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Efficiencies of Death

November 23, 2009

CBS NEWS WARNED US on 60 Minutes this past Sunday, about certain costs among the health care costs “that threaten to bankrupt the country”:

Last year, Medicare paid $50 billion just for doctor and hospital bills during the last two months of patients’ lives – that’s more than the budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Education.

And it has been estimated that 20 to 30 percent of these medical expenditures may have had no meaningful impact. Most of the bills are paid for by the federal government with few or no questions asked. [60 Minutes]

We’ve spent $935 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 and they don’t even seem to be on the radar screen in terms of threatening to bankrupt the country.

Some quick math:

  • Roughly 2.5 million people die in US in a year. At $50 billion, that’s $20,000 per dead person.
  • At least 753,399 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. At $935 billion, that’s $1.2 million per dead person.

Obviously, some methods of ushering folks into the afterlife are more efficient than others.

And the above war spending figures are just the emergency war supplemental funding. Consider:

For the 2009 fiscal year, the base budget of the Department of Defense rose to $518.3 billion. Adding emergency discretionary spending, supplemental spending, and stimulus spending brings the sum to $651.2 billion. Defense-related expenditures outside of the Department of Defense constitute between $274 billion and $493 billion in additional spending, bringing the total for defense spending to between $925 billion and $1.14 trillion in 2009. [Wikipedia]

$1 trillion dollars, a single year of military spending, is enough money to cover US end of life medical treatment for 20 years!

But seriously, this next bit is for the reflexive, small government Republican rank-and-file types. If you simultaneously say, “Rah-rah! Yes, we must go to war to preserve our way of life,” while criticizing Big Government “entitlement” spending on things like health care, housing, and so forth, it seems like you’re saying, “spare no expense to kill foreigners,” while you begrudge lifting a finger to help your own countrymen get along when they fall on bad times, or even to die on their own terms.

Anarchists and small government conservatives should be on the same page, to some extent, with regard to the state, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. The difference is a matter of priorities. That, and somebody’s not being consistent. Somebody’s going to have to give up on their illusions and love of the Daddy State’s massive military/police/prison system, before their general state of panic over entitlement spending can be taken seriously.

Cutting “entitlements” by itself does not move us towards a more perfect society. Though the perfection of society would obviate the need for “entitlements.”

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. A number for a name permalink
    November 24, 2009 1:27 AM

    before their general state of panic over entitlement spending can be taken seriously.

    Tell that to the Washington Post!

  2. November 24, 2009 9:36 AM

    i might add/clarify, that in a society whose finances were not so taxed by the costs of war and military supremacy, the costs of ‘heroic measures’ in end of life care, may well be worth addressing. but it only seems right to do so individually, in a personal and humane way that respects the dying person’s desire to face death on their own terms.

    if we generally feared death less as a society, talked it over more, reasoned it out, thought about it more clearly–fewer people would want, (or consent to,) much of these last second heroic efforts.

  3. November 29, 2009 1:40 AM

    I prefer my conservatism without state-sponsorship!

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