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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!”

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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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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.