James Howard Kunstler -- World News Trust
March 3, 2017
President Trump garnered props from many quarters for not acting like a crazy person when he delivered his address to Congress, but one part of the proceedings sure made my skin crawl: the two minutes of applause for Carryn Owens, widow of William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL recently killed in action in Yemen.
This culture is so screwed up that we have lost all sense of appropriate behavior and decorum. A situation like that customarily calls for a minute of silence, not a round of applause. Don’t we know that? This is not an award ceremony? Being widowed in such a way is a grave life event, not an accomplishment. Not only have we allowed ourselves to be carried away by emotion, but we don’t even know which emotion to attach to which event anymore. And the one appropriate behavior we seem incapable of is silent solemnity — not surprising in a society beset by the noise of incessant messaging.
Of course the politicos assembled were following the cue of President Trump who clapped the loudest — and right into the podium microphone, too — and wouldn’t let up, until everybody in the chamber appeared to be hostage to his idiotic cheerleading, all in all an interesting demonstration of the madness of crowds.
Speaking of comportment and messaging, what was with those Democratic congresswomen all gotten up in white costumes? The Los Angeles Times ventured that the this was the emblematic color for suffragettes back in the day. Maybe the congresswomen haven’t heard, but that battle is over. Many women actually voted in the recent election, some even for these female office-holders. The same paper also suggested they might be emulating the sacred white pants-suit that their fallen heroine, Hillary, wore for the occasion of her demi-apotheosis at the convention last summer. Isn’t dressing alike something generally reserved for junior high school or KKK rallies?
A few other notes on the substantive particulars of the SOTU evening:
The ObamaCare quandary. A fiasco for sure. Under it, not uncommonly, a family pays $12,000-a-year for a policy that carries a $5,000 deductible. That’s an interesting number in a land were most people don’t even have enough ready cash for routine car repairs. The cruel and idiotic injustice of such a set-up could only happen in a society that has normalized pervasive lying, universal accounting fraud, and corporate racketeering. I personally doubt the existing health care system can be reformed. Anyway, we’re starting in the wrong place with it.
The part that nobody talks about is the psychopathic pricing system that drives medicine. The average cost for a normal (non-surgical) hospital childbirth in America these days is $10,000. WTF? An appendectomy: between $9,000 and $20,000 depending on where. WTF? These days, a hip replacement runs about $38,000. Of course, you will never find out what a treatment or procedure costs before-the-fact. They simply won’t tell you. They’ll say something utterly ridiculous like, “we just don’t know.”
You’ll find out when the bills roll in. Last time I had a hip replacement, I received a single line-item hospital charge report from the insurance company that said: “Room and board, 36 hours… $23,000.” Say what? This was apart from the surgeon’s bill and the cost of the metal implant, just for occupying a bed for a day and a half pending discharge. They didn’t do a damn thing besides take my blood pressure and temperature a dozen times, and give me a few hydrocodone pills.
The ugly truth, readers, is that medicine in the USA is a hostage racket. They have you in a tight spot at a weak moment and they extract maximum payment to allow you to get on with your life, with no meaningful correlation to services rendered — just whatever they could get. Until these racketeers are compelled under law to post their prices openly and transparently, no amount of tweaking the role of insurers or government policy will make any difference. Note, too, that there is a direct connection between the outrageous salaries of hospital executives and their non-transparent, dishonest, and extortionist pricing machinations. The pharma industry is, of course, a subsidiary racket and needs to be subject to the kind of treatment the Department of Justice used to dispense to the likes of the Teamsters Union.
The healthcare system probably will not be reformed, but rather will collapse, and when it does, it will reorganize itself in a way that barely resembles current practice. For one thing, citizens will have to gain control over their own disastrous behavior, especially their eating, or else suffer the consequences, namely an early death. Second, the hospital system must be decentralized so that localities are once again served by small hospitals and clinics. The current system represents a mergers-and-acquisitions orgy that went berserk the past quarter century. The resulting administrative over-burden at every medical practice in the land is a perfectly designed fraud machine for enabling rackets. Preliminary verdict: congress will get nowhere in 2017 trying to fix this mess. Some things are too big to fail; some are too broken to fix. The coming debacle in finance, markets, and currencies will speed its demise.
Boos and catcalls rose from the Democratic side of the house chamber when Trump brought up the issue of immigration. Taking a position against the rule-of-law is an argument that the Democratic Party is not likely to win. It seems a cynical ploy to pander to a burgeoning Hispanic voter base, combined with a sentimental crypto-religious belief that any effort to regulate immigration is un-American. In any case, they act like people who are unable to think clearly. Trump can to some degree act independently of congress on the enforcement side of existing law, and apparently he intends to do that. Can his opponents find a position on the issue that is not cynical, sentimental, or hysterical? If not, it may be another factor in the death of the Democratic party.
Trump appears eager to continue the idiotic war on drugs that has the effect of making that traffic into an even more deadly and destructive criminal racket. It has already turned millions of small-timers into felon pariahs who can’t find any other employment when they get out of jail even if they want to try. The growing disparity between state and federal law on marijuana, for one thing, is a dangerous legal contradiction that could lead to other failures of federalism. Sanctuary cities is another one. Before long, federal law becomes meaningless and, voila, so does the United States of America. We better get our heads straight on this.
I also cringed when Trump trumpeted the supernatural rise in the stock markets since his election. Looks like a dangerous blow-off topping event to me, the ugly climax to the era of anything-goes-and-nothing-matters. Apparently, he’s unacquainted with the history of stock markets and their tell-tale behaviors. Beyond the markets, grave problems with currencies and banks await an epochal readjustment in the value and price of everything. The event could easily shut down the global banking system for a period of time, and it’s liable to be an interruption that advanced economies can’t recover from — but only re-start at a much lower level of activity and complexity than what we’re used to. Nobody can calculate the cost of that disorder and Trump is cruising into that implacable wall of woe at ramming speed. I don’t think he’ll survive it in office.