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Joe Wilson: Dog-Whistling Dixie in the Senate Chamber

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dixie tooAs one of Joe Wilson’s constituents, I feel compelled to weigh in on his “You lie” outburst during Obama’s speech. After scanning through the comments posted about the internet, I’ve noticed there’s a prevailing misperception that,  by virtue of being citizens of this state, we South Carolinians are all — each and very one of us — responsible for repeatedly re-electing this neanderthal to the House. 

Unless you have the misfortune to be a Democrat in South Carolina, you can’t possibly appreciate the futility of trying to elect intelligent, principled leaders of integrity in certain districts of South Carolina. Joe Wilson’s district covers some of the state’s largest concentrations of the poorest of the poor, juxtaposed with the richest of the rich.

Allendale County, in Joe Wilson’ district, holds the highest unemployment rate in the state and, in fact, vies with some of the highest in the country, at 22.5% — up from  its 15.9% high of one year ago. The state of South Carolina currently has the 6th highest unemployment rate in the country, at 11.8% (following right on the heels of  Nevada, California and Oregon), having nearly doubled in the past year. It has long been the distinction of South Carolina to rate among the worst in the country, concerning the health, education and well-being of its citizens.

We have politicians like Joe Wilson to thank for this — for cultivating and nourishing a climate that places South Carolina among the most backward states in the country.  We have been doing this for so long, that it’s become a tradition, of sorts.

One hundred years ago, we were the second most illiterate state in the country (see pg. 56), ranking in 49th place. Things have changed little since. Today, we still rank among the lowest in the country for graduation rates (49th) and SAT scores (47th/48th), while we rank (and you won’t Joe Wilson bellowing these words on the Senate Floor) among the top ten  highest states on infant mortality (45th), low birthweight babies (47th), child deaths (40th) teen births (42nd), children living in poverty (42nd), children in single-parent homes (48th), violent crime (50th), and unemployment (we were at 48th in May 2009, with the recent drop to 45th place likely due to folk giving up on the futility of looking for work). In 2008, South Carolina earned the distinction of being the third worst state in the country for human health (up 6 notches from 2007). It comes as no surprise, then, that South Carolina also rates as one of the worst places in the country (46th place, at last count) for raising children.  

With such deplorable health statistics for his state, in general, and his district, in particular, you’d think Joe Wilson would have something on his mind besides going to tea bag parties and spreading disinformation to kill the health care reform that would benefit the majority of his constituents. You’d think he’d be obsessed with something other than assuring the lords in his fiefdom that their tax dollars won’t (for the record, anyway) go toward paying medical care for the illegal migrant workers on whose backs their economies covertly depend. You’d think that, perhaps, Joe might have something more helpful to offer the national dialogue than, “You lie!” Joe’s actions only make sense when you consider the health of his corporate campaign contributions  (see bottom of post), as opposed to the blood and guts health of his constituents.

In South Carolina, as elsewhere in the country, the poor and the minorities are among the most disenfranchised citizens.

AN ASIDE: To be fair to Joe Wilson, Obama was just as guilty as any Republican last night of negating the existence of the poor. While discussing the number of uninsured in this country, Obama said, “These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans,” thereby dispelling, in one fell swoop, the existence of upwards of 30 to 40% of Americans who are neither on welfare, or in the middle-income bracket. This is the demographic which (scalawag notwithstanding) John Edwards fought for during his brief bid for the presidency — a mantle for the swelling numbers of poor in this country, which was not picked up by either Clinton or Obama.  

The careers of Republicans are made or broken, depending on their ability to make clear where their loyalties lie, without appearing blatantly racist. Last night’s outcry by Joe Wilson was a perfect example. 

 

dog whistleDog-Whistling Dixie

To understand the politics of South Carolina and men like Joe Wilson, one must first understand that the South Carolina Republicans have yet to forgive the Democratic Party for the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the desegration of public schools. To understand South Carolina politics, one must first understand the politics of Lee Atwater, the architect of the modern-day Southern strategy. 

Our politicians still fight as dirty as they did during the reigns of the Red Shirts, the Klan and the Jim Crow era. The only difference, today, is that in order to  disenfranchise minority voters, undermine education to the poor, and blackwash humanitarian and social programs that could elevate these people from the bondage of servitude and poverty, a politician must be subtle. 

Remember, it’s been only 50 years since South Carolina politicans were forced, in the name of political correctness, to hang up their  white hoods. In the interim, the burning cross has been  replaced with a system of verbal winks and nods that equally convey the same message. This strategy, as described by  South Carolina’s own adopted homeboy, Lee Atwater, works something like this: 

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites…..  You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Joe Wilson’s outburst last night was not, as he would have us believe, a spontaneous, impassioned eruption of frustration. No, it was an intentional, calculated  hard wink to his largest campaign contributors in the healthcare, insurance and pharmaceutical industries — as well as to his well-heeled constituents:  Not to worry, fellas. Joe Wilson’s got your back. 

In the realm of South Carolina politics, those two words, “You lie!” were pure genius — capturing, in one fell swoop, the continuing generosity to his campaign coffers from the health, insurance and drug industry, along with the continued support of his “people” — knuckle-dragging racists and elitists alike.  

Already, one group has declared Joe Wilson a hero, naming him “Tea Party Patriot of the Day” —  deeming his outburst a “major victory” against the radical left and the evil liberal media.  

None of this comes  as a surprise from a man who cut his political teeth working as an aide to Strom Thurmond, Or from a politician who — in 2002, long before it was in vogue — resurrected the ghost of Joseph McCarthy, declaring one of colleagues in the House, Congressman Bob Filner as being “viscerally anti-American” with a “hatred of America,” after Filner had factually reminded the body, during an Iraq war debate, that the U.S had, in fact,  supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical and biological weapons.  

Wilson later apologized for this outburst, much as he did last night, saying that he hadn’t ( perish the thought!) intended to insult Filner. Working from the time-honored Republican strategy that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to resist the compulsion to engage in reprehensible political theater, Wilson  did what South Carolina Republicans do best: he put on a show.  And he wasn’t just dog-whistling dixie.

That’s what keeps the re-election coffers filled: stoke the old hatreds, replenish the ignorance, stroke the priviledged and the kings of industry, and you are assured of a long political career in South Carolina.  Joe Wilson has many beaus in industry, the greatest being “health care professionals,” who, along with the insurance and pharmaceutical industry filled his coffers to the tune of $97, 235 in the 2008 election. His 2010 re-election is all but assured.

But if worse comes to worst, and the voices of the poor and the minorities in the state threaten to change the status quo, Joe can always revert to that thing that Southern politicans do when all else fails: redistrict. 

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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Potent Quotables from the Joe Wilson’s Town Hall Meetings

In the following statement, Joe Wilson is showing “concern” for his constituents in the poorest counties in his district — for whom he predicted dire results, should they be allowed equal access to medical care. His concern for this particular population, which holds the 2nd highest diabetes rate in the country, was that they might  “fall through the cracks” of “a big government system.” 

 We know that diabetes causes many other collateral health conditions, and quality of life is destroyed, families are destroyed because of diabetes. So, by adopting a big government system where people fall through the cracks, there are a lot of people, particularly people in the rural community I represent, who are going to be hurt. 

Joe Wilson on “Obamacare” and death panels, aka Bill 3200:

It will be the government determining the care you get and ultimately whether you live or die.

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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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CALL TO ACTION! The Kucinich Amendment: Supporting True Health Care Reform, One State at a Time

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Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) — one of the very few politicians on Capitol Hill who hasn’t been bullied and/or bought-off by the insurance industry — proposed a new amendment today for single-payer health care.

The Kucinich plan would allow individual states to created single-payer health care systems even if Congress fails to create a national single-payer plan.

Why is the Kucinich Amendment Necessary and Important?

The healthcare legislation currently under consideration in Congress would prevent states from improving on what Congress creates. The Kucinich plan would change that, leaving the federal initiative as is but permitting states to do better. This battle pits states’ rights against the much less spoken of insurance company rights. And it calls the bluff of every individual or group who opposes single-payer healthcare at the federal level on the grounds that it is not “viable.” That argument would seem to provide no basis at all for denying states the right to create single-payer healthcare or any other solution they see fit. READ MORE

State by state.  That’s exactly how Canada evolved towards single-payer: one province at a time. Given the corporate-funded resistance to single-payer in Congress, the U.S. may have to follow the Canadian path.

Progressive activists in California and Pennsylvania are leading the way for single-payer systems and the Kucinich Amendment would remove the legal roadblocks they face.

Calls are urgently needed. And it’s easy, if you can get through. (BUT KEEP TRYING!) The lines have been intermittently jammed — no doubt by the millions here in American who are desperate for true health care reform, which is not being addressed in the public plan.

The fate of the Kucinich Amendment rests in the hands of Democrats on the House Education and Labor Subcommittee: Robert Andrews, Yvette Clarke, Joe Courtney, Marcia Fudge, Phil Hare, Rush Holt, Dale Kildee, Dave Loebsack, Carolyn McCarthy, Joe Sestak, John Tierney, and David Wu.

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 handYou can call the subcommittee members ALL AT ONCE and FOR FREE  here: http://tr.im/sCUD

Simply type in your phone number at the bottom and press “Start Calling,” and CauseCaller will connect you to each of the relevant offices. Please do it now! If you can’t get through, keep trying!

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handAlternately…. You can call the subcommitte members’ offices anytime at the numbers listed below. You can leave a voicemail if no one answers. If you do speak with a staffer, post a reply at democrats.com here: 

http://www.democrats.com/support-kucinich-single-payer-amendment-today

You can also urge your Senators and Representatives to support the Single Payer Health Plan (H.R. 676) by signing the petition here:

http://www.democrats.com/single-payer-petition

Democrats on the House Education and Labor Subcommittee: 

Robert Andrews (NJ01) 202-225-6501

Yvette Clarke (NY11) 202-225-6231

Joe Courtney (CT02) 202-225-2076

Marcia Fudge (OH11) 202-225-7032

Phil Hare (IL17) 202-225-5905

Rush Holt (NJ12) 202-225-5801

Dale Kildee (MI05) 202-225-3611

David Loebsack (IA02) 202-225-6576

Carolyn McCarthy (NY04) 202-225-5516

Joe Sestak (PA07) 202-225-2011

John Tierney (MA06) 202-225-8020

David Wu (OR01) 202-225-0855

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(video, above) May 2009: Congressman Kucinich exposes health care hoax

Below is the statement Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made yesterday after the Education and Labor Committee began its markup process of HR 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act:

“Medicine in the U.S. is a profit driven market commodity distributed according to the ability to pay rather than a basic human right distributed as a public service according medical need. No wonder that the United States ranks 47th in life expectancy and 23rd in infant mortality. In this profit driven, private insurance based system there are over 1400 manage care organizations and 5000 health insurance plans. We have the most expensive health care system in the world – over 16% of our GDP. Two point four trillion dollars a year goes to health spending and 1 out of every 3 dollars go to the activities of the for-profit system- for corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing, and the cost of paperwork. Yet 47 million people remain uninsured and another 50 million are underinsured. I submit that there is a direct relationship between the for-profit health care system and the uninsured and the underinsured.

“We can no longer look the other way as the uninsured and underinsured continue to grow their ranks. We cannot ignore the growing share of all bankruptcies that is attributable to medical bills – now over 60%. We can no longer live with a system that is, by most indications, among the lowest quality in the developed world. And we can’t afford the rising costs.

“Indeed, rising costs are the essence of the problem. Health care stakeholders are sinking more and more money into efforts designed to make someone else pay the bill. It is profitable to do so. Insurance companies, doctors, hospitals and patients are all fighting over who pays. But the insurance companies are winning while they focus on the stock market value, on their financial profits, on their investments in tobacco, on their strategies to restrict or deny service – which increases their profit.

“They have set up massive, redundant and highly profitable bureaucracies that deny care. When we buy their services, we don’t just pay for their infrastructure’ we also pay for a second infrastructure which results in doctors having to hire more staff to fight with insurance companies just to protect themselves.

“Consider that the growth in the number of professionals who actually deliver health care since the 1970s is under 300%. But the increase in the administrators- those who do not deliver care – is upwards of 2400%. The insurance companies have wedged themselves between the doctor and the patient. It is easy to see why our costs have spiraled out of control and the health insurance industry is consistently shown in polls to be one of the least trusted industries in America.

“There are many models of health care reform from which to choose around the world – the vast majority of which perform far better than ours. The one that has been the most tested here and abroad is single payer. Under a single payer system everyone in the U.S. would get a card that would allow access to any doctor at virtually any hospital. Doctors and hospitals would continue to be privately run, but the insurance payments would be in the public hands.

“By getting rid of the for-profit insurance companies, we can save $400 billion per year and provide coverage for all medically necessary services for everyone in the U.S. It would cost no more than we are currently paying for health care. This is the consistent conclusion in reports by the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, and several independent analyst organizations like the Lewin Group.

“Cost is just one of the reasons that support for single payer is growing so quickly. HR 676, The United States National Health Care Act, now boasts 85 cosponsors. It has been endorsed by over 550 union organizations, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the League of Women Voters, Consumer’s Union and deans of prominent medical schools. 59% of doctors support it, as do 60% of Americans.

“The bill we are considering today, I regret to say, is not a single payer bill. It further entrenches the existing for-profit, insurance-based system by handing even more money over to the insurance industry. It will leave 17 million Americans uninsured. It is silent on the great state experimentation, at the state level, with single payer.

“Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago once wrote, “Health care is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity and it is an obligation of society to ensure that every person has the opportunity to realize that right.” We can do better than protecting an insurance based, for-profit system that will continue to exclude millions of Americans.”

What Do You Want: Insurance or Health Care? (they’re not the same, you know)

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Quick question:

Do you want insurance or health care for yourself and your family? Before you answer that question, make sure you understand the difference because, make no mistake: the differences are huge.  

[pssst…. Are you already in favor of true universal health care? If so, forego reading tmy long-winded post below and, instead, spend the next few minutes doing something practical, like making your voice heard. This is an urgent matter. We have now until the end of February to:

  1. Urge your representatives to please co-sponsor H.R. 676 and actively work with Congressman John Conyers, as he reintroduces the bill in the 111th Congress.  (Here’s ane easy link to contact your Representative). The bill currently has 93 co-sponsors in the House, out of the 150 needed by the end of February. 
  2. There is still no companion bill to H.R. 676 in the Senate. Urge Sen. Edward Kennedy to sponsor a companion bill to HR 676 in the Senate. (Contact Sen. Kennedy via snail mail ).  The Senate is currently proposing a healthcare reform plan that will mandate health insurance coverage for every person in the United States. Forcing people to purchase insurance would be a real boon to the for-profit insurance industry, enriching CEOs and corporations, but it does nothing to address the needs of the millions of Americans in need of health care.   
  3. Let President Obama know how many of us are in favor of true universal health care (H.R. 676) as opposed to the watered-down versions currently being offered.  (Here’s an easy link to contact Obama).
  4. Lastly, if you’re not in favor of true universal health care, do yourself and the rest of us a favor by making sure you know the facts — beyond the insurance industry’s talking points — before permanently making up your mind.  A good place to start is at the source: Congressman John Conyers, the sponsorer of this bill. Here are some FAQs, from Conyers’ website.)]

QUICK ANSWER:

Health care.

 

LONGER ANSWER:

It’s a common myth in this country that insurance = health care. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. And this truth has only grown more perverse during the 8-year orgy we’ve just suffered, as our politicians have fallen, one by one, into bed with the giants of commerce (e.g. the banking, pharmaceutical, energy, media and insurance industries, etc.). This fellowship has compelled our lawmakers to turn a blind eye to the well-being of the average American citizen, as they paid deference, instead, to those lobbyists promising the biggest contributions to their campaign coffers. We need look no further than Wall Street to see both the evidence and the repercussions of our lawmaker’s selective blindness.  

This dynamic explains, in part, why the following news gem got lost in this week’s media shuffle (falling somewhere between the lack of coverage on Israel’s war crimes and Bush’s farewell speech):

According to a study released this past Wednesday by the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association, the universal health care plan (H.R. 676) that’s been collecting dust in a House of Representatives subcommittee for the past 2 years holds the potential to create over 2.6 million new and permanent “shovel ready” jobs (that’s just slightly over the total number of jobs lost in 2008).

What’s more, according to this same study, H.R. 676 would provide a major stimulus for the U.S. economy — not only by creating the said-2.6 million jobs equivalent to $100 billion in wages  — but by infusing $317 billion in new business and public revenues into the economy and infusing public budgets with  $44 billion in new tax revenues. 

Sound too good to be true? The insurance industry hopes you’ll think so

See, the reasons this news about this study slipped under this week’s rader are the same reasons it has slipped under the radar since the bill was introduced in January 2007. Specifically, H.R. 676 (the only true, universal health care plan that has been proposed on Capitol Hill) designs to cut out the middle man — the for-profit insurance industry, one of the most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill.

Make no mistake. By virtue of being a for-profit business, the insurance industry seeks to maximize profits, while minimizing expenses. And  their biggest expense, by far, is shelling out health care benefits to its members. To this end, the insurance industry fights tooth and nail against providing the very services they’re empowered to pay out: health care for its members. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the math, nor to understand that, under such a system, the for-profit insurance industry is inherently antagonistic to providing actual health care. Is it any wonder, then, that the insurance industry has also fought tooth and nail to convince us all that universal health care is the demon? And is it any wonder that so many Americans have become convinced of the horrors that would befall us all, should we be subjected to (sweet Lord, no!) guaranteed health care? 

The supporters of H.R. 676 have worked equally hard to educate the public on the benefits of a universal, single-payer health care plan. But, lacking the lobbying clout of the insurance industry, these folks can’t command the sort of power the insurance industry enjoys both on Capitol Hill and in our media. For the record, here are a few of the talking points we might have heard from the other side, regarding the benefits of universal, single-payer health care under H.R. 676: 

  • 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.(1)
  • 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

 

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A CALL TO ACTION (see contacts info in steps 1 through 3 at the top of this post)

Congressman John Conyers will reintroduce HR 676, his single-payer healthcare bill in the 111th Congress. Please ask your representative to cosponsor the bill and actively work with Rep. Conyers to gain additional cosponsors. In order to ensure HR 676 is part of the healthcare discussion in Congress, we need 150 cosponsors by the end of February.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle, President-Elect Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, called for “a government-run insurance program modeled after Medicare” in testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions as part of the solution to our healthcare crisis. His plan also includes health insurance corporations. Only HR 676 would implement a sustainable, fair, and efficient solution to the healthcare crisis as well as providing economic stimulus.

While single-payer healthcare proponents have made good headway in the House, there is still no companion bill in the Senate. Urge Sen. Edward Kennedy to sponsor a companion bill to HR 676 in the Senate. And, while you’re at it, be sure Obama also knows where you stand. Lastly, bookmark this page at the Healthcare NOW! site to keep updated on activist work on H.R. 676 and consider joining forces with The Citizens Alliance for National Health Insurance HR 676 to get the word out to the media on this important bill.

 

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WHO ENDORSES H.R. 676? YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED

Along with millions of U.S. citizens from all age brackets and economic persuasions, there are (currently) 94 Representatives in the U.S. House who endorse H.R. 676, along with 480 union organizations in 49 states, including 117 Central Labor Councils, 20 international unions, plus AFL-CIO Federations in 35 states, the US Conference of Mayors, the Houses of Representatives in Kentucky, New Hampshire and New York, and hundreds more cities, counties, faith groups and medical and health care organizations that express the great hope and dire need of our people. 

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Dennis Kucinich: patriot or nut?

It depends on what (or who) you read. If you read only the talking points (propaganda) of the industry giants, you’d have little choice but to conclude he’s not only a nut, but an awfully, terribly short man, which is somewhat of a fatal flaw in our society. But if you look past his much-slandered physical stature and look into Kuchich’s body of work, reviewing the actual issues that Dennis Kucinich has consistently fought for on behalf of the American people (with many of these in defiance of the industry giants, his campaign coffers be damned), you’d be hard-pressed to not see that he’s one of Capitol Hill’s staunchest allies to the American people. A giant in his own right and, yes, an American patriot. Had there been more lawmakers like Dennis Kucinich on Capitol Hill over the past 8 years, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re now in. In the above video, the ever-foresighted Kucinich explains universal health care.