Economics 101 With Dr. Kevorkian

Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

At last night's HBO Films premiere of You Don't Know Jack, the new movie about infamous assisted-suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian, we talked to the 81-year-old (who is played in the film by Al Pacino) about what is going on in America today. Despite (or perhaps because of) the eight years he spent in prison, from 1999–2007, for second-degree murder, Kevorkian has some very specific ideas on how to solve our nation's problems:

What’s your opinion of the health-care reforms that President Obama just passed?
I haven’t been following it very closely, but it’s not going to solve the problem. Availability isn’t going to do much.

Why do you think that?
It doesn’t do much to lower costs, as far as I know. There’s a better way to do it, they just won’t do it that way. Everybody should pay for health care, and therefore you should tax everybody a little, and the fairest way is to tax profits. So that if a person has more money one year over the last year, then he pays ten percent of that excess. So that everybody pays equally. And all the corporations and everybody pays that way, and many corporations are going to pay billions, see. And that way, you cover everybody fairly.

Interesting concept.
See, no one’s ever brought that up. You have taxes on excess profits of corporations, but not on human beings.

So you think each individual should pay 10 percent.
If you have less income this year than you had last year, then you pay no extra tax, or equal, but you pay no extra. But if you have more — let’s say you made 20 percent more this year. If you had $100 more, you would pay 10 percent of that, so you would pay $10 tax extra. Nobody would miss that, because it’s out of your profits. 10 percent is nothing. But 10 percent out of a corporate profit tax, making, like, the oil industry and the pharmaceutical industry, you know, doctors’ income, there could be enormous profits, and that way everybody’s covered.

But many individuals don’t have “profits.” They just collect a salary, and if they make more it’s because they got a raise in salary.
They’re still going to enjoy the raise, but a tiny fraction of it goes to the common fund. Nobody can blame anybody for being more heavily taxed that way. And no one’s going to miss that little 10 percent of an excess profit.

You’re from Michigan. What do you think about the current state of the city of Detroit?
It’s a dying city, if it’s not already dead. The bankruptcy of the auto industry hurt it very badly, also. But then, that was due to inept leadership, lack of foresight. And yet, they make billions for lack of foresight. There’s no fairness in the system; the greed has putrefied what feelings of compassion and good we had for society. There are many problems with Detroit; one of them is charity for people who could work, but won’t. And that’s got to stop. And if there are no jobs available, then you can’t blame them. But you’ve entered the era now, unfortunately, of almost insoluble problems, because the population is expanding at a rate where it’s difficult to keep them employed.

Jobs won’t absorb all the people.
No. And you can’t create jobs fast enough, and if you do, it's artificial, like the census. That wasn’t anything to brag about as an increase of employment; that was charity. And we’ve entered the period now — you see this last crisis we went through that scared everybody, there was a solution, but nobody would like it. I could solve it in a minute by cutting the population in half, and now you’d have a job for everybody.

But how could you cut the population in half?
That’s the point; you can’t solve it easily. But it tells you don’t increase your population so fast, because all you’re going to do is compound the problem. You’re cutting out jobs and at the same time adding people for more jobs. These are hard problems to solve, but the solutions are not as easy as they’re trying to make it sound. They’re painful, and people don’t like that.

That’s a constant problem for politicians.
Politicians by definition are lying people. How can you trust a lying person? I know I’m generalizing with broad strokes, but everyone knows something’s wrong with our society. Then you’re frustrated because they can’t put their finger on it, and that leads to anger. People are outright angry. They’re not sad or depressed; they’re angry. Given enough time, the future of humanity on this earth is not very rosy. You’re first going to destroy nature, you’re going to then destroy species, and then you’re going to destroy yourself. We have to protect nature whether we want to or not, because nature will always survive, even if it’s tattered, but a human species tattered will not survive without nature. See? And politicians just overlook that.