Fairy tale or American horror story: Could be either, who can say?
November 25, 2018 7:55 PM   Subscribe

The ‘feel-good’ horror of late-stage capitalism: "These are dispatches from the darkest, dankest cesspools of late-stage capitalism, where a person enduring a financial hardship through no fault of their own — like, say, you have leukemia — must be wholly dependent on the charity of others, and the spotlight is thrust on the charity, not the circumstances that caused the dependence." (slMedium)
posted by meaty shoe puppet (27 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
American Stakhanovites.
posted by PMdixon at 8:02 PM on November 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

Stories like this keep popping up on Twitter like zits on a prepubescent forehead...
so, they stole cracked's essay and tone.

Honestly tho, it's an important truth that bares repeating in all forums and readerships, especially because these stories are so prevalent. There's a variation on this along the lines of "This hardworking fellow commuted 2 hours a day to work graveyard shifts 60 hours a week and put himself through college over the course of 6 years," which get's my ire right up. I always want to scream, "But he shouldn't have to do that and we have a labor surplus so he's not helping anyone and probably hurting his health!"
posted by es_de_bah at 8:23 PM on November 25, 2018 [33 favorites]

America is a disaster.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 9:00 PM on November 25, 2018 [26 favorites]

I went to a yard sale recently that turned out to be raising money for a baby girl who was born without a bone in her wrist, so her hand curls inward. Insurance wouldn't cover the operation she needed, which was deemed not to be medically necessary!

Then on a dark and rainy night tonight in St. Louis, a couple of guys stopped by my house, wished me shalom, and asked for tzedakah for their medical bills.

Both cases just made me angry—not at the people asking, of course, because I've had to deal with far more than my own share of medical bills, but at American society. It's so upsetting that people have to resort to this sort of thing.

See previously.
posted by limeonaire at 9:19 PM on November 25, 2018 [21 favorites]

A plain old feel-bad story about late stage capitalism from the WaPo, Overdoses, bedsores, broken bones: What happened when a private-equity firm sought to care for society’s most vulnerable.

I guess the good news is that someone is getting rich off all this suffering.
posted by peeedro at 9:23 PM on November 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

About two years ago a friend was in Argentina when he got attacked, horrifically, and through a combination of luck and more luck made it to the hospital on time - he had been stabbed all over, including in the Heart.
Immediately a cousin set up the requisite ‘go found me’ and with a fair amount of work +50,000 $ was raised. Friend took about a month in the hospital to recover then a little more time before he could travel.
Back home, he braces himself and faced the medical bills.
There weren’t any. Well, there were some, but it was less than 5,000 - after having open heart surgery, mind you.
He contacted everyone who had contributed and, when it was all agreed on, made a big donation to the community that had taken care of him.
Guys - the US is alone on this crazy fucking medical costs thing. It’s a scam, it’s abuse and it doesn’t have to be that way. There was a great point made by AOC, to paraphrase, “No one asked how we pay for wars, why is anyone asking how we’d pay for health care for all?”
posted by From Bklyn at 9:45 PM on November 25, 2018 [70 favorites]

America is a disaster.

Puritanism is a disaster. To the extent that America has gotten past it, it's actually pretty neat. Unfortunately, it's so deeply embedded in our national psyche thanks to many of its threads running through our founding mythos that there's always a contingent of true believers who don't even realize what exactly it is they espouse, so there is always a backlash and resurgence, which is part of what we are seeing now, just in a forgotten context. We've already been through this cycle 10-20 times, so I see little chance it will stop any time soon.

It's one failing of ours that cuts across most class boundaries and even, to a lesser but still significant extent, racial ones as well. American media has seen to it that even immigrants are indoctrinated in it early in their lives.
posted by wierdo at 9:56 PM on November 25, 2018 [17 favorites]

Maybe six years ago, seven, a mid-20s friend has this thing on his neck. Friend was in best shape he'd ever been in -- stopped smoking, gym membership, running, blah blah blah. It turns out that lymphoma doesn't give a shit about stopping smoking, gym membership, running, blah blah blah. Friend does not have a college degree but he is A Hard Worker, and he is A Good Employee, so he made just a few dollars more than he should have to qualify for any type of health care for People Who Don't Make Enough Money.

Friend is a determined human being. Friend called every hospital and/or cancer center and/or whoever else. Nothing. He made about a thousand dollars too much the year prior-- mind, we're only talking mid-20s here, maybe 26K a year. Literally no one would help him. One hospital here in Austin kindly told him that they would help him die when it hit stage four, which I find heart-warming.

He reaches toward Houston. MD Anderson cancer hospital is willing to help him!* He has an appointment tomorrow! Before Friend leaves Austin that next day, MD Anderson called him and said that they'd made a mistake, a number was transposed. They are not able to help him.
*Which wasn't a guarantee that he would live -- lymphoma is a horror show, perhaps the only thing worse than lymphoma is the chemo and radiation used to kill it. But Friend now has a chance.

Friend does not give a rats ass what they said. Friend is unbelievably angry. Friend goes to Houston anyways, to the appt that he had set up. The person at the desk told Friend to go away. Friend didn't go away, talked to next person up the chain, who told Friend to go away. Friend didn't go away, on up the chain he goes. Finally, at one desk, a woman who had told Friend to go away finally figured out that Friend was not going to go away. She moved her mouse on the screen of her computer, ticked a box, and MD Anderson helped Friend. MD Anderson helped Friend as they had said they would. MD Anderson, perhaps the best cancer hospital in the US, gave Friend everything.

A tick of a mouse on a screen. That's it.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:09 PM on November 25, 2018 [49 favorites]

A tick of the mouse that actually brings in a not insubstantial amount of various types of subsidy money along with a nice tax write-off if they aren't a not-for-profit. (Don't worry, even if they are, ticking the box will reduce some doctor or "doctor's association's" tax bill instead, and might regardless)

See reader, we, through our government pay vast sums to hospitals for "indigent care" among many other federal dollars flowing their way that aren't in direct exchange for a specific patient's care like Medicare. For the most part, the institution gets wide latitude in determining who qualifies for discounts paid out of the indigent care pot.

(Yes, there are struggling hospitals, especially in rural areas. They are not relevant in this precise context, however. I'm leaving them out for that reason, not because there isn't a problem there)
posted by wierdo at 11:36 PM on November 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

People keep using the term "late stage capitalism" as if it meant something.
posted by Seaweed Shark at 2:55 AM on November 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

I believe that it means “the last part of capitalism, before it kills you”
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:22 AM on November 26, 2018 [23 favorites]

Would you prefer “4th Stage Capitalism?”
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:50 AM on November 26, 2018 [22 favorites]

Before it kills you or before it kills the society it's growing on?
posted by Slackermagee at 4:06 AM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I believe that it means “the last part of capitalism, before it kills you”

Yeah, a while back I decided that calling this 'late stage capitalism' was overly optimistic. But then I realised that the next stage is the end of the world (easier to imagine than the end of capitalism etc), so I've gone back to talking about late stage capitalism in a strictly anthropic sense.
posted by Ned G at 4:26 AM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

My weekly reminder that as much as I love the US and its people there is no way in sanity I would ever live there.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:27 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

"America is a disaster."

Only if you're not a professional politician.
posted by NervousVarun at 5:30 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

late stage capitalism comes from the subreddit of that name.

If you live in a country that has health care coverage for all citizens, America's system looks terrible for those that do not have a job or money.
posted by gen at 5:46 AM on November 26, 2018

The UK is heading that way. The NHS is threadbare, and the double-blow of Brexit driving out EU staff (which is already happening) and stalling the economy won't help. The Tories' cutting of nursing students' bursaries also seems like a perverse decision (almost as if they wanted to demolish the NHS), and the Trumpian free trade agreement they'll sign with the US on the day Britain leaves the EU is likely to sell it for scrap. I imagine GoFundMe will become a lot more common in the UK.
posted by acb at 5:52 AM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

The 'walks 20 miles to work and gets given a charity car' trope is covered in the first segment of this week's On the Media podcast. It's not really a different perspective, just a different format. But I'll take any chance I can get to recommend their amazing work!
posted by dbx at 7:15 AM on November 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

The way sick people are framed in these discussions always makes me somewhat to really uncomfortable, as if we are just here to prove a point, as does framing capitalism in terms used to discuss, primarily, cancer.
posted by colorblock sock at 7:18 AM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

"Late capitalism" is a term used to refer to capitalism from about 1945 onwards, with the implication that it is due to come to an end. The term "late capitalism" was first used by Werner Sombart in his 1902 magnum opus Der Moderne Kapitalismus...
posted by clavicle at 8:47 AM on November 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

My weekly reminder that as much as I love the US and its people there is no way in sanity I would ever live there.

Must be nice to have a choice, so that you can come into threads full of people who don't to flaunt it.
posted by enn at 8:47 AM on November 26, 2018 [23 favorites]

Must be nice to have a choice, so that you can come into threads full of people who don't to flaunt it.

Thank you. Could we please leave off with the "I'm soooo lucky to have universal healthcare in X country," especially in threads full of Lefties telling stories about how they or their relatives can't get cancer treatment? It's beyond tiresome. No, it's a lot worse than tiresome -- it's cruel. We are all aware that every other western nation has universal healthcare. You don't need to come in to remind us all what a shitbox we live in. We get it.
posted by holborne at 10:00 AM on November 26, 2018 [15 favorites]

So, I’m literally a perfectly healthy guy who was diagnosed with leukemia 8 weeks ago. Long story short: I had the flu and it wouldn’t go away, had a blood test and was told to immediately go to the emergency room and was diagnosed the next day. I’m VERY lucky in that I have great health insurance through my wife and I happen to live 45 mins away from the number nine cancer center in the country. We’ll pay $7k out of pocket for my treatment and the bill is now well over $300k.

The unfortunate part of my story is that I’m a freelance commercial photographer who hasn’t worked since August and won’t be able to work again until May 2019 if all goes well. And fortunately, things are going well and I’m in remission but about to start out-patient chemo this weekend. A family member set up a Gofundme for my wife and I while I was in the hospital and she raised a considerable amount of money. That money is literally what will keep my wife and l from losing our house, cars and everything else of value while I recover. I’m looking into disability but you have to sidelined for a year and I’m not sure that I will be. Also, because I’m a 15 year participant in the gig economy, I expect that all of my clients will have moved on by the time I can work again because they need images now and not when I’m healthy enough to do the work.

My doctors believe I will make a full recovery but professionally I very well could be done and there’s not a moment in the day where I don’t think about it. And I’m lucky because I know there’s people out there like danceswithblue’s friend who had he taken no for an answer would be dead right now. Add to that the knowledge that I now have a serious pre-existing condition and Republicans are gunning to take away protections for people like me. I’m so thankful for the Democrats taking the House but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about what might happen if they lose it again through voter suppression and other fuckery. It’s a crazy time to be an American in the health care system. I really hope Medicare for all becomes a reality.
posted by photoslob at 2:40 PM on November 26, 2018 [14 favorites]

Photoslob, you must have paid FICA taxes withheld from every paycheck for 5 of the last 10 years to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits each month. If your gig economy jobs haven't involved paying into the Social Security tax fund, you likely won't qualify for disability at all.

Traditional "welfare" (Supplemental Security Income, or SSI) only pays a max of $771/month starting January 1, 2019. However, you'd have to own no more than $3,000 in financial assets and your wife would have to earn less than that benefit amount each month to qualify, so hopefully she earns more than that.

Source: I cover various aspects of both disability programs for 500 different law firms' websites nationwide.

However, if you have been paying FICA taxes, MeMail me -- I have some good insights into what the SSA specifically looks for in approving or denying claims (and it isn't your diagnosis).

Unfortunately, one of my best friends who's an artist was recently diagnosed with inherited medullary thyroid cancer, which is extremely rare and affects only 1,000 people each year. Her husband worked for Beto's campaign, so they managed to shell out for COBRA. That COBRA coverage is now fully paying for the Caprelsa currently keeping my friend alive through Christmas. She's no fool, though. She knows she can't outrun the cancer -- it's already spread to her spine, liver, hip bones and rendered her right arm unusable.

Without COBRA, the Caprelsa cost she was quoted paying cash without insurance is $65,000/month.

I'm helping organize what items she wants to leave to her four young children and pricing everything else they own to pay for hospice care/her funeral this weekend. She's only 36.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:55 PM on November 26, 2018 [11 favorites]

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