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21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare and Vermont Goes Universal November 22, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Health.
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Roger’s note: this posting gives you two articles on health care, including Ralph Nader’s on the Canadian system.  Having lived most of my life in Canada, and with the early detection of my daughter’s meningitis that saved her life at age two, I know first hand the benefits of no one excluded single payer.  Like the system in Great Britain (which is more like socialized medicine than Canada’s universal insurance), Canada’s health care is deteriorating, not because of flaws in the system, but rather neoliberal under funding.  It is not quite the Utopia that Nader pictures, but it is a thousand percent better than what Americans have.

 

 

Dear America:

Costly complexity is baked into Obamacare. No health insurance system is without problems but Canadian style single-payer full Medicare for all is simple, affordable, comprehensive and universal.

In the early 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson enrolled 20 million elderly Americans into Medicare in six months. There were no websites. They did it with index cards!

Below please find 21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare.

Repeal Obamacare and replace it with the much more efficient single-payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital.

Love, Canada

Number 21:
In Canada, everyone is covered automatically at birth – everybody in, nobody out.

In the United States, under Obamacare, 31 million Americans will still be uninsured by 2023 and millions more will remain underinsured.

Number 20:
In Canada, the health system is designed to put people, not profits, first.

In the United States, Obamacare will do little to curb insurance industry profits and will actually enhance insurance industry profits.

Number 19:
In Canada, coverage is not tied to a job or dependent on your income – rich and poor are in the same system, the best guaranty of quality.

In the United States, under Obamacare, much still depends on your job or income. Lose your job or lose your income, and you might lose your existing health insurance or have to settle for lesser coverage.

Number 18:
In Canada, health care coverage stays with you for your entire life.

In the United States, under Obamacare, for tens of millions of Americans, health care coverage stays with you for as long as you can afford your share.

Number 17:
In Canada, you can freely choose your doctors and hospitals and keep them. There are no lists of “in-network” vendors and no extra hidden charges for going “out of network.”

In the United States, under Obamacare, the in-network list of places where you can get treated is shrinking – thus restricting freedom of choice – and if you want to go out of network, you pay for it.

Number 16:
In Canada, the health care system is funded by income, sales and corporate taxes that, combined, are much lower than what Americans pay in premiums.

In the United States, under Obamacare, for thousands of Americans, it’s pay or die – if you can’t pay, you die. That’s why many thousands will still die every year under Obamacare from lack of health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time.

Number 15:
In Canada, there are no complex hospital or doctor bills. In fact, usually you don’t even see a bill.

In the United States, under Obamacare, hospital and doctor bills will still be terribly complex, making it impossible to discover the many costly overcharges.

Number 14:
In Canada, costs are controlled. Canada pays 10 percent of its GDP for its health care system, covering everyone.

In the United States, under Obamacare, costs continue to skyrocket. The U.S. currently pays 18 percent of its GDP and still doesn’t cover tens of millions of people.

Number 13:
In Canada, it is unheard of for anyone to go bankrupt due to health care costs.

In the United States, under Obamacare, health care driven bankruptcy will continue to plague Americans.

Number 12:
In Canada, simplicity leads to major savings in administrative costs and overhead.

In the United States, under Obamacare, complexity will lead to ratcheting up administrative costs and overhead.

Number 11:
In Canada, when you go to a doctor or hospital the first thing they ask you is: “What’s wrong?”

In the United States, the first thing they ask you is: “What kind of insurance do you have?”

Number 10:
In Canada, the government negotiates drug prices so they are more affordable.

In the United States, under Obamacare, Congress made it specifically illegal for the government to negotiate drug prices for volume purchases, so they remain unaffordable.

Number 9:
In Canada, the government health care funds are not profitably diverted to the top one percent.

In the United States, under Obamacare, health care funds will continue to flow to the top. In 2012, CEOs at six of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. received a total of $83.3 million in pay, plus benefits.

Number 8:
In Canada, there are no necessary co-pays or deductibles.

In the United States, under Obamacare, the deductibles and co-pays will continue to be unaffordable for many millions of Americans.

Number 7:
In Canada, the health care system contributes to social solidarity and national pride.

In the United States, Obamacare is divisive, with rich and poor in different systems and tens of millions left out or with sorely limited benefits.

Number 6:
In Canada, delays in health care are not due to the cost of insurance.

In the United States, under Obamacare, patients without health insurance or who are underinsured will continue to delay or forgo care and put their lives at risk.

Number 5:
In Canada, nobody dies due to lack of health insurance.

In the United States, under Obamacare, many thousands will continue to die every year due to lack of health insurance.

Number 4:
In Canada, an increasing majority supports their health care system, which costs half as much, per person, as in the United States. And in Canada, everyone is covered.

In the United States, a majority – many for different reasons – oppose Obamacare.

Number 3:
In Canada, the tax payments to fund the health care system are progressive – the lowest 20 percent pays 6 percent of income into the system while the highest 20 percent pays 8 percent.

In the United States, under Obamacare, the poor pay a larger share of their income for health care than the affluent.

Number 2:
In Canada, the administration of the system is simple. You get a health care card when you are born. And you swipe it when you go to a doctor or hospital. End of story.

In the United States, Obamacare’s 2,500 pages plus regulations (the Canadian Medicare Bill was 13 pages) is so complex that then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said before passage “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

Number 1:
In Canada, the majority of citizens love their health care system.

In the United States, the majority of citizens, physicians, and nurses prefer the Canadian type system – single-payer, free choice of doctor and hospital , everybody in, nobody out.

For more information see Single Payer Action.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and “Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us” (a novel).

 

Vermont Approves Single-Payer Health Care: ‘Everybody in, nobody out’

posted by Salvatore Aversa November 20, 2013, http://www.occupydemocrats.com

The Affordable Care Act continues to plow ahead, despite Republican attempts to fight it at every turn.  What is unfolding in front of us is nothing short of spectacular.  The problems with healthcare.gov are slowly being resolved which is helping more and more people sign up for affordable healthcare, many for the first time in their life.  The law provides so much more than that, including standards for even the lowest level plans, protections for young adults 26 and younger, and the elimination of pre-existing plans.  Of course, you will not hear the success stories on the news, because those stories are not nearly as sexy as the “Obama Lied” slogan they are so fond of.

The biggest downside of the ACA is the reliance on the private insurance industry.  It does not have to be this way, however.  There is yet another provision in the Affordable Care Act that can open the door for states to institute their own single-payer healthcare system.  Other states have a public option, especially for those below a certain income level, but no state had instituted a true single-payer system.  All of this has changed thanks to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act.

Vermont—Home of Ben and Jerry’s, Maple Syrup, Bernie Sanders and the first state to pass marriage equality.  Now, Vermont will be known for something that will impact every resident in the state.

The ACA provided states with federal funds to institute a Medicaid expansion.  The states chose to expand the program also were able to set up their own state exchanges, which were relatively free from the problems the federal site had.  Vermont decided to take it a step further by setting up their very own single payer system.

The slogan of the program: Everybody in, nobody out.

The program will be fully operational by 2017, and will be funded through Medicare, Medicaid, federal money for the ACA given to Vermont, and a slight increase in taxes.  In exchange, there will be no more premiums, deductibles, copay’s, hospital bills or anything else aimed at making insurance companies a profit.  Further, all hospitals and healthcare providers will now be nonprofit.

This system will provide an instant boost the state economy.  On the one side, you have workers that no longer have to worry about paying medical costs or a monthly premium and are able to use that money for other things.  On the other side, you have the burden of paying insurance taken off of the employers side, who will be able to use the saved money to provide a better wage and/or reinvest in their company through updated infrastructure and added jobs.  It is a win-win solution.

To make sure that it is done right the first time, Vermont brought in a specialist who knows a thing or two about setting up a single-payer system.

Dr. William Hsaio, the Harvard health care economist who helped craft health systems in seven countries, was Vermont’s adviser. He estimates that Vermont will save 25 percent per capita over the current system in administrative costs and other savings.

Many like to say that the United States has the best healthcare system in the world.  The problem is we don’t.  Not even close.  In fact, the only way you can get the best healthcare in the world, is if you are willing and able to pay for it.  The United States can and must do better for its people.

Costs have to be held down — there is no reason why the U.S. has to pay twice the amount per capita as the next most costly system in the world (Norway’s), and still not cover millions of its citizens. A Harvard Medical School study states that 45,000 Americans die each year from treatable diseases because they cannot afford to get treatment.

45,000 Americans die every single year because they cannot afford treatment, are you ready for that?  That is 15 times the amount of people that died during the September 11, 2001, attacks, or perhaps for you Righty’s out there you would rather see it put this way, 11,250 times the amount of people that died in the Benghazi attack.  That equals 5 Americans that die every hour, of every day, of every year because of a preventable illness that was not taken care of due to lack of access and means.

Even once the Affordable Care Act wrinkles are ironed out, which they will be, and every America is covered, which will happen, that will not change the fact that all of this is being driven by a for-profit system by companies that only care about their bottom line.  Despite rules in the ACA which prevent insurance companies from absolutely gouging their customers, insurance companies are not exactly know for their ethical behavior.

A single-payer system would all but eliminate anybody dying unnecessarily due to lack of access to healthcare.  Our Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  How can somebody have life and happiness, without their health?  Despite the glaring hypocrisy of rich, white males who owned slaves stating all men are created equal, we have come a long way from 1776.  Yet when it comes to the very basic need, we are left to the whim of a business.  Single-payer is inevitable, and the ACA is a giant step in that direction.  We need must hold our officials to a higher standard which will get us there faster.  40,000 people a year is absolutely unacceptable.  Vermont saw the writings on the wall.  Will the rest of us?

Video

Bernie Sanders on MSNBC discussing his state’s new single-payer system.

 

 

Walmart Relentless as Thousands Set to Lose Out in New Health Care Policy December 2, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Labor.
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Published on Saturday, December 1, 2012 by Common Dreams

Box store implicated in federal wage-theft lawsuit

  – Common Dreams staff

Walmart will continue to disappoint workers and labor rights activists in the coming months as it continues to ignore the current widespread workers’ strike and protest movement against its labor policies and implements a new health insurance program that will deny healthcare coverage to employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.

Photo via Facebook / Overpass Light Brigade.

Walmart is known for employing many of its workers part time and less than 30 hours per week, meaning a large majority of its employees is set to lose insurance through their employer.

In response to the Huffington Post, Walmart declined to disclose how many of its roughly 1.4 million U.S. workers will lose their insurance under the new policy, which is set to begin in January. Company spokesman David Tovar told Huffington that Walmart had “made a business decision” not to respond to questions from the paper.

“For Walmart employees, the new system raises the risk that they could lose their health coverage in large part because they have little control over their schedules. Walmart uses an advanced scheduling system to constantly alter workers’ shifts according to store traffic and sales figures,” the Huffington Post reports.

The discovery comes shortly after thousands of Walmart workers across the country walked off the job over the course of the week leading up to the national shopping day Black Friday. Workers continue to organize and speak out against the company’s attempts to silence employees’ complaints regarding the “company’s manipulation of hours and benefits, efforts to try to keep people from working full-time and their discrimination against women and people of color.”

In other Walmart labor news, Walmart warehouse workers in Southern California filed a petition in court this week in a bid to sue Walmart in a federal wage-theft lawsuit.

Walmart’s warehouses in California and Illinois have accused their employer of labor violations in the past; however, Friday’s filing was the first time Walmart has been directly implicated in the claims of abuse, rather than the company’s warehouse subcontractors, the Huffington Post reports.

“Walmart’s name does not appear on any of these workers paychecks, and the Walmart logo does not appear on the t-shirts they’re required to wear,” Michael Rubin, the workers’ lawyer, said on Friday. “But it has become increasingly clear that the ultimate liability for these workplace violations rests squarely on the shoulders of Walmart.”

 

Comments

  • oldblue63

    A) Why does anyone shop at Walmart?  We shoppers  could bring them around in a few weeks if we all just QUIT shopping there. They need our business …we are in the driver’s seat if we use our power. B) This is a perfect example of why health care should not be provided through employers. Part-time employment is extremely common and it makes the employee constantly up in the air about health care benefits…and many employers do not begin coverage until 3-6 months of employment anyway, so people are going without insurance for long periods.  We are all FULL-TIME citizens and that is where we should be getting our health care benefits.

  • gardenernorcal

    We weren’t offered national health care.

    Many people are forced to shop Walmart because when they move in many local shops close up.  Before Walmart moved into my town we had a Wards, Penneys, KMart and Sears store and assorted small shops like dime stores.  Today we have Walmart  a couple high end furniture stores, 1$ Store, a Staples and a Home Depot.

  • BuddhaNature

    Your story is very similar to our town with one exception. Our town refused a Wal-Mart, so they built in everytown around us and sucked the business away. We  too had a JC Penneys, and Sears. And they try and tell you that capitalism is about competition? I won’t shop in there. They keep their wages down to assure themsleves of a customer base.. Henry Ford paid his workers the then good wage of $5.00 dollars a day so that could afford to buy the car they were producing, Wal- Mart on the otherhand, under pays their workers to  assure they can’t afford to shop anyplace else.

  • natureschild3

     

    “Henry Ford paid his workers the then good wage of $5.00 dollars a day so that could afford to buy the car”

    yes! he expressed the opinion that assembly line workers should earn enough to buy an auto. also he insisted the employees show up in a christian church…and never, ever drink a beer or any alcohol–even at home.

    then one day ford had a great business idea–“I can grow my own tires in honduras!” there, too, henry made sure the brown people of honduras appeared his his church, but adequate pay? “naw. we don’t need a bunch o’ darkies driving cars!” if you can, watch or read transcript here:

    “Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City”

     

    http://www.democracynow.org/20…

     

  • Amurkan

    Henry Ford was obliged to pay his workers $5 hr because they quit in droves when they realized that they would be demeaned by his new assembly line. He didn’t do this from the kindness of his heart. No one seems to know this.

  • natureschild3

    yes! and doesn’t that $5 an hour allowing his faithful to buy a model t speak volumes about the ongoing devaluation of the paper dollar?

    “you load 16 tons of #9 coal and what do you get? “anothe day older and deeper in debt. “lord, don’tcha call me ’cause i can’t go…

    “i owe my so-o-oul. . . to the company store!”

     

  • gardenernorcal

    Yeah Ford was not quite the big stalwart supporter of labor as he’s painted today.

     

    But for years Ford also resorted to legal as well as thug tactics to prevent workers in Ford plants from unionizing. 

    In December 1937, the company was found in violation of the Wagner Act and was ordered to cease interfering with workers’ efforts to unionize. In 1941, when wages at Ford were in fact lower than the average wage for the industry, Henry Ford continued to insist that “we do not intend to submit to any union.”

     

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09…

  • Yunzer

    That’s what you get for living in Kalifornia.  Even the pre-Wal-Mart stores you listed are big-box chains!  Is there ANY part of you state that isn’t totally dominated by big chain-crap?  The Summer of Love ended 43 years ago, and the last Doobie Brothers hit was 35 years ago.  You should consider moving back here to the unfashionable mid-atlantic/northeast.

  • gardenernorcal

    But consider this pre Walmart my community of approximately 500,000 supported 4 large chain stores, whose employees were organized and received full benefits including health care and retirement.  People had choices.  I know I shopped Penneys for clothes, Wards for furniture, Sears for tools and KMart for miscellaneous little stuff.  Today I have basically one choice Walmart and they say they can’t pay their employees a living wage or provide them with health care and other benefits.  Why is that?  They are one of the largest and most profitable US corporations.

    And I was born in California. It’s my home. I wouldn’t be moving back to anywhere.

  • nveric

    You being Snobbish? Don’t you know the oceans are rising?

  • Lorenzo LaRue

    ….And your only entry here is smart ass?  Don’t you know that everyone doesn’t live on the beach?

  • Yunzer

    Fortunately all Wal-Marts are out in the public transit-hostile suburban sprawl-land and require a car, or incredibly crappy bus service to get there.  I’ve sworn off all car use except for the occasional long-haul intercity, hiking or hang gliding trip.

    The only reason I would set foot in a Wal-Mart of Sam’s Club would be to burn one to the ground.  Don’t worry, I’d give plenty of warning to evacuate first.

  • Dem. Socialism

    “Too Big To Care”…”Too Immoral To Share”.

    (Wal-Mart’s new slogan.)

  • N30rebel

    Perhaps better?: “Too Big To Care”…”Too Immoral To Shame.”

  • Matthew Grebenc

    Too immortal to care.

  • gardenernorcal

     

    “But it has become increasingly clear that the ultimate liability for these workplace violations rests squarely on the shoulders of Walmart.”

     

    No actually the responsibility lies with all of us that worry more about the DOW every morning than we do the moral and humane treatment of every worker on this planet.  When Reagan fired those air traffic controllers it wasn’t victory for anyone but big finance and Wall St..

    I remember a time when the financial news was the last thing reported on and only given a few moments at that.  We also didn’t have our TV waves saturated with ads by big pharma or attorneys.  And is it just me or am I seeing more and more alcohol ads as well?  Weren’t they outlawed?  How is it some companies are allowed to campaign but Spuds Mckensey was torpedoed into oblivion.

  • 69Tuscany

    The US and New Zealand are the only countries in the world who allow pharmaceutical advertising.

  • adiantum

    I think NZ recently disallowed it.

  • Dem. Socialism

    Also, gardenernorcal, have you noticed the amount of smoking done in movies lately? Rather blatant.

  • Amurkan

    The excuse given for smoking actors is the ‘in character’ thing. It’s baloney. The studios are complicit in the death later by millions of kids who start smoking because their film heroes do it.  Disgusting and criminal.

  • Richard_William_Posner

    Let’s not overlook the amount of advertising being done by the military. It’s sickening.

    There’s also more than one show that is being used as a propaganda tool to reinforce acceptance of the phony war on terror.

    Additionally, the existence of chemtrails is being normalised through increasing visibility in programming and ads. Pay attention to scenes with nice blue skies in them.

  • gardenernorcal

    There’s a lot of infuriating advertising I didn’t mention like BP’s telling how their actions have improved life on the Gulf.

  • Richard_William_Posner

    Not being critical gardener, just reinforcing your observations.

    The Bernaysian ministries of propaganda, both commercial and political (is there really any difference?) are manufacturing every aspect of our reality.

  • gardenernorcal

    I didn’t take it as a criticism.  I find the additions to my list kind of interesting.

  • Richard_William_Posner

    I’m glad. Wasn’t really sure. And by the way, yes, I find those BP ads really outrageous and infuriating.

  • Holygeezer

    The whole stock market thing is pretty criminal. If one is honest and thinks about it at all, there is no way you can “earn” money by doing nothing, unless you are in effect stealing it from others somehow. The others in this case being workers. Some may say this is too simplistic of a view, but in essence, earning money from investments is glorified stealing.

  • nveric

    The 1970s changed reason into insanity.

    Reagan was the tipper, not the gipper.

  • gardenernorcal

     

    Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, plans to begin denying health insurance to newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.Under the policy, slated to take effect in January, Walmart also reserves the right to eliminate health care coverage for certain workers if their average workweek dips below 30 hours — something that happens with regularity and at the direction of company managers 

    Labor and health care experts portrayed Walmart’s decision to exclude workers from its medical plans as an attempt to limit costs while taking advantage of the national health care reform known as Obamacare. Among the key features of Obamacare is an expansion of Medicaid, the taxpayer-financed health insurance program for poor people. Many of the Walmart workers who might be dropped from the company’s health care plans earn so little that they would qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, these experts said.

     

    How convenient the US’s largest employer can now foist off their overhead on the US taxpayer while receiving tax breaks and subsidies.

    Interesting chart on this site:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/…

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Yep, this was a predictable outcome of Obamacare, better known as “The Death Panel Profiteers Bailout Act.”  WalMart employees (or rather, taxpayers) will now be forced to buy a defective-by-design product from protection racket extortionists that some call insurance companies.  The full damage of this monstronsity won’t be understood until well after 2014, when its more onerous dictates are implemented.

    Thanks, Obama.

  • gardenernorcal

    Not just that.  Taxpayers will be subsidizing Walmart labor by providing them with medicaid, food stamps etc..  With their profits you’d think they could afford to pay  their employees a living wage.

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Good point.  The next logical step will be to lower corporate taxes even further and then repeal the Emancipation Proclamation.

  • Mike_Strong

    Yup! Repealing the Emancipation Proclamation is definitely on the agenda. Just slightly different job descriptions and this time with a paycheck. Sort of an upgrade on sharecropping.

  • natureschild3

    don’t just thank obama. top honors should go to lloyd blankfein, ceo of goldman sachs. lloyd is the real man behind the curtain pulling all sorts of political strings!

  • Donna M Crane

    Since my 41 year old son is already on ObamaCare for his pre-exisiting condition, I can assure you it is in no way defective, and is affordable.  He is able to pay his monthly fee of $188 and co-pays even though he is only working about 30 hours a week currently. The excellent RX Plan that is included (unlike Medicare) allows him to get his medications at an affordable price  that keeps him out of the hospital and able to work. In fact, as far as I can see, it works just like, and just as well as, my Medicare which I love.  And in point of fact, we are already paying for all Walmart’s employees, even the full time ones who still qualify for food stamps and Medicaid.  Most WalMart employees already don’t have health insurance thru the company.  In fact pretty much only the top levels have it. ObamaCares is already benefiting many people like my son and here in AZ we are using the Federal Government Set Up Exchange, since AZ isn’t going to set up its own Exchange…I consider this a benefit for us as I’m sure AZ wouldn’t do as well.  Before you start kicking around ObamaCare, you should talk to some people who are on it.

  • Inspector47

    Thank you! As far as Walmart being thieves they are the free market, capitalism at it’s best! The republicans are crying about the four people who were killed overseas, four thousand Americans die monthly due to the lack of health care. My daughter wreaked on her bike, she is a college student, at 23, she was able to be on our health ins for her injuries thanks to Obama care.

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Thanks.  I’m glad it’s working for you, at least for now. Most of the perceived good provisions of the 2,000-page bill were implemented upfront, pre-election, by design.  2014 is when the kickers come, too late, by design.

    [Adding: Walmart is the post-election coalmine canary.  Dropping employeer-provided healthcare will become a corporate rush by 2014.  Obamacare did nothing to cap runaway drug and sickcare costs.  Enjoy the good times.]

  • Inspector47

    Like the 80/20 law that forces insurance companies to spend 80 percent of premimuns on the policy holder or return it?

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Not quite. The rebate does not apply to individual policy holders as you imply, but to collective policy holders within a state. IOW, you don’t get a refund as an individual customer if you’re healthy and the company spends little or no money on you.  This is why Obama’s Death-Panel Profiteers Bailout Act is more than 2,000 pages of lobbyese.  It’s designed to confuse most people while enriching the investor class that Obama really works for.

    The theoretical rebate would be a share of whatever amount your insurer spends on health care that is less than 80% of aggregate premiums paid in by all of its customers in that state, and you can imagine how corporate attorneys will game that one).

    So, if your employer (like Walmart) drops you—as many or most will do in the next year or two—forcing you (or taxpayers for you) to pay thousands in out-of-pocket in premiums (no choice under the mandate), you might get a $158 rebate at the end of the year like the lucky lottery winners of North Carolina ($7 in Utah).  Partly, this depends on how successful the death-panel gatekeepers are at rationing care or denying claims in a particular state.

    http://www.examiner.com/articl…

    See also: Welcome to the Future of Your Health Insurance. It Sucks.

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com…

  • Inspector47

    Death panels in the affordable care act, Sarah Palin won lie of the year with that one.

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Thank you.  Apparently, my use of the term for private versus public was unclear. Palin’s use of the term for her GOP handlers referred to government “death panels”, to scare people away from universal coverage by single-payer (for the same people waving signs reading “keep your government hands off my Medicare”).    My use of the term refers to the private profiteers (insurance racketeers), whose gatekeepers are a far worse form of “death panel” — denying claims and rationing care for profit only.

    The denial of coverage by for-profit gatekeepers is routine and far worse here than what occurs in civilized countries with single-payer universal coverage like Sweden, Canada and the UK.  And Obamacare rejected single-payer and any public option thus institutionalizing profiteering by private racketeers with a captive market — with almost no limits on escalating costs, including prescription drugs that are explicitly protected from market competition (free trade is remarkably selective).  It is the worst form of crony capitalism endorsed by the conservative Supine Court.

  • wildcarrots

    Well said.

  • wildcarrots

    I’m really glad it is working for your son, no doubt it will work better than standard insurance for some groups.  Just remember that the system you are comparing it with really sucks. If you really think it is good try comparing it to one of the other systems in the world that deliver better care at half the cost.

  • Kenneth C. Fingeret

    Hello gardenernorcal,

    Walfart has been doing this for decades.  As I understand it part of the paperwork when you are hired is getting government assistance due to your lack of a living wage salary that does not include much if anything in the way of benefits. This makes you eligible for different programs such as Medicade, AFDC, etc.  A special Walfart tax of 500% of all government payments that are made to Walfart employees due to lack of salary and benefits given to their employees. should be the minimum required for Walfart to pay.  I call them Walfart because they leave a bad odor wherever they are located!

  • nveric

    Blood sucking death mongers run Walmart, their oozing puss filled sores covering their faces, acidic drool plops from their crusted puffy lips burning holes to the center of the Earth, necks as short as their ‘other’ parts and as wide as their hips, and below are stubby trunk-like legs incapable of independent motion.

    You see, there’s no body and no heart for these Borg-like little people spawned from Sam Walton and an unknown surrogate, most likely an alien life-form kept in an undisclosed location in Nevada.

  • wildcarrots

    The U.S. is going to be a very unhealthy place to live and shop when you consider the number of people that do not have access to healthcare.  Disease does not respect ideological boundaries. .

  • Gubdeb

    Look around. It already is.

  • Poet

    I don’t know who designed the portable lit sign, but it gives the graffiti of protest an entirely new frontier (drive through territory after or just before dark) and flexibility (how difficult would it be to change the message to “Tax the Wealthy for a Change”, or “Shrink the Pentagon Not Social Security”?).

     

    It can be easily moved and, depending on the time, and location reach many people with a simple message they cannot avoid.  Flash mobs just got an entirely new twist unique to the US motoring culture!

     

  • 69Tuscany

    Great idea.

  • d9rich

    It’s been done with hand-made signs for over a decade or more.

  • Poet

    If by “hand made signs” you mean electrically lit like the one in the picture, then great–I have never seen any such example before the above photo.

     

    What I meant to convey was that most “hand made signs” are invisible after dark to all but the cars slowing to a stop at a traffic light.

     

    That one in the picture cannot be missed by passing motorists on their way to nowhere and as such expands both the potential audience and time of exposure to whatever message an activist wishes to present.

     

     

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    Obama/Catholic Contraception Controversy Boils Down to Workers’ Rights February 12, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Labor, Women.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    1 comment so far
    Roger’s note: One more movement in the direction of establishing the American theocracy.
    Published on Saturday, February 11, 2012 by In These Times

    by  Roger Bybee

    The great new religious battle over the proposed new federal rule requiring contraception coverage for women actually boils down to the basic precept that worker rights apply across all of society, including within religious institutions. But it also reveals the political machinations of the right, the suspect motives of the Catholic bishops and another crucial weakness in the much heralded Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act passed by the Democrats and signed by President Obama two years ago.

    First, it is striking how America’s all-male Catholic hierarchy has seemingly colluded with Republicans in miraculously conceiving this issue as a potential “wedge” issue to mobilize blue-collar Catholics against President Obama and the Democrats.

    Second, it is almost amusing to see bishops, now pretending to launch a last-ditch effort to prevent a sudden and unique incursion by the Obama administration against the freedom to practice their religion. The Catholic hierarchy has decisively “lost the war at home “ already, as Gail Collins notes, but is choosing to pick a political fight. The majority of Catholic women use birth control. Federal rules required contraception’s inclusion for more than a decade, as Daily Kos reports:

    In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today.

    With more than half the states also requiring insurers to include contraception in women’s health care packages, Catholic universities, schools and hospitals are obligated to provide birth-control services to their employees. (Most states have an exemption for churches.)

    Further, Catholic doctrine is trumped by the Constitutional principle that members of all faiths must obey the law. Noted attorney David Boise explains that freedom of religion as outlined in the Constitution is quite different from the bishops’ version:

    Everybody is free to exercise the religion that they choose. [But] there isn`t anything in the Constitution that says an employer, regardless of whether you are a church employer or not, isn`t subject to the same rules as any other employer.

    The fundamental point is underscored in this exchange between Boise and his MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell:

    O`DONNELL: So, this is just simple labor law. …Labor [law] requires certain conditions in the work place and so forth. This is one of those.

    BOIES: And tax law and workman’s comp law. I mean, there are all sorts of laws that apply to every employer in this country, and you don`t exempt religious employers just because their religion. You are not asking anybody in the Catholic Church or any other church to do anything other than simply comply with a normal law that every employer has to comply with.

    Employers who provide health insurance are currently required in 28 states to provide contraceptive services and other reproductive care as part of a strategy of preventive care, which coincides with the conclusions reached by the medical experts consulted in writing the Affordable Care Act.

    But the contrived issue of contraception is being perceived by the Republicans as a chance to split working-class Catholics voters from Barack Obama.

    It appears to be a textbook case of the Right developing what Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?, diagnosed astutely as an “election-season” issue. The Republicans have been immensely creative in inflating issues like gay marriage and gun rights to immense proportions to attract the votes of working-class and low-income voters, facilitated by the frequent Democratic failure to tenaciously push economic justice with the same level of conviction shown by the Right.

    For the Republicans and the Right, the notion of including contraception as a standard part of women’s health insurance offers yet another chance to demonize Obama for “overt hostility to faith,” according to Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum. Pulling out all the stops, Santorum even raised the specter of Obama unleashing savage anti-religious forces that would literally re-introduce the “guillotine” of the French Revolution for the faithful and patriotic.

    For the Catholic bishops, this conflict re-ignites their hope of rolling back contraceptive rights, established in a 1965 Supreme Court decision, and also trying to further shrink abortion rights. While the strongly-held sentiment of Americans for contraceptive rights is obvious, the Catholic leaders are trying to regain lost ground by lining up with a retrograde movement. As journalist Barbara Miner observed five years ago:

    The movement against birth control has moved beyond the fringe. Across the country, many pharmacists won’t fill birth control prescriptions, some hospital emergency rooms refuse to dispense emergency contraception and some state legislatures are cutting funds for family planning.

    The Catholic bishops hope somehow to add fuel to this movement and thus turn the clock back a century or two, with this anti-contraception push being wrapped up with anti-abortion rules in the name of protecting “religious freedom.” Feminists like Barbara Miner and Katha Pollitt are appalled by this campaign. As Miner told In These Times,

    The medical community accepts that contraception is an integral part of medical care for women. If the Catholic Church and its institutions are serious about promoting healthcare, they should follow the best practices and give their employees the best quality care, and that includes contraception.

    For the Republicans, it also provides another chance to castigate Obama’s healthcare plan, which they previously stigmatized with preposterous lies about creating “death panels” and staging “a government takeover of one-sixth of the economy.”

    But we must recognize that the Republicans would have had no opportunity to raise the issue if America had a single-payer healthcasre system instead of the current employer-based structure.

    Workers would thereby have a standard package of benefits that would not be tied to their employers’ beliefs and they could choose their own doctors and hospitals.

    Instead, the Affordable Care Act retains citizens’ dependence on their employers choices, opening the door for the Catholic bishops to seek to dictate women’s options. The ACA also enshrines and subsidizes the insurance corporations that maximize profits by minimizing care, as well as still leaving out 30 million Americans from health coverage, as O’Donnell drove home emphatically.

    Reflecting on the ACA’s flaw that allows the Right and the Catholic bishops to attack women’s right to contraceptive care, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) points out

    We`d be better off if we had a single-payer health care system where you didn`t have employers involved.

    A more recent struggle offers hope of the public rallying behind women’s reproductive rights, “I think we can learn from the way that people rallied behind Planned Parenthood when the Susan G. Komen Foundation tried to cut off their funding,” Miner says.

    © 2012 In These Times

    <!–

    –>

    Roger Bybee

    Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and progressive publicity consultant whose work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites, including Z magazine, Common Dreams, Dollars & Sense, Yes!, The Progressive, Multinational Monitor, The American Prospect and Foreign Policy in Focus.

     

     

     

     

    19 Comments so far

    Hide All

    Posted by NC-Tom
    Feb 11 2012 – 9:54am

    So we have an organization that has sheltered child abusing priests, and actually moved them around from parish to parish thus enabling the activity.  Add to that their silence over the war mongering activity of the US.  For example, how many late term unborn babies have been killed by the US military?  Where is their outrage over that?

    Now they become holier than thou over birth control.  WTF?!

    Like George Carlin said: “When it comes to BULLSHIT…BIG-TIME, MAJOR LEAGUE BULLSHIT… you have to stand IN AWE, IN AWE of the all time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion.

    Posted by damnliberal
    Feb 11 2012 – 10:01am

    There is a difference between the parties that have a chance to win the White House. Living in Michigan I can vote for the nutty Ron Paul because he understands how crazy our foreign policy is, and is against the war on drugs. Michigan hates Romney because he was against saving the American auto industry.

    Posted by Trylon
    Feb 11 2012 – 10:22am

    There are two kinds of people in this world: 1) those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world, 2) those who don’t.

    This comes to mind when I read a sentence like =contraception coverage for women actually boils down to the basic precept that worker rights apply across all of society, including within religious institutions=.

    The issue under contention has more facets than a dodecahedron constructed of mirrors. Each facet boils down to some intensely held belief.

    Mine is that this issue should not exist in the first place. Human social contract should provide health care from the aggregate population covered, covering the universe of members, and paid for by the aggregate or gross national product. The insurance industry should be kept at bay from health care by sharpened bayonets, or canisters of tear gas – whatever the hell it takes to make them keep their capitalist peckers in their underpants.

    I’m sick and tired of hearing the phrase: “I’m not going to pay for someone’s this or that which is against my morality.”  History shows moralists are equally obnoxious, even murderous, when no financial burden upon them is involved. “You will live in my theocracy and obey my God without complaint or rebellion, or I’ll effing kill you.”

    Don’t ever say that to me. Don’t ever say that to me. Trylon

    Posted by gardenernorcal
    Feb 11 2012 – 10:41am

    I agree.  If we had nationalized health care.  The same services would be provided to everyone for the same contribution.  It would be a personal choice if you chose to partake of something that was contrary to your personal religion.  It wouldn’t be a church telling everyone else what they would or wouldn’t be willing to pay for. Or our government exempting some and not exempting others based on a “religious test”.

    Posted by Rainborowe
    Feb 11 2012 – 2:29pm

    If we ever get an administration courageous enough to attempt to pass a national health service law, I’m sure the RC bishops would be right onto that, too.  But what really bugs me about this latest escapade is that those bishops objecting to ObamaCare had no problem demanding that RC women be excluded from participating in that part of it–whether they wanted to or not.  It’s as though Eliot Ness had taken to raiding the churches and smashing their bottles of communion wine.  Imagine the howl if that had happened.

    Posted by Thalidomide
    Feb 11 2012 – 10:57am

    The fact that the corrupt pro-pedophile leadership of this vatican cult still has political power in the United States is absurd. They have proven themselves to be totally immoral and their hatred of women is legendary. 98 percent of catholic women don’t care what they think so I assume their support is coming from older men who can’t gey pregnant so the hell with them.

    Posted by ThomasMarx
    Feb 11 2012 – 11:10am

    Well, it sure comes as a surprise to me that workers have rights in the greatest democracy and freest country that ever existed in the history of the universe.

    Do they really have rights?  That is good news to me. TM

    Posted by dkshaw
    Feb 11 2012 – 11:31am

    What a tempest in a teapot. Bibi and Barky are champing at the bit to begin World War 3, and the media gives us condoms and birth control pills versus religious freedom.

    Besides…

    Hey! Ratzinger! There are 7 billion people on the planet now. How many more do you want? Would another 7 billion do it for you? Another 14 billion? 21 billion? Please. Give us a number that will satisfy you so that your “flock” may then be allowed to use birth control.

    Posted by pjd412
    Feb 11 2012 – 1:16pm

    Actually, the insurance coverage is only for prescription or physician-installed contraceptives.  Non prescription contraceptives (condoms) were never covered.

    You can calm down a bit about the contraceptive issue.  Catholics worldwide ignore the hoary old “contraceptives are sinful” .  The countries with some of the lowest fertility rates and population declines – Spain, Southern Germany, Italy, probably even Ireland, are Catholic countries.  In the US, the largest family sizes are in the Protestant-dominant south, and the smallest, in the Catholic dominated north.  The countries with the highest fertility rates are Muslim countries.  Muslims have no objection to birth control.

    Fertility rates and population growth have nothing to do with availability of contraception, becasue contraception is already available everywhere, nor religion.  They have to do with standard of living.  Having a large family is a perfectly rational social and economic decision for a poor family in an peasant (or even not-so peasant) agrarian culture, and this agrarian tradition, tends to persist, disfunctionally, for a few generations after the rural poor move to the cities.  But it always does die out, and replacement level or lower birth rates are achieved once living standard is improved.  This (along with China’s one child law) is why population is stabilizing on its own and nobody knowledgeable about the issues considers population to be a problem.   The problem is the distribution of wealth, and disproportionate planetary environmental impacts among the population, not the population.  Throw you old yellowed copies of Ehrlich away.

    Posted by Rainborowe
    Feb 11 2012 – 2:37pm

    I think you misunderstand the source of people’s anger.  It isn’t that Roman Catholic women are being denied birth control; it’s that the president of the USA rolled over and did what the RC bishops demanded in denying RC women the same coverage under his health plan that all other women got.  I’m sure many people object to various provisions of the plan, but they don’t get to call the shots on other people’s coverages.

    Posted by WoodGas
    Feb 11 2012 – 11:59am

    Maybe I’m missing something here. Is anyone being required, as a condition of employment, to USE birth control? While there are situations where I think contraception should be mandatory, (methamthetamine use for one) there doesn’t seem to be any personal use requirement involved here, where does infringement of rights come into this?  “Just say no”

    Posted by Stone
    Feb 11 2012 – 12:53pm

    It is not a workers right to destroy life.  Life is the superior value.

    Posted by shadre
    Feb 11 2012 – 2:18pm

    Sorry, but to me, your statement is a bit disingenuous, considering that ALL life is “the superior value (sacred, if you belief in a Creator), and humankind has lived to destroy life from the time we came to be on this planet.

    Posted by conscience
    Feb 11 2012 – 2:36pm

    And male supremacists get to decide that a woman’s life is less superior to sperm or a fertilized egg — ?

    Those same male supremacists who have oppressed women and children for 2,000 years?

    You can embrace democracy and equality for all, or you can follow male-supremacists.   Democracy is superior to male-supremacy. Equality for all is superior to male supremacy.  It’s your choice.

    Posted by pjd412
    Feb 11 2012 – 12:55pm

    My understanding of this agreement is that the Catholic institution will not have to list contraception on their employee insurance benefit booklets, but prescription contraception will still be covered “on the sly”.  So, theoretically, the Catholic employer group plan rates will be a bit lower, but the premium payers in general will pay a bit more to cover the Catholic cleric’s or administrator’s religious freedom.  But the amount is probably tiny and completely buried by other cost increases in the dysfunctional US health care system,  So I really can’t get too indignant about it.  Give them their religious freedom and get back to more important issues like health care for all regardless of condition of employment.

    Posted by Rainborowe
    Feb 11 2012 – 2:47pm

    It is not the women who are demanding to have this benefit denied them, it it?    And any women who reject birth control are free to avoid using it.  So where’s the “religious freedom” in allowing a bunch of male priests to exclude women of their faith from getting a benefit open to all other women?

    Posted by Samalabear
    Feb 11 2012 – 1:21pm

    Lawrence O’Donnell expands the next night on this mess:

    http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-last-word/46321122#null

    Nice little rant here.

    And then here’s a story that was on Marketplace that talks about the impact of the Catholic Church when it comes to contraception in countries that are vulnerable to the man-made rules of the Catholic Church:

    http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/food-9-billion/philippines-too-many-mouths

    Posted by shadre
    Feb 11 2012 – 2:28pm

    I think it’s high time these few churches who’re trying to control the whole government, and people not even of their faiths, should have to start paying taxes.

    Oh, that’s right – the largest of them doing the most to take control has never even been a citizen of this country.  We could at least tax their churches that are here though.

    Posted by David McConnell
    Feb 11 2012 – 2:34pm

    What I see here is a classic example of we want our rights, but you can’t have yours.  You can’t stand the concept of not working for an employer who’s beliefs don’t mirror your own.  You think you have the right to walk into any place of employment and force your beliefs upon your employer.  Deal with it.  No church should be forced to hire employees who’s beliefs contradict their’s.  Why would you even want to work in that environment, unless it was to cause problems?  I detest organized religion, but this country was founded on some basic rights and you want to take that away.

    Sleazy California Democratd on Health Reform February 6, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in California, Democracy, Health.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    add a comment

    Roger’s note: this is an excerpt from an email I received from activist.thepen@gmail.com.  It describes the machinations of the California Democratic Party in appearing to support a single payer health insurance plan while at the same time behind the scenes doing everything it can to ensure that it DOESN’T come to pass.  In the seven years I spend on the Toronto municipal council, I saw this kind of hypocrisy in action time and time again.  What they did in California is a classical example of this tactic, and the pen activists captured it perfectly and are to be congratulated for the exposé.  And one more example of why electoral politics (as opposed to taking to the streets) is for the most part futile.

    As you know, if you have been a participant of this distribution list for a while, we have been valiantly advocating for a single payer health care system for many years. Such a bill (SB 840) was passed by both chambers of the CA state legislature in 2006, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Maid Molester (Schwarzenegger).
    At the time we TRIED to get the Democratic nominee Phil Angelides (who had previously claimed to support single payer) to do an action to demand that Arnold sign the bill. It would have been a great campaign issue for him, but he was too chicken hearted or corrupt himself (your choice) to do it, and he lost by 30 points or something like that.

    The same bill passed in 2008 and was vetoed again.

    Now fast forward the clock to last week, when single payer
    (renumbered SB 810) was again in front of the CA Senate, but now with a Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, who would be expected to sign the bill. All of a sudden four Democratic senators refused to even vote at all. That’s right, folks, they ABSTAINED, which is being in the room for the vote and refusing to cast a vote one way or another. At least three of these abstainers had voted “Yes” for single payer the last time.
    So we cranked out a targeted action aimed only at these turncoat abstainers and have good information they got LOTS of phone calls for them to reconsider. But reconsideration never happened. So what’s really going on here? Here’s what the sponsor of the bill, Mark Leno, said on the Thom Hartmann show when gently challenged on why previous supporters were now abstaining.
    “Arnold Schwartzeneggar was always going to veto the bill, so if one
    had an interest in not ruffling the feathers of the insurance industry, the possibility is to vote for it with the wink of the eye that it’s not going anywhere anyway.”
    In Greek mythology, Tantalus as his eternal punishment was cursed to stand in a pool of water underneath a fruit tree with low hanging branches always just out of reach, with the water always receding before he could take a drink. THAT is the very image of what the
    Democratic party has become for the interests of the people who consider themselves constituents. It’s all a scam, folks, just one great, big, giant, honking scam.
    This is essentially the same thing that happened in 2010 with that phony baloney health care bill, with a bottom line of nothing but pig grease for the medical insurance corporations. After lulling people
    along for almost a year with the promise of a “public option”, itself a feeble impersonation of single payer, they refused to even allow a vote on it. In the end, having been forced to pass the bill using a reconciliation gimmick requiring only 51 votes, and 51 Democratic senators on record as supporting the so-called public option, they simply REFUSED to bring it up for a vote, even though they had the votes to do.
    And the worst thing about it is that even the so-called good guys are in on it. Mark Leno, the sponsor of SB 810, KNOWS it will never pass, that the vote will always be manipulated so it falls just short in some way. The only reason for him to bring the bill up at all is to CON his own constituents into thinking he’s on their side, otherwise he would be vociferously calling out these abstainer traitors, not accidentally spilling the beans as he did. It’s nothing but a cynical PR stunt, and they are ALL in on it. No matter how many Democrats we vote for, till the end of all eternity, they will always find some way to fail to pass single payer health care.

    The Health Insurance Industry’s Vendetta Against Michael Moore November 25, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    1 comment so far
    Published on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 by TruthDig.comby Amy Goodman

    Michael Moore, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, makes great movies but they are not generally considered “cliff-hangers.” All that might change since a whistle-blower on the “Democracy Now!” news hour revealed that health insurance executives thought they may have to implement a plan “to push Moore off a cliff.” The whistle-blower: Wendell Potter, the former chief spokesman for health insurance giant Cigna. He was quoting from an industry strategy session on how to respond to Moore’s 2007 documentary “Sicko,” a film critical of the U.S. health insurance industry. Potter told me that he is not sure how serious the threat was but he added, ominously, “These companies play to win.”

    Moore won an Oscar in 2002 for his film about gun violence, “Bowling for Columbine.” He followed that with “Fahrenheit 9/11,” a documentary on the presidency of George W. Bush that became the top-grossing documentary film in U.S. history. So when Moore told a reporter that his next film would be about the U.S. health care system, the insurance industry took notice.

    AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans), the major lobbying group of the for-profit health insurance corporations, secretly sent someone to the world premiere of “Sicko” at the Cannes Film Festival in France. Its agent rushed from the screening to a conference call with industry executives, including Potter. “We were very scared,” Potter said, “and we knew that we would have to develop a very sophisticated and expensive campaign to turn people away from the idea of universal care. … We were told by our pollsters [that] a majority of people were in favor of much greater government involvement in our health care system.”

    AHIP hired a public-relations firm, APCO Worldwide, founded by the powerful law firm Arnold & Porter, to coordinate the response. APCO formed the fake grass-roots consumer group “Health Care America” to counter the expected popularity of Moore’s “Sicko” and to promote fear of “government run health care.”

    Potter writes in his new book, “Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans,” that he “found the film very moving and very effective in its condemnation of the practices of private health insurance companies. There were many times when I had to fight to hold back tears. Moore had gotten it right.”

    The insurance industry declared its campaign against “Sicko” a resounding success. Potter wrote, “AHIP and APCO Worldwide had succeeded in getting their talking points into most of the stories about the movie, and not a single reporter had done enough investigative work to find out that insurers had provided the lion’s share of funding to set up Health Care America.” Indeed, everyone from CNN to USA Today cited Health Care America as if it were a legitimate group.

    Moore concedes, “Their smear campaign was effective and did create the dent they were hoping for-single payer and the public option never even made it into the real discussion on the floor of Congress.”

    Moore has called Potter the “Daniel Ellsberg of corporate America,” invoking the famous Pentagon whistle-blower whose revelations helped end the Vietnam War. Potter’s courageous stand made an impact on the debate, but the insurance industry, the hospitals and the American Medical Association prevailed in blunting the elements of the plan that threatened their profits.

    A recent Harvard Medical School study found that nearly 45,000 Americans die each year-one every 12 minutes-largely because they lack health insurance. But for the insurance lobby, the only tragedy is the prospect of true health care reform. In 2009, the nation’s largest health insurance corporations funneled more than $86 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose health care reform. This year, the nation’s five largest insurers contributed three times as much money to Republican candidates as to Democrats, in an effort to further roll back insurance industry reform. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., an advocate of single payer health care, declared in Congress that “the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.” Potter agrees, saying the Republican Party has “been almost bought and paid for.”

    The health insurance industry is getting its money’s worth. Moore said that the industry was willing to attack his film because it was afraid it “could trigger a populist uprising against a sick system that will allow companies to profit off of us when we fall ill.” Now that is truly sick.  


    Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

    © 2010 Amy Goodman

    Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

    Getting to the Root of a Sick System August 24, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in About Health, Health, Socialism.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
    1 comment so far

    by Roger Hollander

    Review of Sick and Sicker: Essays on Class, Health and Health Care by Susan Rosenthal (2010) 

    http://susanrosenthal.com/sick-and-sicker 

    for the Amazon kindle edition: http://www.amazon.com/SICK-SICKER-Essays-Health-ebook/dp/B003PPDHSE/

    It is one of the great tragedies of contemporary human existence that the massive suffering that results from world-wide poverty and sickness is entirely unnecessary.  Through past and present collective human productive creativity there exists sufficient wealth that the entire population of the planet should be able to live securely, free of economic deprivation and its derivatives (e.g. hunger, sickness, war, environmental degradation, etc.).  But, as we know, the reality is otherwise.

    The small but elite community who benefit from the profoundly unequal status quo (the tiny percentage who own and control massive accumulated wealth – i.e. capital) and the sycophantic community that follows in its wake (political pundits, organized religions, the corporate mass media, bought-and-paid-for academics, well-paid professionals, professional cynics, etc.) argue that world suffering is an unfortunate but inevitable product of unchangeable human nature and a scarcity of resources.

    In Dr. Susan Rosenthal’s new book, Sick and Sicker: Essays on Class, Health and Health Care,  a chapter entitled “The Myth of Scarcity” provides evidence that collectively-working human beings produce more than enough for everyone to live in relative comfort.  “If the total wealth produced by American workers in 2003,” she points out, for example, “had been shared [equally], every US … family of four would have received $152,000 in that year alone … [and a] much larger [share] if it included a share of the wealth produced in the past.” 

    Rosenthal goes on to show the unconscionable disparity in the distribution of our collective wealth: “The top five percent of individuals in the world receive about one-third of total world income.  The top 10 percent get one-half of world income, and the bottom 10 percent only 0.7 percent of it. Within 48 hours, the richest people acquire more than the poorest people earn in a year.” 

    “Capitalism,” she concludes, “is not about sharing.”

    Critical thinkers contend that the fundamental cause of social and economic inequality is not found in  “human nature,” God’s will, or scarce resources but resides in the concrete reality of historically-determined unequal social relations, that is, the unequal relation between those whose labor creates wealth and that small minority of capitalists who own it.  This is a social structure created by human beings, and therefore subject to change by human action.  They argue that a new society based upon human values rather than economic profit is not just a Utopian dream but rather the only alternative to the destruction of our species and the biosphere we inhabit.

    While Rosenthal is clearly among this tradition of critical thinkers, there is something I find in her approach that sets her apart from many others.  Her insight stems from a wealth of personal experience, and she writes with a passion that is palpable. One senses righteous anger in her words.  The very first sentence in Sick and Sicker reads, “What does it mean to strive for health in a sick society run by psychopaths?” 

    Rosenthal explains that she entered the medical profession in order to help people, but after decades of immersing herself in the “details of people’s miseries,” she saw “a pattern emerge – an exploitive and heartless system was making people sick, the medical system was blaming them for being sick, and funding agencies were moaning about the cost of caring for the sick.  I had wanted to be an agent of health, but I had become an agent of damage control for an utterly damaging social system.”

    At first blush, one might accuse Rosenthal of hyperbole (“a sick society run by psychopaths”!) and dismiss her as someone whose anger has clouded her objectivity.  But the reader who takes the trouble to go further will discover a passion that is grounded firmly in reason.  Sick and Sicker is a work of carefully structured logical arguments buttressed by extensive and meticulous documentation to support her central thesis, which is that “social inequality affects the health of populations more than any other factor,” and that such inequality is a product of a profit-driven capitalist economic system.

    In her first book, POWER and Powerlessness (2006), Rosenthal referred to a class of social critics who produce marvelous studies characterized by biting criticisms of the status quo, studies that document social inequality and its effects, but then go on to offer vague and generalized “solutions” that call for more study, education, the changing of attitudes, etc. –  that is, anything but go to the heart of the problem because that is the greatest taboo in the academic world.  Rosenthal’s work shatters that taboo.  A radical thinker is one whose task is not finished until she gets to the root of the problem.

    For in order to understand a reality with the objective of changing it (for the better!), one must go beyond analytic description of that reality to ascertain what is the cause.  Having said this however, let me assure you that the reader whose primary interest is understanding our health-care system and how it  functions will not be disappointed by this book. 

    Rosenthal addresses questions of how health care is delivered (assembly-line medicine), how it is financed, the roles of private and state sponsored health insurance, different models of rationing health-care resources, a comparison of health care in the U.S and Canada, and how the notion of mental health “disorders” and psychiatry relate to the  pharmaceutical industry. She includes a “dialogue” between the author and Frederick Engels, who “was the first to connect a broad number of medical and social problems to the way capitalism is organized” and ends by recounting  democratizing health-care reforms in Chile under the Allende government and how and why they were reversed by the Pinochet dictatorship.

    The chapter in Sick and Sicker that compares medical systems in the United States and Canada goes a long way towards putting in perspective the recent farce of Obama’s so-called health care reform in the U.S. At the same time it helps us to understand that Canada’s (deteriorating) system of universal health insurance is another way of rationing health care and why it falls far short of achieving the goal of free and accessible comprehensive health care for all.

    Mental-health professionals will find challenges and psychiatric survivors will find resonance in the chapter on mental illness.  Rosenthal shows how the mental-health structure serves as a mechanism of social control under the false guise of scientific medicine. She describes psychiatry as “a pseudoscience – ideology disguised as science” where “mental disorders” are defined by whatever behavioral criteria the psychiatric profession chooses, as opposed to the biological markers that form the basis of scientific medicine. She shows how separating the brain from the mind, the body, and – most importantly – the social context, results in casting the blame for mental illness on those who suffer rather than on the stresses of life in a society characterized by ever deepening social and economic crises.  “Mental distress becomes the problem to be treated, not the social conditions that create distress … To serve a sick system, psychiatry extracts the individual from society, splits the brain from the body, severs the mind from the brain and drugs the brain.”

    Sick and Sicker is nothing less than a scathing indictment of our medical systems and the social and economic structures of the society that they serve. Apologists for the status quo and reformists who dismiss calls for fundamental structural change will always find ways to rationalize, discredit or simply ignore such penetrating analysis.  However, for the millions in North America and the billions around the world who face the reality of inadequate health care on a daily basis , Dr. Rosenthal has performed a valiant and worthy service.

    Abortion Foes Capitalize on Health Care Law May 16, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
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    (Roger’s note: thank you, again, President Obama, for your progressive health care legislation.)
    Published on Sunday, May 16, 2010 by The Associated Pressby Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

    Abortion opponents fought passage of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul to the bitter end, and now that it’s the law, they’re using it to limit coverage by private insurers.

    [ Gerald Herbert / AP  FILE - In this March 21, 2010, file photo President Barack Obama speaks to the nation following the final vote in the House of Representatives for comprehensive health care legislation in the East Room of the White House. Obama and Democratic House leaders resolved a dispute over abortion earlier that Sunday, securing crucial support from a handful of lawmakers.]
    Gerald Herbert / APFILE – In this March 21, 2010, file photo President Barack Obama speaks to the nation following the final vote in the House of Representatives for comprehensive health care legislation in the East Room of the White House. Obama and Democratic House leaders resolved a dispute over abortion earlier that Sunday, securing crucial support from a handful of lawmakers.

    An obscure part of the law allows states to restrict abortion coverage by private plans operating in new insurance markets. Capitalizing on that language, abortion foes have succeeded in passing bans that, in some cases, go beyond federal statutes. 

    “We don’t consider elective abortion to be health care, so we don’t think it’s a bad thing for fewer private insurance companies to cover it,” said Mary Harned, attorney for Americans United for Life, a national organization that wrote a model law for the states.

    Abortion rights supporters are dismayed.

    “Implementation of this reform should be about increasing access to health care and increasing choices, not taking them away,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Senate leadership. “Health care reform is not an excuse to take rights away from women.”

    Since Obama signed the legislation law March 23, Arizona and Tennessee have enacted laws restricting abortion coverage by health plans in new insurance markets, called exchanges. About 30 million people will get their coverage through exchanges, which open in 2014 to serve individuals and small businesses.

    In Florida, Mississippi and Missouri, lawmakers have passed bans and sent them to their governors. Most of the states allow exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Insurers still could offer separate policies to specifically cover abortion.

    Three other states may act this year – Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma. Overall, there are 29 states where lawmakers or public policy groups expressed serious interest, Harned said.

    “You are going to see more actions like this,” said Tom McClusky, a lobbyist for the socially conservative Family Research Council. “This is not something we are just going to let fall by the wayside.”

    Before the overhaul became law, five states had limits on private insurance coverage of abortion – Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Abortion rights supporters are concerned that the list is growing as a result of the new federal law.

    Murray had joined in voting down a federal abortion coverage ban when the Senate debated health care last year. Now she and other abortion rights supporters worry the same sorts of restrictions could spread from state to state.

    “It’s really going to be a patchwork of state laws by the time these exchanges are set up,” said Jessica Arons, director of women’s health at the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy institute.

    Most private health insurance plans cover abortion as a legal medical procedure, but research indicates many women opt to pay directly.

    The federal law allows private insurance plans in the exchanges to cover abortion as long as they collect a separate premium. That money must remain apart from public subsidies available to help pay insurance premiums for most customers in the exchanges.

    That compromise split abortion foes in Congress and around the country. Anti-abortion organizations including National Right to Life and the U.S. Catholic bishops called it a fig leaf, and continued to oppose the legislation. But Catholic hospitals and many religious orders of nuns supported it.

    Abortion rights supporters were cool to the compromise, but it broke a political deadlock threatening the bill.

    Anti-abortion Democrats in the House cast critical votes for the legislation after Obama also agreed to an executive order affirming long-standing federal policy against the use of taxpayer funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother – known as the Hyde amendment.

    Tennessee already has enacted a far stricter ban, with no exceptions. Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, who allowed it to become law without his signature, said in a statement it “creates a prohibition much broader than that found in current law and could unintentionally negatively impact the quality of health care options for Tennesseans.”

    All eyes are now on Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist will decide soon whether to sign a bill that restricts abortion coverage in that state’s insurance exchange. Florida is a politically diverse state, not known as a bedrock of social conservatism. Crist is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent, after it became clear that he would lose the Republican primary to former state Rep. Marco Rubio.

    Crist, who opposes abortion, has indicated he has problems with a part of the bill that would require a woman seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound of the embryo.

    “Florida has always been pretty much of a middle-of-the road state,” said Stephanie Kunkel, executive director of Planned Parenthood’s affiliates in the state. “If Florida passes it, it really open up more moderate states to passing these bans.”

    Conservatives say they won’t forgive a Crist veto. “You can count him as done if he vetoes this bill before him now,” said McClusky of the Family Research Council.

    © 2010 The Associated Press

    Attorneys General in 14 States Sue to Block Health Care Reform Law March 24, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
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    (Roger’s note: it gets curiouser and curiouser.  Republican state Attorneys General, who couldn’t give a damn about the Constitution and just want to make mischief for the Democrats, have inadvertently hit the nail on the head.  They are questioning the government’s authority to force its citizens and residents to purchase a product, which in this instance is private health insurance, and which is universally considered to be a defective product.  Talk about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.  It brings into relief this absurd strategy to reform health care in the US by creating a private monopoly instead of doing the logical thing, which is a public monopoly, which is what you find in Canada and most of Europe.  And it all has to do with the private health insurance and pharmaceutical industries virtually owning the presidency and the Congress.  US democracy in action.  What should Obama have done?  He should have from the beginning put forward a single-payer, medicare-for-all proposal, fought for it with all his eloquence and popularity, and then if it failed it would be on the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats who would have killed it.)

    Tuesday 23 March 2010

    by: Warren Richey, The Christian Science Monitor
     

     

    Miami – A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Florida includes 13 states and charges that the new healthcare reform law in unconstitutional. Virginia’s attorney general filed a separate lawsuit.

    State attorneys general wasted no time filing legal challenges to President Obama’s healthcare reform law, swinging into action with legal filings in Florida and Virginia within minutes of the White House signing ceremony on Tuesday.

    In Tallahassee, Fla., 12 attorneys general joined Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum in a 22-page complaint filed in federal court, charging that the new healthcare reform package exceeds Congress’s powers to regulate commerce, violates 10th Amendment protections of state sovereignty, and imposes an unconstitutional direct tax.

    “This lawsuit should put the federal government on notice that Florida will not permit the constitutional rights of our citizens and the sovereignty of our state to be ignored or disregarded,” Attorney General McCollum said.

    A Second Suit in Virginia

    Virginia filed a similar lawsuit simultaneously in federal court in Richmond. That suit is slightly different in that it focuses in part on the clash between a recently enacted state law protecting the right of Virginia residents to refuse unwanted health insurance and the new federal law that imposes penalties on anyone who seeks to defy the national government’s command to purchase health insurance.

    “Congress lacks the political will to fund comprehensive health care … because taxes above those already provided [in federal healthcare programs] would produce too much opposition,” the Virginia lawsuit says.

    “The alternative, which was also a centerpiece of the failed Clinton administration health care proposal, is to fund universal health care in part by making healthy young adults and other rationally uninsured individuals cross-subsidize older and less healthy citizens,” the suit says.

    The seven-page lawsuit presents a straightforward challenge to Congress’s decision to rely on its power to regulate interstate commerce to justify the federal mandate that every individual must have health insurance or pay a penalty.

    “It has never been held that the Commerce Clause [of the Constitution] … can be used to require citizens to buy goods and services,” the suit says. “To depart from that history to permit the national government to require the purchase of goods and services would deprive the Commerce Clause of any effective limits.”

    Aiming for the US Supreme Court

    At a press conference in Florida, McCollum said his lawsuit is intended to move through the courts to the US Supreme Court. “I am confident the court is going to declare the new healthcare law unconstitutional,” he said.

    Democratic leaders have downplayed any potential legal problems with the healthcare reform package. Many legal analysts agree with them. Others suggest the issue is open and could produce a landmark decision if the high court decides to take it up.

    In addition to Florida, participating plaintiffs in the lawsuit include attorneys general from South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington State, Idaho, and South Dakota. The suing attorneys general are Republicans except James “Buddy” Caldwell of Louisiana, who is a Democrat.

    The Florida-filed lawsuit identifies two victims. It says the new law infringes the liberty of individual state residents to choose for themselves whether to have health insurance. It also says the states themselves are victims of a federal power grab by leaders in Washington.

    Worries About Bigger Medicaid Rolls

    The new structure of the Medicaid portion of the healthcare bill – which deals with low-income Americans – leaves Florida with an offer it can’t refuse. The state can either opt out of Medicaid and leave millions of its most vulnerable residents uninsured, or opt in and surrender its authority to set priorities and run programs to an increasingly powerful national government.

    Currently, Medicaid costs account for 26 percent of Florida’s annual budget. That is $18 billion for 2.7 million Medicaid recipients.

    The suit says that, under the new law, Medicaid rolls in Florida are expected to increase dramatically. The corresponding soaring costs will fall increasingly on the Florida treasury, but state officials will have less authority to set priorities.

    “[Florida] employees will be conscripted and forced to administer what now is essentially a federal Medicaid program for which Florida must bear a substantial cost,” the suit says.

    Estimates are that the new law will impose additional costs on Florida ranging from $149 million in 2014 to more than a $1 billion by 2019.

    The lawsuit says this amounts to an unconstitutional exercise of federal power that violates principles of federalism protected in the 10th Amendment. It says the healthcare reform bill commandeers the states and their employees as agents of the federal government’s regulatory scheme, and that it does so at the state’s own cost.

    Another Beef: An Unconstitutional Direct Tax

    The suit also says the tax penalty for noncompliance with the individual mandate to buy health insurance “constitutes a capitation and a direct tax that is not apportioned among the states according to census data, thereby injuring the sovereign interests of [the states].”

    The tax penalty is unrelated to any taxable event or activity, the suit says. “It is to be levied upon persons for their failure or refusal to do anything other than to exist and reside in the United States,” the suit says.

    This doesn’t just injure individuals who have a right to make healthcare decisions without government inference, the suit says. It also injures state governments who are forced to pay for the higher number of individuals coerced into enrolling in Medicaid.

    Like the Virginia lawsuit, the Florida-filed suit also argues that Congress does not have the authority under the US Constitution to compel citizens to buy health insurance or punish them if they do not. An individual’s choice not to have health insurance is not “commerce” and thus does not fall within Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce, the suit says.

    A Third Lawsuit, in Michigan

    In addition to the two state lawsuits, the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., filed a lawsuit in Michigan. It is filed on behalf of four individuals in southeastern Michigan who object to being forced to purchase healthcare coverage and who object to being forced to pay for abortions, contrary to their religious beliefs.

    “Our Founding Fathers envisioned a limited form of government. The purpose of our Constitution and this lawsuit is to insure that it stays that way,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the law center, in a statement.

    “Let’s face it, if Congress has the power to force individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or pay a federal penalty merely because they live in America, then it has the unconstrained power to mandate that every American family buy a General Motors vehicle to help the economy or pay a federal penalty.” 

    Democrats mimic GOP sleight-of-hand March 20, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Health.
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    Friday, Mar 19, 2010 17:20 EDT

    They’re selling huge giveaways to insurance companies and Big Pharm as reform that helps the middle class

    By David Sirota, www.salon.com

    Ever since Thomas Frank published his book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Democrats have sought a political strategy to match the GOP’s. The healthcare bill proves they’ve found one.

    Whereas Frank highlighted Republicans’ sleight-of-hand success portraying millionaire tax cuts as gifts to the working class, Democrats are now preposterously selling giveaways to insurance and pharmaceutical executives as a middle-class agenda. Same formula, same fat-cat beneficiaries, same bleating sheeple herded to the slaughterhouse. The only difference is the Rube Goldberg contraption that Democrats are using to tend the flock.

    First, their leaders campaign on pledges to create a government insurer (a “public option”) that will compete with private health corporations. Once elected, though, Democrats propose simply subsidizing those corporations, which are (not coincidentally) filling Democratic coffers. Justifying the reversal, Democrats claim the subsidies will at least help some citizens try to afford the private insurance they’ll be forced to buy — all while insisting Congress suddenly lacks the votes for a public option.

    Despite lawmakers’ refusal to hold votes verifying that assertion, liberal groups obediently follow orders to back the bill, their obsequious leaders fearing scorn from Democratic insiders and moneymen. Specifically, MoveOn, unions and “progressive” nonprofits threaten retribution against lawmakers who consider voting against the bill because it doesn’t include a public option. The threats fly even though these congresspeople would be respecting their previous public-option ultimatums — ultimatums originally supported by many of the same groups now demanding retreat.

    Soon it’s on to false choices. Democrats tell their base that any bill is better than no bill, even one making things worse, and that if this particular legislation doesn’t pass, Republicans will win the upcoming election — as if signing a blank check to insurance and drug companies couldn’t seal that fate. They tell everyone else that “realistically” this is the “last chance” for reform, expecting We the Sheeple to forget that those spewing the do-or-die warnings control the legislative calendar and could immediately try again.

    Predictably, the fear-mongering prompts left-leaning establishment pundits to bless the bill, giving Democratic activists concise-yet-mindless conversation-enders for why everyone should shut up and fall in line (“Krugman supports it!”). Such bumper-sticker mottos are then demagogued by Democratic media bobbleheads and their sycophants, who dishonestly imply that the bill’s progressive opponents 1) secretly aim to aid the far right and/or 2) actually hope more Americans die for lack of healthcare. In the process, the legislation’s sellouts are lambasted as the exclusive fault of Republicans, not Democrats and their congressional majorities.

    Earth sufficiently scorched, President Obama then barnstorms the country, calling the bill a victory for “ordinary working folks” over the same corporations he is privately promising to enrich. The insurance industry, of course, airs token ads to buttress Obama’s “victory” charade — at the same time its lobbyists are, according to Politico, celebrating with chants of “We win!”

    By design, pro-public-option outfits like Firedoglake and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee end up depicted as voices of the minority, even as they champion an initiative that polls show the majority of voters support. Meanwhile, telling questions hang: If this represents victory over special interests, why is Politico reporting that “drug industry lobbyists have huddled with Democratic staffers” to help pass the bill? How is the legislation a first step to reform, as proponents argue, if it financially and politically strengthens insurance and drug companies opposing true change? And what prevents those companies from continuing to increase prices?

    These queries go unaddressed — and often unasked. Why? Because their answers threaten to expose the robbery in progress, circumvent the “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” contemplation and raise the most uncomfortable question of all:

    What’s the matter with Democrats?

    © 2010 Creators.com

    Obama Finally Gets His Victory For Bipartisanship January 20, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Economic Crisis, Health, War.
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    (Roger’s note: I was attracted by the title of this article, but the author misses the point.  He saw the light on “on the sixth day of Obama’s presidency,” but it was evident when Obama was in his cradle in Hawaii [if that is indeed where he was born ... just kidding, I'm not a birther!].  Obama’s thinking was accurate: we do have a one-party system, the Republicrats.  Obama could not have taken any position other than what he has taken, be it the economy, the continuance of warfare, or health reform.  Both he and the Congress are bought lock, stock and barrel by the corporate and military giants that benefit by his failure to control Wall Street, end the wars, or institute genuine health reform [i.e., some form of single-payer].  In our one party system elections are not won, they are lost.  The party out of power is always the party of the people, fighting for truth and justice.  The party in power does the dirty work for the military-industrial complex while lining its pocket, saving for that inevitable rainy day when it will be turfed by an angry electorate; and knowing that it’s day will come again when the new government party takes its turn to lose elections after keeping capitalism’s home fires burning.  The anarchists [and I am not one by the way] have a point with their saying: “I don’t vote because the government always wins.”)
    Published on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 by Huffington Postby Drew Westen

    You can blame a bad candidate, bad organization, bad timing of a vacation–choose your rationalization. But the reality is that voters in Massachusetts were reacting to the same foul mist coming off Boston Harbor that New Jersey Voters smelled coming off the Hudson and Virginia voters, the Chesapeake.

    What they all understood was that the source lay on the shores of the Potomac.

    It is a truly remarkable feat, in just one year’s time, to turn the fear and anger voters felt in 2006 and 2008 at a Republican Party that had destroyed the economy, redistributed massive amounts of wealth from the middle class to the richest of the rich and the biggest of big businesses, and waged a trillion-dollar war in the wrong country, into populist rage at whatever Democrat voters can cast their ballot against.

    All of this was completely predictable. And it was predicted. I wrote about it for the first time here on the sixth day of Obama’s presidency, and many of us have written about it in the intervening year.

    The President’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge that we have a two-party system, his insistence on making destructive concessions to the same party voters had sent packing twice in a row in the name of “bipartisanship,” and his refusal ever to utter the words “I am a Democrat” and to articulate what that means, are not among his virtues. We have competing ideas in a democracy–and hence competing parties–for a reason. To paper them over and pretend they do not exist, particularly when the ideology of one of the parties has proven so devastating to the lives of everyday Americans, is not a virtue. It is an abdication of responsibility.

    What happens if you refuse to lay the blame for the destruction of our economy on anyone–particularly the party, leaders, and ideology that were in power for the last 8 years and were responsible for it? What happens if you fail to “brand” what has happened as the Bush Depression or the Republican Depression or the natural result of the ideology of unregulated greed, the way FDR branded the Great Depression as Hoover’s Depression and created a Democratic majority for 50 years and a new vision of what effective government can do? What happens when you fail to offer and continually reinforce a narrative about what has happened, who caused it, and how you’re going to fix it that Americans understand, that makes them angry, that makes them hopeful, and that makes them committed to you and your policies during the tough times that will inevitably lie ahead?

    The answer was obvious a year ago, and it is even more obvious today: Voters will come to blame you for not having solved a problem you didn’t create, and you will allow the other side to create an alternative narrative for what’s happened (government spending , deficits, big government, socialism) that will stick. And it will particularly stick if you make no efforts to prevent it from starting or sticking.

    Were Massachusetts voters reacting in part to the health care debate turned debacle? Sure. In a misguided effort to avoid the mistakes of 1993, the President decided that leadership on health care wasn’t in his job description and encouraged the Democrats to make their sausage in public, after making his own deals with the same people who brought us pre-existing conditions and $150 prescriptions (and that’s with insurance). He promised transparency, and he gave the country a huge dose of it. Unfortunately, what was transparent turned people’s stomachs.

    The White House allowed the health care narrative to be all about process, and the process the American people saw wasn’t pretty. It scared seniors, who worried what would happen to their Medicare. It scared workers, who worried about what would happen to the plans their unions had negotiated so hard for in lieu of salaries. It scared middle class Americans with good health insurance plans, who had–and have–no idea whether their plans will be deemed–if not today, in three or four years–Cadillacs, which will first be taxed and then discontinued, leaving them with exactly what Frank Luntz told them it would leave them with: a bureaucrat between them and their doctor. And worst of all, it seemed to most Americans that the reason they were being asked to make such potentially big sacrifices was so that health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and millionaires wouldn’t have to. It seemed not only risky but unfair.

    So in that sense, the story of health insurance played right into the story that lies behind the looming tsunami that swept away Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and will sweep away so many more Democratic seats if the Democrats draw the wrong conclusions from this election. The White House just couldn’t seem to “get” that the American people could see that they were constantly coming down on the side of the same bankers who were foreclosing people’s homes and shutting off the credit to small business owners, when they should have been helping the people whose homes were being foreclosed and the small businesses that were trying to stay afloat because of the recklessness of banks that were now starving them. Americans were tired of hearing Obama “exhort” bankers and speculators to play nice as they collected their record bonuses for a heckuva job in 2009. It took him a year to float the idea of making them pay for a fraction of the damage they had done, and at this point, few Americans have any faith that a tax on big banks will ever become law or that the costs won’t just be passed on to them in new fees.

    The White House has squandered the greatest opportunity to change both the country and the political landscape since Ronald Reagan. It should have started with a non-watered-down stimulus package big enough to stop the bleeding in the job market–and a smack-down of any Republican who dared to utter the word “deficit” after 8 years of reckless, unpaid Republican spending. It should have followed with stringent regulations on Wall Street and protection of homeowners and small businesses instead of with a jobs creation program inside the administration for failed bankers and failed regulators. A stimulus–including a jobs program–strong enough to prevent the hemorrhaging of 700,000 jobs a month and a muscular approach to the bad actors who had crashed the economy would have gotten the public firmly behind the President and the Democrats, demonstrating to the average voter that they have a choice between one party that’s on their side and another that’s not. Instead, the White House just blurred the lines between the parties so the average American couldn’t tell the difference.

    With all its efforts to tack to the center, the White House missed the point. The issue isn’t about right or left. It’s about whose side you’re on. In Massachusetts, the voters believe they know. It’s now up to the President and his party to convince the American people otherwise.

    © 2010 Huffington Post

    Drew Westen, Ph.D. is a clinical, personality, and political psychologist and neuroscientist, and Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University.
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