On his new show at The Real News, Chris Hedges recently spoke with Cornel West on the state of America. It’s not easy listening, nor should it be. Brother Chris and Brother Cornel didn’t mince words as they deplored the commodification of American life, the militarism of American society, and the imperialism of the U.S. empire. Here’s the link to their interview:
I jotted down key phrases as I listened to both men. Phrases like spiritual decadence, bootlickers for war, mass incarceration, self-glorification and self-indulgence, the Neo-fascism of Trump followers versus the Neo-liberalism of Democrats, and that the American empire has no moral authority, given its “vicious atrocities” in Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere.
Brother Cornel was especially strong on the seductive dangers of nationalism, the grotesque wealth inequality here at home, and a U.S. political system deeply compromised by legalized bribery and normalized corruption. Reality is defined by a corporatized state in which profit maximization is pursued at any cost, including impending ecological catastrophe, where education is reduced to indoctrination, vocations are reduced to professions, and callings reduced to careers.
Sure, it’s grim stuff, but the truth is often grim. Nor are these two men irredeemably grim. Both spoke of the need to be faithful unto death, to resist the paralysis that comes from despair. Both are fighters and truth-tellers; both are men of faith and men of action; both are humanistic. And both are most assuredly worth listening to.
Brother Cornel’s message is ultimately one of love. Of joy-sharing. Of thinking for yourself. Of becoming a force for good and beauty and justice in the world. Of empowering others through an expansive and inclusive humanism. His is the perfect message for this Easter season, a season of rebirth and hope, of salvation through sacrifice and love.
The comedian and activist Jimmy Dore has inspired a movement for a vote in the House on Medicare for All early in January 2021. (Here’s Jimmy Dore talking to Cornel West on this issue.) Go to forcethevote.org and sign the petition to put pressure on Progressive Democrats to withhold their vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker unless she brings Medicare for All (M4A) to the floor of the House for a vote. If not now, during a global pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 Americans and caused nearly 15 million Americans to lose their employer-based health insurance, when are we going to consider M4A?
I rarely sign petitions. But my wife and I instantly signed this one. Americans supposedly live in the richest country in the world, yet we allegedly can’t afford to fund health care for everyone. It’s absurd. Not only that, it’s a crime against our common humanity. Which of you, if a friend or even a stranger came to you sick and asking for help, would seek to profit off this? Which of you, if a friend or even a stranger came to you seeking a diagnostic test to see if that lump was possibly cancerous, would seek to deny such a test as “not needed” or “not covered”?
It’s obscene that America’s health care system is based on the profit motive and the exploitation of the sick and dying. That it drives families into bankruptcy. That people sometimes die because they’re afraid to go to a doctor or the emergency room because it will cost too much.
Progressives say they want Medicare for All. A majority of registered Republicans and nearly 90% of registered Democrats say they want M4A. Why can’t Nancy Pelosi hold a vote on it? She claims to represent the people. That she even “feeds” them. Why isn’t she working to give the American people health care during a deadly pandemic that may cost as many as 600,000 Americans their lives? Is it because she doesn’t really represent us?
It’s not just about holding a “performative” vote on M4A. It’s about forcing the hand of Congress and seeing who the phonies are. Who wants to deny Americans M4A at this awful time? I’d like to know. I’m sure all Americans would like to know. And if Joe Biden is willing to veto M4A, as he’s said he will, I’d like to see that veto and his rationale for denying Americans the health care they so desperately need.
Again, if not now, when? If Progressives aren’t willing to force a vote on M4A during a deadly pandemic, when there’s deep suffering in America, when will they be willing to act?
We need to force them to act. Sign the petition, call your Member of Congress, and spread the word.
Update (12/26/20): In the comments section below, JPA made a strong argument for institutionalized corruption within America’s privatized medical system. With his permission, I’ve added his comment here so that more people will see it:
When people lump “doctors” into a homogeneous group that is a mistake because “doctors” are no more homogeneous than “cops” or “blacks” or “gays”. Most doctors want to deliver good patient care. Most of these hate the [American medical for-profit] system. However, a significant minority of doctors is quite happy with the current system and oppresses doctors who speak out against it. I work with a lot of healthcare professionals who are driven to depression or suicidal despair because they are trapped in a system which abuses them and their patients.
It is very likely that the tests ordered by the doctors who treated Maine’s brother were mandated to do so by the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR). EHR’s are mandated by law in large healthcare organizations ostensibly to improve patient care. In reality these make patient care more difficult and their real purpose is to run algorithms to determine the way to maximize the billed charges.
Doctors who work in hospitals are employees who are pressured to admit patients, do procedures, and run tests. If they don’t they can be fired, and their contracts usually contain non-compete clauses that prohibit them from working in the area. When someone has a family, and large student loan payments, then one is at the mercy of the employer. Very few people have the courage to stand up to that kind of pressure. Those who do often risk bankruptcy or divorce when the spouse realizes that they are not going to have the lifestyle they planned upon.
Or the hospital labels the physician as “disruptive” and other physicians who act as stooges for the hospital fabricate complaints that get the “disruptive” physician in trouble with their state medical board.
Here are the main things I hear from healthcare providers:
It is not possible to practice good medicine in the current environment
The pressure to meet corporate demands for revenue generation is contrary to good medical practice
Clinical guidelines are set by people/organizations with conflicts of interest
Upcoding, excessive testing, unnecessary procedures/screening/testing are expected and demanded
For-profit medicine does not work
Individual corruption occurs when a person behaves unethically. That is not the problem in American medicine. The problem in American medicine is institutional corruption.
1) Institutional corruption occurs when the laws, policies, and guidelines of a system are structured to enforce a set of values that is antithetical to the values the system is ethically obligated to express and uphold.
2) Health care professionals are obligated to place a higher value on patient care than on making profit.
3) The laws, policies, and guidelines of the American healthcare system are set up to prioritize making profit over providing patient care.
4) From 1, 2, and 3 above, the American medical system is institutionally corrupt.
This system is supported and maintained by a corrupt system of government. For further reading on this I recommend On Corruption in America by Sarah Cheyes.