer decades ago.

- R. Shortall

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