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Posts Tagged ‘Health-care’

Remember Barack Obama’s inauguration? An enormous number of people turned out to see the new President who had promised to save the nation. It was like the second coming of Abraham Lincoln, and after the devastation that had been wrought upon the country by George Bush’s inability to understand economics and the government’s  complete lack of oversight of the financial industry, people were breathing a sigh of relief that this new, stunning speech-maker had the vision, boldness, and determination to do whatever was needed to save the sinking ship. Unfortunately, we found out that the man who had been put upon a pedestal had feet of clay after all, and his greatest gift was sadly, speech-making. Remember the promise to close Guantanamo? We don’t hear much about that anymore, do we? Well, what about the economy? He fixed that didn’t he? I suppose, at least he stopped the car from going over the cliff – something George Bush could not do. But he ignored the advice of Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman and instead listened to Timothy  Geithner and Larry Summers, both of whom were part of the problem, because it was the policies of these people, and others, that directly led to the economic catastrophe. The result has been a tepid “recovery”, if you can call it that. 

And then there are the new rules about the government now having the power to arrest and detain indefinitely any U.S. citizen who it suspects might be a threat to the country. And – it is the military who will detain you indefinitely, without trial or any other rights guaranteed to all citizens under the Constitution. And Congress looks the other way. And the Supreme Court looks the other way. And everyone else goes back to watching football or baseball, soon forgetting all about these new, un-Constitutional rules. But the U.S. government hasn’t forgotten, and Barack Obama hasn’t forgotten.

Sure ,Obama has created a sort of National Health Care system – nothing that could compare with those of Canada or Europe or Asia, but he got what he wanted: the elimination of the possibility of being rejected for health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. I guess it was because his Obama’s mother had such difficulties with that issue that he wanted to make sure that U.S. insurance companies couldn’t do that to someone else’s mother or child. 

OK. So, Barack, is that it? Are you done? You seem to think the economy is OK. I don’t hear much more about health care reform. You nailed Osama bin Laden, you left Iraq, and you are about to leave Afghanistan. So….any other ideas? I was just wondering, how are you going to get unemployment down to a number like 6%? Is there a plan or do we just punt? By the way, how are things at Guantanamo? Oh, and can Americans who are picked by the Army be imprisoned there now? Or do they go to some secret military prison, never to be heard from again? I think it’s time for another speech.

And then there’s Romney. The father of Obamacare, he now vigorously denies being the parent of this odious thing that is the object of Republican loathing and retching. But he is. And he thought it was a good thing too. So, what is Romney’s plan – other than, “let’s not tax the job creators”. That would be him and his cronies, I suppose. Here’s the thing I don’t get: if Bain Capital takes over a company and makes it prosperous by outsourcing its jobs to China or India, how many U.S. jobs are they creating? Or, when he says he’s creating jobs, is he including all those jobs in China and India too? Here’s another thing I’m not too sure of: do the “job creators” really use their personal income to create jobs for other people? I mean, let’s say you work at Bank of America – that would be a good job, right? So, did you get that job because the President and CEO of Bank of America opened up his wallet and paid you a salary? That would be really generous, wouldn’t it? But, I thought they used the money from investors to create the jobs – you know like when you buy BoA stock, then they take your money (thank you very much) and they hire people. And if the Bank doesn’t do well their stock goes down and you lose your money. But the job-creating President and CEO still gets his mega-million dollar salary, doesn’t he? And my man Mitt wants the President and CEO to pay almost no taxes because he “created” your job. Awww…isn’t that special? I guess that how our Capitalist system works, right?

Actually, it doesn’t work quite the way Mitty would like you to believe. Basically, he just wants the rich folk, who already own the Congress and the Supreme Court to also own the Presidency. The really interesting thing is that about half the American people seem to want that too. Not sure why…wouldn’t it just be easier to have a king and get rid of the sham democracy? And Barack, well he just wants to be President – not too sure why, he doesn’t seem to have any ideas about what to do. He hasn’t mentioned a new scientific leap forward like the space program that John Kennedy started.  He hasn’t mentioned anything of the magnitude like the Interstate Highway System like Eisenhower started.  He hasn’t mentioned anything like the Great Society and Civil Rights for all that Johnson started – oops, sorry, that one really bothered the Southern half of the country, didn’t it? Remember Johnson saying that he thought he had just turned the solidly Democratic South to becoming a Republican voting block? Well, ol’ Lyndon was right about that, wasn’t he? Being a Texan, he would know, too.

Anyway, Obama seems plumb out of ideas, now that his single idea of “no pre-existing conditions” has been enacted. I guess he’s just exhausted. And Romney, the opportunist, venture capitalist? Ahh, no ideas there either! At least he’s not talking about any…. Of course not, those venture guys aren’t going to share their secret plans with you or me – at least not the real plans.

So where are we? Obama did a lot of things we never expected and didn’t do a lot of things we expected. We can probably expect the same from Romney – so, it really doesn’t matter which is elected because they will wind up just doing whatever they want anyway – which will have little to no relation to their campaign promises.

So, wouldn’t it be simpler to just have a king?

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I thought I knew.  I thought it was pretty clear during the campaign for President. We all knew where Barack Obama stood on a lot of issues – and he was very forceful, indeed eloquent, in stating his opinions.  It was clear that his philosophy was left of center. He was a strong supporter of the Democratic Party. Just look at health care.  It seems to me that he said time after time that he wanted all of us to have the same health care choices that members of Congress have. We would be able, under his administration, to pick and choose from a smorgasbord of health care plans – just like the fat cats we elect to Congress. And why not? Indeed.

The thing is that when push came to shove in Congress and the Republicans unanimously said, “Not only NO, but HELL NO”, Barack Obama chose to compromise. He made a deal. The result is that we have some sort of new health care plan that does do some things and may even provide some small additional benefit to each of us a few years from now.  But for most of us nothing has changed. So, I’m beginning to wonder – where is the idealism? Where is the fight? Or, could it be that Barack Obama isn’t a fighter at all? Perhaps he’s just a deal maker.

It’s not just health care.  It’s also energy.  Remember the campaign and the conventions? Remember the Republican Giuliani shouting, “Drill Baby, Drill!”  Remember Sarah Palin saying we need to do offshore drilling right now? Remember John McCain taking up the chant of “Drill Baby, Drill”?  Actually, they’re pretty quiet right now aren’t they? But that’s not my point.  Remember Barack Obama had this ideal about clean and green energy? Didn’t he? Am I just hallucinating here? Wasn’t he going to build a bunch of windmills and solar panels to create a new source of energy for America? Didn’t he make some kind of a deal with MIT to do research on clean, green energy? Wasn’t he against offshore drilling and nuclear power?

So, a few weeks ago – a couple of weeks before the BP catastrophe, didn’t President Obama say we need to do a lot more offshore drilling? Didn’t he? Am I just imagining this?  Where did that come from? Did I miss a news conference or something? Did MIT get back to him and say, “Forget about clean and green, just go for dirty and smelly?”

And now BP has screwed up the Gulf of Mexico for as long as most of us will live.  So what is President Obama doing? He is letting BP call the shots – even though he says he is in charge – BP is making all the decisions. So what about the opinions of his scientific advisors?  Does he really have more faith and trust in BP’s scientific expertise than that of his Nobel Prize winning Secretary of Energy? That ain’t right.  Something’s wrong here.

The question I have is simple – what does President Obama stand for?  Or could it be that we were all wrong in thinking he was some kind of pragmatic idealist. Maybe he’s just a political deal maker after all – just like 99.9% of the people in Washington.  Is that it?  If so, I think he will find that America didn’t vote for him to make deals – they voted for him because they thought he believed in his ideals and that he would fight for them on behalf of the American people. We thought we were on the same page with him – but he keeps turning the pages.

At least with George Bush you knew where he stood. He was a shoot from the hip wannabe cowboy.  A Yale transplant to Texas.  He wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer – that was abundantly clear whenever he spoke. But you knew what you were getting when you voted for him: you’re-on-your-own-Republicanism. Don’t look to Washington for help when you need it ’cause it ain’t comin’.  Just ask the people of New Orleans. They know all about that.

But Obama was supposed to be different. But once again the people of New Orleans are suffering and our President is letting an oil company decide what to do about the worst oil spill in history. Is that leadership? Is that what we voted for? Of course not. Now, I’m not saying that John McCain or Sarah Palin or Rudy Giuliani would do any different – but that is my point.  Obama was supposed to be different. But in the end, Washington is letting us all down once again. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

You don’t find roses growing in a swamp, do you?

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A long time ago, when my first child was born, I found to my surprise and consternation that my employer-provided Blue Cross Blue Shield policy did not cover normal childbirth expenses in a hospital. I guess they rationalized that by thinking that normal childbirth wasn’t a disease, so why should health insurance  pay for it? Fortunately, credit cards had just been invented. I put the balance due on my BankAmericard.  When I returned to work, a couple of days later, I complained to my coworkers about our lousy health care insurance. One of the older men, probably only a year or two away from retirement, spoke up and said, “Who cares? I don’t want to pay for your babies.”

I was taken aback by the his total and complete lack of concern about my plight, but somehow I was able to quickly retort, “Yes, and I don’t want to pay for your heart attack either!” The old man stood there speechless for a minute and slowly turned and walked back into his office without saying another word.

Today, as Congress struggles with the question of just slightly improving the U.S. health care system – certainly they’re not considering anything close to the health care that is provided in the civilized world – we find that we have become a polarized population. The Republicans are uniformly against the proposals at hand while the Democrats, true to form, are disunited but bumbling forward,kicking and screaming – not to mention dealing secretly.  It looks like the House Dems might actually vote “yes” at this time – but who knows, it’s not like all of our members of Congress are motivated by what is best for the country.

If one just steps back for a moment it’s easy to see what divides us. There are three groups of people, generally speaking, in this country. One group has no health care or very little health care and basically no voice in our government because they are the poor disenfranchised.  A second group has health care but is concerned about the people who don’t have it. The third group also has health care but doesn’t care about the first group in the least.  If they had their way the first group would just go away. The third group, of course, is the Republican Party. It is the party of “every man for himself” or “you’re on your own”.  It’s the party of “I’ve got mine and I don’t care about your problems. Take care of yourself.” They are the Party that aligns itself with the ” Christians” of America.

OK. Fair enough. The Democrats basically represent the method of living that mankind adopted a very long time ago in order to survive. It used to be called tribalism. Everyone was a member of the tribe and everyone contributed to the welfare of the tribe.  In turn the tribe took care of its members because every member was important. The Republicans, on the other hand, represent a newer, more modern point of view. They are the rugged individualists, the go it alone types. The can take care of themselves.  They are the philosophical descendants of the Calvinists who founded our original colonies  – people like the Pilgrims.  It was the early “pioneers” in this country who struck out on their own, with guns of course, and took the land from the Native Americans.  It was relatively easy to be on your own, living off the land, when you had all the firepower you needed and the American landscape lay there, ripe for the taking. And they took it.

Today, 95% of America’s wealth belongs to 1% of the population.  You can bet most of that 1% is Republican and Calvinist.  The question is this: why are so many other Americans also Republican when they have virtually no chance in sharing in the immense fortunes of the Elect?  Sadly, a big part of the answer lies in history.  When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 he predicted what would happen: the “Solid South” that had always been the most dependable segment of the Democratic Party would turn Republican. And they did. The old Confederacy just couldn’t accept racial equality for blacks. That was half a century ago and much progress has been made in the old Confederate states, yet they are still the heart of Republican sentiment. Of course we shouldn’t ignore the cowboy states of the West – they are the rest of the Republican Party.

If one looks at the demographic of those poor people who have no health care there is one thing that stands out: they are mostly minorities.  They are largely blacks and Hispanics.  The message of the Republicans is clear: they already have theirs – and they have no interest in helping anyone else, and certainly not the blacks and Hispanics.  In the end, the health care debate in America is actually a debate about Civil Rights and ironically the Republican Party, the Party of Abraham Lincoln, is against the right of all the American people to have health care.

The right to health care is now recognized throughout the civilized world. It is only America that does not recognize this right.  The time has come for America to grant its people the same rights that are granted to the citizens of France and Ireland and Canada and Russia and Malaysia and England and Norway and Denmark and Germany and pretty much anywhere else you can name.  It is only the Republican Party that is united in denying this right to the American people because,  after all, they’ve already got theirs, and they certainly don’t want to pay for yours.

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Spin it as you will, there is no denying the facts.  Massachusetts, formerly the bluest of the blue states, the champion of universal health care and mandatory health insurance for all has had a change of heart.  Scott Brown a Republican state senator has won. He has done more than just win, he won on a promise that he would vote against health care if elected to the U.S. Senate.  Who knew that the people of Massachusetts were so unhappy with their own universal health care that they would repudiate the legacy of Ted Kennedy, a man they elected to the U.S. Senate for more than 40 years? Who would have expected that Massachusetts, that most Puritanical and prudish of all the states would give a rousing affirmation for a man who posed for a nude centerfold? The home of the bean and the cod has certainly come a long way, baby.

So, one must ask, what does this portend for the fortunes of the Democrats and President Obama in particular?  Will the Dems be swept from office in November? Is Obama already a lame duck? Can Obama possibly govern when his staunchest ally in the entire country has deserted him? Et tu, Massachusetts?  It is a sad and shocking day for the Democratic Party and it must be even more so for the President.  What went wrong? Should he have listened to the Tea Party wackos?  Was Sarah Palin right?  Do the American people just want to be left alone?  What is the message of Massachusetts anyway?

OK, I suppose part of it was that Coakley screwed up when she said that Curt Shilling was a Yankee fan.  That must have lost the entire Red Sox Nation for her right there.  Could that be the explanation? This was the revenge of Red Sox fans? No…. No, it had to be something else more substantive.  Mustn’t it?  Let’s remember that Brown only had one issue he was running on, he wanted to kill health care.  In the end that has to be it.  The people of Massachusetts don’t want the Obama health care bill. Hmmm…I wonder…could it be that maybe they figure they already have their own mandatory health care, thank you very much, and they don’t want to pay for health care in the other 49 states too?  Well, that sure sounds like those flinty old Yankees of Massachusetts.  Maybe that’s it. Maybe the message of Massachusetts is this: You other 49 states are on your own down there, we’re already taking care of ourselves up here with our own mandatory health insurance program. Now that sounds like a Republican message if I ever heard one.

They say that all politics is local and it looks like Massachusetts has proven the truth of this axiom.  The question we now must ask is this: what next? Can the other 49 states go it alone on health care and write off Massachusetts?  Will President Obama decide to actually lead this country, or will he remain content to let Congress try to figure out how to proceed?  Will this Congress ever be able to get anything done at all and why is it that George Bush had no problem passing the legislation he wanted with far fewer Republican seats in the Congress than the Democrats have now?  Is this Massachusetts election result, at least in part, due to a failure of President Obama?

It sure is. It is due to a failure to lead.  The President seems to strongly favor ruling by consensus, by a majority vote. This was never one of George Bush’s failings. He just did what he wanted to do.  Illegal wiretaps? No problem. Torture prisoners? Sure. Stonewall the Congress? Why not? Lie to the U.N. about Iraq? Certainly.  Ignore the people of New Orleans while they drowned? Naturally. Turn his back on the people who were inundated by the Southeast Asain Tsunami? Absolutely. George Bush was a leader and he done got done what he wanted to git done.

So what should President Obama do about health care now? He should study George Bush. He should decide what he wants to do and then lead the fight to get it – just like George Bush. Remember George Bush was elected  (sort of ) twice. The time has come for this President to lead as a President must.  That is what the country elected him to do.  That is the real message of Massachusetts.

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Emotions have run high on both sides of the issue.  Is access to health care a right, a privilege, or a commodity?  The answer, it seems, depends upon where you stand.  Today, as the U.S. Congress continues to thrash through the process of considering the health care bill, accusations fly from both sides, with Senator Joe Lieberman caught in no man’s land, trying to please both sides but pleasing no one – an army of one.  The left-most side of the debate has already turned on their leader, President Obama, declaring that he has misled, misdirected, and misfired.  Dire predictions abound about 2010 and 2012.  On the extreme right, Republicans chortle with glee, knowing they have stymied a process that might have led to low cost health care for most Americans.  It’s hard not to be emotional about this whether one is on the left or the right. Health, after all, can be an emotional issue. But, then again, so is money.

There can be little doubt that we are a nation divided on this issue. There may be a majority of people who want to change the present health care system. There may be a majority who favor a public option or expanded Medicare or some other version of a government supervised health plan. But it apparently isn’t a two-thirds majority or a three-quarters majority. And that is the problem for this Bill.  Our Constitution was written to ensure that the majority rules, but not the simple majority.  The way the system is supposed to work is that 60% of the people (i.e. 60% of the Senators who represent the people) can make laws – but 51% just isn’t enough. There are not 60 Senators who want this health care bill.  It is that simple. It also seems that there are not 60% of the people who want it either – maybe 55%, maybe 59%, but it doesn’t look like 60%. So, it’s not going to happen – at least not in its present form.  That is the way our government works – that is who we are.

The question we need to ask is this: what does this say about the American people? Somewhere around 30% of the people don’t have and can’t afford health insurance.  Many people go without critical medical care because they can’t pay for it.  Many people die because they can’t pay for the medical care they need. We all know that. It also seems that pretty close to half of us are OK with that too.

It’s just who we are.

We Americans like to say that we believe in freedom – in many ways that belief defines the essence of America: freedom to be what you want, do what you want, say what you want. It is also the freedom to not do things, to not help someone, to not pay someone else’s bills, to not take care of strangers. It is the freedom to look the other way.  We do that all the time.  Many people may have forgotten by now, but there  was a tragic case of murder that occurred in New York City in 1964. A young woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death at the entrance to her apartment building. She screamed that she was dying. A lot of people watched. No one helped.  A few years ago New Orleans was inundated by Hurricane Katrina.  President Bush flew over the city and looked out the window of his airplane at the drowning city as he flew by. He didn’t help. The U.S. government didn’t help. The people drowned.

It’s just who we are.

It is indeed ironic that it is the Republican Party that has led the fight against health care. It’s ironic because so many Republicans are staunch “Christians”. Yet, standing by and watching people suffer and die is the opposite of Christianity, isn’t it? Isn’t that a value more to be attributed to the Roman Empire where people were thrown to the lions just for fun? I must admit, I don’t understand the mental gymnastics that people have to go through in order to call themselves Christian and at the same time vehemently and violently oppose health care for the sick and dying people of America.

It’s just who we are.

In the end though, we have to recognize one truth.  Regardless of how strongly we feel about this issue, we as a people, have an agreed upon method for creating rules. We have an organization we call Congress that makes the rules on our behalf. The process is complex and involves a lot of horsetrading, money changing hands, posturing, threatening, and cajoling. Money counts in our system. Money buys influence in our system.  The average citizen’s only voice is his single vote in the elections. We voted. There is now a majority of Democrats in the Senate, but not an overwhelming majority. We made it that way.  We could change the system. We could eliminate lobbyists and payoffs.  We could eliminate the deal-making and the lying. But we don’t.

It’s just who we are.

In the end, whether a watered-down health care bill passes or it doesn’t, it is because this is what we, as a people, voted for.  We have this form of government because we want it and we don’t want to change it.  If we don’t choose to provide health care for the poor and unfortunate people of America it is simply because we don’t want to do so. That’s what this all means.  It isn’t President Obama’s fault. It isn’t Joe Lieberman’s fault.

It’s just who we are.

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