1) “Even the war on avian flu has some juice in it. One of the main beneficiaries of federal spending is none other than a firm in which Donald Rumsfeld has millions of dollars worth of shares, Gilead, the company with the rights to market the anti-flu drug, Tamiflu. The Pentagon ordered $58 million worth of the stuff. How lucky for him.”

2) Even the swindles are phony. American backs are to the wall, we are told. They can cut out the gadgets from Asia to reduce their living expenses, but the big expenses don’t come from Asia. The big ones are rising fast: health care, education and housing. Nothing can be done about them, right?

Wrong. Take health care, for example. It is said to be retirees’ biggest concern. Health care costs are soaring. People spend hundreds of dollars each month on health care insurance. Can’t do without it, right?

We don’t know, but we’re beginning to wonder. Maybe you’re better off not worrying about it.

We have on our desk a report from a group of doctors. They point out that health care may not be as effective or as safe as it is supposed to be. It may be a bit of a scam, in other words. Which is very good news to us; it means we don’t really need so much of it.

Who do you think is most likely to put you in the grave prematurely? A terrorist? A doctor? According to the estimates in this report, you’re about 10,000 times more likely to be done to death by a licensed medical professional than by a guy with a bomb on his chest. There are a number of different estimates:

  • About 2.2 million people each year have adverse in-hospital drug reactions
  • About 20 million doses of antibiotics prescribed for viral infections, against which they are useless
  • The number of medical and surgical procedures judged to be unnecessary is estimated at 7.5 million per year
  • About 8.9 million people go to the hospital unnecessarily
  • The number of people who die as a result of medical intervention is probably about a million a year

“Death by Medicine” is the name of the report. It tells us what we always suspected: a large part of what your “health care” expenses actually pay for is quackery. Much of the rest is merely ineffective.

We’re not a doctor; we do not even pretend to be one on television. But, we know a good swindle when we see one. Modern medicine, like modern education, is probably one part useful, one part wishful, and one part scamola.

Why shouldn’t it be? Is not the health care industry like every other institution, society, organization or business that ever was? Isn’t it entitled to degenerate, to degrade, to get invaded by hustlers, to be subverted by special interests and suborned by special agendas, to be infested with parasites and incompetents” Why should health care be different from the Pentagon or the Teamsters Union?

And at this point, we brace ourselves for the onslaught of health professionals and insurance salesmen who will flood our mail here at The Daily Reckoning with the redundant information about how we don’t know what we’re talking about. Tell us something we don’t know!

We have no doubt that health care has its share of angels of mercy and geniuses of scientific enlightenment. No doubt, there are lucky patients ministered to by Florence Nightingales and Clara Bartons, and honest Louis Pasteurs and Thomas Flemings coming up with new cures and treatments. Nor do we doubt that we will be glad they are there when we need them. [You bet he will be glad when he needs us! CLW]

But, how much health care really pays off? Over the long run, none of us are good insurance risks. The final chapter of our little dramas was written long ago; it is not subject to emendation by the health care industry. We are all doomed; the best we can hope to do is to meet our fate with dignity and good humor.

No one doubts that health care can be useful from time to time. So can calories, universities, politicians, and televisions. On the evidence, Americans might now be better off with less of all of them.

To learn more or subscribe (free subscription): http://www.dailyreckoning.com

A confidential article for Members
From THE BRIDGE Newsletter of OIRF
Published April 15, 2006

© Copyright 2006, Bill Bonner, The Daily Reckoning

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