Grassroot Perspective – Feb. 6, 2003-Spiraling Cost of Health Care; The Penalty of the Progressive Income Tax; An Antidote to Chemophobia

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”Shoots (News, Views and Quotes)”


– Spiraling Cost of Health Care

Insurers blame rising drug costs. Drug companies blame HMOs and
hospitals. Doctors blame lawyers. And everyone, it seems, blames
consumers for escalating health care costs.

*Increases this year are averaging 13 percent and are expected to be more than that next year.

*According to an organization backed by health insurers, spending on prescription drugs rose more than 17 percent in one year — with drug manufacturers getting the blame.

*According to the drug industry, however, insurers should be encouraging the use of drugs to keep people healthier — and HMOs are in no position to complain, because they spend more money on administrative costs than on drugs, the industry charges.

*Health insurance premiums rose an average of 11 percent last year and are expected to rise about 13 percent this year.

Many experts agree that consumers have become lazy health-care shoppers — understanding that someone else will pay. This attitude has contributed to the cost spiral as those in the health-care business increase prices and fees to levels they think the market can bear.

Americans spent $1.3 trillion on health expenses in 2000. Medicare and Medicaid covered roughly 55 percent of those costs — while private funds accounted for about 45 percent of payments.

To help control the cost spiral, employers are asking workers to pay a greater share of the costs. An Anderson survey of 460 companies found that more than 70 percent of them expect to make changes in their health benefits next year — including reducing the level of benefits and increasing the amount employees pay toward premiums and deductibles.

Source: Julie Appleby, “Finger Pointers Can’t Settle on Who’s to Blame for Health Costs,” USA Today, August 21, 2002.

For more on Health Care Cost

– The Penalty of the Progressive Income Tax

A study by the Institute for Policy Innovation reports that the
Progressive Income Tax (PIT) does not redistribute income. In fact, it has an overall negative effect on income. While the top 10 percent of reported incomes accounts for an increasingly large percentage of total revenue, the incomes of the other 90 percent have declined.

*From 1973-1997, the top 10 percent’s share of revenue rose from 48 percent to 63 percent, yet the other 90 percent’s income declined by 14 percent.

*Critics might claim that this is because the rich are getting richer, but the top 10 percent’s income grew at a rate less than inflation — 2.10 percent between 1971-1997, slightly down from its previous growth rate of 2.15 percent.

*During a time when the top 10 percent’s share of tax revenue was constant (1957-1973), the other 90 percent’s income rose sharply.

*By contrast, during the period when the top 10 percent’s share increased (1973-1997), the other 90 percent’s income growth was sharply reduced.

Even when welfare benefits and other transfer payments are taken into account, the other 90 percent still saw a relative drop in income.
In short, the real income effects of high marginal taxation have
resulted in lower real after-tax income for all Americans.

Source: David A. Hartman, Institute for Policy Innovation, “Does
Progressive Taxation Redistribute Income?” February 12, 2002

Above article is quoted from Policy Daily Digest

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

– An Antidote to Chemophobia

Understand the truth about chemicals, and you’ll come away optimistic about food, nature, technology, and the future, says Dr. Alan Sweeney in his new book, Happy & Healthy in a Chemical World (1stBooks, 2001). The nearly 200-page book is a must-read and handy reference for persons confronted with anti-technology double-speak.

“This book is a guide to a new understanding of the sea of chemicals we live in,” writes Sweeney in the introduction. The book proceeds to live up to his assessment, tackling a variety of fabricated chemical scares in a manner at once thorough, concise, and easily understood.

No Distinction Between Synthetic and Natural

Sweeney begins by explaining that everything in the world is made of chemicals. There is no such thing as “chemical-free” man-made products or natural entities. Moreover, man-made chemicals are identical to their “natural” counterparts. An atom is an atom, and chemicals are merely compositions of those atoms, which are exactly the same regardless of who or what put them together. Natural vs. synthetic distinctions are meaningless.

Toxic Scares Usually Unfounded

Sweeney urges consumers to be aware that toxicity is an overblown and frequently misrepresented issue. “One cannot, in a black-and-white fashion, define which compounds are toxic and which are benign. Rather, one can only describe toxic situations.” For example, notes Sweeney, sugar and salt-two of the most common elements in our diets-can be toxic at high doses. Indeed, even “the most necessary compound for life, water, is toxic when we drown in it.” The lesson of toxicity is “the dose makes the poison.”

Man-made chemicals are no more toxic than natural chemicals, Sweeney explains. In fact, “there are many more potentially toxic natural compounds than man-made, such as those made by microbes, plants, and animals to ward off predators.” The most toxic man-made chemicals are very closely controlled, whereas nature has free reign to produce as much toxicity as it desires.

Even man-made pesticides, a favorite target of environmental activist scorn, are significantly less toxic and safer than their natural
counterparts. All vegetables are loaded with natural pesticides, many of which are far more potent than commonly used man-made pesticides. Efforts by organic farmers to eliminate man-made pesticides affect overall toxicity only at the margins. Sweeney quotes Bruce Ames, head of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley: “[T]he effort to eliminate synthetic pesticides … will make fruits and vegetables more expensive, decrease consumption, and thus increase cancer rates.”

Pollution Into the Dustbin of History

Of particularly good news for humankind, “industrial pollution is now a serious problem only in developing countries,” observes Sweeney. “If current trends continue, we will see ‘the end of pollution’ and have better lives for all.”

“Probably two-thirds of today’s [pollution] problems will be gone in 30 years,” Sweeney writes. One-third, he explains, will be shown to be nonexistent or inconsequential, as was the recent Alar scare. Another third will be solved, just as many past problems have been solved, with the continuing advance of technology.

A remaining third might still be with us, but will largely be purged
from developed countries-not coincidentally, the very countries that
have harnessed chemical engineering for the benefit of humankind.

Not only advancing technology, but also increasing wealth, make
pollution an ever-receding problem in developed countries. As their
incomes grow, people can afford the “luxury” goods (as compared to the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter) of technological research and costly pollution abatement technologies. A good example is the recent announcement of President George W. Bush’s Clean Skies
Initiative, which would have been both technologically impossible and financially unfeasible just a few short years ago.

Applying Day-to-Day Lessons

The long and short of it, according to Sweeney, is that consumers must take the time and make the effort to become informed on environmental issues in the face of media and activist groups often pushing a self-serving agenda.

The media are frequently more interested in attention-getting headlines than reporting the underlying science. Environmental activist groups often use scare tactics to further other goals, such as anti-globalization, socialism, and anti-industrialism. Well-meaning environmentalists often fall victim to these propaganda campaigns and oppose free-market technologies based on fear and emotion.

So how can we best live day-to-day in a world of both natural and
synthetic chemicals? Sweeney offers several suggestions far more
beneficial to human health than buying into the “pesticide-free,”
“chemical-free,” or other misleading campaigns:

*Eat a balanced diet.

*Follow low-fat guidelines.

*Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

*Don’t fall for diet fads.

*Don’t overdo any food or supplement.

*Avoid spoiled or tainted food.

*Limit your consumption of salted, smoked, or barbecued food.

*Take antioxidant supplements.

*Take a vitamin supplement.

*Run your water tap briefly before using it.

*Wash your hands with soap frequently.

*Wash fruit and vegetables carefully.

*Avoid smoke and dust.

*Open windows when vacuuming.

“I am, and I think most people are, willing to pay for clean air, clean water, and safe food,” concludes Sweeney, “but I don’t want to pay for excessive, nit-picking bureaucratic rules and regulations which produce minuscule or zero results.”

If this strikes you as solid common sense, then you’ll appreciate having Happy & Healthy in a Chemical World as your guide.

Above article is quoted from Environment & Climate News July 2002

”Evergreen (Today’s Quote)”

“You have noticed, I hope, that man is the only amateur animal; all the others are professionals. They have no leisure and do not desire it. When the cow has finished eating she chews the cud; when she has finished chewing she sleeps; when she has finished sleeping she eats again. She is a machine for turning grass into calves and milk — in other words, for producing more cows. The lion cannot stop hunting, nor the beaver building dams, nor the bee making honey. When God made the beasts dumb he saved the world from infinite boredom, for if they could speak they would all of them, all day, talk nothing but shop.” – – C.S. Lewis

”’See Web site”’ ”’for further information. Join its efforts at “Nurturing the rights and responsibilities of the individual in a civil society. …” or email or call Grassroot of Hawaii Institute President Richard O. Rowland at or (808) 487-4959.”’