Dec 23, 2009

Progressives to Obama: Mr. President, Please Explain Why You Changed Your Mind on Health Care.... [and, a reminder of what Obama used to say]

We have an obligation to remind the president what he was saying not so long ago. He must explain to us why he's failed to set the agenda on health care reform. Why he has been so accommodating to the likes of Nelson, Baucus, Snowe, Lieberman and the insurance industry? The progressive base gave the impetus to his candidacy. The majority of voters wanted change--which meant anything but Bush, and ultimately, good reforms that would benefit the middle class and the poor. Well, where are those reforms? Those reforms that would come from exercising leadership and spending of political capital, not the easy ones from signing executive orders.

When candidate Obama was campaigning for the presidency, he was rejecting the plans offered by Hillary Clinton and McCain. He stated that he wanted a public option as the best way to control costs and make the broken system competitive. Now, we hear, he's ready to sign on to a reform that does not include a public option.

The current system is unsustainable. Premiums, co-pays, deductibles have risen much, much higher than wages, while the costs of providing health care have skyrocketed. The Senate version of this bill will cover more American but what does this mean? Can you be covered when you can't afford the co-pays or the high deductibles? Further, if you get help to do so, then we're shoveling lots of money to the insurance companies who will keep doing what they've been doing and have more customers with public money!

It's insane that our leaders don't address the following shameful fact: The US is the only advanced democracy where patients (and their families) can go bankrupt because of medical bills! The majority of bankruptcies in this country are due to medical expenses. Of those, 3/4 have had "insurance." It's insane.

Listen to this interview on WNYC public radio. It's a critique of the suggested changes.

Dec 17, 2009

A Study Case of Failure in Leadership. Yeah, it's the Democratic President & Congress! [Can They Recover?]

WARNING: The following video is funny. (oh, and it uses ..pedestrian language). Buffer the video if you don't have a fast internet connection.

Should every American have equal access to quality health care? This is the only question that matters in this debate. As for the money a proper universal coverage would cost we can certainly afford it. It all depends how we spend the money. Of course, if we spend 50 cents on the dollar for military purposes, they we won't afford it, but clearly it's an obvious matter of priorities.

Any number floated out there by proponents or opponents to reform sounds good to me. Let's say it's $1 trillion for the next 10 years? So what? It's $100 billion a year to cover 300-310 million Americans. It's probably less than $1 a day for each of us! Meanwhile, we're all charged five times that much for military expenditures. Are we buying so much more security--the kind that saves lives like proper and available medical care? We spend more that the whole world combined on military, yet we are not as secure, and, by the way, we aren't as healthy as other advanced democracies! But, we have a system that's heavily influenced by people who don't share in the burdens. Leaders send the kids of others into battle. They have great health benefits that the rest of us, apparently, don't deserve! And, they set up huge corporations that enjoy the profits in private pockets while the risk is often socialized!

We've tried the private insurance approach it hasn't worked. Like it didn't work when NYC had private fire companies. The health care system has failed 1/3 of the people in this country--either because they don't have insurance or they're under-insured. We all pay for this mess, well except for those few who rake in huge profits. This is the only advanced country where you can go broke (bankruptcy) because of medical bills. It has failed to contain costs and increase meaningful competition.

The health of the community is important. The other truth is, the current system is unsustainable. I work for a big private non-profit organization and we all have medical insurance through a private for-profit company. Our premiums have risen way faster that our wages. This has been the case since the 1970s, thus, the middle class has seen dramatic increases in the cost of housing, education, and health care. Actual wages (adjusted for inflation) have remained stagnant.

If this Congress passes a monstrous bill and president Obama signs, it will be disastrous--not only for the Democratic party but for our country since millions of Americans will be without health care, the costs will not be contained, competition won't improve, and young people (18-29), who are now heavily pro-Dem, will be forced to buy into a bad and expensive system or fined if they don't. Why, do you see a problem with this? Yeah, the future's so bright I got to wear shades..

Oh, wait, there's some good news from this! You can make lots of money by buying insurance stock! Have your noticed that their value has been going up since we got news of this great bill negotiated by our leaders?!!

UPDATE: I like Paul Krugman. He's an unabashed liberal and I usually agree with him. But, this economist and Nobel laureate makes the case for passing the rumored health care bill. I may not agree with him, but here's his piece:

"A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy. Declare that you’re disappointed in and/or disgusted with President Obama. Demand a change in Senate rules that, combined with the Republican strategy of total obstructionism, are in the process of making America ungovernable.

But meanwhile, pass the health care bill.


At its core, the bill would do two things. First, it would prohibit discrimination by insurance companies on the basis of medical condition or history: Americans could no longer be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, or have their insurance canceled when they get sick. Second, the bill would provide substantial financial aid to those who don’t get insurance through their employers, as well as tax breaks for small employers that do provide insurance.

All of this would be paid for in large part with the first serious effort ever to rein in rising health care costs."

There's a split among the progressives on what to do with the bill the Senate wants to pass. Some, like Krugman, say pass it now and amend it later. Others, like Howard Dean, say no!

On more thing. When will the Dems obtain such big majorities in both chambers of Congress plus the White House? Just wondering... I mean, if they can't pass meaningful reforms now, when will they? They'll be blamed for the financial troubles next year, especially if the unemployment figures don't improve. This is a great chance in a long while to pass good reforms that will benefit most of the people for generations to come. There were the same reactions and vapid opposition to new progressive programs like Social Security, Medicare, consumer protection, civil rights acts, and even electrification. This new president and Congressional Dems must rise to the occasion and do what's best for the country, now and in the future.

Dec 6, 2009

Is the Near Future as Good as the Present?

Maybe New Models Are Needed

As students, we didn't think all that far ahead; of course we were concerned about the future but we firmly believed in the American dream--the world was there for us to take. It's been quite some time since I graduated college, and many things have changed, but also many haven't. The middle class hasn't advanced all that much, if at all. I went to a public university so I managed to get my degrees while accumulating little debt. However, most students today graduate with a huge amount of debt--a figure that's rising about 6% a year. Project Student Debt has the numbers for graduating seniors. [pdf] The most debt-laden students are in the Northeast!

The employment prospects for graduates reflect the overall state of the US economy. Yet, US workers' productivity has increased while wages haven't followed the trend. Since 1973, real wages have remained stagnant! Read Elizabeth Warren's America Without a Middle Class to find out more. The presence of a strong middle class is very important in a stable, progressive, and fair commonwealth. Unfortunately, most of the wealth is amassed and held by the very small elite that has been using the political system to its advantage. The corporate media hardly talks about the distribution of wealth and usually distracts the audience with cheap, mindless entertainment.

I don't know whether the American people have begun to re-evaluate the conditions in our country, but there's a sense at present that the "fix is in." They believe that Wall Street is more important that Main Street, and that the government primarily serves the wealthy and powerful. On the other hand, there are too many of us who prefer myths and distractions to reality. For the life of me, I don't understand how voters elect most of the Republicans in Congress today--such a conservative bunch that has no intention to do anything good for the common folk, from consumer protection to equality of opportunity conditions. Or, that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and so many others, have tens of millions of listeners! This does have a tremendous effect on our national dialogue and on public policy.

Now, on to education. Did you read Bob Herbert's editorial in the NY Times? He argues that the greatest national security issue in the US is the crisis in education. This isn't too far fetched, you know. Within the span of one or two generations, the effects of a largely uneducated public, the lack of real opportunities, and the lack of economic growth that matters to most people can be explosive. An empire that's losing power can also be a very dangerous thing. I could see how demagogues can convince the American public that our woes are not our fault by the fault of others, and that we must act unilaterally against our enemies! Always confusing the issues and transfer blame.

In the end, we'll collectively get what we deserve. What do you think we deserve in the near future?

Here's a popular American explaining American history and providing a solution for a better country: