Tuesday, June 10, 2008

economic realities and the middle class

News accounts of late have noted two economic realities that are affecting ordinary life in the U.S. First, the rising cost of fuel. I overheard a radio piece that described the hardest hit region as the rural south, where many drive trucks and vans. My non-economist rationale for rising gas prices: one-part deregulated industry, and one part rising demand in two huge global populations, China and India. We can do something about the former, but we have no control over the latter.

Second, the rising cost of health coverage. Again, I overheard a television piece, based on research from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, reporting an increase in health insurance, since 2000, of 91% (salaries have increased, in the eight year period, 24%). The sharp increase in health insurance is leading large numbers of people to be either 1) uninsured or 1) underinsured. Underinsured people have access to health insurance, and pay their premiums, but often have limited access to health care because of high co-payments or high deductibles. Again, my non-economist rationale for the surge in health care cost: one-part insertion of other professional groups into the medical world (managers, attorneys, marketers), one-part rise in sedentary lifestyle, one-part increase in the human lifespan.

The question, of course, is where the breaking point lies in each of these areas. The tipping point will, at some point, move from fossil fuel to mass transportation, and from free market medicine to a national health plan. The primary value inherent in our current practices---namely freedom---the freedom to drive when and where one desires, or the freedom to choose one's physician, plan of therapy, etc., will, in time seem diminished alongside the slavery to economic forces that threaten other basic human needs, such as food, or education, or shelter.

Our massive investment in the war over the last few years has given us a slim margin with which to respond to these developments, and the influence of oil company and pharmaceutical lobbies have prohibited our political leaders from searching for creative solutions. And yet these two economic realities, which shape the lives of most of our citizens, are positioning themselves as a perfect storm.

For sources, read here
and here.


Post a Comment

<< Home