“In the Age of Show Business, Public Discourse Has Become Dangerous Nonsense” Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death
Shareholder Value is the Only Value: Even the Taxpayer Funded
Life & Death Care in the Healthcare System Has been Reduced to a Matter of
Return on Investment
Welltower, Inc. – one of the major players in the senior living industry – states in its annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company’s primary goal is to “protect and enhance shareholder value.” Although Welltower is a dominant force in the taxpayer funded, skilled nursing and long-term care system, nothing is mentioned in company financial reports about a duty to provide ethical medical care to patients.
I consider these nursing home corporations to be no less evil than corporations in the fossil fuel industry, tobacco industry, and the assault weapons industry. Like big oil, big tobacco, and big firearms, they value people only as consumers with little to no human worth other than parting with their money for the benefit of investors.
Unlike the tobacco, fossil fuel, and gun industries, nursing home corporations earning extraordinary returns from taxpayer funded medical care are excused for their pervasive patient neglect and abuse by carefully selected members – often naïve academics or industry shills – of various commissions (e.g., the recent National Academy of Sciences and the COVID-related Mitre Corporation Commissions). Without any empirical, scientific, justification, the industry’s propagandistic claims about skimpy Medicaid reimbursement are taken at face value in the media and generally by the public. The industry has a richly funded a very effective PR machine.
Unquestioned misinformation – whether intentional or unintentional – is creating a crisis in American governance and the well-being of residents. The anti-vax, anti-science, assault on the public health system during this era of COVID has long been in the making. What has become known as proofiness (or truthiness) has polluted public discourse. I have spent untold hours collecting, organizing and analyzing corporate financial reports submitted by nursing home corporations to state and federal agencies. Much of it is fraudulent, much of it is financial machination, and much of it is laughably ridiculous, but hardly any of it is seriously questioned. So, deadly conditions in nursing homes continue unabated.
“Nihilism, the devaluation of the highest values of Western culture.” Ashley Woodward in Understanding Nietzscheanism.
Ronald Reagan Propelled a Destructive Economic & Social Philosophy Forward Through Government Policy: Trumpism is the Apotheosis of Reaganomics
The previous post by Kent Comfort chronicles the economic revolution that commenced with the Reagan Administration. This post addresses the values wrought by the economic superstructure described by Kent. A deep dive into philosophical movements that seeped into the American zeitgeist along with Friedman/University of Chicago radical free market nonsense is beyond the purview of this post. Suffice it to say that Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness, dog-eat-dog capitalism, and Nietzschean ubermensch (John Gault) seeped far deeper into the American zeitgeist than is readily apparent to most observers. Along with the Randian virtue of selfishness, the nihilism and rejection of Enlightenment values of the postmodernist philosophical movement became de rigueur among intelligentsia – eventually on the right of American politics.
The changes we’ve seen entrenched in U.S. culture over the past 40 or more years can be characterized as the triumph of self-interest over public interest and community, the prevalence of wealth and power over equality, and the weakening of science engendered by disregard of and disrespect for reason and objectivity. We are in a post-truth age characterized by deceit, manipulation, and cheating without accountability. Any claim based on pseudoscience is deemed legitimate – especially if it is legitimated by journalists, politicians, and influential voices in academia.
In the winner take all, survival of the fittest, milieu, it is OK to spout falsehoods and engage in practices that would have been otherwise unethical and unacceptable in the pre-Reaganomics era. Lying, cheating, stealing, and preying on the vulnerable and weak can be justified by absolutist beliefs in abstract principles. In its most extreme form, Reaganomics is conflated with Christian fanaticism and right-wing, proto-fascist political movements. Furthermore, extreme principles of the movement include total deregulation and dismantlement of the administrative state except insofar as it can further a free-wheeling corporate state.
In post-truth America, shareholder value as the highest value of business enterprise, doesn’t need to be justified scientifically as beneficial to the American people in general. Universal human rights of equality and fairness handed down to us from the Enlightenment have been devalued while the powerful and wealthy leverage their power to degrade democratic processes and direct more and more economic resources from the middle- and low-income classes to themselves. In the long run, we will see an increasing amount of tragedy and farce detrimental to the future of the planet and all living things.