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Beck, Bachmann & the U.S. Census: Fears vs. Facts

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The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. — from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural address

It may or may not be a coincidence that census worker Bill Sparkman was found dead with a rope around his neck on 9-12 — the word “FED” scrawled across his chest — on the same day that Glenn Beck’s  “9-12 Project” descended on Washington, where the teabaggers, deathers and birthers gathered to protest what Beck & Bachmann have warned are “the systematic efforts” by everyone from Obama Administration and certain Democratic members of Congress, to health care reformers, environmentalists and the folk at with the U.S. Census,”to destroy our wonderful country and threaten to wipe away our God gifted liberties.”

And it may or may not be a coincidence that Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele, Michele Bachmann and other Capitol Hill GOPs have used the media and organizations such as Glenn Beck’s the “9-12 Project” as a forum for exercising their own “God gifted liberties” to stoke fear, hatred and conspiratorial disinformation about the Federal government, in general, and the U.S. Census, in particular — as if this 220-year-old, constitutionally mandaded U.S. Census (Article I, Section 2) were somehow a recent invention by the Obama Administration, designed to intrude into our lives and impose Nazi, socialist of communist (take your pick) control over the citizenry:

Certainly the collection of this information is going to be part of an ongoing political campaign by this administration. — RNC Chairman Michael Steele on the U.S. Census

I’ve made it very public what my position is, and I think there is a point when  you say ‘enough is enough’ to government intrusion.Michele Bachmann, explaining her plan to boycott the U.S. census

Can they, um, because I’ve considered not filling it out when I get it, but I want to make sure that they don’t use this  as a loophole to say that I can no longer have a permit for my gun. — Glenn Beck, during his interview with Michele Bachmann, hinting that the Feds might take away his 2nd Amendment rights, should he refuse to fill out his census forms — even as both have have just factually acknowledged that the Census Bureau’s stated fine for such is between $100-$5,000.

It is of no coincidence, however, that a certain percentage of citizens in this country have fallen under the spell of this “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror” that has been spun by these GOP peddlers of terror, who have suggested that the census will be used by the Obama Administration to intrude into their lives, take away their guns and throw them into internment camps (the latter fear is courtesy of Michele Bachmann). A sampling of comments from Beck’s “9-12 Project” website reveals the extent of the terror, anger and hatred felt by their audience:

AMMO UP!!! I suggest ammo you don’t use yourself also. Never know when someone else could use it or trade for goods! Buy cheap/inexpensive ammo. I have my .308, .40 and 5.56.

I always thought they could only ask 2 questions? I am prepared for jail time! These are incredible times.

Why is the “census” so important right now? Two guess, [sic] it is the control this administration wants !

With the economy down and so many people out of work and worrying, the Dems are doing their best to side track this country . This is a cruel administration and it is doing everything it can to undermine our American way of life.

I think the best way to fight this, is to not participate in it. If it is going to be political and not fair anyway, why contribute to the fraud. When you get your census, just mark it, I refuse to answer these questions due to probable fraud.

Time to be sqirrels [sic] or whatever else cracks acorns. “When your [sic] a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

We have allowed, yes allowed the left to push us around for far too long. We have bowed and bent to every politically correct, tree-hugging, capitalist hating scheme they’ve come up with for fear of being called a racist, homophobe, hatemonger. I tell you what, they don’t know what a hatemonger is. It’s time to push back.

No, it’s no coincidence that our country is ripe for a lynching. After all, the Becks, Bachmanns, Steeles, Wilsons and Limbaughs of America have spent the past year working on the GOP tag team, taking turns goading their audiences into stocking up on assault rifles, ammo and grudges.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s still time to make a U-turn before something truly horrible happens.

And since Bachmann, Beck, Dobbs, Steele, Wilson et al show no signs of changing the incendiary tone of their rhetoric, it is up to each of us, as individuals, to unequivocally reject the agenda they are promoting:

  • first, by calling these people out — as have former president Jimmy Carter, Rep. John Lewis, Nancy Pelosi and others — whenever the rhetoric embraces hatred, threats and/or violence, and
  • second, by taking every opportunity to allay fears with facts.

Here is my contribution:

FEAR: Bachman says that she does not feel “comfortable” giving her personal information to an ACORN worker.

FACT:  Since 1970, the U.S. Census has been sent out and returned by mail. It’s simple. Citizens fill these out in the privacy of their own homes, then mail them back to the U.S. Census Bureau. Not to ACORN. Those citizens who do not return their form, or who return an incomplete form, are contacted either by phone or by an in-person interviewer, who was likely hired through one of several government contractors, including ACORN, so that the form may be completed. Mailing the fully completed census form to the Census Bureau entirely avoids the need for an in-person interview. (Read here for info on the federal laws that safeguard the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Data Protection and Privacy Policy,” and read here for more info on the use of GPS by the U.S. Census Bureau).

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Michele Bachmann doesn’t understand why the government needs information, such as her phone number.

FACT: Had she actually bothered to seek an answer to this question, rather than rather than resort to passing on her fearful ignorance and suspicions, Rep. Bachmann would know the reason for each and every question, as these are painstakingly explained throughout the U.S. Census Bureau documentation, as well as  on their website, including info on how long each question has existed on the census. Regarding phone numbers, these are requested in case the U.S. Census needs to contact those folks who didn’t properly fill out their forms. Calling these individuals on the phone saves the time and expense of sending a personal interviewer to the house. Oddly, Bachmann & Co. were silent over the Bush Administration’s wiretapping program, which made it legal for our government to listen into our private conversations, sans the formality of a warrant. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel more threatened by having the government listen into my phone calls, than by the rote gathering of phone numbers, which are available to anyone with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Worst-case scenario regarding phone numbers (should the above facts not allay Rep. Bachmann’s fears), according to the U.S. Census website, her phone number is not required by federal law, which she would know, had she bothered to look before leaping to conclusions.

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Michele Bachmann states that the U.S. Census short-form is 28 pages .

FACT: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “The 2010 Census questionnaire will be one of the shortest in history, consisting of 10 questions. It takes about 10 minutes to complete.” The 2010 short-form is 6 pages long, with the aforementioned “10 questions” being covered on one single page. The other 5 pages allow optional space for documenting up to 12 other household members, if applicable, and requests only basic information, such as race, age, gender, etc.

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Michele Bachmann states that the U.S. Census short form is 28 pages .

FACT: Perhaps Rep. Bachmann, in her confusion, was referring to the 14-page American Community Survey (ACS) component of the U.S. Census, which went into effect during the Bush Administration, under a Republican majority Congress in 2005. The ACS replaced the now-obsolete U.S. Census “long census form,” which had been in use since 1940 and used on only a sampling of the population (5% of households in 1940, compared to 16% in the last several census counts). Today’s ACS asks essentially the same questions that were asked in the 100-question “long form” during the last two census counts, the only difference being that — rather than being used every 10 years, the ACS is (and has been since 2005) used on an ongoing basis every year. The theory is that, with our rapidly-changing demographic, economic, and housing data, there needs to be a more accurate system for tracking this data between censuses. (As an example of how rapidly our demographics change, the population increase from 1930 to 1940 was just under 9 million, whereas the population increase from 1990 to 2000 was nearly 33 million).  Too, the ACS uses a smaller sampling of households. Unlike the previously used “long-form” which was sent to 1 in 6 households, the ACS has been sent to an average of 1 in 9 households over a 5-year period. For those who have questions on how to fill out the form, a 16-page instruction guide available, but even this (the 14 page questionaire +the 16 page info guide) doesn’t add up to 28 pages.

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Bachmann states that the census asks for the number of live births.

census birthFACT: The census has never asked for the number of “live births,” although it does seem logical that — since the primary goal over its 220-year history has been to keep an accurate count of the U.S. population — there would be at least some question directed toward tracking birthrates. Perhaps Rep. Bachmann was referring to question #23 (left) which has been part of the U.S. Census for 80 of the past 110  years. This information is reportedly used both to project population growth, as well as to serve as a planning tool for the Dept. of Health and Human Services to implement programs, per statutes. (see this U.S. Census Bureau pdf document for more specifics on this)

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Bachmann states that the census asks how many bathrooms you have.

census  bathroom

FACT: No census has ever asked how many bathrooms a person has.  The census has asked, since 1940, whether a household has plumbing. This information is asked on the ACS form, not the short-form, which most households will receive. This information is used for various reasons, such as gauging poverty, determing risks for groundwater contamination, and for policy development by the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development. (see this U.S. Census pdf document for specifics on this).

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Bachman states that the census asks what time you leave for work and come home.

FACT: This question has been part of the census since 1960, and is one of several regarding transporation and the use of public highways. According to the U.S. Census:

“Transportation planners, using journey-to-work information, to plan for peak volumes of traffic in order to reduce traffic congestion, plan for parking, and develop strategies, such as carpooling programs and flexible work schedules. Decisions are made to build new roads or add capacity to existing roads, and to develop transit systems, such as light rail or subways, by projecting future needs.” Check the U.S. Census site (see pg. 35 of this 65-page pdf to both view the actual questions and to get more info on why this information is collected).

As Rep. Bachmann could attest, it would be much easier — and certainly less intrusive — for the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to simply pull this data out of thin air, as she does with so many of her “facts.” However, this approach is not particularly helpful to transporation planners when designing the highway and mass transit infrastructures that our government provides equally to all citizens, in much the same way that all American citizens are given equal access — regardless of income, disability, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, age or race — to public schools, fire departments, law enforcement and, hopefully one day, health care.

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR: Michele Bachmann states that the U.S. Census does not ask if people are U.S. citizens.

FACT: The U.S. Census has been asking this very question for most of the past 180 years, beginning in 1820, when it was #13 of thirty-three questions, asking specifially for the “number of foreigners not naturalized” in the household. As Bachmann has also expressed some fear over the government’s interest in asking about age (part of the census since 1800), race (part of the census since 1790) and gender (part of the census since 1790) , it may be of interest to note that all but five of the 1820 census questions were devoted to asking the gender and ages of whites, slaves and “free colored persons.” For the record, question #8 on the 2010 census plainly asks, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” Also, in April of this year, the U.S. Census acting director, Thomas Mesenbourg, announced to the media, “We’ll Work with ‘Community Organizations’ to Count All Illegal Aliens in 2010.”

*     *     *     *     *

FEAR:  Michelle Bachmann fears that information from the census will be used to round up Americans into internment camps, (as was done to Japanese and other immigrants in 1942, in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor), and states that she wishes that the FBI, instead of the White House, were in charge of the census.

FACT: First of all, the the U.S. Census Bureau operates through the Department of Commerce, not the executive branch of the government, nor ACORN. Regarding the FBI’s role with the census, beginning in 1939, it was the FBI who used the information from the U.S. Census to profile Japanese and other immigrants and to eventually “round up” Japanese, Italians, Germans and Jews into internment camps, per an executive order signed by Roosevelt in 1942. The U.S. government officially apologized for this and awarded $1.6 billion in reparations in 1988, with President Ronald Reagan stating, as he signed the legislation, that the government’s actions had been based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

The reason there was no mention of the U.S. Census in Reagan’s apology is because it was anti-immigration fervor — not the census — that ultimately led to these internment camps. The pity is that folk like Bachmann — having neglected to learn their history before speaking authoritatively on it — doom the rest of us to re-witness our most despicable histories. A good starting point for absorbing some historical perspective on the internment camps is the draft for an article, written by Eleanor Roosevelt, aptly titled, To Undo A Mistake Is Always Harder Than Not to Create One Originally.

What Michele Bachmann, in her defiant ignorance, failed to tell her audience is what actually led to the internment camps. It was certainly not the census. It was, in great part, the culmination of 150 years of xenophobic fear and hatred toward Asians — stoked by the Bachmanns & Becks of the day — that was nearly as old as our country, itself, beginning with the Naturalization Act of 1790, which barred U.S. citizenship not only to slaves and blacks, but to Asians. This law was followed throughout the 19th and early 20th century with various Alien Land Laws, which barred the ownership, leasing or renting of land by those residents who were ineligible to citizenship (read that: slaves, blacks and Asians). The Naturalization Act of 1790 was amended in 1875 to allow citizenship to Africans, still barring citizenship to Asians.   

This nativist hatred of “the yellow peril” only intensified during the 60 years leading up to WWII and the internment camps — with anti-Chinese, anti-Japanese sentiments being epidemic from the 1880s through the 1940s, along side the existing prejudices against blacks, Jews and Catholics. This period saw the passage of a series of laws directed specifically against Chinese, Japanese and/or Filipino immigration — from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (which barred Chinese labor and immigration), to the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907 (in which Japan agreed to not allow its citizens to emigrate to the U.S.), to Immigration Act of 1917 (which barred immigrants from most of Asia), to the Quota Law of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 (both of which sharply reduced the immigration of Catholics, Jews and the Japanese, who were deemed “aliens inelibible to citizenship,with the 1924 act finally barring Japanese immigration entirely). Anti-immigration became, in the wake of WWI, the cause célèbre of the KKK and other nativist groups and fraternal orders of the day, which targeted immigrants for intimidation, threats and lynching, the most infamous being, perhaps, the 1915  KKK lynching of the Jewish pencil manufacturer, Leo Frank..  

As the Depression descended during the early 1930s, job scarcity only escalated the anger and fear toward immigrants — not unlike the climate being cultivated today in the rhetoric of Beck, Bachmann, Dobbs and others — with the rise of WWII facism only seeming to justify old fears, while also justifying new fears of subversive facist and communist elements within the U.S. In 1939-1940, the FBI began the “Custodial Detention Index Program,” which targeted not only the Japanese and Chinese, but also Italians, Germans and Jews,  categorizing these immigrants into  several classes of “subversives.” 

With the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor — and the U.S. officially at war with Japan — long-simmering hatred toward Japanese escalated to a flash-point, sparking both threats and actual acts of violence against Japanese-Americans. From this specific climate and turn of events, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the order to authorize the internment of Japanese Americans. 

It was not until the 1950s-60s that the anti-immigration laws barring citizenship and land ownership to the Japanese began to be lifted. Speaking before Congress in 1960, Senator Warren G. Magnuson — who, himself, had earlier been a proponent of the Japanese internment camps — urged a repeal of the alien land laws, describing the climate of fear that had led to these laws and, ultimately, to the internment camps: 

I am convinced that these anti-alien land laws helped substantially to create the prejudices which were fanned by hysteria in 1942, into and incident that has been described as ‘our worst wartime mistake.’ I have referenced to the mass military evacuation of 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, regardless of citizenship, age, or sex from their homes into interior interment camps.

It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965 that barriers against Japanese immigration were effectively lifted, allowing the Japanese an equal path with other nationalities to citizenship and, thereby, putting to rest 175-years of laws that served to legitimize prejudice within our immigration policies. 

It is of no coincidence that the Immigration Act of 1965 coincided with the Civil Rights and Votings Rights Acts of 1964-65, which afforded, after some 250 years, equal rights of citizenship to blacks. But as any white supremacist could tell you, it’s one thing to make a law; it’s another to enforce it. There continue to be in this country certain elements that work, like rust, to undermine the rights of non-whites. Harry Dent picked up the cause for white supremacist politicians in 1964, passing the torch to Lee Atwater in the 1980s, then to Karl Rove. Today, this same torch is being carried by Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachmann and, by virtue of their silence on the matter, by the entire Republican Party, who are exploiting old fears to further political agendas — stoking fear, hatred and, potentially, violence in the process. 

To borrow from the words that came back to haunt Roosevelt, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” It is this fear that ultimately led to the internment camps, and it is this fear — not the existence of the U.S. census — that could ultimately doom us, as a country, to repeat old history.   

*     *     *     *     *

America’s history with race and immigration is infinitely complex. I can no more do justice to this history in five or six paragraphs than Bachman, Beck, Limbaugh or Dobbs can lend in the various one-liners they broadcast over the airwaves each day, their dire predictions designed to raise ratings and political capital, entirely at the expense of the people they terrify and the victims who pay the price of this terror.

 

Henchmen to Road Rage? To a Lynching?

To date, we don’t know. But the fact that we are even asking these questions speaks volumes about the fears that have been cavalierly tossed about and taken root over the past year or so. 

This is how history repeats itself — by the perpetuation of old fears and old ignorance. It has taken me several hours to track down the facts and write them here for public consumption to set the record straight on just a tiny fraction of the irresponsible disinformation that it took Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann just a few minutes to broadcast to a national audience.

That’s the thing about terror.  It clutches at peoples’ hearts, entirely by-passing their minds, propelling them into survival mode. They’ll do whatever it takes to protect themselves from the enemy, the bogeyman.  These terrified  folk don’t ask questions. They believe what their politicians tell them. They believe what they hear on the TV box. They believe, with all their hearts, that the government is, in the words of Glenn Beck, out to “destroy our wonderful country and threaten to wipe away our God gifted liberties.” Too, there are a certain percentage who may know better, but are, indeed, acting on old hatreds.

From there, all it takes is a small spark. Perhaps an angry man in a pick-up truck who, seeing my Obama bumper sticker, rushes up behind my car on a rural road in South Carolina, threatening to rear-end my car, then nearly side-swipes me as he tries to run me off the road. Or, perhaps, a simple knock on the door by a census worker. That’s all it would take to incite the sort of rage that would compel men to murder complete strangers or to, perhaps, lynch a Boy Scout leader, a cancer survivor, a teacher, a single father to a son.

Whether or not the truth of the latter is fact or fear is a question that has yet to be answered. But it is a question that more and more American face each day — from the President, to members of Congress, to ordinary citizens like myself. It is a terrifying question, to be sure — one that no one should ever, ever again have to ask in this country. Yet, there are some in this country who would doom us to repeat it.

Again, it’s not too late. We can still make that U-turn before something truly horrible happens if, indeed, it hasn’t already.

VIDEO ABOVE: Michele Bachmann’s approach to stopping health care reform: “We have to today make a covenant, slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”

 

VIDEO ABOVE: The Young Turks show broadcast on some of Michele Bachmann’s more bizarre statements, including her “slit our wrists” covenant, from the previous video.

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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The Resignation of Van Jones: Who Needs McCarthy Hearings, When You Have Glenn Beck?

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When contemplating the abyss, it’s sometimes helpful to look straight into it.  In this spirit, I did something I never do: I went to the Fox News website and read their account of the Van Jones story, titled, “How Van Jones Happened and What We Need to Do Next.”  The article reads like a page from the Lee Atwater manifesto.  ( Or Harry Dent or Karl Rove, take your pick.) Herein, I learned that, according to the folks at Fox News, Van Jones was part of a bigger conspiracy, not unlike the Democrats’ secret  mission to use health care reform as a path to putting our country under the rule of socialist death panels.  

And, if not for the courage of the fearless crew at Fox News, it’d still be a secret, since the evil liberal media was, as usual, asleep at the helm, ignoring yet one more left-wing radical plot to take over our country.

Turns out, according to this article, the reason that 57 companies pulled their ads from Glenn Beck’s show was NOT because Beck said the following, of President Obama on July 28th:

This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture — I don’t know what it is. …I’m not saying that he doesn’ t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. He has a — this guy is, I believe, a racist.

No, the real reason for the boycott is much more insidious: Glenn’s show was boycotted because he broke the Van Jones story.  According to Phil Kerpen, Director of Policy for Americans for Prosperity, who officially broke the story on Beck’s July 28th show: “Given the chronology… we should consider whether the boycott was retaliation for the coverage.”

But wait, there’s more. According to Kerpen, Jones’ real agenda at the White House was, “an attempt to achieve radical ends” an end Kerpen deemed, “squarely within the mainstream of the political left and the Democratic Party.”

Just what was Jones’  secret agenda? Apparently, his agenda for the “greening” of America was really a thinly disguised plot to topple capitalism. Kerpen even gave a name to his plot, calling it “the watermelon theory,” (not to be confused with the certain stereotypes of yore about colored folk and watermelon). According to Kerpen, Jones’ efforts toward a cap and trade bill to curb carbon emissions was  “watermelon,” green on the outside but Communist red to the core.

As evidence of this, Kerpen revealed Jones’ ties to the radical organization, the Apollo Alliance, which has been involved in myriad nefarious projects, such as:

  • Working with volunteer university students, union workers and community members to caulk, seal and insulate low-income homes in Buffalo, NY.  and to also design a do-it-yourself kit for homewners — called the Home Energy Conservation Kit (HECK) that gave homeownders the necessary materialsto make basic improvements themselves.
  • Efforts to keep millions of U.S. jobs from being sent overseas. Responding to recent reports that 30% of American overseas job losses came from the manufacturing sector — and that 70 percent of America’s clean and efficient energy systems are currently being manufactured overseas — Apollo has been working with a “broad spectrum of U.S. industry, including manufacturers, distributors, labor unions, and clean energy producers” to support legislation to “revive American manufacturing through investment in clean energy.” In this effort, the Apollo Alliance supports Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill titled, “Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) Act,” — a bill to boost domestic clean energy manufacturing and ensure that new clean energy jobs stay in the United States, while also cutting American dependence on foreign oil. 
  • Efforts to modernize our long-neglected transportation infrastucture to rejuvinate our cities by bringing businesses and people back to the deteriorating downtowns, much like Chattanooga did in the early 1990s — a succes story that created jobs, prospered business, and improved the quality of life, while also setting the standard for cutting operating costs,  reducing fuel consumption and waste, while being good stewards of the environment.  

And this is only “the tip of iceberg,” accoring to Kerpen. To illusrate this point, he offered the following chart which draws the clear, undisputable connections between communism, green jobs, the Sierra Club, the president of the United Steel Workers Union and, yes, none other than Van Jones.

 

The Chart: The "Green Jobs" Radical Network Conspiracy to Take Over the WorldEven

If this reminds you of that scene with all the crazy road signs in the movie, “Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure,” it’s for good reason. We Americans were on a crash collision course with communism — saved only by the grace of Phil Kerpen’s meticulous research, which uncovered all manner of scary plots:    

“He [Jones] urged adoption of a carbon cap-and-trade program, renewable electricity mandates– including Al Gore’s outlandish and impossible goal of eliminating fossil fuel use by 2018, large taxpayer-funded green jobs programs, a so-called smart grid for electricity, more mass-transit subsidies, higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, federal funding for organic farms, a ban on new coal plants, expanded ethanol mandates, and even a spirited, multiple page pitch for a cash-for-clunkers program.”

Scary stuff, eh? Kerpen elaborates:

“Green jobs are not economic jobs but political jobs, designed to funnel vast sums of taxpayer money to left-wing labor unions, environmental groups, and social justice community organizers.”

In other words, environment protection is part of an evil fascist  plot to take over the government. Social justice is just another word for socialism. And community organizers are… Well, you get the picture. 

Kerpen continues:

“Even  if Apollo is properly tainted by the Van Jones scandal, it’s only the tip of the iceberg, as this chart shows. In fact most of the action has already moved to the Center for American Progress, the hyper-politicized think tank that’s advancing most of the left’s agenda.”

It would easy enough to confuse the name of this “leftist” organization,  “Center for American Progress,” with its polar opposite,  “Americans for Prosperity,” the group with which Phil Kelpern serves as pollicy director. A quick view of their websites dispels all confusion. Below are some of the headlines from the home page of the “leftist” group, Center for American Progress, allegedly tied to Van Jones: 

  • Serving America’s Veterans
  • Restoring America’s global leadership
  • Seizing the energy opportunity
  • Creating progressive growth
  • Delivering universal health care
  • Getting Our Sudan Policy Right
  • Mixed News for Older Workers
  • A Good Job Is Hard to Find
  • Ted Kennedy, in Substance
  • Evaluating the Elections in Afghanistan
  • Public Shows Strong Support for Changes in Energy Policy
  • Making Government Work for Families
  • What Does Reform Mean for You?

In contrast, the headlines on Karpen’s “American’s for Prosperity” site seem less geared toward  issues and solutions and, well, American progress, than toward sliming the Democrats and killing every single effort to address the enormously complex issues of our times. Their current focus appears to be on killing health care reform and bashing unions and a cap and trade bill:

  • Green Czar’s Communism No Coincidence
  • Obama to Indoctrinate Schoolchildren
  • Obama’s “new” health care strategy
  • Baucus Deal is No Compromise
  • Americans for Prosperity Exposes the Left’s “Secret Plan” to Use Forced Unionization to Take Over the Country
  • Obama’s ‘Green’ Groups Eye Lots of Greenbacks
  • Tell the Obama administration to allow offshore drilling here in America!
  • Documentary Exposes Cap-and-Trade: It’s All About Control
  • Americans for Prosperity encourages members of the general public to visit their district offices and attend town hall meetings of their senators and representatives, especially during this August break when issues like health care reform and cap-and-trade are at the peak of debate. Make sure your voice is heard!

Of course, this comes as no surprise from an organization that is bedfellows to Doug Coe’s C-Street and the insurance, pharmaceutical and oil industries, to name a few. So it also comes as no suprise that Americans for Prosperity has also been spearheading this summer’s debacles of the tea-baggers, birthers and deathers, inciting Americans to take arms against imaginary giants.

Turns out, these efforts are effective. Health care reform is dead in the water, and Van Jones resigned, saying that he took on this position with the Obama Administration so that he could put his energies into defending others, not into defending himself. His absence leaves the Obama Administration another person short of the independent voices sorely needed to counterbalance money with morals on Capitol Hill — to offer a a strong voice for the people, whose interests are not served by the kings of industry and their lobbyists, whose job is to buy political favor and squash anything that stands between the kings and their profits. 

The aptly named “Americans for Prosperity” makes no claims to be Americans for clean drinking water, or Americans for breathable air, or  Americans for preserving and protecting the environment for future generations, or Americans for decent medical care for all citizens, or Americans for serving the needs of veterans, or Americans for stopping genocide in Africa, or Americans for decent worker wages. No, their name is American for Prosperity, and the only causes they support are those that benefit the kings of industry. Causes that benefit the people and the environment are enemies to prosperity.

Having hamstrung Van Jones, on the heels of helping kill health care reform, Americans for Prosperity got a taste of blood and it seems they like it. Seems they like folk who issue death threats and accuse the president of hating white people. Seems they like folk who resurrect the ghost of Joseph McCarthy. Seems they like insurrectionists who plan revolts against our constitutional government. Seems they like folk who attend Obama events with guns strapped to their sides. Seems they don’t give a damn about death panels, so long as they’re run by insurance CEOS.

Here, Obama and the Democratic Party would do well to take a line from George W. Bush’s playbook: We don’t appease terrorists.

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more on Van Jones, from someone who actually knows the man and his work, see Arianna Huffington’s, “Thank you, Glenn Beck!”

Health Care Apples & Oranges: UPS and Fedex vs. the U.S. Postal Service

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Keep your socialistic hands off my mailbox!

Keep yer socialistic hands off my mailbox!

I winced the instant I heard Obama say it. Of all the ways to allay a citizen’s fear that “government-run” health care would drive the private, for-profit insurance industry out of business:  

As long as they have a good product … private insurers should be able to compete with the government plan. They do it all the time…UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. . . . It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.”

It’s not that Obama was wrong. It’s not that he’s right, either. It’s just that he’s talking apples and oranges. And debates over apples and oranges don’t lend themselves to being settled in screaming matches at town hall meetings. I wish Obama’d stuck to the script: using Medicare — or, better still, the Veterans Administration health care system — as a model for universal health care, explaining how private insurance does and could continue to compliment this system. But since he didn’t compare apples to apples, and since he did throw the debate onto the kitchen table, let’s do it. Let’s talk apples and oranges. Starting here:

mailboxWhat if, instead of health care, this debate was over private mail carriers vs. government mail carriers?

What if the U.S. Postal Service had never been born, so to speak? What if it cost $12 to mail a letter from Georgia to California? Or if mail delivery was only available to folks living in big cities?

And what if, in response, there were a bunch of mail service reformers  pushing to enact a government-run mail delivery service to compete with the private, for-profit delivery service, so that everyone could afford to send letters to Grandma? And what if these reformers proposed that this new government-run mail service could deliver that $12 letter for a mere  44-cents to anywhere in the country? Would folks be taking to streets with guns strapped to their sides, yollering “Keep yer socialist goverment hands off my mailbox!” ?

Probably.

I say this because we are currently involved in a remarkably similar debate: Pay $2,700 per year, out of pocket, for total medical care for a family of four, OR pay from $7,000 up to $100,000 (and upwards) out of pocket (depending on whether you’re part of an  employee group plan or are going it alone), OR cross your fingers and hope you don’t get sick.  Here are the details on your choices: 

  1. If you’re among the 63% of non-elderly Americans who are lucky enough to receive medical insurance through your employer, you can continue paying an average of nearly $7,000 total out-of-pocket medical costs per year for a family of four. (The breakdown: $2,820 employee share of insurance premium + $4,004 deductibles, copays, etc. + $9,947 employer share of insurance premiums = $16,771 total medical expense outlay per year  for a middle-income family of four). And if you’re lucky, you won’t be among the three-quarters of a million Americans WITH health insurance this year who will be forced into bankruptcy because of your medical bills. 
  2. If you’re among the 23% of non-elderly Americans who are not lucky enough to receive medical insurance through their employers, nor through a government plan, you can can keep doing what they’re doing:  
    1. Buy comparable insurance to your employee-covered counterparts at a much higher rate (well over $13,000 per year), OR buy “affordable” insurance with high deductible and co-pays. 
    2. Continue neglecting or going without health care entirely
    3. Be among the projected total of nearly 1 million Americans this year who will be forced into bankruptcy due to medical bills.
  3. OR: Support a Medicare-for-all plan (also called H.R. 676, universal health care, the single-payer plan) for which you would pay $2,700 total out-of-pocket medical costs per year for a family of four. ( The breakdown: $2,700 insurance premium + $0 deductibles, copays, etc = $2,700 total medical cost per year for a middle-income family of four).

But let’s get back to those apples and oranges

Those opposed to health care reform have loved sinking their teeth into Obama’s Post Office analogy. And who could blame them? It’s an easy enough target — made all the more so by the fact that no one’s challenged them with dollars-and-cents realities of the Post Office debate. Since no one else bothered, I will.

Knowing how fond some folks are of choice — and how profoundly un-fond they are having the government’s hands all over their lives — I’m pleased to remind Americans everywhere that you DO have a choice. No one is forcing you to allow the government to get its socialist hands all over your lives. Take a stand against government intrusion!  

Next month, don’t send your water bill through the Post Office. Send it via UPS or Fedex. And this Christmas, when you mail out your greeting cards, don’t send them through the Post Office. Send your holiday cards through UPS or Fedex. Americans, you DO have choices! Here they are:

  • The U.S. Post Office will deliver 20 Christmas cards in 2 to 3 days for $8.80.
  • UPS will deliver 20 Christmas cards in 2 to 3 days for $239.00
  • Fedex will deliver 20 Christmas cards in 3 days for $235.20.

This isn’t to bash UPS and Fedex. It’s to underscore the fact that comparing these two private carriers to the U.S. Postal Service is like comparing apples to oranges. For one thing, they don’t even offer the same services. Unlike UPS and Fedex — the U.S. Postal Service maintains a daily delivery route covering nearly every home and business address in this country, to which they deliver mail 6 days per week. And their rates are affordable to the average Joe, like me, who wants to mail a letter to Grandma.

Yeah, yeah, I know: the Post Office has a monopoly on First Class mail — which has, for years, been a burr in the side of conservatives and libertarians, who believe this monopoly should be broken. “Give it to the free market!” they cry. But the fact is, no one else wants this job. Not unless they can, like the insurance industry, claim executive privledge to deny delivery to unprofitable cutomers. What would be the fate, then, of a 44-cent letter addressed to, say, Lost Springs, Wyoming?

lost springs

 

Were private enterprise to take over First Class mail delivery, they’d right away skim off the cream — all the delivery routes in high density populations of cities and towns — and leave to the Postal Service, or to no one, the rural customers, who are nothing but a gross money suck to the profit margin. Then the government would either have to subsidize rural deliveries, or allow private enterprise to charge higher rates.

Choice is all well and good, see, so long as I’ve got mine. To hell with the rest of you.

Oranges vs. Oranges: UPS and Fedex vs. the Private Insurance Industry

UPS and Fedex are efficient, profitable businesses that deliver on time, every time, as promised. Not so with the insurance industry. These carriers are prone to dragging their heels — sometimes denying delivery entirely. We’ve heard enough horror stories to know that these are not exceptions, but the rule to running a profitable business. 

According to a recent study by the California Nurses’ Association, claims denial rates by leading California insurers during the first six months of 2009 averaged 30%. Here’s the breakdown of denial rates, per insurance carrier:

  • PacifiCare — 39.6 percent
  • Cigna — 32.7 percent
  • HealthNet — 30 percent
  •  Kaiser Permanente — 28.3 percent
  • Blue Cross — 27.9 percent
  • Aetna — 6.4 percent

The Post Office is the apple in this equation. Were the Post Office to run like the insurance industry, then mail workers could begin sorting letter according to profitability — throwing into the trash any 44-cent letter that was deemed too unprofitable to deliver. 

Apples vs. Apples: Old and Disabled People vs. a 44-cent Letter to Lost Springs

As any insurance underwriter could tell you, Medicare currently covers some of the most costly patients on the market — folks that the insurance industry wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole — the elderly and the disabled. 

But what if, into this Medicare system, were added a mix of college age kids, thirty-somethings, forth-somethings and fifty-somethings? By incorporating a pool of healthy, low-cost individuals into the system, Medicare would more closely approximate the business model of the private insurance industry, which — by spreading the risk — rakes in billions upon billions in profit each year.

Except that Medicare would not rake in billions in profit because (a) the premiums would be a fraction of that paid to private insurers, and (b) Medicare would use the premiums for the purpose they were intended — to provide medical care — rather than squandering it in advertising, lobbying and executive pay. (As an example of this squandering, UnitedHealth Group compensates just one of its top executives at a rate of $819,000 per day. That’s a almost $103,000 per hour paid to just one CEO at UnitedHealth Group!)

Medicare would not need to spend billions per year in advertising, lobbying and lining the pockets of those industries (pharmaceutical, medical supplies, hospitals, oil & energy, etc.) that lobby on their behalf. In 2008, for instance, the top lobbyist in the U.S. was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent nearly $92 million on lobbying, some of this on behalf of their friends in the insurance industry. Exxon, another friend to the insurance industry, was the 2nd top lobbyist, spending $29 million. AARP, another friend, was the 3rd top lobbyists at nearly $28 million. Go down the list of the top lobbyists of 2008, and you will be hard-pressed to find one that is in favor of true health care reform. These are the folks who fill the campaign coffers of our politicians. With friends like this, who needs constituents?  

  • US Chamber of Commerce $91,725,000
  • Exxon Mobil $29,000,000
  • AARP $27,900,000
  • PG&E Corp $27,250,000
  • Northrop Grumman $20,743,252
  • American Medical Assn $20,555,000
  • Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America $20,220,000
  • American Hospital Assn $20,102,684
  • Koch Industries $20,023,000
  • General Electric $19,379,000
  • Verizon Communications $18,020,000
  • National Assn of Realtors $17,340,000
  • Boeing Co $16,610,000
  • Lockheed Martin $15,961,506
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield $15,560,165
  • AT&T Inc $15,076,675
  • National Cable & Telecommunications Assn $14,500,000
  • Southern Co $14,080,000
  • Altria Group $13,840,000

These numbers are following a similar path in 2009, except that there are a higher number of health care lobbyists in the mix, such as the AMA (the American Medical Association), which have stepped up the plate to fight health care reform, with the AMA spending $8.5 million on lobbying during in the first quarter of 2009.  

Here, a reminder is in order: The American Medical Association is not a professional association of doctors — as is widely believed — but is, in fact, a concert of insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists composed of paid doctors and other medical professionals.  Which makes all the more reprehensible the repeated references to the AMA throughout the health care debates — as if the AMA were the voice of doctors and the medical profession. Nothing could be further from the truth. No, the majority of doctors are in favor of single-payer health care, which is why they were given police escorts out of the health care hearings this past May. 

Add to these lobbyists the stockholders who drive the insurance industry agenda, with stock prices plummeting every time the least amoung of progress is made by health care reformers. Under our current system, it is the stockholders and insurance execs — not our doctors — who determine which patients do (and do not) receive medical care. 

A Dirty Little Secret

There’s a reason the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and their stockholders feel threatened by health care reform. It’s because they know that a Medicare-for-all plan, such as H.R. 676, will not only support itself — easily being revenue neutral — but could do this while also providing all the services it promises. This is the dirty little secret that has so far been covered up by the insurance industry’s scare campaigns about death panels and socialist plots. Medicare-for-all is not a socialist plot, but a delivery system to provide comprehensive medical care services, most of which the private insurance industry wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole: 

  • Every resident of the US will be covered from birth to death.
  • No more pre-existing conditions to be excluded from coverage.
  • No more expensive deductibles or co-pays.
  • All prescription medications will be covered.
  • All dental and eye care will be included.
  • Mental health and substance abuse care will be fully covered.
  • Long term and nursing home services will be included.
  • You will always choose your own doctors and hospitals.
  • Costs of coverage will be assessed on a sliding scale basis.
  • Tremendously simplified system of medical administration
  • Total portability – your coverage not tied to any job or location.
  • Existing Medicare benefits for those over 65 will remain the same or be vastly improved in many cases.
  • No corporate bureaucrat will ever come between you and your doctor to deny your care

In other words, instead of Americans footing the bill for the insurance industry’s $1.5 million per day lobbying campaign and for $103,000 per hour CEO compensation, Americans would be paying into a Medicare plan that would foot the bill for their own damned health care.

Sure, the insurance industry could still turn a profit by delivering that 44-cent letter to Lost Springs, Wyoming. But could they turn an obscene profit? No. That’s why they’re content to let their customers lie and rot in the dead letter office.

The pity is that Medicare-for-all  — which was the choice of 60 to 70% of Americans up until this June, when the insurance industry began its fearmongering, smear campaign in earnest — was never even on the table. Instead, backroom deals were cut between Capitol Hill and the insurance and pharmaceutical industries — two of the most lucrative contributors to our politicians’ campaign coffers. The single-payer, Medicare-for-all advocates were, in fact, barred from the table. The medical doctors who attended the health care reform hearings and demanded a seat at the table were given police-escorts out of the room and were arrested to the accompaniment of laughter and ridicule by the invited guests.

More Apples

As someone who’s done a lot of shipping through my work, I can claim some authority on the topic of mailing and shipping. I offer no defense of the U.S. Postal Service. What began in Benjamin Franklin’s day as an effort to ensure the free exchange of information among the citizenry has grown into a semi-independent behemoth of a business/government agency.

On one hand, the Post Office spits out copious wads of junk mail into our mailboxes each day. On the other hand, they faithfully deliver letters 6 days a week for the everyday Joe, like me, for only 44¢ each. And, if you’re shipping a package that’s less than 10 lbs. and measures less than 1-foot x 1-foot x 1-foot, the Post Office is generally cheaper than UPS or Fedex. On the other hand, their tracking system is inferior to UPS and Fedex, whose packages can be tracked from California to Georgia with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Obama was incorrect when he said that the U.S. Postal Service is “always having problems.” Fact is, they’ve generally kept their heads above water. But they were hit hard beginning in 2007 — along with the rest of us — by the double-whammy of high fuel prices and our collapsing economy. So were Fedex and UPS and nearly every other business and agency in this country. Since then, the price of a stamp has risen by a nickel — from  39¢ to 44¢ — and the Post Office has also increased its shipping rates, as have Fedex and UPS, their increases ranging from 4.9% to 6.9% each year.  

All three of these carriers, like most businesses, have seen declining profits over the past 2 years.

More Oranges

Not so for the insurance industry, which is still making gains on the 428% industry profit increase it realized from 2000 to 2007 (according to Standard and Poor’s),  during which time the industry raised health care premiums by 87%. In 2008, they raised it by another 5%. The figures aren’t yet in for 2009, but with their current profits being deemed, “record profits,” it’s a safe bet they’re not slashing jobs, nor are the insurance CEOs feeling in any pain or any fear over their salaries/compensation. To be fair, not all insurance execs make $103,000 per hour (three-quarters of a billion per year). The average insurance industry CEO makes only $14.2 million per year.   

By comparison, the total 2008 salary/compensation for the CEO at Fedex was $10.9 million. The total 2008 salary/compensation for the CEO at UPS was $5.6 million. Congressed raised the salary for the Postmaster General in 2007, to be more competitive with private industry. As such, in 2008 the Postmaster General received a total salary/compensation of $1.35 million ($235k salary + $800k in bonuses and deferred retirement benefits).  

The Bellwethers of our U.S. Health

As the preferred shipper for small businesses, UPS (United Parcel Service) is extremely sensitive to changes in the economy. As such, this company is widely viewed as a bellwether for the U.S. economy, its profit margin serving as an indicator of the flow of commerce. It’s been a gloomy year so far, with UPS revenues down in both the 1st and 2nd quarters. The company’s 2nd quarter earnings fell by 49%, with per share earnings falling to 44-cents a share from 85-cents a share a year earlier.  Their 2nd quarter revenue fell by 16.7% — to $10.83 billion from $13.00 billion a year earlier.

The picture’s been a bit rosier for the insurance industry. By contrast, the 2nd quarter earnings for Wellpoint, the nation’s largest health insurer, fell by a mere 0.7% — declining to $1.43 from $1.44 per share one year ago. Wellpoint’s 2nd quarter revenues fell by 1.6% from a year earlier — declining to $15.41 billion from $15.67 billion.  

Wellpoint attributes this revenue decline to, primarily, a “lower commercial membership,” which they offset by raising premiums to their other customers. In plainspeak, this means that — despite that Wellpoint lost 1.1 million customers over the past year (that’s the number of folks who lost their insurance with Wellstone when they lost their jobs) — the company has suffered only a slight nick to their profit margin by raising premiums.  Wellpoint projects another tiny nick by year’s end, by which time they expect to lose another 600,000 members. Nonetheless, analysts predict a revenue total $61.39 billion for fiscal 2009, just a touch less than their $61.58 billion revenue for fiscal 2008. 

The picture is even rosier for UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s second largest insurer, whose 2nd quarter profit more than doubled from a year earlier, with per share earnings rising to 73-cents from 27-cents a year earlier. Their revenues increased to $21.66 billion for the second quarter — up 7% from a year earlier.

UnitedHealth acknowledges that their 2008 profits would have been greater, if not for the $895 million settlement paid out to the shareholders who filed a class action lawsuit against UnitedHealth for stock options backdating. Still, UnitedHealth is looking to the future, which is looking so bright in the wake of this summer’s health care wars, that insurance industry investors need sunglasses just to see. 

“Trust me,” said one financial analyst. “It’s not fun to lose 895 million dollars in this way. But investors look forward. This is the past.”

This $895 million settlement is not to be confused with the two other class action lawsuit filed against UnitedHealth, which were settled earlier this year to the tune of $450 million in restitution to the physicians and policyholders that UnitedHealth spent a decade or more cheating — policyholders who were intentionally robbed through a billing system designed to covertly underpay their claims.   

It is to these kings of industry that that our leaders on Capitol Hill have decided to entrust the health and well-being of the American citizenry. 

The challenge to health care reform, according to President Obama, is to keep the kings honest. It’s not about offering Medicare-for-all, so that every single citizen can afford to go to the doctor. Nor is about explaining, once and for all, what exactly the words, “public option” mean — an option which, as it turns out, was never an option at all, just more political theater. No, the key to reform is keeping the kings honest. And the way to doing this is to give them more money, plus 50 million new customers. See, the government will help pay our premiums to the kings, since we can no longer afford to do so. And if the kings don’t treat us kindly after that, well then, by golly — next time around — heads will surely roll. 

 Apples to Oranges, Dust to Dust

In the same way that UPS serves as the bellwether for the economic health of our country, Wellpoint and United Health serve as bellwethers to the state of medical care in this country. As for our politicians? They’re the bellwethers of America’s moral pulse.

It’s thready, at best. After all, we’re a nation on life support. But the family is engaged in fullscale denial. They’re the ones standing outside in the hallway holding signs that read, “Keep yer goddamn hands off my health care!”

For these folk, the news is good, for now. No one’s going to put their hands on anyone’s health care. No one’s gonna force the poor folk and the middle income folk into having equal rights to see a doctor, the way the rich folk do. No one’s gonna stand in the way of the insurance industry while it systematically sucks every last dime out of every last pocket until, at last, the economy entirely collapses — by which time, unlike the fall of 2008, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men…. Well, you get the picture.

Remember this next time you bitch about the price of a 44-cent stamp. While there are plenty of folk in this country who can afford a $239 Christmas card list, there are plenty more who can’t. The alternative to the Post Office monopoly on 44-cent stamp is a fight like we’ve seen this summer, rife with gun-totin’ folk lovin’ on American and hatin’ on socialist plots. In the end, the government will still end up subsidizing someone, because ain’t no capitalist enterprise gonna pony up the money to hoof that 14-cent letter to Lost Springs, much less foot all the doctors bills they promise to pay. Not without a fight.  

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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