Friday, July 31, 2009
Legal Opinion Sets Stage for Dismantling of Sweetheart Deal for Good Ol' Boy Network
NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FLORIDA (July 29, 2009)--Concern Citizens of New Smyrna Beach (CCNSB) announced today that it had achieved the first victory in a recently launched effort to reform local government.
The City of New Smyrna Beach is a well-known resort community of 23,000 full-time residents located northeast of Orlando. In a 46-page legal opinion rendered this month by an Orlando law firm (see www.reformnsbgovt.org), it was determined that a 99-year lease of a city-owned property with 43 boat slips was void because the City had not power or authority to enter into such agreement.
The invalid lease between the City and a private men's club, the Anglers' Yacht Club, provided the club with exclusive use of a multi-million-dollar waterfront property for a mere $25 a year. In an environment of shrinking city revenues and a higher tax burden being levied on local residents, the CCNSB contended that the long-standing sweetheart deal for the Anglers' Yacht Club was an inappropriate use of public property for private benefit, which deprived the City of substantial revenues that could alleviate the need to again raise taxes on New Smyrna Beach residents.
Formed in September 2009 by a a handful of resourceful retirees, the CCNSB has focused its efforts on extracting accountability and fiscal responsibility from its elected officials. Bill Koleszar, vice chairman and co-founder of CCNSB, stated, "Business as usual is no longer acceptable. With the momentum this victory provides us, we are going to continue to fight to reign in the unchecked spending and sweetheart deals that benefit the few at the cost of the hardworking taxpayers of New Smyrna Beach."
In stead of carrying pitchforks and torches, the CCNSB has challenged the status quo of City Hall by using shoe leather and legal prowess to uncover inefficiencies and abuse. Indeed, the group has recently questioned several items in the proposed 2010 City budget, including $14,000 for City employee coffee and $30,000 for ornamental "painted fish."
"After my husband passed away I had to start managing my own finances and was shocked at how high my property taxes are on my little condominium," said Boni Cass, a 69-year-old retired widow living in New Smyrna Beach. "I very much respect the CCNSB and its efforts in my behalf. I don't know how to fight City Hall. All I know is that if my taxes go much higher, I'm not sure I'm going to have enough money to buy my prescription medicine or gifts for my grandchildren. I worked hard my whole life; I just never imagined that I'd be faced with these hard choices."
The legal victory by the CCNSB lays the foundation for its efforts to affect citywide elections this November and countywide elections in 2010.
Tom Gifford, a New Smyrna Beach taxpayer, described the victory succinctly: "It took a small group of angry, highly resourceful taxpayers only 180 days to overturn 65 years of taxpayer abuse committed by their elected officials."
Two city commissioners, Jack Grasty and Randy Richenberg, voted to support the private men's club in 2005; the same this month voted for a 27% hike in City property taxes.
Mr. Koleszar observed, "It seems that our elected officials care only about two things--spending our tax money and being re-elected. It's time that the taxpayers say NO to both. Both commissioners will stand for election this November. Keep your eye on this one! It could set the stage for a taxpayer revolt in countywide elections next year."
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 01:50:04 PM PDT
The House Blue Dogs were formed under the basic premise of fiscal responsibility, but have morphed into a money-amassing machine, cozying up to industry to get more Blue Dogs elected to betray Democrats.
The latest, the details from the deal they struck with E&C Chair Henry Waxman have emerged, and they belie the claims of fiscal responsibility:
Despite Blue-Dog claims that a compromise they engineered Wednesday would trim $100 billion from the cost of health-care legislation, their weakening of the public option for insurance coverage could end up erasing those savings....
They got the headlines they wanted -- "House Democrats Trim $100B From Health Bill," The Washington Post wrote - but sources on Capitol Hill and outside of government say the changes to the public plan could actually increase the cost of the bill anywhere between $60 billion and $100 billion, wiping out all or most of the ostensible savings....
The Congressional Budget Office has not yet made an estimate of how cost-effective the revised public option would be. But The Walker Report blog, which has done detailed analysis of all variations of health care legislation, noted that the new public option is similar to that put forward by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The CBO was vague on how much the HELP Committee's public option would cost, but Walker writes that it "would not be noticeably cheaper than private insurance or save the government much money."
Politico, meanwhile, reported on Wednesday night that the savings lost by switching to the Blue Dog public plan would be $60 billion.
On the far end of cost-savings analysis is a June 2009 report issued by the Common Wealth Fund, a private foundation that conducts health care analysis and promotes a better performing health care system. Titled "Fork In The Road," the report concluded that a public option paying providers Medicare rates (which are lower than any proposal put forward to date) would produce savings for the government of roughly $3 trillion. A public plan that provided rates somewhere between Medicare and private plan rates (where the Blue Dog approach would likely be) would yield only $2 trillion in savings.
As slinkerwink and shevas01 have noted, the CPC has protested this agreement, and met with leadership to reinforce their refusal to support any bill that does not meet the criteria they've established for a public option.
Keep in mind as well that the bill E&C comes up with will be reconciled during recess with the Tri-Committee chairs, Waxman, Miller, and Rangel. With enough pressure from the larger voting blocs of the progressive and minority caucuses--who's voting power is much larger than the Blue Dogs--the Blue Dog provisions could be stripped out. As if to signal leadership's approach on this, Pelosi today blasted the insurance industry:
"It's almost immoral what they are doing," Pelosi said to reporters, referring to insurance companies. "Of course they've been immoral all along in how they have treated the people that they insure," she said, adding, "They are the villains. They have been part of the problem in a major way. They are doing everything in their power to stop a public option from happening."
Meanwhile, this is the thanks Waxman gets for negotiating with the Blue Dogs:
On Thursday, some of the Blue Dogs continued to stray, aligning with Republicans on amendment votes.
Waxman only narrowly beat back, 28-29, one GOP amendment that would have imposed new identity proof requirements on Medicaid patients seeking care. Five Blue Dogs voted for the amendment.
Waxman and other foes of the proposal said it would force people to provide proof of citizenship in the emergency room and deny them needed care.
They're still enabling the Republicans.
So far 69303 of 100000 people have signed – see totals by state and Congressional District.
I urge you to co-sponsor H.R. 676, the "Medicare For All" Bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers.
Our health care system is broken. We spend over $2.3 trillion, or $7,500 per capita, for healthcare in the US, yet 42% of people under 65 have inadequate or no insurance coverage. At least 18,000 of them die unnecessarily each year as a result.
Every other industrialized country in the world makes sure its population has access to basic healthcare. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee access to health care as a human right.
28 industrialized nations have single payer universal health care systems like the type proposed in this bill - privately delivered health care, publicly financed - and none spend as much per capita on health care as the United States. The United States ranks near the bottom among industrial countries in indicators from life expectancy (20th) to infant mortality (23rd).
Under H.R. 676, a family of four making the median income of $56,200 would pay about $2,700 in payroll tax for all health care costs. No deductibles, no co-pays, no worrying about catastrophic coverage.
The services covered include primary care, inpatient, outpatient and emergency hospital care, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, hearing, dental and vision care, chiropractic treatment, mental health services, and long-term care.
Physicians for a National Health Program estimates the nation could save over $286 billion dollars a year in total health care costs. That's enough to cover all the uninsured and provide full prescription drug coverage for everyone in the United States.
60% of physicians now support a national, single-payer health insurance system for everyone. HR 676 has been endorsed by 463 union organizations in 49 states including 116 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 39 state AFL-CIO's.
No other issue so directly impacts Americans. Please sign on to co-sponsor this vital bill. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
If you have not sign this petition click here.
If you’re like most Americans, there’s nothing more important to you about health care than peace of mind.
Given the status quo, that’s understandable. The current system often denies insurance due to pre-existing conditions, charges steep out-of-pocket fees – and sometimes isn’t there at all if you become seriously ill.
It’s time to fix our unsustainable insurance system and create a new foundation for health care security. That means guaranteeing your health care security and stability with eight basic consumer protections:
* No discrimination for pre-existing conditions
* No cost-sharing for preventive care
* No dropping of coverage if you become seriously ill
* No gender discrimination
* No annual or lifetime caps on coverage
* Extended coverage for young adults
* Guaranteed insurance renewal so long as premiums are paid
Learn more about these consumer protections at Whitehouse.gov.
Over the next month there is going to be an avalanche of misinformation and scare tactics from those seeking to perpetuate the status quo. But we know the cost of doing nothing is too high. Health care costs will double over the next decade, millions more will become uninsured, and state and local governments will go bankrupt.
It’s time to act and reform health insurance, drive down costs and guarantee the health care security and stability of every American family. You can help by putting these core principles of reform in the hands of your friends, your family, and the rest of your social network.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal.
Push finally came to shove in Washington this week as the battle over health care reform escalated from scattered sniper fire into all-out combat.
REP. STEVE KING: Socialized medicine produces rationing of care
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: One of the plans that we've talked about is a public option
MALE REPORTER: You've been pushing Congress to pass health care reform by August. Why the rush?
MICHAEL STEELE: $239 billion to the deficit by 2019.
REP. LOUISE GOHMERT: We're talking about a nightmare for the American people.
KATIE COURIC: It's not going to add to the deficit?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It will not add to the deficit
REP. LOUISE GOHMERT: It is insane
BILL MOYERS: If this all seems to be getting more and more confusing, well join the club. It's hard to see what's happening through all the gunsmoke.
The Republicans have more than health care reform in their bomb sights -- they want a loss for Obama so crushing it will bring the administration to its knees and restore Republican control of Congress after next year's elections. In the words of Republican Senator Jim DeMint, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
The Waterloo of DeMint's metaphor, of course, was the battle in 1815 that ended Napoleon Bonaparte's rule as Emperor of France -- a humiliating defeat and a turning point in European history. Right-wingers like Glenn Beck see Obama as Napoleon, an emperor who must be stopped.
GLENN BECK: I mean, this guy is practically an imperial president now. When he starts to lose and people start to question him and push him back against the wall, he's not going to know how to react."
BILL MOYERS: The Republican strategy is almost identical to the way they turned health care into Waterloo for Bill and Hillary Clinton in 1993.
HARRY: Find more you like in the President's plan?
LOUISE: It just doesn't have the choice we want. Look at this.
BILL MOYERS:Back then, one of their chief propagandists, William Kristol, urged his party to block any health care plan for fear Democrats would be seen as, quote "...the generous protector of middle-class interests." Now he's telling the G.O.P. to "Go for the kill...throw the kitchen sink [at it]...drive a stake through its heart... we need to start over."
So in lockstep are the Republicans that when strategist Alex Castellanos issued a memo on the battle plan, party chairman Michael Steele echoed it word for word in a speech at Washington's National Press Club.
Castellanos: "Slow down, Mr. President. We can't afford to get health care wrong."
MICHAEL STEELE: "Slow down, Mr. President. We can't afford to get health care wrong."
BILL MOYERS: Castellanos: "The old, top-down Washington-centered system the Democrats propose will empower Washington to restrict the cures and treatments your doctor can prescribe for you."
MICHAEL STEELE: "The old top-down Washington-centered system the Democrats propose is designed to grow Washington's power to restrict the cures and treatments your doctor can prescribe for you."
BILL MOYERS: Castellanos: "President Obama is experimenting with America, too much, too soon, and too fast."
MICHAEL STEELE: Your experiment promotes -- proposes too much, too soon, too fast.
BILL MOYERS: As the Republicans fired away, big business stepped up the attack, too, their lobbying and advertising guns blazing. In certain key states where members of Congress remain on the fence, the airwaves are vibrating with television commercials aimed at shifting hearts and minds away from any change that might threaten profits.
[ADVERTISEMENT SOT]: What will happen to your family's health care if Washington runs it?
[ADVERTISEMENT SOT]: Now Washington wants to bring Canadian-style health care to the US.
BILL MOYERS: President Obama rejected the Republicans' Waterloo metaphor, but mounted a massive media counteroffensive of his own.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Another Republican senator, that defeating health care reform is about breaking me. So let me be clear. This isn't about me.
I have great health insurance, and so does every member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings... I'm the President. And I think this has to get done.
BILL MOYERS: But the President's already stepped on booby traps of his own making, and minefields laid by his own party, especially when the Congressional Budget Office reported that his reforms, instead of controlling costs, would send the national debt further into the stratosphere.
Meanwhile, supporters who want to scrap the present system for fundamental change are staring glumly through the fog of war at a battlefield in total disarray. They fear that in the White House's desire to get a bill -- any bill -- passed by Congress, it will have been so compromised, so bent to favor the big interests, that it will be less Waterloo than water down, a steady diluting of what they'd hoped for, or America needs.
The big drug companies are already so pleased with what they've been promised that they've brought back Harry and Louise -- the make-believe TV couple who helped take down the Clinton health care plan.
LOUISE: Because everyday more and more people are finding out that they can't afford healthcare.
BILL MOYERS: But this time they're in favor of reform...
LOUISE: Coverage people can afford. Coverage they can get...
BILL MOYERS: Could it be that Harry and Louise are happier because this time, they're in on the deal?
What to make of all this? I've asked two expert analysts of health care to help me out.
Trudy Lieberman covers health care reform for the Columbia Journalism Review and directs the health and medicine reporting program at the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism.
Marcia Angell, a physician herself, is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard University Medical School and was the first woman Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. She, too, has written widely and often about health care reform.
Welcome to both of you.
MARCIA ANGELL: Thank you.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
BILL MOYERS: So, Trudy Lieberman, is it Waterloo or no Waterloo, is that the question?
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: Waterloo for who? Whether it's a Waterloo for the American people, who aren't going to or may not get a resolution of this, and they certainly do need some help along the way with health care. Or is it, say, a political question for the President?
BILL MOYERS: Well, the Republicans have made it this week, clearly and sharply, a political challenge to him.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: I think it's going to be interesting to see what happens. A lot of people have said this is a do or die issue for the President. That's certainly-- that rhetoric certainly hadn't been coming up really before the last several weeks.
MARCIA ANGELL: And I would say, on the politics first, that it is something of a Waterloo. In the sense that if he doesn't get it right he's going to be President for three more years. And the chickens will come home to roost.
BILL MOYERS: How so?
MARCIA ANGELL: So-- well, it can-- the failure can show up before he's out the door. And then he's got a real problem. He was right in his press conference, when he talked about cost as the central issue. And he said, if we don't control cost, not only will the health system continue to disintegrate, but it'll drag the whole economy down with it.
What he has essentially advocated is throwing more money into the current system. He's treating the symptom and he's not treating the underlying cause of our problem. Our problem is that we spend two and a half times as much per person on health care as other advanced countries, the average of other advanced countries. And we don't get our money's worth. So, now he says, okay, this is a terribly inefficient, wasteful system. Let's throw some money into it.
BILL MOYERS: Into the same system?
MARCIA ANGELL: Into the same system. That's his problem. The other problem, in the press conference, was that he was trying to mobilize public support for a bill, and we don't know what that bill is.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: I want to get to that point, because he's been vague right from the very beginning on this point. We have not known exactly what the Obama health plan has been. Even though the headline writers, and the press has been talking about his health care overhaul for months. And so, I like to step back and say, "Well, what exactly is he talking about? What exactly does he mean?" And he has not been clear on that.
BILL MOYERS: You said he's been AWOL, A-W-O-L--
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: --on details.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: He has been out to lunch on this. And I think that's a deliberate strategy on the part of the White House.
MARCIA ANGELL: Yes.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: What they had done is learn from what they call the Clinton mistakes in '93-'94. And what happened then is that Hillary came out with this big 1 thousand-page bill, although we have now another 1 thousand-page bill. And let the special interest groups sort of pick it apart. This time, they decided not to do that. That they would be deliberately vague about this. And stay as vague as they could be until push came to shove.
And so basically, it's my belief that this whole discussion about health care reform is flying over the heads of the American people. They know about reform, but they don't know-- they know the words reform, but they don't know what they mean at all.
BILL MOYERS: I had the same reaction you did to that press conference. And I woke up Thursday morning after the press conference, to the headline of "The New York Times" that read, "President Seeks Public Support On Health Care." And in the margin of the Times I said, "Does the public know what is in this health care--"
MARCIA ANGELL: He doesn't know. Nobody knows. One thing weâ€”
BILL MOYERS: Well, somebody has to know. They keep talking about it.
MARCIA ANGELL: Well, he says, let Congress do it. In their wisdom, they'll come out with something, and I will give you a few feel-good principles. And then we'll wait and see what happens. Because he doesn't want his fingerprints on it if it fails.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: I feel the American people need to know what is in that bill. And what's in the bill is an individual mandate that is going to require all Americans with a few exceptions, to carry health insurance. And that means if you do not get insurance from Medicare or Medicaid or your employer. You're going to have to go out and buy health insurance.
And that is a lot of money for most people because most of them would buy it now if they could afford it. About 85 percent of the uninsured require subsidies, because they can't afford it. And I think this is going to come up as a big surprise to people to realize they're going to have to buy insurance from private insurance companies or face a tax penalty.
MARCIA ANGELL: Well, that goes to the cause of the problem. We are the only advanced country in the world that has chosen to leave health care to the tender mercies of a panoply of for-profit businesses, whose purpose is to maximize income and not to provide health. And that's exactly what they do.
BILL MOYERS: The President, as you were saying a moment ago, is saying to everybody who's not covered, we're going to mandate that you exercise that right. We're going to mandate that you buy some form--
MARCIA ANGELL: We're going to deliver the private insurance companies a captive market. That's right. And they love that.
BILL MOYERS: Say that again.
MARCIA ANGELL: They love that.
BILL MOYERS: The-- his policy does what? His program?
MARCIA ANGELL: Delivers to the private insurance industry a captive market.
BILL MOYERS: By the mandate.
MARCIA ANGELL: By the mandate.
BILL MOYERS: It says "Marcia Angell, you've got to--"
MARCIA ANGELL: For whatever price they want to charge. Right. And so, this will increase costs. And let me tell you what he's running into, and he'd like to be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, but he won't be able to. If you leave this profit-oriented system in place, you can't both control costs and increase coverage. You inevitably, if you try to increase coverage, increase costs. The only answer, the only answer, and he said it at the beginning of his press conference, is a single payer system. In his first sentence, he said, that is the only way to cover everyone.
BILL MOYERS: But he's also said, if we were starting the system from scratch, we could have single payer. But we're not starting this system from scratch.
MARCIA ANGELL: You know, you don't pour more money into a failing system. You convert.
BILL MOYERS: I saw back in the spring-- the chief lobbyist for the Big Pharma industry, Billy Tauzin, used to be a member of Congress. He was on CNBC. And he was in support of this bill, whatever this bill is. Because it would broaden the industry's customer base by providing subsidies for people to buy--
MARCIA ANGELL: Exactly.
BILL MOYERS: More coverage from the private insurers.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: At whatever price they want to charge. It will be a bonanza for the health insurance industry. And a bonanza for the pharmaceutical industry. And for the doctors, too. Because the doctors are going to get more paying patients, because people will now have this ticket, this insurance card, that they can whip out when they need medical services.
BILL MOYERS: So, does this explain why Harry and Louise, who were around 15 years ago to help defeat Bill Clinton's health plan, Bill and Hillary Clinton's health plan, are back now in support? Seemingly to be in support?
MARCIA ANGELL: You bet it does. You bet it does.
BILL MOYERS: Let me show you the commercials that's been running now, watch closely.
HARRY: Well, it looks like we may finally get health care reform.
LOUISE: It's about time. Because everyday more and more people are finding they can't afford health care.
HARRY: Or they're losing coverage?
LOUISE: We need good coverage people can afford. Coverage they can get--
HARRY: Even if they have a pre-existing condition.
LOUISE: And coverage they can keep if they change jobs.
HARRY: Or lose their jobs. Sounds simple enough.
LOUISE: A little more cooperation, a little less politics. We can get the job done this time.
BILL MOYERS: Wouldn't that make you think that Big Pharma is supporting health care reform?
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: That's exactly--
MARCIA ANGELL: Yes, yes.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: That's what they're supposed to be--
BILL MOYERS: But on their terms, right?
MARCIA ANGELL: On their terms. Exactly. Exactly.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: This is what those ads are supposed to do. They're supposed to make the ordinary person believe that they're good guys this time around.
BILL MOYERS: And on their terms means what for them?
MARCIA ANGELL: Well, they can charge whatever they want. That there will be no bargaining. That--
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: Medicare.
MARCIA ANGELL: That Medicare Part D will not bargain for lower prices. There'll be no formularies. You know, even this thing about the pharmaceutical industry is going to kick in $80 billion over ten--
BILL MOYERS: Have we heard--
MARCIA ANGELL: --years. That the President mentioned in the press conference.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: Only if health care passes. So.
MARCIA ANGELL: First this is $8 billion a year for the pharmaceutical industry. This is chump change. And second, it's only for brand-name drugs. So, in a sense, it's a subsidy for the most expensive drugs.
BILL MOYERS: Do you believe the health care industry when it tells President Obama that "we will voluntarily cut costs"?
MARCIA ANGELL: No. I mean, these are investor owned businesses. If they behave like charities, heads would roll in the executive suites. They are there to maximize profits. And that's exactly what they do.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: What's happened now is that the industries have gotten pretty much what they want out of the bills that are going forward.
And so, they need to build public support. They need to make everybody in the public realize that they actually are wearing white hats in this one. But behind the scenes, they are lobbying ferociously against the public plan, against cuts in doctors fees, against all kinds of things that they don't want. And for that they're using a different sort of lobbying tactic. All of these are communications or lobbying strategies that they know how to do and they are very excellent at doing them.
MARCIA ANGELL: It's clear that they can turn it to their advantage.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: Right.
MARCIA ANGELL: That nobody is really trying to break their-- except the single payer people -- their death grip on the system. And here you have hundreds of for profit insurance companies that maximize their income by denying care to the people who need it most. And that's the insurance system. That's how we pay for health care.
But you also have to look at how we deliver health care. And we deliver that, primarily or largely, in for-profit facilities -- businesses, hospitals -- whose interest is in delivering only profitable care. So, we have a system that's through and through, in both the payment system and the delivery system, is oriented toward profits. Neither the Senate nor the House is doing anything to change that.
BILL MOYERS: The President says there will be a public option in my bill that will compete with the private insurance. To bring the cost down.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: That's--
BILL MOYERS: That's what he said.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: That's what he says. Again, we get back to the detail question and the particulars, which are so absent in this whole discussion. We don't know what a public plan will look like. And even if there's going to be a public plan. The insurers don't want it. It's not clear that the doctors want it. And the pharmaceutical companies don't want it.
So my question is, are they working behind the scenes to make sure this doesn't happen? My guess is-- my answer is, they probably are.
MARCIA ANGELL: A lot is said about how the public wants to cling to what it has. What I'm finding is something that confirms the polls that have been done. Showing that something like two-thirds of the public would favor a Canadian style or a Medicare for all style single payer system.
The same is true of physicians, now. About 60 percent of physicians favor Medicare for all, or a single payer system. So, what is against it? The pharmaceutical and the insurance industries are the biggest lobbies in Washington. They spend millions and millions on influential members of Congress. And the amount that they are spending now to the Chairman of the relevant health committees has increased enormously in the past few months.
BILL MOYERS: Just the other day the Chamber of Commerce began running an advertising campaign. And the Chamber says a new government run plan will undermine employer sponsored coverage and eventually lead to a government takeover of the health care system.
MARCIA ANGELL: Like Medicare.
BILL MOYERS: Alright. That will limit--
MARCIA ANGELL: That's scary.
BILL MOYERS: That will limit patients' choices. I mean, isn't that proving to be a convincing argument with the public? That seems to be--
MARCIA ANGELL: Well, it's phony, of course.
BILL MOYERS: Phony?
MARCIA ANGELL: It's phony, in the sense that Medicare is a single payer system, embedded within our larger market-based system. You have totally free choice of a physician in Medicare. You don't in most employer-sponsored private plans. Canada, totally free choice of doctors. So, this is simply not true.
BILL MOYERS: Let me show you both a couple of clips from the House floor recently. And get your comments on them. These are two Congressmen who are opposed to any kind of national insurance or general coverage. Look at this.
REP. STEVE KING: They're going to save money by rationing care, getting you in a long line, places like Canada and the United Kingdom and Europe. People die when they're in line.
REP LOUIE GOHMERT: One in five people have to die because they went to socialized medicine! Now I've got three daughters and a wife. I would hate to think that among five women, one of them is going to die because we go to socialized care and we have to have these long lists to get a mammogram. Once you find it to get treatment. It's insane.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: We've heard these arguments since 1948. And what amazes me -- they opposed a national health system under President Truman. So, that notion, that conventional wisdom in America is pretty ingrained and pretty deep. What they fail to say here is that people are waiting in line in America. We ration care in America. We do it by income. People who don't have money and the ticket to health care, do not get the care.
So that rationing is taking place. But even people who do have insurance are waiting months for mammograms. In Florida, there's been a horrible shortage of places where women can go and get mammograms. And most people have to wait a long time to get an appointment with a doctor for an annual physical.
MARCIA ANGELL: If we continue to spend what we do, right now, on health care, but had a system that distributed it according to medical need, there would be no rationing. And if we held it at that cost, there would never be any rationing. So, it's simply not right. The problem is not the money, it's the system. There is more than enough in the system already. And that's why I don't think it's a good idea to pour more money into a dysfunctional system.
Obama said, in his press conference, the worst thing we can do is nothing. The most costly thing we can do is nothing. Now, I disagree with that. You can throw more money into this system and make it even more costly. But in a sense, we are at a point now, where we have to act. And we have to confront the private insurance industry directly.
BILL MOYERS: Do you see any evidence that the President wants to do that?
MARCIA ANGELL: No, no. But--
BILL MOYERS: Is willing to do that?
MARCIA ANGELL: But what I would say this time around, and now I am going to be very pessimistic, Bill. This time around, I don't think it's going to happen because of the power the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies. I don't think it's going to happen. But I would rather see Obama go down fighting for something coherent and practical that the public could mobilize behind, than go down fighting for this amorphous plan that tries to keep these private insurance industry in place.
BILL MOYERS: It seems to me like they're more finessing than fighting.
MARCIA ANGELL: Well, he will have to fight. But I think he'll go down.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: They've been finessing since the very beginning. They've been finessing since the campaign. During the campaign, he was not even willing to be pinned down. He had a whole list of things that he would like to do. But so did Hillary Clinton and John McCain. And in some ways, they really weren't all that far apart, except on the issue of long term care.
That is another time bomb that is awaiting America and nobody has talked about it. But aside from that, I see an Administration that is trying to keep this playbook going as long as possible. And to commit as little as possible until the 11th hour. And by then, it's going to be too late for the American people to know what's going to await them. And as a journalist, whose job it is to explain to the average person on the street what all of this means to them-- that's not happening. And as a journalist, that troubles me. The press has not dealt with the issue of how this is going to affect the auto mechanic on Main Street. Or the babysitter. Or--
MARCIA ANGELL: We don't know what this is.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: But we know the outlines enough. We know about the individual mandate. We sort of know that if there's a public plan, it might be this tiering arrangement that has a bronze, silver, and gold kind of arrangement. And you can pay more if you have more. Which still perpetuates the problem that we have. We know enough so that journalists can write the story.
BILL MOYERS: Do I hear you both saying, in effect, what Bill Kristol, the Republican strategist said this week? "Kill this bill. Kill this proposal that Obama is pressing and start over?"
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: Well, not in fact.
MARCIA ANGELL: Not exactly.
BILL MOYERS: You're hesitating.
MARCIA ANGELL: I'm hesitating. Because I don't think he's grasped the nettle. And I don't think that even the best of the proposals that he is considering are going to be effective. And I worry about even the public option, because--
BILL MOYERS: You've been skeptical of the public option.
MARCIA ANGELL: I'm skeptical of that, because the power of the insurance industry is so great that I believe that they would use their clout in Congress to hobble the public option in some way. And have it become a dumping ground for the sickest patients, and then cream off the profitable ones for themselves. And then what people would decide is that the public option was no good. That the public couldn't do any-- the government couldn't do anything right. And that would be the wrong lesson to dwell on.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: That's what some people fear will happen to Medicare. That it will be privatized in some way, to deal with--
MARCIA ANGELL: Well, Part D.
BILL MOYERS: Part D is...
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: --and only the sickest people will remain in the Medicare pool of people, who get benefits. I want to go back to Kristol's argument. And what he well, we sort of know what the conservative plan might look like. It's basically a market-based approach that would rely on private insurance but also on what is a relatively new kind of insurance arrangement called "consumer-driven health care."
And by that we mean policies that have very high deductibles. I've seen some being sold, by some of the Blue Cross plans, as being $20 thousand deductibles. And $40 thousand if you go out of network. So, is that really insurance? And are people going to be buying these, because they will be affordable, because the higher the deductible, the cheaper the policy. And so then what's going to happen to them when a serious illness strikes, and they have to cough up the money? They're not going to have it. So, this whole issue of underinsurance, which is kind of tied in with the conservative approach, hasn't even been discussed.
BILL MOYERS: Given what you've said, why the rush? Why not slow this down and give this very big issue more due deliberation?
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: It's really a political calculation. And I think that they believe that they have to act quickly, because it might not happen. Because the sooner you have the special interests going back home, during the August recess and holding town hall meetings and talking to people in coffee shops, they're going to find that maybe this isn't something that people really want or have doubts about.
MARCIA ANGELL: Well, I think we are in a hurry. I think that President Obama's worried, that what happened with the Clinton plan can happen with him. And I do have a feeling of dÃ©jÃ vu all over again. That this is like 1993. That the opposition is having a chance to mobilize. To march out these Canadians who say they had brain tumors and had to die. Or these ads that say 20 percent of Europeans drop dead.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: And Harry and Louise are back
MARCIA ANGELL: And I think he does. He is right to worry about that. And he is right to want to do it in a hurry. The problem is he is not doing the right thing.
BILL MOYERS: Because?
MARCIA ANGELL: Well, the plan is not for all the reasons we've said. It leaves the bad guys in place. And it tries to kind of make concessions. And what the Clintons found out is they too wanted to keep the private insurance industry at the table. And maybe regulate them a little. And what the private insurance industry decided was, "Why should we take half a loaf when we can have the whole thing?" And that's what I'm seeing happen. Happening now.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: We are having the same debate, almost, that we had in '93-'94. And it's something I've written about for the Columbia Journalism Review. It's actually the same debate we've had decades before. And it's the unwillingness to look at what we could learn from other systems. Single payer, multiple payers, as they have in Germany and Japan. Or even in the Netherlands, where there are private payers. What's really happening there?
So, I think there's an unwillingness on the part of politicians-- on the part of advocacy groups, some advocacy groups, to really educate Americans on what the possibilities are. And we at C.J.R. have been saying we really have not had a vibrant discussion about other possibilities.
MARCIA ANGELL: I think we have to start all over on this. I really do. I think we have to go for a single payer system. You could institute that gradually. You could do it state by state. You could do it decade by decade. You could improve Medicare. That is, make it nonprofit. But extend it down to age 55 and age 45 and age 35. It would give the private insurance industry a chance to go into hurricanes, earthquakes or something. To get out of the health business. It could be done gradually. I think that has to be done. And it's the only thing that can be done.
BILL MOYERS: The story goes on and we'll continue to talk about it in the months to come, alright? Marcia Angell, Trudy Lieberman, thanks for being with me on the Journal.
MARCIA ANGELL: My pleasure.
TRUDY LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
ERNESTINE TOMLIN: Claims department, Ernestine Tomlin. Nope not covered. We consider that an elective procedure. Meaning, we elect not to pay for it. Well it's not our fault you've had two heart attacks, you should have stopped at one. Of course you have your choice of doctor! Do you want the doctor we give you or not? It's your choice! You must think HMO stands for "Help Me Out." Remember, your health is our business, not our concern.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Private health insurance companies are motivated by one thing and one thing only – profit. They are in business to make money, that's it – nothing else.
They are not concerned about the health and well-being of the American people, let alone, to provide preventative care.
To them – a pound of cure is a whole lot more profitable than an ounce of prevention.
If a single-payer government health care insurance system, or even a public option, were to pass congress they would loose big time. That is why they are spending 1.5 million dollars a day to try to delay and obstruct the Democrats' efforts in Congress and to mislead the American people about the President's healthcare reform legislation.
They do not want you to know the truth. They do not want you to know that with a single-payer government health insurance system we would no longer pay for such things as their excessive administrative cost, sales and marketing, lobbying, enormous bonuses, exorbitant executive pay and profits for shareholders.
The only way for these wasted healthcare dollars to be saved is through a single-payer system.
Now, there is no reason to be worried about those poor old insurance companies. If the Democracts in congress muster the courage to pass a comprehensive healthcare reform bill, the for-profit insurance industry will not go out of business. They will find plenty of ways to make money off of us.
For example, they used the same scare tactics and lies to try to derail medicare back during President Johnson's Administration in the mid-60's. Fortunately, it did not work and all those dire consequences never came true.
Yesterday, I received my medicare card. I will be turning 65 in November. For the last 6 months every health insurance company in the United States has ask me to buy into their supplementary plan. Believe me, the health insurance industry will be trying to sale us all lots of supplementary plans once a government single-payer or pubic option is past.
And, whatever you do – don't let them convince you that a government run health insurance plan will provide you with a quality of care that is substandard. That's exactly what we have now.
Nearly 50 million Americans do not have any health care insurance and millions more are inadequately insured.
The number of uninsured Americans is growing (14,000 people a day), premiums are skyrocketing, and more people are being denied coverage every day. It should be a moral imperative for congress to make sure that every American has access to high quality health care.
In comparative study after study, report after report, the statistics show that the United States ranks at or near the bottom of all the major industrialized nations in the delivery of health care to its citizens.
Did you know that preventable medical mistakes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States?
And, that an estimated one million people are injured by errors during hospital treatment each year?
Now tell me – how much worse can it get?
Posted by Catherine Morgan on May 5, 2007
By Scott Horton
We can now add sexual blackmail to the long list of misconduct charges lodged against the federal prosecutors who led a vendetta-like case against former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman. In an affidavit filed in support of Siegelman’s request for a new trial, a prominent Alabama businessman, Stan Pate, describes how federal prosecutors and investigators threatened to disclose innuendo about the sexuality of a key witness, former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey. The feds hinted about disclosing an improper liaison between him and the former governor to secure his cooperation. No evidence of these questions or of Bailey’s answers appeared in reports prepared by the feds and turned over in discovery. The case therefore adds to a growing mound of credible allegations that public integrity prosecutors violated the law by suppressing exculpatory evidence and engaged in unethical and possibly illegal conduct in pursuit of their claims.
Nick was told that the government was working to prevent the publicizing of an alleged sexual relationship between Nick and Don Siegelman. Nick also told me that one of the agents working the Siegelman/Scrushy prosecution asked him whether he had ever taken illegal drugs with Governor Siegelman or had a sexual relationship with him. These comments had a dramatic effect on Nick, and, in my observation, added significantly to the pressure he felt to go along with whatever the prosecutors wanted him to say.
These developments are discussed in an article in the Huffington Post by attorney-journalist Andrew Kreig published this morning.
As misconduct allegations against the prosecution team continue to mount and are now increasingly corroborated by a key source inside the prosecution team, whistleblower Tamarah Grimes, no sign of action by the main Justice Department in Washington can be detected. When Grimes was fired last month, Justice figures provided conflicting explanations of the reasons for her termination. All of the explanations were, however, clearly linked to her whistleblower activities–raising questions about the Justice Department’s compliance with whistleblower protection legislation. In response to inquiries, the Justice Department insisted that it “takes seriously its obligation under the whistleblower law” and did not violate the law, without offering any further explanation.
Moreover, Leura Canary, the U.S. attorney in Montgomery, remains in office after Alabama Republican senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby derailed the Obama administration’s efforts to put a successor in place by lodging objections. While Sessions and Shelby both deny they’re trying to keep Canary in office, the consequence of their serial objections, for which they offer no public explanation, is just that. Both show remarkable concern about the prospect of Canary’s removal and replacement by a new prosecutor unconnected to them. What has Jeff Sessions so bothered? I have a hunch.
Time’s Adam Zagorin reported in 2007 that a key witness in the Siegelman investigation offered evidence implicating Sessions in bribery allegations far more substantial than those raised against Siegelman. The prosecutor handling the matter quickly scurried to sweep these allegations under the carpet. I then disclosed that the prosecutor handling the matter was the wife of Sessions’s attorney, a fact that under applicable Justice ethics standards required her withdrawal from the matter. It appears that the Justice Department has never investigated or acted on any of this evidence of prosecutorial misconduct involving Sessions. While the statute of limitations may now shield Sessions from criminal charges, a new U.S. attorney in Montgomery may very well feel compelled to examine the gross and ongoing ethics lapses within the office.
Canary, who oversaw the prosecution of Siegelman even as she purported to have recused herself from the case, is the wife of William Canary, a leading Alabama G.O.P. campaign advisor and close friend of Karl Rove.
Though Baucus has indicated he might support a government run plan, it remains uncertain whether a public option will make it into the final version of his committee's bill.
Baucus has received 3.9 million dollars from health and insurance interests.
Hoo boy, this one’s rich. Turns out that RNC chair Michael Steele, who agreed approvingly that health care failure could be Obama’s “Waterloo,” himself lacked health insurance for years and even advised his own children not to get hurt because he couldn’t afford to pay their medical bills.
A Democrat points out that these revelations can be found in two pieces about Steele that ran during his failed 2006 Maryland Senate campaign. In November of that year, The Washington Post reported on Steele’s opposition to universal health care this way:
Steele’s position reflects his experience as a self-employed consultant who went for three years without health insurance.
Steele even confessed on the stump that this led him to tell his kids to take extra care with their health, according to an October 2006 WaPo article:
He told an audience in a recent speech that his family went without health insurance for three years.
“Don’t break anything, because Daddy can’t afford to fix it,” he recalled telling his sons then.
Steele, presumably, now has insurance, so his family doesn’t have to be quite so careful. Yet in an internal memo obtained by HuffPo, the RNC says it will “engage in every activity” to slow down a proposal that could give insurance to people who currently have to hope their kids don’t “break anything” because they “can’t afford to fix it.”
Three quarters of the American people including many moderate Republicans want healthcare reform and recognize that the present system is both outrageously expensive and inadequate and that the United States must bring its healthcare costs under control and make it possible for every person in the country to have access to affordable healthcare.
Though conservatives who oppose healthcare reform have very little public support, that has not stopped them from trying to derail the President’s healthcare plan. Delay, obstruct and lie. It should be obvious by now that they will do anything and say anything to kill it.
They do not care about the well-being of the American people. They care about themselves. They believe if they can prevent President Obama from successively reforming healthcare in the United States, then they will be able to reverse their political misfortune and eventually retake the House and Senate.
The Republican Senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint, has said, "If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
Their spinmeister, Dr. Frank Luntz, has told them “the best anti-Democrat message” is – “the Democrats want to put Washington politicians in charge of YOUR healthcare . . . Say no to a Washington takeover of healthcare and say yes to personalized patient-centered care.”
The following are a few examples of the language Luntz has suggested for them to use:
* The plan put forward by the Democrats will deny people treatments they need and make them wait to get the treatments they are allowed to receive.Sound familiar?
* In countries with government run healthcare, politicians make your healthcare decisions. They decide if you’ll get the procedure you need, or if you are disqualified because the treatment is too expensive or because you are too old.
* Frame progressive legislation as a “government takeover” of health care, resulting in bureaucracy, delay, and loss of patient choice.
* Tell people they personally will experience lower-quality care, and that government bureaucrats will make choices for them.
Luntz has also told congressional Republicans that “fear” is always a good tactic to use and that “the idea that a doctor or a hospital would deny care that they need is what frightens them [the public] the most about a Washington takeover.”
Enormous amounts of money are being provided by the private insurance industry (1.5 million dollars a day, that's right, a day) to both Congressional Republicans and Democrats, as well as, their friends in the media to characterize the President’s healthcare reform plan in a negative light.
And, from where do you think that money comes? That's right – from the American people, from healthcare premiums. That's one of, if not, the major the reason why health care in this country is so damn expensive and why for-profit health insurance companies deny so many claims. They spend so much money lobbying congress and funding their political cronies that there is precious little left to cover the public's healthcare needs.
To know who is being bought and paid for – follow the money. And then, vote the scumbags out of office.
As a tactical matter, Republicans cannot succeed on their own. They simply do not have the votes. Though their plan is obvious, they have no way to effectively implement or accomplish it.
Democrats are finally in a position to reform healthcare.
The only way that Republicans can stop them – is for Democrats to help them.
Those Democrats (the Blue Dogs) who have been working at cross purposes with the White House and their Congressional leadership would do well to remember that the American people will not forget their opposition to healthcare reform, as well.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Pres. Obama slams the Republican Party for playing politics and carrying the insurance industry’s water on health care reform, singling out comments by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint:
Now there are some in this town who are content to perpetuate the status quo, who are in fact fighting reform on behalf of powerful special interests. There are others who recognize the problem but believe — or perhaps hope — that we can put off the hard work of insurance reform for another day, another year, another decade.
Just the other day, one Republican Senator said — and I’m quoting him now — "If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
Think about that.
This isn’t about me. This isn’t about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America’s families, breaking America’s businesses, and breaking American’s economy.
We can’t afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care. Not this time, not now.
The President calls on Congress to seize this opportunity one that may not come again for decades and finally pass health care reform: Its about every family unable to keep up with soaring out of pocket costs and premiums rising three times faster than wages. Every worker afraid of losing health insurance if they lose their job, or change jobs. Everyone whos worried that they may not be able to get insurance or change insurance if someone in their family has a pre-existing condition July 18, 2009. (Public Domain)
Sun Jul 19, 2009 at 10:02:03 AM PDT
By now, you've doubtless heard about Pat Buchanan's infamous appearance on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show discussing the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor:
It was during this interview that Buchanan answered Maddow's question thus:
Maddow: Why do you think it is that of the 110 Supreme Court Justices we've had in this country, 108 of them have been white?
Buchanan: Well, I think white men were 100% of the people who wrote the Constitution, 100% of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence, 100% of the people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, probably close to 100% of the people who died at Normandy. This has been a country built, basically, by white folks in this country, who were 90% of the entire nation in 1960, when I was growing up, Rachel. And the other 10% were African Americans who had been discriminated against. That's why.
This has already been examined, I feel sure, from a hundred different angles. But there's one more I'd like to look at -- and I can't at all guarantee that this one hasn't been examined already, too.
It has of course been pointed out that much of the actual "building" of the country was performed by slaves, in the sense of the manual labor that went into the physical construction of public buildings like the Capitol, in terms of the building of the southern plantation economy, etc. Even Buchanan would have to acknowledge that. And he probably would, too, because that's not really what he's talking about.
Looking at how Buchanan prefaced that particular part of his statement, it's clear that he's talking about the acts generally pointed to in the "great men" theory of American history and Western civilization. The Revolutionary War. The founding documents. The Civil War. The World Wars. And in that sense, Buchanan is right. The "great actors" here were in fact white. But that's as far as his analysis goes. The "great actors" were white, and as great actors, they "built" the important institutions that made the country what it is, regardless of who actually built the buildings housing those institutions. That's not the important part, to Buchanan's way of thinking. And there's a great deal of sense in that, obviously, though it might be wise to acknowledge the physical labor involved, too. And perhaps the irony of the great institutions of freedom being built by captive slaves.
But there's more to it than that. To a great extent, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and others of the founders were largely free to do the things they did because they had slaves to run their households, cook their food, and do everything short of, well, let us say, perform certain acts of personal hygeine, while they put their minds to the thinking of mighty thoughts, or led the Continental Army, or whatever their individual contributions happened to be. And their individual contributions were great ones, to be sure. It'd be ridiculous for me to sit here and somehow diminish the incredible task of leading the Continental Army through the Revolutionary War. I wouldn't think of it. But it's something that becomes harder to pull off if you're also personally responsible for painting the fences, harvesting the crops, and fixing the stew.
To the extent that Jefferson, Washington, etc. are examples of the "white folks who built this country," and to the extent that "built this country" means fomenting the Revolution, writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, etc., these were things they were able to participate in because the things that actually built the country -- like, you know, building these peoples' things -- were delegated to slaves. Jefferson was free to write revolutionary theory because he didn't have to stop to paint the house, or cook his dinner, or wash his clothes, etc. He could leave home and go to Philadelphia for months at a time, go to France as Ambassador, go to DC as President, etc. because he had a giant, free labor force to take care of his house, harvest and sell crops for cash, etc. in his absence.
And no, it wasn't "free" to keep slaves. It was enormously expensive. But providing rudimentary food and shelter needs in exchange for free labor is still a pretty sweet deal, and buys you a lot of time and freedom for doing great things.
Thomas Jefferson certainly made good use of the time. George Washington, too. And James Monroe. And Madison. And Jackson. And on and on through abolition. (And even afterward, really, though they shifted to a cash basis.)
I couldn't prove to you that it had anything to do with it, but it is interesting that almost all of the first presidents -- the politicians who found themselves fortuitously enough positioned to seek and win the presidency -- almost all were slaveholders.
I wonder how much time they'd have had to "build the country" if they didn't have slaves at home building their particular part of it?
Just as the old saw goes about who's behind every great man... in those days, it was usually slaves behind the great men. And in cases where it wasn't, such as with John Adams -- the only one of the Founder-Presidents not to employ slave labor -- it was as the old saw says: there was a great woman behind him. John Adams didn't own any slaves, but he owned Abigail.
Even today, the great actors of society are supported by staff who make it all possible. But only in the time of the founding, when white folks "built this country," were "staff" relegated to that status by the color of their skin.
There were, of course, all kinds of white indentured servants in the early days, especially. And non-slaveholding whites who built their own homes and farmed their own farms with their own hands, without ever even dreaming of owning a slave. But they didn't often become history's "great actors." While I'm sure that, if pressed, Buchanan would insist that he meant to include the nameless, white "frontiersmen" as well as history's "great actors," they were nowhere mentioned in the preface to his statement. Were there hard-working white people who did their own work and build this country? Sure there were. Most of them did that, really. But that's not who Buchanan is talking about.
And that doesn't even reach the question of what would have happened had an impeccably educated and cultured free black man presented himself at Philadelphia to offer his contributions to the great acts that occurred there. He would surely have been considered by at least some of the delegates present to have his uses. A skilled hand to perform work as a secretary or to keep the books would surely have been welcome. But to be seated as a delegate? Even if he'd somehow arrived fully credentialed (which itself magically skips over another important and impossible barrier)? Not on your life. And why not? Well, we all know the answer to that.
So, were the signers of the Declaration of Independence 100% white? Sure. But Buchanan never bothers to ask himself why that is. That's the difference in views on affirmative action that Maddow hints at here:
Buchanan: Affirmative action is basically reverse discrimination against white males, and it's as wrong as discrimination against black females, and Hispanics and others, and that's why I oppose it.
Maddow: Obviously I have a different view of it. But I want to give you a chance to explain what you...
Buchanan: But why do you have a different view?
Interesting question. "Why do you have a different view?" That's the first indication from Buchanan that he's considered the question, "Why?". That's something he appears to have left out of the analysis entirely, right up until the point where someone has the temerity to announce to him that they disagree with him on the importance of opening up the elite institutions of society to a broader slice of America. He's largely uninterested in the question of why 100% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were white. They just were. Liberals, of course, are interested in the why. For conservatives, facts are facts, and that's that. They don't ask the question of "Why?" until you tell them you're interested in why the facts are what they are, and how they came to be. Then they're interested. "Why would you want to know that? It is what it is. It's not my fault. Don't look backwards. Look to the future. That's the only thing we can do anything about, anyway."
by Jed Lewison
Sun Jul 19, 2009 at 07:00:05 PM PDT
There's much to be said about the shocking display of racism exhibited by Pat Buchanan on MSNBC over the past few days, but let's take a look at the accuracy and relevance of the three of the claims he made yesterday on Rachel Maddow's show.
Buchanan made the claim while attempting to explain why 108 of 110 Supreme Court justices have been white. As you'll see, he's every bit as intellectually dishonest as he is racist.
Buchanan claimed: White men were 100% of people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg
In the strictest sense, this claim is not true -- at least one black solider was killed at Gettysburg. But even though the claim is nearly true, it's intellectually dishonest to claim that it is relevant.
The implicit argument offered by Buchanan is that African-Americans sat on the sidelines during the Civil War. The reality, however, is that by the end of the war, 10% of the Union army was black. 200,000 Union soldiers were black and 38,000 died. Moreover, at the onset of the war, much of the African-American population was enslaved.
Buchanan's claim is a rhetorical attempt to claim moral superiority for whites, but the flip-side of his claim undercuts its absurdity: were it not for racist whites (like Buchanan, who undoubtedly would have sided with the Confederacy), we would never have had a civil war in the first place.
Buchanan claimed: White men were close to 100% of the people who died at Normandy
As the above picture shows, Buchanan's claim is wrong. Not only did 2,000 African-Americans storm the beaches of Normandy, but 1.2 million blacks served in World War II. Moreover, it's important to remember that during this time, black soldiers were segregated from white. So even if Buchanan's claim were true, the reason would have been traceable to institutionalized racism, not the moral superiority of white people.
Starting with the Korean War, the U.S. government began tracking deaths by race. Those numbers also refute Buchanan's general claim: in the Korean War, whites comprised 80% of the war dead. In Vietnam, it was 86%. In the first Gulf War it was 76%. So Buchanan's 100% claim just doesn't add up.
Buchanan claimed: This has been a country built, basically, by white folks
Buchanan primarily based this assertion on the above two claims plus the obviously true claim that the authors of the Constitution and the signers of the Declaration of Independence were white men.
Aside from the intellectual dishonesty of his military claims, Buchanan ignores the massive contributions of non-whites to America's development. He offers no recognition to the slaves whose labor was essential for such a long period of time and he fails to address contributions made by other immigrant groups such as Chinese-Americans who helped build the rail system, or Latinos who are an important part of the agricultural economy today.
Perhaps the real problem with Pat Buchanan's narrative of America is that he views everything through a racial and ethnic filter. We're all in this thing together, and the last thing we need is to exacerbate the racial and ethnic divisions in America. Rejecting the anger and hatred and lies at the heart of Pat Buchanan's world view won't magically those divisions, but it sure would be a major step in the right direction.
Update (7:42PM) -- This post isn't intended to be an exhaustive refutation of Buchanan's intellectual dishonesty, but a reader reminded me of an important point that warrants this update: it would be impossible to do conduct an honest and accurate history of America without recognizing the brutal treatment of Native Americans.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Following the death of Walter Cronkite,
The praise and tributes began pouring in –
“The best newsman ever.” “My favorite.”
“We’ll never see the likes of him again.”
“The best journalist who ever anchored
The nightly news.” “A voice of certainty
In an uncertain world." “He's the standard.”
"Iconic." “Authentic.” “Legendary."
If those folks who report the news today
Would take a moment and consider why
Mr. Cronkite was able to convey
And inspire such trust in his viewers "by
Just reporting the news" that he became
“The most trusted and respected man in
America,” then they just might reclaim
Their integrity and begin, again,
To present (both in print and on the air)
The news that is truly – balanced and fair.
By Edward M. Kennedy | NEWSWEEK
Published Jul 18, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Jul 27, 2009
In 1964, I was flying with several companions to the Massachusetts Democratic Convention when our small plane crashed and burned short of the runway. My friend and colleague in the Senate, Birch Bayh, risked his life to pull me from the wreckage. Our pilot, Edwin Zimny, and my administrative assistant, Ed Moss, didn't survive. With crushed vertebrae, broken ribs, and a collapsed lung, I spent months in New England Baptist Hospital in Boston. To prevent paralysis, I was strapped into a special bed that immobilizes a patient between two canvas slings. Nurses would regularly turn me over so my lungs didn't fill with fluid. I knew the care was expensive, but I didn't have to worry about that. I needed the care and I got it.
Now I face another medical challenge. Last year, I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Surgeons at Duke University Medical Center removed part of the tumor, and I had proton-beam radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital. I've undergone many rounds of chemotherapy and continue to receive treatment. Again, I have enjoyed the best medical care money (and a good insurance policy) can buy.
But quality care shouldn't depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to.
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This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, "that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege." For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it's always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.
Nothing I'm enduring now can compare to hearing that my children were seriously ill. In 1973, when I was first fighting in the Senate for universal coverage, we learned that my 12-year-old son Teddy had bone cancer. He had to have his right leg amputated above the knee. Even then, the pathology report showed that some of the cancer cells were very aggressive. There were only a few long-shot options to stop it from spreading further. I decided his best chance for survival was a clinical trial involving massive doses of chemotherapy. Every three weeks, at Children's Hospital Boston, he had to lie still for six hours while the fluid dripped into his arm. I remember watching and praying for him, all the while knowing how sick he would be for days afterward.
During those many hours at the hospital, I came to know other parents whose children had been stricken with the same deadly disease. We all hoped that our child's life would be saved by this experimental treatment. Because we were part of a clinical trial, none of us paid for it. Then the trial was declared a success and terminated before some patients had completed their treatments. That meant families had to have insurance to cover the rest or pay for them out of pocket. Our family had the necessary resources as well as excellent insurance coverage. But other heartbroken parents pleaded with the doctors: What chance does my child have if I can only afford half of the prescribed treatments? Or two thirds? I've sold everything. I've mortgaged as much as possible. No parent should suffer that torment. Not in this country. Not in the richest country in the world.
That experience with Teddy made it clear to me, as never before, that health care must be affordable and available for every mother or father who hears a sick child cry in the night and worries about the deductibles and copays if they go to the doctor. But that was just one medical crisis. My family, like every other, has faced many—at every stage of life. I think of my parents and the medical care they needed after their strokes. I think of my son Patrick, who suffered serious asthma as a child and sometimes had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment. (For this reason, we had no dogs in the house when Patrick was young.) I think of my daughter, Kara, diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002. Few doctors were willing to try an operation. One did—and after that surgery and arduous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, she's alive and healthy today. My family has had the care it needed. Other families have not, simply because they could not afford it.
I have seen letters and e-mails from many of these less fortunate Americans. In their pleas, there's always dignity, but too often desperation. "Our school is closing in June of 2010, which means that I will be losing my job and my health insurance," writes Mary Dunn, a 58-year-old schoolteacher in Eden, S.D. "I am a Type I diabetic, and I had heart bypass surgery in 2005. My husband is also a teacher [here], so we will both be losing insurance. I am exploring options and have been told that I cannot stay on our group policy or transfer to another policy after our jobs cease because of my medical condition. What am I to do after 39 years of teaching to acquire adequate health coverage?" Dunn also serves as mayor of Eden, for which she is paid $45 a month with no health benefits.
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Saturday, July 18, 2009
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BILL MOYERS: This week, Regina Benjamin was nominated by President Obama to be our next surgeon general, charged with keeping the American public informed about our health. She's a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation 'Genius Grant.'
But more important, she's a country doctor, a family physician along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, serving the poor and uninsured. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed her clinic a second time, she mortgaged her own home to rebuild it. The day it was to reopen, a fire burned the clinic to the ground. Moving to a trailer, Dr. Benjamin and her staff never missed a day of work. Dr. Benjamin will no doubt bring that same ethic to the fight for health care reform.
Many of the folks in Regina Benjamin's bayou town are so poor that sometimes she's paid with a pint of oysters or a couple of fish. She buys medicine for her patients out of her own pocket, and she makes house calls.
Now meet H. Edward Hanway, the Chairman and CEO of Cigna, the country's fourth largest insurance company. At the beginning of the year, Cigna blamed hard economic times when it announced the layoff of 1,100 employees. But it reported first quarter profits of $208 million on revenues of $4 billion. Mr. Hanway has announced his retirement at the end of the year, and the living will be easy, financially at least. He made $11.4 million dollars in 2008, according to the Associated Press, and some years more than that.
That's a lot of oysters, although he lags behind Ron Williams, the CEO of Aetna Insurance, who made more than $17 million dollars last year, or John Hammergren, the head of McKesson, the biggest health care company in the world. His compensation was nearly $30 million.
Here's the difference. To Dr. Regina Benjamin, health care is a service, helping people in need with grace and compassion. To Ed Hanway and his highly paid friends, it's big business, a commodity to be sold to those who can afford it. And woe to anyone who gets between them and the profits they reap from sick people.
That behavior includes spending nearly a million and a half a day--a day!--to make sure health care reform comes out their way. Over the years they've lavished millions on the politicians who are writing and voting on the bills coming out of committee. Now it's payback time. See for yourself here on our website, where you'll find a link to campaign contributions and the politicians who right now are deciding who wins and who loses the heath care debate.
That's it for the week. I'm Bill Moyers and I'll see you next time.
Jul 13th, 2009 • Posted in: Commentary
by Rushworth M. Kidder
To: Mr. Kenneth R. Feinberg
United States Department of the Treasury
Dear Mr. Feinberg:
You don’t know my name, but you’ll recognize my position. I’m one of those executives at AIG who, amid immense public outrage, received a bonus last March. At the suggestion of our chairman, Edward M. Liddy, I returned my payment to the company, as did most of my colleagues. Of my own free will? Yes. But also, I suspect, because I was receiving death threats.
That probably hasn’t happened to you in your current role as President Obama’s “compensation czar.” They never talked about this situation in my MBA program. It’s made me ask the tough moral questions: Why am I in this career? What does it all mean? Who am I?
A couple of years ago, I could answer that last question proudly: I’m an exec at AIG, the major global insurance company. I’m providing a needed service to customers. I’m part of an enormous flowering of global capitalism. And (let’s not kid ourselves) I’m getting a handsome paycheck.
Then came the public uproar after it was discovered that people in my division, Financial Products, were collecting massive bonuses for wrecking the company. You know the history. You know how we invented and sold mortgage-backed derivatives. You know how their value evaporated, how AIG had to accept a $180-billion bailout from taxpayers, and how, when it looked like taxpayer funds were paying our bonuses, the public went bananas.
Next March, as you also know, about $200 million in scheduled bonus payments will be due to our Financial Products team. That’s going to raise a tough choice for you. The lawyers agree these contracts are valid and the bonuses are legal. But Congress wants to tax them at 90 percent. You’ve got a dilemma: You don’t want to break the law by disallowing these bonuses, but you don’t want to be party to morally suspect legislation that uses the tax code to attack specific individuals.
So here’s my proposal — a kind of trilemma option, if you will. When I’m paid my next bonus, I won’t return it to AIG. I’ll accept it and then distribute it — all of it — to municipalities and nonprofits in need of funds. No law will make me do it. Instead, I’ll do it because it’s the right thing to do. Given AIG’s reputation, you may not trust me, so let me explain my reasoning.
For starters, we should have seen this collapse coming — all of us, including the leadership at AIG, Wall Street, Treasury, and Congress. But none of us did. Sure, we sensed a downturn, but we all thought it would be another straightforward economic recession. So we addressed it in the language of numbers — assessing risk, determining probabilities, and measuring markets.
There was only one problem: This wasn’t an economic recession, but an ethics recession. What collapsed wasn’t math but integrity. Over at AIG, as we bundled mortgages, we trusted the banks. We took it on faith that, in millions of conversations between loan officers and potential customers, the information was essentially honest — no lying by customers about income, no cover-ups by bankers about fine print. We thought these mortgages had been well vetted. We didn’t know they were improvised explosive devices with time-delay fuses.
I’m not saying we were innocent. We looked the other way, especially when we had doubts. We pushed our products hard, even though they were too complex to explain to our bosses. We thought we were doing what the culture wanted us to do: make money by taking risks.
And we got it wrong. But that’s also part of capitalism: When you fail, you lose money. So I’m prepared to give up the bonus money — but not to give it back.
The reason? I want AIG to succeed. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but as the company winds down its exposure on these new products, it needs my AIG-specific knowledge and experience, so it needs to continue compensating me well. But the real key to AIG’s success doesn’t lie in the numbers. It lies in turning around its shockingly unethical public image. Unless that changes, none of us, no matter how well paid, can save AIG.
How to start that turnaround? Why not right where we live? I have in mind not my own home town (we’re plenty upscale) but a much grittier place three towns away, where education, police, and charities serving the elderly have taken enormous hits. That’s where I’ll make my contributions.
Will my name be attached to the gifts? Yes, but only in connection with AIG. The IRS will see the money coming from me, but the public will see it coming from an AIG executive.
Will my colleagues join me? I hope so: The $200 million in AIG bonuses being projected for next March could make a real dent in some of America’s poorer communities.
But wouldn’t it be simpler just to give my bonus back to AIG? Sure. But that would only help heal the economic recession. We need to heal the ethics recession. We need the country to realize that real individuals, not just faceless corporations or government agencies, are responding to real needs with real philanthropy.
And face it: I need to heal my doubts about my own integrity — the gnawing fear that I really don’t have much of a moral compass left, that ethics has somehow passed me by. Because that’s something else they never talked about in my MBA program: the crucial role of ethics in capitalism, and the need for all of us to give back.
I know I’m awfully late in asking, but can you let me play an active role in making the world a better place?