Monday, December 17, 2012

Fixing What is Broken

In a weekend filled with grief and horror, questions arose. When did weapons made for warfare become a consumer item? As someone who grew up in a "gun culture," where a 30.06 meant food on the table and I learned to handle a 22 by the time I was ten, I have a respect for rifles and people who know how to use them properly. That respect doesn't extend to hand guns and automatic and semi-automatic weapons; the only reason why they have become part of our social fabric is money, big money. These firearms don't come cheap--somebody is profiting heavily from their sales, and the almost 95,000 people who have been shot by guns this year are paying the price.

It isn't yet 10 am PST as I write this and 144 people have already been shot by guns today. By the time I finish writing this post, that figure will have increased. It is found at and it's a figure that should be reported over the radio and television news just the same way as the Dow Industrial Average is. It is an indicator of who we are and what we are letting ourselves become.

In my mediocre local paper was another horrible statistic. 45 million Americans use Medicare, and the costs of that program are sinking the national budget, even before the full wave of Baby Boomers have hit the system. The reason? Escalating health care costs, especially the cost of prescription drugs, in what has become a medical industry..

I have no health insurance. I haven't for over twenty years. The last time I went for a physical examination, it took almost two hours, what with the Pap smear and the litany of questions about my personal life that the doctor was required by law to ask ("Are you in danger of physical abuse in your home?"). Fortunately I'm rarely ill.

The last time I was truly sick, I lived in Bangkok. A virus had settled in my chest and my temperature refused to go back to normal. I lurched down to a neighborhood clinic where I was given a shot of an antibiotic, more antibiotics in pills, and something to help me sleep. Total cost? Right around twelve dollars for everything--and the doctor provided the pills--I had no need to totter on to a pharmacy. Done.

This is the medical care of my childhood. It is no longer what we receive in the U.S. Our healthcare involves high priced drugs that pharmaceutical companies persuade physicians to prescribe and high-tech machines that may or may not be useful. (See my earlier post about the baby who contradicted the fetal monitoring equipment.) Once again, big money, high profits, and we're the ones to get a kick in the teeth.

Pharmaceutical companies battle against generic drugs, and cheaper pricing for third-world countries. Doctors charge over $100 for an office visit. This is madness.

Six-year-old children were cut down in a school by semi-automatic gunfire; the killer was someone who needed psychiatric care and didn't receive it. This is madness.

And the insanity is related by profits. No matter what the NRA and the AMA assert, it's time for regulation, price controls, and a full measure of sanity. Let's work on this.

(And by the way, that figure of how many people have been shot today? It's now at 151. It's 10:30 am in Seattle.)

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