NEW YORK — Since 2001, under the guise of “reforms,” the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has adopted Bush’s undemocratic dogma of market fundamentalism — dysfunctional deregulation, privatization and corporate money games. Such dogma destroyed America’s financial systems, social safety net and manufacturing, and ushered in the Bush depression crisis of 2008.
By then, Bush-dictated “reforms” had also weakened Japan’s economy and society so severely that this country could not withstand the global repercussions of the Bush depression.
From 2001 to 2008, LDP-Bush reforms pushed Japan’s per capita GDP from fourth in the world to 20th. The mathematical skill of primary to high school students fell from first to 10th in the world. Their science literacy fell from second to the 6th in the world. The national language literacy fell from eighth to 15th in the world. Today, Japan’s suicide rate per 100,000 people is twice that of the U.S. Japan’s suicide rate among the elderly is the highest in the world.
Last fall, American voters chose President Barack Obama to end Bush regime’s tyranny. This awakened Japanese voters, who are now poised to replace the perennial LDP regime with one ruled by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the Aug. 30 general election, and to reset Japan’s relations with Washington. DPJ candidates’ sentiment against the LDP-Bush policies is resonating well with many Japanese voters.
In America as well, people’s economic and health care concerns are intertwined. For example, General Motors and Chrysler went bankrupt partly because of the cost of providing health insurance for their employees and retirees. Despite Michigan State’s plea for job-creating investments, Toyota has chosen Canada for its engine plant because the Canadian government’s universal health insurance keeps Toyota’s employees healthy and Toyota’s production costs competitive.
In America, Bush Republicans and insurance company lobbyists are touting the economic nonsense that the unfettered “market competition” of profit-seeking private insurance companies would solve the health care insecurity. America’s per capita health care spending exceeds $6,800 annually. This is about three times as much as Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and other democracies that have long embraced their government’s single-payer and universal health care insurance. This social safety net is not socialism, but democracy.
The World Health Organization rates America’s overall health care quality as 37th in the world, the worst of the OECD nations. The health insurance fiasco is damaging American health care. About 46 million working poor have no health insurance. They are overburdening the emergency rooms of public hospitals.
As the lingering Bush depression destroys jobs, laid-off workers lose their employer-based health benefits. Blessed are only those who are over 65 and who are members of Congress, covered respectively by the government’s single-payer Medicare program and the Congressional Plan.
Free-market competitive efficiency cannot be attained unless both suppliers and consumers possess near-perfect information about prices, costs and quality of products and services involved. Furthermore, private market efficiency requires both suppliers and consumers to be free to enter and exit the market. Both supply and demand of goods and services must also be flexible. Like education and national defense, health care does not fit the free-market model.
Left free to dominate the market, a few monopolistic firms emerge and abuse their power over markets. They do not compete with one another through lower prices, improved products and innovation. Instead, they tacitly collude with one another to raise their prices and debase their products. American health insurance companies are cherry-picking young, healthy and rich customers, and arbitrarily dropping some of those already insured because of pre-existing conditions or costly treatment.
Insurance companies are rationing their customers’ access to health care. While more and more Americans lost their health care insurance, major insurance companies saw their profits soar 400 percent in the Bush era. They are now spending hundreds of millions of dollars to campaign against Obama’s health care reforms. The worst of the Bush tyranny is emerging again to run America.
Republicans and health insurance companies are slandering Obama’s modest public-option plans as “socialism,” “Nazism” and “euthanasia for grandma.” Their brain-washed mobs are disrupting Democratic representatives’ town hall meetings on health care reform.
The public option injects meaningful competition in the health insurance market and curbs insurance companies’ abuses. Republicans are simply delaying and sabotaging Democrats’ health care reforms. If Obama falls for the Republican gambit, Japan and the rest of the world may question his ability to lead.
Yoshi Tsurumi is a professor of international business at Baruch College, the City University, in New York.
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