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The Failures of American Capitalism


I don’t see how there is any interpretation of people camping out to get free health care other than an indictment of the complete failure of American capitalism to distribute resources where necessary for people to live dignified lives.

Shanda King pulled on a second pair of pants and a fleece sweatshirt before heading out the door Friday afternoon. She tossed a tent into her trunk, just in case she’d be required to wait outside in the cold. She grabbed a bucket, too, in case there wasn’t a bathroom for those in line.

Then she got in her car and drove west, away from Baytown and, she hoped, all her problems.

King, 41, couldn’t believe it when a friend told her about the two-day mobile clinic held Saturday and Sunday at the Chua Viên Thông Tu Buddhist Temple in west Houston. Free medical care. Free vision screenings and prescription glasses. And, most important to King, free dental.

This was the chance she’d been waiting for. To gain access to the Remote Area Medical clinic, she just needed to be one of the first 400 people in line before it opened 6 a.m. Saturday.

King wasn’t taking any chances.

When she arrived at 4 p.m. Friday — a full 14 hours early — she was the first. Thirty minutes later, another car parked behind her outside the temple, a retired husband and wife who’d driven four hours from Dallas, hoping for new dentures. An hour later, another car pulled up, this one driven by a retail worker from Pearland who’d gone four years without new glasses. Then another, a 19-year-old construction worker from Dickinson who for more than a year had suffered the constant pain of an untreated toothache.

By 3 a.m., a few dozen cars had lined up behind King, each carrying a story of despair.

Similar scenes play out every time Remote Area Medical arrives in a town. The Tennessee-based nonprofit, better known as RAM, has hosted similar clinics across the country, each time drawing massive crowds. In a country where more than 114 million people have no dental coverage — far more than the 28 million who lack medical coverage — RAM clinics and others like them are a lifeline for those most desperate for help.

“There are tens of thousands of people in Houston who lack access to affordable care,” said Stan Brock, who founded RAM in 1985 and, of late, has made headlines by inviting President Donald Trump to attend one of his events. “No matter how much we talk about improving our health care system, unless we add vision and dental coverage, people will continue to be in pain and suffering.”

Good for the RAM people. They are doing the best they can. But this sounds like a story of American health care professionals doing volunteer work in Zambia. Instead, it is Houston. This is a gigantic failure of American capitalism and the American state. I hardly need to state this obvious point, but it is a shocking outrage that such a nonprofit is necessary in this nation. It’s of course completely avoidable, but then think of low corporate taxes and I think we know which is the most important moral cause.

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