By Jim Hightower
There are industries that occasionally do something rotten. And there are industries — like Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Tobacco — that persistently do rotten things.
Then there is the nursing home industry, where rottenness has become a core business principle.
The end-of-life “experience” can be rotten enough on its own, with an assortment of natural indignities bedeviling us, and good nursing homes help gentle this time. In the past couple of decades, though, an entirely unnatural force has come to dominate the delivery of aged care: profiteering corporate chains and Wall Street speculators.
The very fact that this essential and sensitive social function, which ought to be the domain of health professionals and charitable enterprises, is now called an “industry” reflects a total perversion of its purpose.
Some 70% of nursing homes are now corporate operations run by absentee executives who have no experience in nursing homes and who’re guided by the market imperative of maximizing investor profits. They constantly demand “efficiencies” from their facilities, which invariably means reducing the number of nurses, which invariably reduces care, which means more injuries, illness… and deaths.
As one nursing expert rightly says, “It’s criminal.”
But it’s not against the law, since the industry’s lobbying front — a major donor to congressional campaigns — effectively writes the laws, which allows corporate hustlers to provide only one nurse on duty, no matter how many patients are in the facility.
When a humane nurse-staffing requirement was proposed last year, the lobby group furiously opposed it… and Congress dutifully bowed to industry profits over grandma’s decent end-time. After all, granny doesn’t make campaign donations.
So, as a health policy analyst bluntly puts it, “The only kind of groups that seem to be interested in investing in nursing homes are bad actors.”
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LOVE TO YOU FROM VALENTINE, TEXAS
Please be my Valentine!
That is not only a warm, sweet, sometimes romantic sentiment people express in mid-February on a frilly red card. It’s also the name of a third-century saint who literally lost his head, a ninth-century pope whose reign lasted only 40 days, three Roman emperors, a very good Mexican hot sauce… and a tiny town in Texas.
That town has a genuinely sweet story to tell and a unique role to play in the sending of thousands of Valentine’s Day sentiments to people around the world. Valentine, Texas, population 217, was founded by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1880s and reportedly was named for one of the corporation’s big shareholders. Nothing romantic about that.
But in recent years, would-be Cupids have turned the town’s name and — believe it or not — its one-room post office into a center of affectionate expression. What happened is that romantics from distant places began to batch up their pre-addressed, stamped Valentines and zip them to this postal outpost way out on the Texas-Mexico border. Why? Because, to give their sentimental missives extra oomph, they wanted them to bear the special touch of being mailed from an actual place named Valentine.
The greatest thing about our public postal workers is that they literally deliver, and the Valentine branch goes the extra mile to provide this loving gesture — at no extra charge. Ismelda Ornelas, postmaster of the 79854 office, hand-stamps each envelope herself. Indeed, the Valentine post office is now officially designated the “Love Station.” Moreover, the local school district holds an annual art contest among students to design each year’s Valentine postmark, which is then stamped on each envelope.
See, while the media tells us our world is going to hell, here’s another grassroots example of loving, creative people going the other way. Happy belated Valentine’s Day!
Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes “The Hightower Lowdown,” a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America’s ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.