Replace Medicare with National Health Care

Regarding Patsy Kelley's letter on health care [3/1/00 PP] she says "There is a whole industry and massive numbers of employees making money where none should be made. It is a layer between the people and health providers that is not really justified or necessary."

We should be so lucky that there was only one "layer" between patients and health care providers. Once upon a time, before Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Medicare and Medicaid, everyone paid their own medical bills which usually involved one bill to the doctor and one bill to the hospital, if hospitalization were required. Since very few people now pay these bills, they have no idea how many bills are involved in one simple procedure like the removal of a cataract from one eye and an an outpatient basis.

In 1992, 1 had occasion to pay for such a routine procedure for one who did not have any medical insurance which involved doctor's fees; hospital charges; bill for the anesthesiologist plus his billing company; diagnostic x-rays plus their billing company. In short, six different businesses were involved, each level adding to total administrative costs and profits. Needless to say the cost was totally outrageous, the hospital alone charging $5,033 for God alone knows what. The only charge I understood was $27.50 for disposable towels although it is difficult to understand what in the world they did with what must have been a whole carton of paper towels. Now, if this individual had had any insurance that would have added at least one more "layer" between the patient and medical service providers. No wonder medical expenses are grossly inflated, and that was seven years ago, these costs are probably even more now.

Therefore, I say do not try to reform Medicare, just kill it. Yes, Patsy, the primary villain in this scenario are the private insurance companies. Medicare is a monster, the misbegotten spawn of Dr. Frankenstein -- who brought it to life following the creation of Blue Cross, upon which he modeled his unfortunate creature. The combination of private insurance and Medicare has been riddled with inefficiency and corruption since its birth while changes and additions only make the system worse, adding as it does more and more layers, like a rotten onion. Extension of the system only makes it more complex and adds layers and layers of extra costs and profits.

The only rational solution is a single payer health insurance plan, covering all and operated by the federal government. (It is ironic that private insurance has only encouraged rising prices wherever it is applied, including dental treatment.

State College, Penna.

Adults and Kids Need Help

As a former school psychologist, I had to conclude that your review of Framing Youth by Mike Males [3/15/00 PP] ends where it should have started.

Knowledgeable child psychologists, such as Erik Erikson, have long tried to help adults understand that experimentation is a natural and necessary part of adolescent development. Two important jobs for parents logically follow. First, the child needs a firm foundation of love and realistic discipline, from birth, to prepare for adolescence. Further, adults need "the wisdom to know the difference" in responding to the challenge of letting young people learn from their mistakes, without excusing shaming and blaming.

But increasingly we are becoming aware of the alarming extent of authoritarian attitudes remaining among parents in this post-modern century. These are the fearful and rigid people who cling to stereotyped thinking and ever more repressive efforts at control, including McCarthyism, assuming that the end justifies the means. These adults were the children who themselves grew up in an atmosphere on irrational ignorance and harsh punishment "for your own good," as Alice Miller documents in her book of the same name.

Rather than sniping at all mental health professionals, Males would have done better to give readers the psychological understanding we need to replace authoritarianism with more intelligent and effective responses. In my opinion, the current pop psychology is less helpful than the insights of psychoanalytic child psychologists such as Dorothy Baruch (eg: New Ways in Discipline).

This challenge is nothing new. In response to the Nazi excesses of WWII, an effort was begun with a definitive study of the authoritarian personality (T.W. Adorno et al. 1950). Now, 50 years later, isn't it time to make help for both adults and children a priority?

Acton, Mass.

Cynicism Happens

Do you remember when Carter lost a second term behind the Iran hostage crisis, and then the hostages were released during Reagan's inauguration? Remember the Reagan Iran-Contra deal, selling arms to the Ayatollah?

Remember Desert Storm, when Texas oilman G. Bush saved our middle eastern oil producing friends from that awful "Saddum"? Ever think about how much OPEC oil we bought from the Saudis and friends to put on that little soiree?

Notice how the right-wing pundits are saying, "After all we did for the OPEC allies, how can they trash our economy with a production cutback and skyrocketing prices?"

Have you noticed that Texas oilman G. Bush's son is running for President and not doing too well, largely because of the excellent economy that has existed under Clinton? Have you considered the damage to the economy if this inflation of oil prices goes on until the election? Do you reckon Shrub's daddy and the OPEC ministers are enemies? Not on speaking terms? Do you reckon they might agree they owe George Bush a favor or two?

Have the Republicans ever screwed the American people to further their own political ends? You don't reckon things could get really grim for the US economy and then at the last minute before the election little Shrub will fly over to the mideast and shake some hands and the crisis will disappear, do you? Nah, it would be cynical to predict such a thing.

Dallas, Texas

Don't Worry About Eavesdropping

In your March 1 main article, entitled "Watching Big Brother Watch Us," you talked about the highly classified National Security Agency having a system called [Echelon]. With this system the NSA can capture 90 percent of all incoming and outgoing electronic transfers and sift through it for key words. The ACLU has called this an invasion of privacy and set up a web site to watch the NSA.

To this, I say, "So what?" I've got news for anybody who feels suddenly violated by the idea that the government might be spying on us: They've done it your whole life. Take schools for example. Take the time to look at your permanent record from school and you'll realize something: They have everything you've ever done that was even questionably wrong in there, from the time you said a dirty word in kindergarten to the time you punched somebody in high school. Every tax form you turn in with your signature on it, the government files away. The fingerprint you gave the state for your driver's license is a permanent identity record on file. It is only a matter of placing information in a database and they could have everything about you filed away.

But so what? If you don't do anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about right? Besides the NSA is National, and therefore addresses concerns that apply to national security. If you don't threaten the security of the nation, you'll never even know it's there.

If the [Echelon] system collects transferred data from the United States, it is an invasion of privacy. It really shouldn't matter to any normal citizen though. Even if they are involved in illegal activities, the NSA would not bother with petty offenses because we have the police force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to deal with that. Giving up this right is worth it if it prevents some psycho with a truck full of fertilizer from killing hundreds of people.

Fort Collins, Colo.

Need Better Slogans

In your March 15th issue, Bill Berkowitz writes well about the need for a more coherent and comprehensive Progressive media strategy. But the key phrase he uses to get our attention -- Reagan's "welfare queens" remark -- receives no analysis itself Yet this slogan was what finally grabbed and held the attention of mainstream voters, who do not read policy faxes.

How did this slogan and all the other right-wing ones like it get created? Why do they work so well? What are the principles behind creating such simple, catchy, and devastatingly effective slogans? Until Progressives are also as systematic about creating this kind of media tool as the right, they will always be in danger of getting left in the dust. A few lucky hits like "terminator seed" or "frankenfood" do not a coherent strategy make. And slogans or neologisms like these are today the only effective way to deliver a complicated critique or propose an alternative vision at the conversational speed "public discourse" now requires.

Orinda, Calif.

Computers Not Evil

Hal Crowther makes many good and provocative points in his "Millennial Manifesto" [2/15/00 PP]. But most of the problems he cites have to do with corporate ownership of technology, rather than technology itself. Even if we didn't have computers, rampant corporatization and commodification would be creating a world "inimical to 'inwardness'" and oppressive to values like peace, economic justice, ecological health, and political honesty.

Rather than either demonize or idolize our tools, we need to address the issue of who owns and controls them, and who decides how and when they should be used (and to what ends).

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Steam On

This letter is about a solution to the present "high priced" gasoline problem, now robbing US automobile drivers.

It would end the price problem, the environmental problem that gasoline poisons and additives cause, the global warning hazard and the rip-off involved with paying for overly priced automobiles that burn gasoline.

We can all thank inventor Larry Pendell for the solution.

It is a STEAM CAR.

Pendell and his associate Mike Brown now have the knowledge to build a steam engine car that produces "steam" within two minutes. It can burn coal, kerosene, used skid lumber, walnut shells, corn cobs, cow chips or Irish bog moss. The Arab emirates or anyone selling "oil," which is refined into automobile gasoline, would no longer be needed.

Understanding how the "steam" engine would work is easy. Anyone who has used a pressure cooker gets the message. The steam resulting from the boiler goes to the cylinders in the engine which in turn move the mechanisms that drive the wheels and the other devices in something named the KUBOTA ENGINE.

The process is similar to the one where a steam engine drives a generator that produces electricity.

Oil wars, oil spills in the ocean, general pollution of our sick planet and other economic costs would be eliminated.

Interested? Contact Mike Brown at 417-890-8636 in Springfield, Missouri.

Ripon, Wis.

Social Security Gap

In the March l edition of the paper you state that the average monthly benefit for a New Hampshire resident on Social Security is $732.

This year my wife and I together are drawing $1,959 per month, which will be $23,508 for the year. ... In my 42 years of work I paid into the system slightly less than $22,000. Retired in 1991. (My wife only worked seven years so all our benefits come from the work that I did.)

So why are the people in New Hampshire drawing so little ?

My suggestion is that the people entitled to receive benefits should be paid 2,000 times the minimum wage for the year. Also the minimum wage should have the same COLA that s.s. now has.

Waco, Texas

Trigger Locks Fix Society

Tragedy has again struck in our country. And again, our leaders are espousing a simple answer to fix a problem that won't go away without tough-minded, gut-wrenching solutions. We face a problem in our country of irresponsible parents and guardians. If you believe slick Willy, simply issuing them a trigger lock for their guns can cure this problem. Wow! Why didn't anybody else see this obvious answer? In fact, why don't we expand this program to alleviate the other ills of our society. We could issue trigger locks to inmates released from prisons and jails who used a gun in the commission of their crime. And if trigger locks really have the power to make members of our society responsible, issue them to alcoholics, child and spouse abusers, bad drivers, and students who don't do their homework. If we can get this program rolling, we might be able to completely change into a utopian society before the November elections.

Davison, Michigan

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