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Do The Right Thing: Healthcare Reform Must Pass March 16, 2010

Posted by Lynn Christiansen Esquer in Politics.
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As Congress readies itself to vote on healthcare reform this week, it’s time to reiterate why this country needs reform — and yes, even the abandoned public option — NOW. And we can’t wait for the Republicans to get on board because they simply never will: They like the money they get from the insurance and pharmaceutical lobby too much.

Why now, why this? The current system, the status quo, does not work.

1. It doesn’t work, either for the 12-50 million “collateral damage” Americans the conservatives seem to believe are disposable — or for the 280 million people who already pay a fortune in personal insurance, or co-pays and deductibles, or out-of-pocket treatment, or COBRA. Americans are increasingly underinsured, trapped in their jobs because they have a “pre-existing condition”, or arbitrarily dumped or denied when they require expensive life-saving treatments. If you argue that our system works, you’d better hope that you don’t find yourself out of a job or in the all-too-common position that you require the mercy of an insurance board looking for reasons to deny coverage so it can save a few bucks.

2. If the argument that covers human compassion/basic morality/haves vs. have-nots/social responsibility doesn’t mean anything to conservatives, then yes, let’s talk economics. If the 45 million or so uninsured are suddenly insured and able to obtain regular medical treatment, how many jobs do you think such a massive shift might generate in the middle class? And… isn’t competition supposed to be a good thing in the free market? Doesn’t the classic argument follow the idea that competition keeps prices down, quality high, and innovation moving forward? And there’s the argument of economic value. The United States already pays by far the most money per capita in the industrial world for medicine, yet tens of millions are uninsured and we have the highest medical mortality rate in the first world. The return on investment in our current system is abysmal.

3. When profits and care are forced to compete, the consumer loses to the shareholder. For example, Anthem (Blue Cross) just had a $3 billion profit last quarter in California. But because of high unemployment, people are dropping expensive insurance plans, resulting in a smaller risk pool. Result: Anthem’s premiums are going up a minimum of 39%. Welcome to deflation everyone! Deflation is invariably linked to higher unemployment and lower wages, but it’s out of alignment for a company like Anthem which stockholders to please. It’s not a sustainable situation for Anthem, which will have to cut costs (i.e. deny healthcare services to its customers) to remain highly profitable.

The Right, which so recently entrusted our government into the hands of the inept, now suddenly is exhibiting an anti-governmental tick, resulting in an argument that all government (and its initiatives, such as healthcare) is evil, all taxation to pay for the common good (except for the military) is theft, and that all regulation (except that which protects Wall Street executives) is tyranny. Tea partiers don’t worry about loss of life or predatory healthcare corporations because they don’t care about practical effects, only ideological consistency.

But what these free market extremists don’t understand — or are paid by the corporate benefactors to ignore — is that we don’t need to give up individual liberties in order to allow the state to provide greater security in healthcare:

There is no reason why “the state should not assist individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance, where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks, the case for the state helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong.”  — Friedrich von Hayek, Austrian economist whose work is often cited by the Right.

Do what needs to be done, Congress. The American people can’t afford to be cannibalized anymore by corporations pretending to provide them care. Pass healthcare reform!


The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party February 8, 2010

Posted by Lynn Christiansen Esquer in Politics.
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A few thoughts regarding this past weekend’s National Tea Party Convention:

R.I.P.: I think it’s a shame that the original tea party movement is dead. Oh, of course it lives on through the disaffected neo-cons who will use it to fuel their discontent and as a way to become relevant to themselves again. But the original intent of the tea parties, begun by Libertarians and Independents, was to push for a move away from the two-party system that has a chokehold on our country and to fight the structure that rewards candidates and lawmakers when they become beholden to corporate interests, returning to the Constitution. Now that the Republicans have effectively hijacked the movement, the original reason for them being is dead. The tea parties now stand for something completely contrary to their original ideology.

Welcome Back, Jim Crow: By far the most shocking thing to have come out of the tea party convention was the suggestion by opening night speaker Tom Tancredo that the law that kept African Americans from voting be reinstated, because the absence of segregation-era literacy tests could be the only explanation as to why Barack Obama was elected president.

And then the audience applauded enthusiastically.

Palin 1: It’s no secret I’m not a fan of Sarah Palin. But it says something about both Palin and the for-profit tea party movement that she accepted $100,000 for her keynote address that slammed over-spending and greed, at a convention that was largely shunned by other politicos because of allegations of profiteering. Palin’s conduct in this and other instances would lead me to believe she agrees with Mark Twain: “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”

Palin 2: Palin especially loves to talk in vague, vapid terms about “ideas” and “foreign policy” and then refuse to elaborate. Then Palin, who couldn’t even finish her first term as governor of nowhere, had the temerity to offer “advice to the guys in D.C.” She is light on knowledge but big on hate, half-truths and anti-intellectualism: There’s no more dangerous combination.

The Usual Suspects: I’ve read that this convention was the movement’s attempt at maturity. Maybe so. But it was amusing/disturbing to still see many people — with undisguised hate — questioning “Barack Hussein Obama” and the matter of his citizenship, or applauding those who did. The overtly lunatic fringe may have been discouraged from coming by the $549 price tag to attend the NTPC, but the classed up crazies were still very much in evidence.

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