Capitalism’s Casualties – 6 Things That Are Stupidly Expensive in the US.

by Pitt Griffin on November 19, 2014 · 0 comments

in Corporatism, Economics, Education, Healthcare

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” ― Dorothy Parker

American capitalists tell us the magic of the US market is that it will always give us the best goods at the best value. The real magic is that people still believe it.

1. College.

Higher education used to be affordable. Particularly state schools. The City University of New York was once free for all NYC students. And it wasn’t a slouch school – producing 9 Nobel laureates. But now it charges fees (although it is still a relative bargain). State Universities may be cheaper than private schools, but tuition and fees average $10,000. And private schools? As they might say at CUNY ‘fuggedaboudit’. Some schools costs are now north of $60,000 for tuition, room and board.

In the rest of the industrial world university is free or the fees are nominal. Costs are means-tested. Kids from disadvantaged families have a wide range of available grants and scholarships. And student loans are guaranteed.

It is cheaper for an American to go to Oxford University (UK) than Syracuse University (NY). And that includes airfare.

2. Applying to college.

Just applying to college is a hugely expensive proposition. Application fees to US colleges can be as much as $200. In the UK a universal application to college, costs $30 for multiple schools

3. Health.

People can debate the relative merits of health care systems, but incontrovertibly the US health care system is the world’s most expensive – accounting for 18% of America’s GDP. Costs since the Obamacare roll-out have risen at their slowest pace in years. But – and this is a huge but – as long as the system relies on for-profit insurers and facilities, sharp minds will be figuring out how to make profit.

Every dollar that goes to profit, marketing and executive compensation is a dollar that doesn’t go to patient care. And someone has to pay the salaries of all the non-medical employees that administer the insurance claims.

Back to the relative efficacy of different health care systems. I was being kind before. Based on health outcomes the US lags in quality.

4. Communication packages.

Watching TV, surfing the web, and making phone calls are all more expensive here than the rest of the industrial world. And just as it is with medicine, paying more doesn’t produce better results.


5. Capital Punishment

The main reason that capital punishment is more expensive in the US than in the rest of the industrial world, is that most of the rest of the industrial world pays nothing for capital punishment. In fact Japan is the only other developed country that uses it. (It is on the books in Israel, but only for treason, crimes against humanity and crimes against Jews in WWII.)

And it isn’t cheap. An Urban Institute study estimates that the average cost to Maryland taxpayers for reaching a single death sentence is $3 million – $1.9 million more than the cost of a non-death penalty case. It may seem counter-intuitive, but consider that the trial costs more, the appeals cost more, death row costs more, and it takes years to execute someone.

6. Rail Tickets

America is famously the land of cars, but there are some trains. When you consider the price of train tickets it is remarkable that there are any trains.

Amtrak tickets From New York City to Washington DC range from $52 to $387. Tickets from London UK to Leeds (a similar distance) range from $36 to $102.

In fact you can take the train from London to Paris from $66.

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