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You can tell it’s going to be a bad day when you wake up to find that your waterbed sprung a leak during the night. You can tell it’s going to be an even worse day when you remember that you don’t own a waterbed. Some days are better than others and some years are pretty much the same.
But this is going to be a great year.
The health care bill emerged from the congressional digestive system in pretty much the tubular shape we expected. The public option was reduced to an embarrassing skid mark by politicians constipated with PAC money from insurance monopolies. The Institute of Medicine estimates that 20,000 people will die this year as a result of not having medical coverage. Another 20,000 will die from insufficient coverage.
But perhaps we should question the wisdom of having any medical coverage at all. Deaths from iatrogenic injuries are staggering. Iatrogenic death roughly translates as “death by doctor.” Some 250,000 people will die this year from diagnostic errors, medication errors, infections incurred in hospitals, unnecessary surgery and reactions to drug therapy.
Additionally, 440,000 people will die this year from smoking related illness. Atherosclerosis, obstructive pulmonary diseases, lung cancer, coronary heart disease, it’s good to know that nicotine isn’t addictive!
So let’s drink to the promise of a great year! Another 15,000 people will die as a result of drunk drivers. After moderate success in curtailing drunk driving, alcohol abuse is once again on the rise. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reported: “Binge drinking among eighth-grade students was 37 percent lower in states that had employed drug use prevention systems.” An estimated 17 percent of 13 year olds getting drunk? It just doesn’t get any better than that! My stocks in cirrhosis medications are looking better every day.
We can also look forward to an increasing dependence on illegal drugs. Drugs may damage your heart, brain, liver and kidneys, but they do wonders for the economy. The DEA estimates the world’s illegal drug trade at more than $400 billion a year. California’s primary cash crop is marijuana, amounting to over $14 billion a year in sales.
If that isn’t enough good news, how about our economy? That’s dying, too. We’re entrenched in two conflicts which have cost nearly $1 trillion in appropriations (in addition to the annual defense budget). Military spending in 2000 was $387 billion. Today it’s $680 bllion. In the last decade, military spending totaled $5.6 trillion. That’s a lot of bullets, bombs, missiles and other implements of world peace!
For those who like to propel hunks of metal at each other, it’s nice to know that there will be nearly 30,000 gun related deaths this year. With gun laws making it increasingly easier to own and carry guns, we can look forward to even more lead filled good times.
And then there’s the national debt, now topping $12 trillion. If you spent $100 every second of the year, it would take you 4000 years to spend $12 trillion. Even better news — China holds more than $2 trillion of that debt in US securities. That’s enough to purchase 20 percent of publicly-traded U.S. companies. Hello, WalMart?
The federal trade deficit will be $750 billion this year ($275 billion of that to China). As the deficit widens, the dollar’s value declines. The Ethiopian Birr is still worth less than our dollar, but hey ... give it time. Of course, with the money go the jobs. In the past two years, 4.5 million jobs have been lost. Well, not actually lost. We know where they are. Unfortunately, the commute to India, China, Korea and Japan is a real bear.
There are 40 million people living in poverty. One third of our homeless are vets. We enjoy melting glaciers, unsecured ports, bridges and roads falling apart, a failing educational system, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, overcrowded cities and under-crowded factories, mounting credit card debt, a rampant increase in identity theft. We’ll have more than one million new cases of HIV/AIDS cases this year. There’s just so much to be thankful for, I don’t know where to begin.
Yeah, I know. You think I’m being flip again. Well, I’m quite serious when I say it’s going to be a great year. It has to be. It’s the only way we can move forward, by reminding ourselves that moving forward is always a possibility. We have to be optimistic, or else we have to face the reality of fulfilled pessimism. I just can’t do that. And so I say, it’s going to be a great year.
We’ll solve our problems, one by one, and even as those are replaced by new problems, we’ll do what we need to do, what we’ve always done ... we’ll survive.