The Dow rose 118 points yesterday. Gold fell $19 an ounce – back below the $1,300-an-ounce mark.
Trend? Probably not.
In the meantime, we have seen the future. In Boca Raton. At the mall.
We’re talking about the future of health care. It’s already the nation’s biggest and fastest-growing industry. And it’s ripe for disruption. A big fat plum, waiting for a worm.
In fact, were it not for the poisonous gas laid down by Washington and the health-care oligarchy, the industry probably would have met its Napster already.
For those who are not hip to the online music world, Napster practically destroyed the record industry when it made it possible for people to share their music collections, for free, with other Internet users – without paying the band, the record label, the distributor or the retailer.
The Internet has practically destroyed the print media, too. It has made it so cheap and so easy to distribute text in digital form that no old-style publishing business can resist it. Newspapers sales are sinking. Bookstores are closing. Directories and databases are all abandoning dead trees for the fluid freedom of fast-moving electrons.
An Open-Source Solution
Which brings us to the Apple store in the mall in Boca Raton.
“What’s the problem,” asked a confident young woman with an iPad in her hand.
Wife Elizabeth explained that one of her email programs wasn’t working properly. The woman took some digital notes… or checked some boxes. After a brief set of interrogatories, she announced:
“A technician will be with you soon. Most likely, he’ll already know what the problem is.”
He would most likely know because he had probably seen it before. And the iPad had set him up for it. The information fed into the iPad helped the machine identify a range of possible problems and solutions. The technician must have had a fair idea – even before he saw the “patient” (the laptop computer) – what was wrong and what to do about it.
Most people do not have unusual computer problems; they have the same problems most people have. Similarly, most people do not have rare health problems; they have the kinds of problems most people have.
These problems can be fingered in just a few questions asked by a competent clerk… tested with a few additional questions… instantly assigned probability scores for the accuracy of the diagnosis… and given additional probabilities for the effect of suggested treatments.
These diagnostic software systems could be open source (meaning there would be universal access by way of a free license to the source code). This means they could be improved by an army of software developers all over the world. And they could be updated and deepened, second by second, by doctors and patients… to record, recall and deliver far more information than a doctor alone ever could.
After pointing to likely problems, such software could produce thousands of pages of documents, histories, studies, science, articles and so forth – including dissenting opinions and alternative recommendations – allowing the patient to become as much of an authority on his illness as he chose to be… and to take as much charge of his treatment as he wished to.
The program could also recite the risks of drug treatment more clearly than the typical medical professional. Patients could then buy medication just as they do today at Apple stores.
Where necessary, questions could be easily enhanced by visual scans and more objective tests. Complications, confusions and uncertainty could also be easily flagged for further study or more traditional medical treatment.
Patients would have no obligation to use this new service. Nor would they be limited to it. It would be a cheap and easy alternative, at a fraction of today’s prices.
A Major Disruption in Health Care?
But wait, you might say, what about the risks?
We presume such a system would make wrong diagnoses from time to time. We also presume that, occasionally, treatments would be inappropriate. But is there any reason to think there would be more errors in such a digital system than in the more human-based system we have now?
The Internet would also allow patients to report on their progress on a daily… or even hourly… basis. This would allow the software to “learn” – adjusting its models, depending on the reported effects.
But wait. We must be dreaming! The health-care/insurance industry is so rich… so successful… so fat… and so sassy there’s no way the conniving partners – in the industry and Washington – would permit the competition.
Remember, we just saw a university study proving empirically (or as empirically as these things get) that the US is ruled by an oligarchy of wealthy special interests. And few special interests are as rich and powerful as the health-care industry.
What would the quacks and specialists do? Who would buy the worthless drugs and treatments? How would the health insurers make their money?
And what about the tort lawyers? Who would they sue, if the advice came from an open-source computer program… with thousands of contributors… including patients?
Nah… A disruption in the health-care industry? Not going to happen. The future will have to wait.
Editor’s Note: We still have in stock hardcover copies of Bill’s book The New Empire of Debt, which he co-wrote with Agora Financial executive publisher Addison Wiggin. Bill and Addison’s book looks at how the global financial crisis is not over yet… and why it will almost certainly bring an end to America’s dominant position in the world. If you are interested in learning more about America’s precarious position… and the steps you can take to protect yourself… you can claim your FREE hardcover copy here.
Why Yellen Is Still Not “Satisfied” with the US Jobs Picture
From the desk of Chris Hunter, Editor-in-Chief, Bonner & Partners
We continue to puzzle over when the reign of cheap money might come to an end…
You’ll recall that the official jobless rate in the US of 6.3% is now below the threshold of 6.5% set by the Bernanke Fed for the end of its zero-interest-rate policy (ZIRP).
But the cheap money keeps on flowing… and it appears it will keep flowing for quite some time.
Yesterday, speaking before the House Joint Economic Committee, Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen again poured cold water on fears that the Fed might dare to raise interest rates.
According to Yellen, the jobs picture was still “far from satisfactory” and that a “high degree of monetary accommodation remains warranted.”
We have our own suspicions at the Diary why Yellen wants to keep rates so low for so long.And it’s got nothing to do with jobs.
Think about it for a moment…
The scale of the monetary experiment playing out in the major developed nations is, literally, unprecedented.
Today, the highest interest rate charged by the four big developed-world central banks – the Fed, the ECB, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan – is 0.5% (by the BoE). In the US it’s just 0.25%. Never before in history has that rate been below 2%.
Meanwhile, a recent IMF study reveals that the Fed’s QE has lowered the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond by between 90 and 200 basis points (a basis point is 1/100th of one percent).
Corporate America has been the big winner. According to a study by McKinsey Global Institute, lower interest rates accounted for 20% of the growth of profits of non-financial corporations between 2007 and 2012.
This has made it cheaper for Washington to borrow and spend, too.
The Fed’s “accommodative policy” has also brought down existing debt-service costs for the government. According to the McKinsey study, lower interest payments saved Washington an estimated $900 billion between 2007 and 2012.
The Fed has also transferred $145 billion in gains from QE to Washington over the same time.
In other words, central bank policy has rewarded creditors (mainly, governments, corporations, and traders on margin accounts) and punished savers (for example, anyone trying to eek out a decent retirement).
Rising stock and bond prices have not hurt the rich much, either. The wealthiest 10% of Americans own about 90% of all financial assets. So, a boom on Wall Street has been, above all, a boom for the rich.
And what about jobs? The poor schmucks on Main Street will have to make do with the Fed’s trickle-down “wealth effect.”
At least they make a convenient excuse for the continuation of the wealth transfer to the insiders in Washington and Wall Street…
Further Reading: Millions of Americans are rightly fed up with this unfair playing field. But there is a way to tilt the pitch back in your favor. To learn how, we sent our publisher, Will Bonner, to “infiltrate” a meeting of “the 1%” at London’s oldest gentlemen’s club. If you want to know how to build wealth like the 1% do, you’ll want to read his write-up here.