Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Humans and the ecosystems of which they are a part are volatile and not always predictable. (Photo: Screenshot)

Humans and the ecosystems of which they are a part are volatile and not always predictable. (Photo: Screenshot) 

Corporate Media Ignores How Privatization of US Hospitals Explains Lack of Beds, Ventilators

The politics of healthcare and Covid19 provide ample reasons for anger—toward corporate healthcare and the corporate media so oblivious to their exploitation.

John Buell

 by Informed Comment

The escalating total Covid 19 deaths in New York City and the frantic quest to obtain life saving medical gear has rightly captured media attention. New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s impassioned plea for more federal assistance and a need-based system for allocating aid among the states was covered by CNN and other major corporate media. Nonetheless, they omitted the backstory, the grave decline in NYC hospital capacity over the last two decades, continued and endorsed by leadership of both political parties.

Though much attention was focused on how short of ventilators, masks, and beds the hospitals were there was almost no attention to how the city fell ino this crisis. It was as though only the virus was to blame. Over many years now Medicaid and healthcare activists have made hospital closures an intensely contested issue. In the last two decades NYC hospital beds have gone from 73,000 to 53,000. Democracy Now co-host Juan Gonzales and guest Sean Petty, an emergency room nurse in the Bronx, point to the role that a market mentality creeping into private and even many nonprofit hospitals has played in this decline. “During the years Cuomo has been in office, the number of beds available per patient in the United States in many states has declined dramatically, mostly because hospital managers see empty beds as not money-making, so they want to reduce the number of empty beds as much as possible, so they staff fewer and fewer beds.” Beds in short are subject to the same just in time principles that govern any other supply chain in the modern market economy. Applying just in time metrics to all key resources purportedly maximizes efficiency.

Efficiency, however, is a concept that deserves more critical scrutiny. Writing in the Atlantic Helen Lewis argued: “The tech sector’s overarching philosophy remains bent towards treating the human brain and body like a machine that can be tweaked and perfected until it is running at peak efficiency,” the journalist Lux Alptraum wrote for Quartz in 2017. This is, however, a fundamentally inhuman philosophy. People aren’t machines. We are inherently inefficient, with our elderly parents and sick children, our mental-health problems, our chronic diseases, and our need to sleep and eat. And, as the past few months have demonstrated, our susceptibility to novel viruses.…

Humans and the ecosystems of which they are a part are volatile and not always predictable. The decision to forego back- up systems and ample inventories is analogous to a homeowner’s choosing not to insure his/her house because a fire is unlikely and insurance premiums consume after- tax income. Fortunately most homeowners don’t or are not allowed to think that way. In the public arena, however, things are different.

Governor Cuomo has been generally supportive of the neoliberal development model that includes tax cuts for business and fiscal austerity for the public sector to fund those cuts. He shares the centrist faith in markets as perfect information processing systems and strives to remove the public from active participation in such decisions. When the state budget mandated multi billion dollar cuts in spending for hospitals he attempted to deflect attention to his role by creating a commission comprised disproportionately of health industry insiders.

Those industry insiders seem to object even to discussion of this backstory. “Focusing on closed and consolidated hospitals does nothing to help the task at hand,” said Brian Conway, spokesman for the Greater New York Hospital Association. “All that matters is rising to the current challenge, and the hospital community is deeply committed to doing exactly that.

This is the familiar line of an institution in crisis. When the crisis is in full force now is not the time to explore its history. That would be fine except for two facts. Knowing how we arrived at this potentially catastrophic point is one key to a more humane resolution of it. Major media, including NPR, sadly have done little to explore the deeper background of the NYC shortages. Activists and alternative media must fill the void. Secondly even in the face of corporate healthcare’s many tragedies and inequities, its proponents and beneficiaries continue to push for its preservation and extension of a market dominated health system from which they profit.

Recent sociological studies aimed at locating and finding the backgrounds of the most influential leaders in both private and nonprofit healthcare indicate that MBAs are replacing those who primary focus is in health delivery, public health, and biomedical research. Thus if these players get their way, potential vaccines to prevent a future Covid19 pandemic will be patented and thus limited to those who can afford their inflated prices. The politics of healthcare and Covid19 provide ample reasons for anger—toward corporate healthcare and the corporate media so oblivious to their exploitation.


© 2021 Juan Cole
John Buell

John Buell

John Buell has a PhD in political science, taught for 10 years at College of the Atlantic, and was an Associate Editor of The Progressive for ten years. He lives in Southwest Harbor, Maine and writes on labor and environmental issues. His most recent book, published by Palgrave in August 2011, is "Politics, Religion, and Culture in an Anxious Age." 

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

New York Taxi Workers Stage Hunger Strike to Demand Medallion Debt Relief

"They are an essential industry here in New York City," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, "and we need to make sure we're doing right by them."

Julia Conley ·


'It's Not Coming Out': Bernie Sanders Stands Firm on Medicare Expansion

"It's what the American people want and, after waiting over 50 years, what they are going to get."

Julia Conley ·


'When We Organize, We Win': Ocasio-Cortez Joins India Walton at Rally in Buffalo

The two progressives joined striking hospital workers on the picket line at Mercy Hospital after the early voting rally.

Julia Conley ·


Fatal Film Set Shooting Followed Outcry by Union Crew Members Over Safety Protocols

"When union members walk off a set about safety concerns, maybe 'hiring scabs' isn’t the solution you think it is."

Julia Conley ·


New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo