By Michael Feltham, Columnist on the Economy for Axis
Axis of Logic
Thursday, Mar 3, 2005
Editor's Note: The editors, columnists and news correspondents of Axis of Logic extend sympathy for Michael and his family. Michael's honest and open reflections below, show the mind and heart from which he writes in all of his poignant essays on the global economy. We thank him for sharing this history of his family and his personal reflections on the impact that corporatism has on not-so-ordinary heroes like his mother, his family and so many others around the globe. We introduce this essay by quoting Michael's words. - Les Blough, Editor
"I have reached the inescapable conclusion, that this country operates a covert policy of Fiscal Euthanasia. Force you to pay your taxes and Social Security subscriptions and then, once you are older, deprive you of adequate medical services. For the government, it's a Win-Win proposition! The quicker you die, the more they save, since they no longer have to pay your pension, derisory though it be, and you are, thereafter, not a drain on the system."
(This article was originally commenced on February 9th, 2005. At that time, my family had every confidence that my beloved mother would recover. Sadly, she passed away, on Saturday, February 12th, 2005. I leave the original title and the content unchanged, as one of her obituaries)
I have just returned from our local hospital, to which my Mother was admitted as an emergency, some three weeks ago.
Earlier, I wrote an article for Axis of Logic, wherein I suggested that there were frightening parallels developing in the USA, to the Thatcherist Britain of the 1980s.
Having read the numerous analyses of George W Bush's new budget, my views are deeply reinforced.
Bush is setting out to emasculate health provision for an already struggling and large proportion of US citizens, beset by low wages, poor housing, no prospects and little future: these vicarious sacrificial acts are being perpetrated on the alter of Neo-Conservatism and in sole support of already bloated capitalists, who demonstrate excesses of overt consumption and hedonism and seek, for whatever egotistical volition, yet greater power, wealth and influence: cosy, incestuous groups of cronies, already sated with the products and affects of Romanesque monopoly.
Statistics recently published, (United Nations), demonstrate with clarity that more than 15% of children in the United Kingdom and worse, more than 20% of children in the USA, live beneath the poverty line: the US figure is brought into even greater perspective focus, if it is considered that both the USA and Mexico top the global child poverty league, at about the same level!
My mother is 96 years of age: she has experienced two World Wars, nursed her whole family – two elder brothers an elder sister and her parents, through the catastrophic pandemic of Spanish ‘Flu, in1918, when she ten years of age.
My maternal grandparents perhaps fulfilled what we might term, the British Dream: my Grandfather whose family name was Brandon, came from migrant German stock: originally, the name was Brandon-Heindel. Interestingly, my cousin, when reading mathematics at Cambridge University, became very interested in genealogy and researched, what had previously been a family myth, passed on by my Great, Great Grandfather. In the event, this myth proved true: that my Grandfather's family were related to Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for only nine days. Her family, called Brandon, enjoyed certain adventures in Germany and subsequently a bastard line of "Brandons" were established.
In his early life, in the late 1880s, my Grandfather was a cobbler. He led a violent and acrimonious strike through London's East End, as a founding member of the Cobbler's Union, seeking humane treatment for shoe-makers.
Later still, Granddad, who's love in life at this time was to visit a pub, imbibe a considerable quantity of beer and then engage in fisticuffs outside, to work up a sweat, was discovered by a boxing promoter and trainer. In short order, he became a professional prize fighter.
After this, he discovered his faith and became a devout Christian: beer and pugilism were foresworn!
However, he needed to earn a living and like so many of his time, became a shopkeeper: a grocer, in fact. Hard work and personal initiative were perhaps redolent of these times, for a working man who had the grit and determination to improve the lot of his family. He would buy an empty shop, turn it into a successful business, sell it and move on to the next project.
Then came World War One. Granddad was, on moral and faith grounds, totally opposed to war, and accordingly, was a conscientious objector. In these post-Nixon days of Vietnam protest and increasing social conscience, it is perhaps worth recalling what this meant, to a man in his early 40s, with four young children, in 1914. His business was sequestrated, he was forced to "Work on the Land", a typical punishment and above all else, amongst the false patriotic fervour of the day, was ostracised by society as a coward. The war effort needed cannon fodder, mainly to support the total incompetence of upper class fools, masquerading as military officers. Able bodied men of conscience, who refused to take up arms, for King and country were blindly thrown aside, by a state controlled mob, baying for what they perceived to be a righteous cause, with no time for questions of moral right.
Now, the one thing my Grandfather had proven, more than most, was that he was far from a coward!
When the war ended and the ever-patriotic middle and upper classes shuttered their steel mills, coalmines, shipyards and armaments factories, bloated on obscene profits from the blood of millions of young men, in a war which had achieved nothing and fled with their ill-gotten gains to the Cote d'Azur, Biarritz and other sunny idylls and simultaneously throwing hundreds of thousands out of work, Granddad came home to rebuild his life.
And so he did: working ever harder and once more, despite the capital markets crash, the Depression and streets awash with disabled ex-servicemen trying to sell matches and shoe laces, he succeeded. This was the so-called "Land fit for heroes to live in.", the empty rhetoric of such as Lord Kitchener, after David Lloyd George (Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor) the Prime Minister, coined the phrase in 1918. Some land – some heroes!
Thus, my beloved Mum came from stern stuff. My Grandmother was a pure-blooded Scot: we even have a tartan of the clan.
In World War II, her brother and her sister were bombed out of their houses, during the London blitz. At that time, in our small house in Hertfordshire, in a small village famous as the site of the shooting-down of the first Zeppelin airship by a British Sopwith Camel fighter, my Mum opened her home to two more families and their three young children. Quite a squeeze, with two young children of her own.
Sadly, my parents separated, when I was fourteen: an unusual occurrence in the early 1950s, in Middle England, because by this time, my late Father had become extremely successful in business and we, as a family, had migrated from humble upper working class, to middle class.
Mum took this blow hardly: for quite some time, she was lost. However, as probably one of the most selfless people I've ever known, she became more deeply involved in the St. John's Ambulance Brigade as a volunteer nurse. Later still, she became politically active and eventually, after serving her stint as a drone, became first Treasurer and later on Chairman, of her local Conservative Party, working closely with her local MP, Sir Bernard Braine, who was eventually, Father of the House of Commons. When she announced her retirement, they refused to let her go and made her President!
We had many spirited conversations about politics, even in her nineties! Early on, Mum and most of her peer group, had recoiled against Thatcher, or "That dreadful woman!", as she called her. Thereafter, she never voted again.
Mum was not finished yet! Her Christian faith had always been of prime importance: after moving around various churches, since she had early on broken-away from the strictures of the Plymouth Brethren, the rather strange evangelical movement adopted by my Grandfather upon his own Damascene Conversion and inculcated in his children, Mum started worshiping at her local Salvation Army Temple. There was I think, considerable volition from her earlier life, as a young woman in London's East End, almost a case of déja vu, since she had seen, at first-hand, the results of human deprivation, hunger, drunkenness born of desperation and appalling slums.
Only sixteen years ago, in her 80th year, she officially became a uniformed member of "The Army". I was so very proud of her that day, looking neat and trim in her brand-new rig. Of course, she worked tirelessly for others: the poor, the needy, the sick, both at home and overseas.
In later life, as one might expect, she became physically frail: however, her mind was absolutely lucid, probably until just before Christmas. I would sit with her, sharing the comfort of her favourite tipple, a "Nice cup of tea." And we would talk about politics, economics, current affairs. Even though her sight was failing, she would read her daily paper from cover–to-cover, with the aid of a large magnifying glass, which she, herself, had bought for her own Father, when his sight gradually failed in his late 80s.
Even, despite her failing sight, she was never idle: knitting and crocheting warm blankets for foreign disaster aid, making dolls and above all else, writing letters to her wide circle of friends and family.
The British National Health Service, once an example to and the envy of the World, is now a mere parody of what once was. Successive tampering, by firstly the Conservative governments of Thatcher and her successor Major and thereafter, the tender mercies of Tony Blair and his gang of charlatans - who have the temerity to pretend that they represent Socialism, yet in truth are mirrors of Thatcher and worse, have escalated what has come to be called "Cronyism" to new heights of malfeasance – has reduced the Health Service to a level that is, in truth, beneath the standards of Third World states quite often.
Thanks to professional medical incompetence, Mother has suffered decreasing sight, over the past five years, owing to Glaucoma: by last year, she was blind in one eye and had only 60% sight in the other, which is worsened by an inoperable cataract.
What I go to see each day, now, is the husk of a human being, who was once my Mum: a hollow painful shell, in which the spirit of her energetic self-reliance and endless independence has all but vanished.
But, I remember: I think and I consider.
Luckily, she has three robust and energetic sons to fight her corner: she has many friends, nephews, nieces and grandchildren to watch out for her well-being. Sadly, many do not.
However, despite such familial support and love, it has fallen to us, her family to do the work of doctors and nurses: if you can find one! Far too much demanding, yet mundane procedure, is now delegated to people called HCAs or Hospital Care Assistants: fundamentally unqualified people, working for minimum wage, who are often hard pushed to find any other gainful employment. Mainly, since pay scales for nurses are so out of step with reality.
Such is the way of modern 21stCentury Britain: most doctors and nurses are foreign: many have great difficulty in speaking English with clarity and comprehension: it is no wonder that drugs are administered incorrectly.
The system is uncaring, inept and frankly, incompetent. MRSA, or correctly Staphylococcus Aureus, the flesh-eating bacterium which is resistant to nearly all anti-biotics is running amok in British hospitals.
Why? Appallingly poor standards of hygiene, which are obvious to even the most naive visitor.
The perpetual moaning diatribe of hospital administrators and other health-care workers, is, as one might think "Lack of funding resources!"
Now, at this point, perhaps it is necessary to explain the basis of the British National Health Service, or NHS. All workers are charged social security contributions, based on income. Additionally, employers are charged even more, per worker.
Over time, these contributions have risen and risen. During Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister, one of her first acts was to dismantle an earlier Labour initiative, of what was called Graduated Contributions and Graduated Benefits.
Sensibly this system aimed to create a safety net, if a worker was unemployed, ill, sick, disabled and for their retirement. Before Labour instituted the changes, workers paid a standard contribution or "Stamp", which was the same for all, despite earnings. Graduated Benefits allowed Social Security payments which escalated in Lock-Step with contribution record. Thatcher banished this system to history: well rather, banished the system of Graduated Benefits, but retained the system of Graduated Contributions! Indeed, this "dreadful woman", masquerading as the saviour of her land, went further still, increasing contributions, instituting a tax on the self-employed, for which there is no resulting benefit and ensuring that such incremental improvements to pensions and benefits stayed well beneath mainstream inflation and cost rises.
Now, unlike the USA, private medical cover is quite a new thing, in the UK.
Mainly, it came about as a Tax-Free benefit, to reward key staff and create competitive recruitment opportunities.
It wasn't long before the ever-greedy exchequer decided that people enjoying this perquisite (and of course, saving the Government money on health treatment!) were receiving a notional benefit and this must be taxed! Madness? You bet!
There are very few private hospital facilities in the UK. Mainly, private hospitals run by such as BUPA (a major private health insurance underwriter), tend to be used by moonlighting NHS Consultants to review patient's ailments and for fairly simple procedures.
Emergency care and more demanding operations are carried out in NHS hospitals, the one benefit of private cover, being to jump the ever-growing waiting list.
Having a maison secondaire in France and spending increasing amounts of time there, I am overwhelmed by the standard, quality and sheer personal attention paid to patients by their state health service.
When Mum was first admitted, my brothers and I had already made arrangements for her to see a specialist, privately. Sadly, events overtook her and since the local private hospital had no regular emergency and observation facilities, it became Hobson's Choice.
On the first afternoon, my wife and I and my elder brother were with her: if you like, we were ambulance chasers, arriving shortly after her admission. After some time, the resident doctor wished to carry out an examination and asked us to leave. So, we decided to grab a quick coffee, in the cafeteria. After a short time, we returned to the ward and Mum's bed was empty!
Luckily, another patient, a far younger man, told us that she had been taken for X Ray.
I think quickly on my feet. I had a foreboding. I literally galloped through the hospital, along gloomy corridors, dodging gurneys and nurses and arrived at the large X Ray department. No Mum. Eventually, I found her. The porter, had taken this frail, frightened ill old lady, poorly dressed since it was cold, and dumped her in a corner!
One of the visions I shall have in mind for ever, was my Mum, lost, ill and very distraught, crying. Alone, ignored and neglected. A pathetic, shrunken figure, hunched in a wheelchair and begging me to take her home. How insensitive could people be? Fortunately, another patient and her husband had done their bit to provide reassurance.
Every day and most nights, the family ensured that she was not alone. To find a qualified nurse was a miracle and as for a senior Ward Sister, well they seem to have gone the way of the Dodo. To manage a meeting with the consultant in charge of her case was about as easy as meeting a politician after they have won an election!
I have reached the inescapable conclusion, that this country operates a covert policy of Fiscal Euthanasia. Force you to pay your taxes and Social Security subscriptions and then, once you are older, deprive you of adequate medical services. For the government, it's a Win-Win proposition! The quicker you die, the more they save, since they no longer have to pay your pension, derisory though it be, and you are, thereafter, not a drain on the system.
Eventually, Mum stopped eating. Various invasive tests made her refuse any more. Even one sister (amazingly, there actually was one) suggested that Mum ought to make a complaint, for the callous and brutal method in which the test was carried out.
I was not too surprised that she stopped eating: the "food" provided was inedible.
Another of Thatcher's brainwaves: close down the hospital kitchens and outsource the catering function to the private sector. Save money on taxes and allow your capitalist friends to make bundles out of junk!
I am told, that the slop carried into our local hospital, is prepared in Wales, by the same company, which supplies many of the prisons! And then transported many, many, miles to various points, all over the country. Makes much sense and so environmentally friendly.
Sadly, these events were not unfamiliar to my wife and I. Only seven years ago, her Mum died in the same ward, then a new building. Despite being new, the conditions were disgusting. Dust and rubbish littered the floor, under beds. The toilets were filthy.
In the final event, the hospital discharged my Mum-in-Law with gangrene: she went home to her lovely apartment and the very next morning, her doctor visited to make sure that she was OK. Horrified, he immediately demanded that she be re-admitted.
Interesting, too, that the medication with which she was sent home was also wrong!
Two weeks later, she was gone.
As Mr Bush and his coterie of war criminals, continue to ignore the very basics of human life and dignity, there is, perhaps a lesson here for us all.
There is a cost in creating and maintaining a minimum quality of life. To me, as a Christian and a Humanist, I believe that it is our common social duty to protect and succour the halt, the lame and the sick, particularly the elderly and the young, particularly those at risk.
As the ever-escalating disparity of income and wealth, accelerates to favour the big battalions, we are in danger of losing our humanity: forever.
All my Mum asked, was to live out her closing years in dignity and tranquillity. To close the final chapter of a selfless life with her basic spirit and independence preserved.
What she and thousands of others do not want, is to be the sacrificial lambs, on the alters of greed, inhuman narrow-minded pursuit of unimportant personal goals of a few and perhaps above all else, the subject of political and social engineering.
Such was tried by one Adolf Hitler: it destroyed him and his visions of a thousand year Reich.
The USA and the UK, are headed along the same self-destructive path.
Copyright: Axis of Logic
Michael C Feltham FCEA, ACPA, FSPA
Michael C Feltham is a columnist for Axis of Logic. See his bio and additional insights, analyses and forecasts at Feltham on the Economy. By professional discipline, an accountant, who specialised in international finance and economic analysis in the 1970s. Until December 2001, he was an External Examiner and Moderator to Ashcroft International Business School at their Cambridge and Chelmsford faculties at MBA level. He writes widely on technical finance and economic matters. Michael is Founder and CEO of a software company and CFO of a New Media company. You can reach Mr. Feltham at: Michaeleff@onetel.com.
If you appreciated this article, please consider making a donation to Axis of Logic.
We do not use commercial advertising or corporate funding. We depend solely upon you,
the reader, to continue providing quality news and opinion on world affairs.Donate here