Part 2—The language of corporate crime: We met Russell Mokhiber in the fall of 1994.
Displaying admirable prescience, Mokhiber attended our award-winning show, Material World, at the Washington Improv.
Later in the run, he returned for additional edification, Ralph Nader and Joan Claybrook in tow. The upshot?
Among the three major contenders in Campaign 2000, only George W. Bush had failed to laugh—and of course to learn—at the award-winning exposition!
Who is Russell Mokhiber? Then, as now, he was one of Washington's leading chroniclers of "corporate crime." In 1999, Diana Henriques actually wrote a whole column about him at the Washington Post:
HENRIQUES (9/26/99): What the police blotter is to the world of street crime, Russell Mokhiber's weekly newsletter is to corporate America.The New York Times also profiled Mokhiber that year. Did something get into the water?
For the last 13 years, the Corporate Crime Reporter has been itemizing misdeeds committed by highly esteemed members of the Fortune 500: antitrust violations, environmental crimes, Medicare fraud, financial swindles and the neglect of workplace hazards.
After so many years on the mean streets, Mr. Mokhiber's opinion of the nation's most admired corporate citizens is somewhat jaundiced.
''Corporate crime is crime without shame,'' said Mr. Mokhiber, who works in a one-man office in the National Press Building here. ''It's gotten to the point where when a corporation pleads guilty to some criminal act, the stock goes up.''
A lawyer and a longtime follower of the consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Mr. Mokhiber first drew a bead on the corporate world in 1988 with his book, ''Corporate Crime and Violence: Big Business Power and the Abuse of the Public Trust.''
We thought of Mokhiber a few weeks back as we perused a new book. The book was written by Elisabeth Rosenthal, a well-informed person who generally lacks Mokhiber's street-fighting profile.
Who is Elisabeth Rosenthal? Her publisher, Penguin Random House, profiles her at her book's site. For twenty-two years, she was a reporter, correspondent, and senior writer at The New York Times.
Today, Rosenthal is editor in chief of Kaiser Health News, an independent journalism newsroom focusing on health and health policy.
She wasn't always a journalist. Rosenthal started out as an MD from Harvard Medical School, trained in internal medicine. Her new book, An American Sickness, "is a shocking investigation into our dysfunctional healthcare system," Penguin Random House accurately says.
Rosenthal is a deeply experienced person who isn't a street-fighting radical from the Nader school. As we started reading her book, we thought of Mokhiber because of the way, in her opening pages, she adopts the language of corporate crime in describing our health care system.
This very week, the health care "system" her book describes will be all over the nation's front pages. On our corporate "cable news" channels, top stars will pretend to discuss it.
As this happens, Rosenthal's horrific book is withering on the vine. Despite its author's unassailable pedigree, the book is producing zero public discussion, a point we'll consider all week.
Rosenthal's book is being widely ignored. That may be because of the way its author adopted the language of corporate crime in discussing our "health care system."
In what ways does Rosenthal channel Mokhiber? Right on page one, in her opening sentence, the dignified author says this:
ROSENTHAL (page 1): In the past quarter century, the American medical system has stopped focusing on health or even science. Instead it attends more or less single-mindedly to its own profits."The American medical system...attends more or less single-mindedly to its own profits?" Can Elisabeth Rosenthal say that?
We think you're asking a very good question. But trust us, that's barely a start.
As she continues, Rosenthal repeatedly describes the working of our health care system in the language normally used in the description of crime. This may help explain why wealthy corporate employees on cable channels will never, not in a million years, discuss the things Rosenthal says.
In what ways does she talk Mokhiber's talk? "Faced with disease, we are all potential victims of medical extortion," she says on page 3. By page 4, she's offering this:
ROSENTHAL (page 4): Part 1 of this book, “History of the Present Illness and Review of Systems,” charts the transformation of American medicine in the last quarter century from a caring endeavor to the most profitable industry in the United States—what many experts refer to as a medical-industrial complex. As money became the metric of good medicine, everyone wanted more and cared less about their original mission. The descent happened sector by sector: insurers, then hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and so on.She's had a front-row seat at a slow-moving heist? She's speaking the language of crime.
First as the child of an old-fashioned doctor—my father was a hematologist—then as an MD, and finally during my years as a health care reporter for the Times, I’ve had a lifetime front-row seat to the slow-moving heist.
In her very next paragraph, Rosenthal adopts the language of corporate insult. She says the "big players" in our "medical-industrial complex" "spend more on lobbying than defense contractors."
In the process, they persistently "default to the most expensive treatment for whatever ails you," she says, describing a process which almost sounds a small tiny bit like fraud.
Comparisons to the military-industrial complex don't literally entail the use of the language of crime. That said, they come rather close. And at the start of Chapter 2, still on page 24 of her book, Rosenthal lets it fly.
She approvingly quotes a health care expert who compares the operation of American hospitals to the work of our nation's most famous bank robber. Then she quotes another expert making an ugly allusion.
Why do hospitals charge so much? This is what Rosenthal says:
ROSENTHAL (page 24-25): "It's like asking Willie Sutton why he robs banks; that's where the money is," said Dr. David Gifford, a former director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. Market economists I've spoken with variously refer to hospitals as "sharks" or "spending machines."...Rosenthal doesn't identify that longtime finance executive, who she proceeds to quote. The executive goes on to describe an array of players who are "at the trough" as hospitals execute their various heists.
A longtime finance executive with major American hospitals describes his field as an extractive industry...
"This is not a healthcare system, it's an industry," this longtime executive says, "and at every point there's away to make money."
Some of this language is simply the language of corporate denigration. But some of this is, quite clearly, the language of corporate crime.
We thought of Mokhiber as we read it. Beyond that, we pondered the fact that you will never hear these topics discussed by your favorite TV stars on the partisan entertainment channels billed as "cable news."
Rosenthal hails from Harvard Medical School and the New York Times. She hails from the very top of our major elites—and she speaks the language of corporate crime when she describes our health care system, which she calls "An American Sickness."
Its practitioners are staging a rolling "heist;" they engage in repeated acts of "extortion." They are compared to Willie Sutton, one of our most famous criminals.
Rosenthal makes these statements from the highest peaks of our modern elites. That said, she won't be speaking with Rachel or Lawrence this week. All week, we'll ponder the reasons for that.
We'll also ponder the startling data you won't be seeing on your favorite cable programs this week. You won't be asked to marvel at these data, or to ponder the extent to which your nation is a helpless, pitiful giant in thrall to a large group of extractive players:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015Those are among the world's most remarkable data. According to those remarkable data, $5000 per person per year disappears into the maws of our "health care system."
United States: $9451
United Kingdom: $4003
Miraculous Finland: $3984
Especially in a week like this, those are among the world's most instructive data. But how strange! All this week, as in all other weeks, our big news orgs will refuse to present or discuss them!
To Rosenthal, those numbers portray the fruit of a widespread heist by an extractive industry. At this site, we've long said that those data represent a matter of widespread "looting."
This week, we'll also say that those numbers are the fruit of manufactured theft. That said, you won't be seeing those numbers this week. Why doesn't Rachel present them?
We've been trained to adore her and trust her. Why won't she stop aping Tailgunner Joe and tell us about this instead?
Tomorrow: Rosenthal disappeared
Rosenthal's first seven pages: To read the Introduction to Rosenthal's book, you can just click here.
You'll be reading pages 1-7 of her book, including the passages we've posted.