Published on
the Portland Press Herald (Maine)

Final Piece in Our Economic Collapse

Letting the health care market segment wither by lack of public support will do no one any good.

John Rockefeller

Having campaigned on a broadly sketched platform of hope for those on the fringes of economic and physical viability, President Obama is watching the ticker line expand to the point where half of the U.S. population considers itself either underemployed or underserved.

An expanding percentage of this group -- 43.6 million by the Centers for Disease Control's 2006 pre-recession count -- are without health care.

This number has certainly burgeoned well beyond the 50 million mark given the fresh round of layoffs, financial failures and re-budgeting by the recently unemployed.

My concern, and the concern of many, surrounds the disappearance of Obama's commitment to health care provision for the uninsured and underserved members of our population.

We are about to ignore our single functional economic engine -- that of the health care sector -- by prioritizing long-dead sectors of finance and auto manufacturing.


If we fail to rescue health care and public health itself as we move forward, we will be entering a fiscal trough that may take decades to rebuild.

Now would be the perfect time to pick the sector with most viability to fuel our recovery. Later will be far too late.

As we pour countless, and lightly accounted for, billions into bailouts and tax cuts for those having sufficient income to avail themselves of such stimulus measures, we are leaving an ever larger proportion of our country behind, and in the most dire state of need.

Health has been largely commoditized and subjected to profit-focused market efficiencies for the past quarter century, leaving more and more Americans behind in the eternal rush to the margin.

As this process unfolded, and despite the loss of millions on the health care coverage rolls, there were ample dollars to ensure the profitability of health as a commodity.

This will not be the case moving into the near and distant future. Health care is, like so much else, heading into its own meltdown, and it will make the financial collapse of 2008 look like a mere blip on the Bloomberg screen.

With the U.S. economy claiming more and more members of the middle class for transition toward the poverty line, we are about to enter a period in our history defined by a statistical majority in the U.S. population having little or no access to health care - at a time when health care is acting as one of the few profit-making sectors in our economy.

With a spiking unemployment rate in the health care sector and a dilapidated pharmaceutical industry that continues its merger mentality to control costs no longer borne by a viable financial sector, we are heading into an uncharted abyss of social disaster.


The only way to stem the tide on this decline -- and its accompanying fiscal and public health consequences -- is to fund health care as the fiscal engine it has recently become amidst the financial sector collapse.

Had the health care sector been given half of the recent financial and auto manufacturing bailout funding, we would have been able to expand and extend health care coverage.

We would thereby be capturing the remaining stability of this sector as an engine of economic and public health recovery.

It surprises me that the economists and health care consultants working in the Obama administration have not taken this opportunity to the bank.

They could have made a difference by diverting meaningless cash dumps from non-functional industries into the single most viable and necessary industry in the country.

I am sad to say that the crash of the health care economy will be heard in a very different way than the crashes that recently preceded it.

It will take our final breath economically, and literally with the disappearance of greatly diminished health care services to all economic classes in the United States.

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John Rockefeller of Camden is CEO of a management consulting firm, Zero Consult Ltd., based in Boston.

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