More Americans Dying at Home Because of Lack of Medical Care than in Iraq


1-17-07, 8:36 p.m.

More Americans are dying needlessly every day in the United States because of President Bush's illegal war in Iraq than are being killed in the fighting there. The U.S. has suffered 3,000 dead in Mr. Bush's charnel house (actually, add about 300 more if you count slain corporate soldiers-of-fortune) but their numbers beggar in comparison to the numbers of Americans dying on the home front because they don't get medical care. I refer to the fact that the vast shift of Americans' tax dollars to the military-industrial complex is the biggest contributor in starving this nation of essential public services, notably health care. Somebody needs to do a body count on the numbers of Americans who are dying every day for the want of it. The results might astonish. But as the Pentagon does not do body counts of murdered Iraqi civilians, George W. Bush is not the sort of man to count how many Americans perish each day on his watch because he doesn't give a rat's rear for establishing a universal health care system in which all human beings are treated equal, as befits their humanity. I don't know what the precise number is but 'Yes!' magazine author Ruth van Gelder reports an estimated 18,000 Americans die annually just from lack of medical coverage. And USA ranks 37th of 190 countries in a World Health Organization survey of health care systems. Indeed, natives of 27 other countries outlive us. Writing in January's 'The Progressive,' Editor Matthew Rothschild cites an article by Nancy Krieger in 'The American Journal of Public Health' stating, for some diseases studied, 'more than 50 percent of cases would not have occurred' if people were not living in such poor neighborhoods. Krieger, an associate professor who heads up the Geocoding Project of the Harvard School of Public Health, writes, 'Social inequality kills. It unduly deprives individuals and communities experiencing social deprivation of their health, increases their burden of disablity and disease, and cuts short their lives.' Rothschild cites a Kaiser Family Foundation report from 2005, stating 'Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of Americans said they had problems paying their medical bills,' and of those, more than 60 percent actually had health insurance.' He adds, 'Nearly three in ten(29%) adults reported that they or someone in their household skipped medical treatment, cut pills, or did not fill a prescription in the past year because of the cost.' (A third of Americans means 100-million people.) It's been estimated that 50-million Americans have zero medical insurance coverage, a primary cause of bankruptcy as medical bills plunge patients into debt. President Bush has got $350 billions to visit destruction upon Iraq yet community hospitals here are going broke, there's not enough money for millions of elderly to buy their medications or visit a doctor, not enough money for food stamps for the malnourished hungry, ad nauseum. (Actually, the Bush Agriculture Department has an unique solution for abolishing 'hunger'. It's changing its terminology to 'very low food security'.) The president no more cares that Americans, by a two to one margin, believe it's Washington's responsibility to guarantee health care for all than he cares that Americans, by about the same margin, want him to get his butt out of Iraq. Everywhere you turn, everywhere you look, societal needs are being sacrificed on the Pentagon's altar of adventurism. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says the true cost of the Iraq war to the American people could prove to be $3-trillion. Yes, it's not just the Iraqis who are suffering financially. Americans are suffering, too. The U.S. may produce bumper crops of corn, wheat, and, yes, marijuana, but the biggest cash crop of all are the toiling taxpayers who get harvested by Washington every April 15th to the tune of $1-trillion. For every thousand dollars they owe to state government for providing essential services, every American man, woman and child is now in debt to Washington to the tune of $25,000, much of the entertainment bill run up by George Bush & His Oilmen Band and for which the public gets nothing back but coffins arriving from a country that never attacked us, never threatened us, and would never have done unto us as we have done unto them. And so America slides down the Humanity Scale from Bad to Worse. As Rothschild puts it, 'For too long we've let ourselves be hornswoggled by politicians who play the budget blackmail game, who say the country can't afford to give people universal health care, the country can't afford to let all students get a free college education, the country can't afford to eliminate poverty.' (Ah, but can we ever afford a war!) There are many ways to resolve the nation's health care crisis. Personally, my option would be to extend the excellent health care currently being provided by the nation's VA hospital system to all citizens, not just veterans. As a rule, VA doctors don't rush patients in and out of their offices; don't push unneeded drugs on them; and do careful testing for suspected maladies. Many doctors enjoy working in the VA because they don't have to waste their time on patient finances. And can you believe the bureaucratic government doctors waste less time on paperwork than doctors in the private sector? Whatever, an end must be made to the practice of dumping the cost of health care onto the backs of employers, a relic of the World War II era. And good health is inseparable from guaranteeing a basic income and decent level of living for every citizen. Instead of bankrupting the American people with its illegal wars based on transparent lies, Washington needs to provide for our own, starting with health care for every man, woman, and child. Chauvanistic or not, the American taxpayers have a right to say, 'America first!'

(Sherwood Ross is an American reporter and columnist. Reach him at )