Politics | Housing | Healthcare

Unbridled Capitalism’s Consistent and Colossal Failures Have Me Feeling Burnt Out

This is not the efficiency and innovation we’re told it is

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

I’m ultra-frustrated with neoliberal, unbridled capitalism lately. And I’m not frustrated because I’m ideologically driven to hate capitalism or because I believe in a political dogma that stands diametrically opposed to capitalism and thinks it must be destroyed. For this reason, I’ll avoid using the word for the rest of this story and will just talk about real issues that real people face, whatever you want to call it.

What’s driving me the utmost crazy is the fact that, as time goes on, all of the important things become less efficient. My gripe is mostly that our economic system fails the hardest at the very things its proponents say it’s the best at — like assuring that supply meets demand and being innovative.

But before you reach for your keyboard to type out a comment about how I published this on my iMac while listening to Spotify on my Alexa Echo Plus, hear me out a bit. The American system is very, very good at bringing us endless distractions and conveniences that are highly profitable to the creators of those things, but how well are we doing at mounting a national response to a virus that’s basically an extremely deadly cold? We’re failing miserably. And it’s not just the only area of innovation we’re doing poorly in…

We can’t combat the pandemic because we don’t have the production capabilities to make plastic and cloth masks on a national scale, thus costing us precious time at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now we’re approaching 275,000 casualties from the global pandemic at the time of this writing with no signs of things slowing down. Actually, death seems to be gearing up for a brutal winter.

And what about housing? That’s a pretty important thing to have, right? I mean, if there’s any economic area where you want to be maximally efficient at your supply meeting your demand, housing is one of those areas, right?

Yes, but if you live in California, there just aren’t enough houses to go around. There simply aren’t enough houses for the number of people who live there and they can’t build them fast enough. The state is 3.5 million short, by some estimates and a game of hot potato has developed over who will pay for the investment into building the new structures needed.

Now some of you are probably thinking, “Silly Californias, just move to a cheaper area with a better housing market! You’re in a Liberal state, that’s why!”

Fair enough.

But here in Florida (where I live now as a California native and Florida transplant), we have a similar problem that’s a horse of a different color. That color is red as we clearly went for Trump in this last election and the “blue wave” 2018 midterm, yet, we too are struggling with a housing shortage. Ours is a bit more nuanced and it has to do with our state’s insistence on keeping wages low for employer profitability…

Here, if you made $41,600 per year, you’d still be rent-burdened, meaning over 30% of your income would be going to rent. Meanwhile, our median income is only $36,000. This means that our state’s middle-class will literally always be rent-burdened because the housing is too high for the pay we can expect from a job. And don’t even get me started no how cutthroat it is for the poor.

This problem has arisen because Florida has been building homes for the high-income earners it plans to attract and not paying any mind to the people who already live here. Part of the blame falls on private developers but always for the same reason: it’s more profitable to build high-income housing than middle-class or low-income housing.

In the nearest big city to me, Orlando, Florida, there are a dismal 13 available homes for every 100 families earning the median income and below, making Orlando the worst housing market in the United States. Meanwhile, they’re building more and more houses for the wealthy people who don’t even live here yet and are ignoring the homelessness crises that has grown to epic proportions.

Our scattershot housing development and markets being able to meet demand are all in disarray. Because of our insistence on placing profit before efficiency, efficiency has taken a massive backseat and I can’t even drive anywhere in the Central Florida area without seeing massive developments that are unoccupied, waiting for the tenants to move to the area who have the income to afford them.

We don’t even much have a national space program, anymore, that’s now been taken over by private industries that can pack up and leave whenever they want. So much for America being innovative. Elon Musk is free to leave and take his billions with him whenever he wants.

As America fades into a mere decayed shadow of its former innovative glory, complacent, entitled Americans are holding onto the illusion of superiority that’s been sold to them, even if it’s a lie.

But honestly, none of this has directly affected me yet. I make much more than the median income here in the area, I’m not housing insecure, our loss of a space program hasn’t yet made us totally vulnerable to other, bigger nations who might not have our best interests at heart, and I haven’t caught COVID.

None of this has affected me directly.

But, I’ve saved the best for last…

I’ve never had health insurance and I won’t until it makes economic sense to do so. Obamacare patched up a very broken system and helped many people but, sadly, millions more fell through the cracks. It’s almost like when something’s a human need, the market’s incentive to profiteer above all else makes a horrible motive for people to do things. If Obamacare helped you to get better healthcare, hey, I’m happy for you. Sincerely. But the rest of us got screwed.

I don’t have healthcare and I don’t pay taxes. The former causes the latter. There’s a fee attached to all my years of not having healthcare, healthcare which is more of a financial obligation than a product that will serve me well. It’s basically the endless hangover I can’t get rid of. I’m not going to pay thousands of dollars because I refuse to pay thousands of dollars for a product that will do nothing for me.

Call me Thoreau, throw me in jail, whatever you’d like, I’m not paying and I’m not buying insurance.

Allow me to explain…

The bare-bottom, minimum bronze plans for me cost about $300 per month, minimum. I see a doctor monthly, I receive generic prescription drugs, nothing too serious, but they cost me $199 for the visit and another $100+ (depending on the day and the coupon) for the prescriptions. Now, say I sign up to pay for that $300 a month, or maybe one of the $600-$1000 a month gold plans, you’d assume they’d pay for those doctor’s visits, right? Well, you’d be wrong. All of the plans available to me only pay for doctors that are in-network.

They *would* cover my prescription drugs if I was on a lower dose. But they only cover half of the dose possibilities, meaning that I’m left out to dry. Since my doctor’s visits are done through an app during the pandemic, those too aren’t covered. I’d have to give that up because our antiquated system doesn’t cover that.

And suppose I did decide to drop the app, drop my doc, and go in and see someone in person so I could utilize this insurance, I’d have to reach $7,300 total for the year before they paid for any of it. Then, they’d only pay 30% of the $199 and effectively none of the prescription costs. And that’s only if my doctor was “in-network” and if she wasn’t, they pay nothing at all even after I cross the deductible.

Which is impossible to do. $199 per month x 12 months = $2,388. I’d never hit the $7,300 deductible even with monthly visits to a specialist, supposing she’s “in-network” and they’d never pay the 30%.

This is far from efficient or innovative. I’m tempted to call it a scam. Yeah, on second thought, it’s a scam.

But, wait, there is some good news — -for the $306.29 per month plan, I get all the child dental I need, even though I’m an adult and it’s an individual plan for one, single adult, and, not having any children on an adult individual plan makes this completely irrelevant.

At this point, you might be thinking, “Yeah, but if you need major stuff, if you get into a car accident and have to be rushed to the hospital, your E.R. is covered, it says so right there.”

Hold up…

That’s true, but the fine print (I read their PDFs) explains that the hospital and the doctors in the hospital each need to be “in-network” also. This means if I end up in a head-on collision and am rushed to the hospital, being unconscious and not having my choice of hospital, I might end up at an out-of-network hospital, treated by out-of-network doctors and they won’t pay for my treatment or care at all.

It’ll all fall back onto me and I’ll be stuck holding the bag, having paid for an astonishing monthly premium that didn’t pay for my healthcare when I needed it most.

You see, I’ll gladly part with my hard-earned dollars and even pay the gold premiums, but only if it covers all my needs. I’m fortunate enough to make more than double the median income on a bad year like 2020.

But, as of now, no such plan exists and that’s by design. The whole point is to get you to pay without ever having to pay for your care. Dare I call that a scam?

If you’re outside of the United States, I’m sure your head is spinning by now.

This isn’t even scratching the surface of the big, looming threats on the horizon. Climate change is real and it’s made that California housing crisis worse, and, as Californians leave for new states, will affect the rest of us and our housing. Not to mention the horror of watching the Pacific Northwest go up in smoke, something that nihilistic Trump supporters are jumping for joy over as the war on the environment, especially in California, was part of Trump’s plan all along.

We have an urgent need for new antibiotic drugs and several billion-dollar-per-year pharmaceutical companies sitting side-by-side, but no drugs are being produced because the targeted antibiotics we’re going to need aren’t as profitable as other drugs. Meanwhile, we have an oncoming crisis of antibiotic resistance that’s about to preventably kill more people every year than cancer within the coming decades.

But antibiotics aren’t profitable and thus people will die by the millions (billions?)…

Our system flatly fails if it can’t innovate desperately-needed drugs otherwise, it can’t even make cloth masks or test swabs, and it can’t treat the sick or give the already existing houses to those who need them (and even have money to pay). It can’t innovate because innovation itself isn’t profitable. It’s more profitable to feign innovation and come up with a new scam, legal or not, than it is to truly invest in innovating new technologies. Thus, we get another smartphone every year or two, slightly different from the last, but nothing really groundbreaking, while people are dying to the tune of hundreds of thousands.

…and I am exhausted…

Honestly, I’m just burnt out. I don’t hate billionaires, I don’t hate success, I don’t hate technology, I don’t hate rich people. I just want the products I buy and the services I pay for to do what they’re claiming they’re supposed to do. I just want things to actually work. I want the innovation I’m promised, not the illusions of superiority that we share as a culture. I want products to make my life better, not to try and ensnare me in a financial trap at every turn.

I want to live in a society where things aren’t made intentionally complicated and intentionally inefficient in order to suck as much money from the consumer at every turn as possible. Because that’s the antithesis of efficiency and innovation.

But alas, I live in America.

From Los Angeles, California. Life isn’t a series of many moments, but one moment that is always changing. Buy me coffee here: https://ko-fi.com/joeduncan

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