« Some Pertinent Questions about Cognition and Belief (Personal) | Main | Neuroscience, Cognition and Extinction »

May 23, 2008

I’m No Economist, But.. (Personal)

Like most others who have been reading newspapers and magazines for more than a few decades, I’ve followed economic news on an as-needed basis. Because the BA I earned as a pre-med hadn’t required Economics 101 and I had little interest to begin with, I gratefully avoided it;  all of which makes it very improbable that I may be among the first to notice major changes that seem to be overtaking the American economy.

Actually; I think critical contributing changes have been discernible for decades, but because they were obscured by our usual focus on competition and the accumulation of material wealth, their connections to each other haven't always been noticed; much like other phenomena I’ve been blogging about. Similarly, they only came to my attention through a series of unexpected (some would even say off-the-wall) insights.

Important Background
Human cognition is inevitably biased and contentious; a fact that becomes very obvious when one examines the role ideology has always played, and still plays, in the shaping of History. It also helps to realize that religious belief is the most prevalent form of ideology and that “godless” sectarian doctrines (Nazism or Communism, for example) are completely interchangeable with those of any “organized” religion.

Also, whatever we humans may think privately, there is overwhelming historical evidence that those responsible  for repressions as inhumane as the Spanish Inquisition, American chattel slavery, or the Nazi Holocaust have all claimed that their actions, like the current  suspension of the Constitution on behalf of our War on Terror, are necessary for some greater good.

That such arguments can be effective over a protracted interval in a nation claiming to be the bastion of Democracy is evidenced by the four-fold increase in our prisoner population in the slightly less than four decades since a drug war became American national policy.

A Different Perspective on Medical Economics
Among several things I gradually (and irregularly) became aware of as a surgeon entering private practice in 1971 after thirteen years in the Army were how changes attributable to three discrete developments had drastically altered the practice of Medicine. One was how the miniaturization and electronic research required by the Space Program had accelerated development of pacemakers, hemodialysis, and other expensive technical advances that also prolonged the lives of the elderly and indigent patients just being covered by Medicare. Thus had legislation bitterly opposed by the AMA in 1965 created a bonanza that would allow a burgeoning Healthcare Industry to displace physicians from their traditional leadership roles and empower Medical Insurance Companies, Big Pharma and the multiple other components of an emerging Medical Industrial Complex to negotiate directly with the Federal Government over how the new “benefits” would be provided. The first to be gradually reduced or eliminated were the erstwhile “charity” cases covered by Medicare,  but since then, other recipients have been gradually shut out by the series of cuts now forcing over forty million Americans, including many
gainfully employed workers or their family members, to go without any medical coverage.

A third major influence on Medical Care was fighting the Viet Nam War under a “guns and butter” policy by Presidents Johnson and Nixon between 1965 and 1973. The (slow-to-emerge) cost of that inattention was the stagflation of the Seventies, compounded by two OPEC oil shocks, the second of which was exacerbated further when the Shah abdicated and the Middle Eastern policy that had cast him in the role of Persian Gulf  policeman suddenly unraveled.

A Different Perspective on Oil
Although debate over global climate change has made us very aware of the importance of petroleum to the global economy, we may have not been paying enough attention to certain critical nuances; particularly since 9/11. One is that among the first two industries hit by it were the very Airline Industry used to deliver the attack, along with the Global Petroleum Industry progressively roiled by a War on Terror allegedly waged to avenge it.

Even more recently, there has been mounting evidence from a variety of sources that America’s Airline Industry may have already been forced into the same economic strait jacket as its Medical Care Industry: that of  having its services placed beyond the reach of a majority of citizens. How else does one interpret skyrocketing airfares, an onerous variety of new surcharges for luggage, seating space, food and other basics, coupled with an aging inventory parked in the desert because it’s too expensive to replace; even as our smaller cities contemplate total loss all airline service?

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 23, 2008 02:19 AM