TODAY WAS GENERALLY A slow news day in that its main events included few surprises, which is why I could find no links to excuse me from essay-writing and from the unnerving and painfully honest task of writing this essay in particular. For today there was surprise aplenty in my personal life, where thanks to a detailed study by a non-profit healthcare group, I discovered the venomous serpent lurking in the Bush of Medicare prescription drug “reform”: the hitherto unreported facts that (1)-the program is mandatory (your Social Security pension gets docked one percent per month if you don't participate) and that (2)-for someone like me (who pays about $240 per year for prescription drugs), the program’s proposed $35-per-month annual premium will effectively double my prescription drug costs. Moreover, that premium will rise steeply every year, thereby further penalizing all of us whose good fortune (or careful attention to preventative care) kept our drug costs low.
This forcible inflation of prescription drug costs is especially infuriating because it nullifies one of the main advantages of my longtime membership in Group Health, a Pacific Northwest medical cooperative that provides the best model I know for genuine healthcare reform. Group Health has always kept prescription drug costs at reasonable levels by using its buying power much as the Veterans Administration does: to force the pharmaceutical industry (one of President George Bush’s biggest campaign contributors) to lower its ripoff prices. Indeed – given that the Bush Administration’s Medicare drug program was always intended as a huge payoff to the drug industry (and never as any sort of true help to those of us who live below the salt) – I cannot doubt that the nullification of co-op purchasing power is one of the clandestine purposes of its fee structure, which goes into effect on January 1, 2006.
But a far darker probability about the clandestine intent of the drug program – indeed the most lethal serpent in the hypothetical and now-obviously bogus Eden of its alleged "reform" – becomes apparent when you reflect on another (and far more ruinous) way its increased costs will savage low-income folks.
To illustrate, observe the impact of 2005's unprecedented 33-per-cent Medicare premium hike (mostly occasioned by the Bush League approach to prescription drug “reform”) on a Social Security pension of $1000 per month. Assuming $1000 as the gross sum, after deduction of the 2004 Medicare Part B premium of $58.70, your net monthly stipend is $941. (The Social Security Administration rounds off all pensions to the next lowest dollar.) For 2005, a 2.7 cost-of-living increase will raise your gross pension to $1027. But the new Medicare premium, $78.20 per month, reduces your net to $948. In other words, in an inflationary economy (in which many economists predict runaway inflation in 2005), your pension has increased only $7 or .007 percent – which in terms of buying power is an insult: a net loss of nearly 3 percent on the very first day the changes are in effect.
This defacto pension reduction – to be radically worsened by the addition of the mandatory prescription-drug deductions in 2006 – will force an unknown number of Social Security recipients out of Medicare and into Medicaid, which is welfare, and which therefore includes all the attendant horrors of welfare. These ousted-from-Medicare folks will thus become lifelong prisoners of the welfare bureaucracy: prisoners in the brutally real sense that the bureaucracy will ever after vindictively control even the minutiae of their lives in a threatening, spiteful, infinitely tyrannizing manner that – for people who have not experienced its bottomless psychological devastation – is absolutely impossible to imagine. It is demoralizing enough for women. It is unspeakably awful – literally drive-people-to-suicide awful – for Caucasian males, who thanks to the welfare system’s dominant matrifascist ideology are the welfare bureaucrats’ favorite hate-objects.
Given these facts, I cannot but wonder if the Bush Administration’s malicious purpose here is to “save” Medicare by (once again) shafting low-income folks – in this instance forcing us off (federally funded) Medicare and onto (mostly state-funded) Medicaid. Far-fetched? My labor movement sources don’t think so. Neither do the (non-matrifascist) social services people I know. Neither do I.
This is an unspeakably bad time for America – certainly the worst years ever during my life-span and quite possibly the worst years in all of U.S. history. Just as John Kerry was the foreign-policy reincarnation of Neville Chamberlain – just as as President Bush’s re-election was essential to save the United States from a worse-than-Munich surrender to the tyrannies of Islam’s global caliphate – so is George Bush the domestic-policy reincarnation of Herbert Hoover: from the perspective of lower-income people, probably the cruelest president ever. Which Hoover-class cruelty Bush is already demonstrating aplenty: by his absurd, let-them-eat-cake belief the “marketplace” is capable of curing the raging local depressions caused by outsourcing of jobs from Cleveland, Milwaukee and other such places; by his implacable and brazenly asserted opposition to requiring employers of “guest workers” to pay at least minimum wage; by his unspoken but clear intent to use the downward wage-pressure of “guest workers” and amnestied illegal immigrants to impose on America’s working families a New Poverty that is without precedent in modern times; by his avowed intent to convert Social Security into a huge bonus for Wall Street just as he is already turning Medicare into the biggest-ever gift to the drug plutocracy. Once again, welcome to Enron Nation.
And this time, unlike 1929, there is no prospect of salvation whatsoever: no Red Army a continent away to scare the economic establishment into ameliorating its exploitative amorality and obscene greed, no Franklin Delano Roosevelt waiting in the wings with the political and socioeconomic reforms essential to save us from our darker instincts, literally no hope whatsoever of even one scintilla of economic betterment anywhere on the horizon – at least not any that I can see. For the Democratic Party has reduced itself to permanent irrelevance by its ideologies of the personal as political, and the Republican Party has reverted to its Hoover-era identity: the political-action arm of the American oligarchy. What we are facing is the advent of a New Serfdom – for working families, economic injury of a magnitude akin to that which followed the collapse of Rome.
I speak of low-income people in the first-person plural because I am low-income myself. I know of all the typical low-income struggles; I also know the unspeakable prison-like awfulness of welfare because I experienced it firsthand, early in my disability. All that saves me from the forced-onto-Medicaid nightmare I described above is the fact I am unbelievably fortunate in that I am able to supplement my pension by working part-time for a local special-interest advocacy publication. No mainstream newspaper or magazine will hire me, whether because of my political independence or my age or my medical history it matters not, and in any case (and despite my demonstrated experience and skill), I am the wrong gender and race to be considered even remotely desirable by today’s quota-mongering news-monopolists. If I were not able to supplement my pension by doing these bits and pieces of work, I would be facing exactly the same government-manufactured Medicare crisis so many other low-income Social Security pensioners will soon be facing – a crisis that accurately mirrors the neo-Herbert-Hoover approach to the governance of Enron Nation and prophesies far worse to come.
God willing, I will be able to work until I die. If not, advancing age will eventually nullify my working ability, and like so many before me, I will then finally be forced onto welfare. From that moment, the absolute loss of freedom will have reduced my life to something no longer worth preserving. Which is exactly what is going to happen to so many other men and women in the next few years – and the people who have the power to prevent it have already demonstrated they couldn’t care less.
Those of you who read this space regularly understand that I am neither a hot-tub radical nor a limousine liberal: my commitment to socioeconomic justice here at home is as real as my commitment to the survival of American liberty in the struggle against radical Islam. In both instances I have walked the walk as well as talked the talk. I care fiercely about my country, but I voted in the recent election knowing fully well that neither candidate – and neither party – gives a tinker’s damn about me or anyone else at my income level. The Kerrynoids are too lost in their own personal-as-political, better-dhimmitude-than-death, free-abortion-on-demand dementia to propose any meaningful economic reforms, and the Bush League was already scheming how to strip the working class of every advancement gained since the Great Depression brought the nation to the brink of revolution 70 years ago.
I voted for Bush because the choice was between a candidate who would surrender to the forces of tyranny versus a candidate who would battle those forces, however bunglingly, thereby at least presumably leaving us our own nation no matter how awful its socioeconomic policies – and therefore (or so I thought) at least implicitly providing the potential of some restoration of prosperity for those of us who are not part of the privileged classes – the business and/or political aristocracies.
But I voted wrong. The details of the new Medicare drug program combine with other recent news items about the administration’s economic policies to prove to me that by voting for George Bush, I voted for Herbert Hoover – for the economic ruination of America’s working families and for my own economic ruination as well. Would I then go back and vote for Kerry? Never; I could not in a thousand years vote for such an avowed appeaser and unilateral disarmer. If I had it to do over again, I would vote for neither candidate. Perhaps I would skip the presidential race entirely. Or perhaps I would cast my ballot for some third-party candidate to protest the major parties' worst-of-all-possible-choices slate of candidates. With that stipulation, I truly wish I could recall my vote. Never before have I had the sense of so stupidly voting against myself: deliberately voting against the foreign tyranny of Islam, I inadvertently (and thus moronically) voted for the domestic tyranny of the restoration of the Herbert Hoover ethos: its sweatshop economy and its subsidize-the-rich, rob-the-poor policies of governance. And I now join the millions who are reacting to this election by saying, “I am sorry.”Posted by Loren at December 7, 2004 10:54 PM