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Millionaires who die and the millions who are uninsured

July 21, 2009

The king of pop is dead. Michael Jackson was pronounced dead on June 25. He was only 50 years old. But you knew all this. Hell, you could probably tell me the name of the Doctor who was the only person present when Jackson died. Right you are, it was Dr. Murray.

You might even have been one of the millions who included your name in the public drawing to see who could get tickets to his funeral ceremony in LA. You might even have been listening to some of his music recently and reminiscing about what you were doing when ABC, Billy Jean, Thriller or Beat It were big hits.

Even if you didn’t want to be thinking about Michael Jackson and his recent death, you were hard pressed not to know. Every major media outlet in the US and around the world were giving us up to the minute details of his death and the speculation as to the cause are still headlines as I write this piece in mid-July.

So, why all the attention? Why has Jackson’s death become such a media spectacle? The origin of the word spectacle comes to us from the Latin spectalulum, which means “a sight,” and from the root word specere, which means “to look.” It seems that the infotainment media want us “to look” at or pay attention to the ongoing details of the pop star’s death. But why? Do they think this is what we want? All Michael, all the time? Are they driven by ratings or the thirst to sell more papers? I suspect that all of these reasons play into their decision to bombard us with this latest media spectacle, but at what cost?

While many Americans could provide some information about the life and death of Michael Jackson, how many could explain the current proposals put forth by the federal government and grassroots organization to change the health care system in this country? The Obama administration is using the power of its group Change for America, which is proposing a some mild reforms, but offers no challenge to the current corporate managed health care system. Some organizations are promoting themselves as in favor of health care reform, but these entities are just front groups for the health care industry.

One thing that has been interesting to watch is the near blackout in the mainstream media the proposal supported by millions of Americans – Single Payer Health Care. Russell Mokhiber of Corporate Crime Reporter had a recent story listing the national groups that arrayed against Single Payer even being part of the discussion.

There are at least 47 million Americans who have no health insurance and another 100 million who are under-insured, yet the future of health care pales in comparison to the type of media spectacle that Michael Jackson’s death provides.

This just all seems so counter-intuitive to the notion that without good health, not much else matters. Yet, the news media does not give us up to the minute reports on health care reform and it is not front-page news every other day.

What do you think would happen if it were reported on with the same frequency as the latest celebrity scandal or death? What would it mean to most Americans if they got daily reports on how the health industry, the HMOs, the pharmaceutical and insurance industries were spending millions of dollars lobbying the federal government to maintain some form of a privately managed health care system? Would information about how the public is being overcharged for medical care and medicine really sell newspapers? Would people be glued to the TV and radio if there was a daily story about which health care company was lobbying which member of Congress?

The answer to all of these questions might not ever be known, but here is an idea that just might increase coverage of the millions of people who are uninsured or under-insured in the US. I think that those dying from HIV/AIDS, military vets, the homeless, the millions of children with poor health, and the millions of working Americans who have had their health care benefits reduced or eliminated and senior citizens who can’t afford medicine just wore a white glove and did the moonwalk the news media might find them worthy of up to the minute and front page news.

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