Real Health Care Reform

When listening to our president last night concerning this important topic, I was surprised to hear him say that the so-called “public option” would not be subsidized by the government, but would have to be “self-sufficient” and rely on premiums alone. According Robert Borosage in the lead story in the 9/15/09 issue, this part of the reform plan would be government-run, which I presume to mean paid for by the government. Several other articles which describe the insurance plan(s) being contemplated by Congress state the same thing. It would seem, then, that the “public option” is a non-profit choice for those who find regular private insurance too expensive (the latest figures I have seen estimate private insurance for a family of four runs around $12,000!), but the question remains: Who would organize this option and would premiums to be paid by those covered be sufficient to provide decent care?

Some other questions I have for the President and Congress are: Why can’t Medicare negotiate with Big Pharma for discounts? This was promised in the President’s campaign speech. His “deal” with the pharmaceutical companies is not adequate. Will Medicare be saved just by eliminating the present subsidies to insurance companies for the advantage plans? Will the amounts paid doctors for Medicare services be the same throughout the country? (Doctors in Wisconsin, for example, are paid less than those in Florida.) 

The president has vowed that the healthcare plan he advocates will add no cost to the present deficit, nor do so in the future. A better plan, from all angles of efficiency and effectiveness as well as cost, would be HR 676, the Single Payer System (also known as “Medicare for all”), which has 85 sponsors in the House of Representatives. This is a much simpler plan which would relieve businesses of having to provide health insurance for their employees, making it more competitive, and just the savings on administrative costs alone would go a long way to pay for the plan. Why is this plan not even being considered? It seems to me, in talking to people about these two plans (there are others, I understand), the Single Payer System is mentioned as the best way of insuring all the American people.

Thank you for your insightful and challenging articles! I always read The Progressive Populist from beginning to end, and then pass it on to our local coffee shop.

Marliss Rogers
Port Washington, Wis.

The Bank Scam

Among the many great articles in recent issues of TPP (9/1/09) was “The Public Option in Banking: How We Can Beat Wall Street at Its Own Game” by Ellen Brown, author of Web of Debt — an excellent book explaining the con of banking.

Banking, what a sweet deal: Banks “manufacture” a crop requiring no land, no seed, no cultivation, weeding, watering, harvesting, hauling, storage, marketing, etc.; it only requires the making a few entries on their computers plus an uninformed and gullible public, and a government of, by and for a very limited few.

How utterly absurd!

Bill McAfee
Austin, Tex.


Wayne O’Leary in his article, “The ‘S’ Word” (9/15/09 TPP) has laid down in, stark terms, the inherent danger of unfettered capitalism. To preserve capitalism we have waged wars against countries where we “perceived” the “ugly head of socialism rising” — Nicaragua is a good example. President Reagan did his utmost to remove Mr. Ortega from his duly elected post and even got the Vatican involved to condemn the “Liberation Theology” as being too socialistic and unChristian (?).

Somehow the supporters of capitalism have convinced themselves that God is on their side and eventually everyone will benefit from the “trickle down” effect — but at first they have to amass wealth. Nothing matters to them but the figures on the bottom line. A classic example of how to improve the bottom line is the story of West Pennsylvania Child Care LLC. In order to have full occupancy, they bribed 2 judges in Pennsylvania to send them juveniles for imprisonment even if they did not deserve such punishment. One might call this cruel and unfair — but in the capitalist’s marketplace this is par for the course.

M. Askarian
New York, N.Y.

Government for Corporations

Let me see if I got this correctly: It has been 60 years since the idea of healthcare for all was first brought up.

We have fought many wars and have buried many of our children here and all over the planet.

And we have troops across the planet and they still are there. Are we now the big dog on the block? And yet our governments (neither Republican nor Democrat) have not done enough for the people.

No health care for all.

Not enough Social Security for the aged.

Not enough jobs for all.

And yet corporate America grows and grows without any check on them.

I will pass on and Pete Rose will get into the Hall of Fame and the Cubs will win the World Series before there is healthcare for all or jobs for all or a living wage for all.

Congratulations to Pete Rose upon entering the H.O.F. and the to Cubs for winning the World Series.

S. Einhorn
Tampa, Fla.

Get Out the Kool-Aid

This little thing is due my reading of the 9/15/09 TPP: When we see the New York Times put out an editorial calling for the Prez to hold on to the public option, but only to trade it for chits later, it is time we put together a Pol PR Ops action — something that will convince the Dems in the House not to get suckered, as they did by a different Prez in ’93 (leading to the “bloodbath” in ’94).

My idea is simple. Show our local Reps we will hold them accountable, buy a packet of Grape Kool-Aid and send it to her/him with a little note ... along the line of “someone is inviting you to drink Political Jonestown Punch. Do Not vote for any “comprehensive package” that does NOT include a PUBLIC OPTION. Not a triggered one. But an immediate and integral one.

If no public option can be in, DO NOT vote for anything including the “Individual Mandate.” No one wants that, except the insurance corporations, anyway.

The idea being not to reward the insurance corps for killing the public option by feeding their beast. This whole thing has the smell of a sneaky pete backdoor-corporate bail-out, since insurance corps (as opposed to the typical tale: they try to pay out less than is paid in) are LENDERS, making their money by loans from premium $$$, and there must be serious question as to whether the toxic assets they lent earlier this decade will not sink them without a quick “capital infusion.” (Too little about this in the [mainstream media] ... odd...)

Which would mean the croc tears for the uninsured are just a flimflam for the gov to pull a badge, put a gun to our nose and make us hand over our wallets to large corps for another whack (a double one as tax dollars fund those who can not make the nut).

The reason to resort to the Kool-Aid? As stores run out it becomes a news moment that (at least shouldn’t be) ignored.

Taking some air time away from the horde of moonhowling yahoos.

Mike Shepley
Davis, Calif.

Let Near-Seniors Buy Into Medicare

Dispatches [“Medicare Buy-In Simplifies Things,” 9/15/09 TPP], referred to a proposal by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) expanding Medicare to include those between 55 and 65 who don’t have employer or public insurance to buy into Medicare. In addition, Drs. Keyham and Federman of the American Medical Association (New England Journal of Medicine, 9/14/09) reported that 58.3% of AMA physicians supported expansion of Medicare coverage for that group to “help cover the near elderly population.” And perhaps more significantly, an overall majority (62.9%) supported public and private options. While primary care providers were most likely to support a public option (65.2%), these statistics suggest that there is a body of doctors in the AMA who could be a major force in ensuring the long-range viability of Medicare and in backing the public option in health reform. Their voice should be heard.

Sid Moss
Elkins Park, Pa.

Texas Textbooks

As an educator traveling with groups of students through the Soviet Bloc the year before the Iron Curtain fell, and the year after it fell, I had the opportunity to meet educators from those countries to discuss their educational system. Uniformly, they blamed much of the breakdown of their society on changing the educational system from intellectual, scientific pursuit of the truth and development of critical thinking to indoctrination through dogmatic textbooks.

While I was not surprised by your article in “Dispatches” entitled “Texas Pols Edit History Texts” in the 9/15/09 TPP, I was dismayed the situation had gone this far. For eight years Texas teachers have been trying to raise awareness of the threat hanging over our educational system. As your article states, Texas, as the largest user of textbooks, sets the standards for the rest of the nation; in March a panel of 15 evangelical Republicans have in their hands the ability to remove references to liberal reformists in favor of conservative leaders and policies, to emphasize creationism instead of real science, to emphasize Christianity’s role in America’s past, and to emphasize “republican values” over “democratic programs.” How is this not indoctrination? How does this represent our pluralistic society? How does this support the truth and critical thinking? Our textbooks will become propaganda.

Given the howling nut jobs decrying Obama’s “evil indoctrination” of our school children this week, the stink of hypocrisy and the evil of the right can now be smelled in Russia.

What do these people have to do to get the powers-that-be outraged at the attempted rape of the American educational system? Where are the intellectual heroes who will intercede for Texas, and America’s, young people?

Clearly, the educational system needs to be freed from politics. Somebody do something, or tell us what to do. Please.

P. Ann White
Meridian, Texas

Progressives Stuff the Dems

It seems to me that a lot of Democrats who consider themselves progressive have a sign on their back that says, “Kick me.” They remain in the party, even though the party leadership ignores them, treats them with disdain, prevents them from having a seat at the table, and takes them for granted.

Our wars and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, the miserable handling of healthcare reform, throwing billions of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street, surely there can be no doubt that the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress are doing a pathetic job. Isn’t it time for a lot of folks to say, “We’re outa here,” and change their voting registration to independent (or third party). No, Utopia will not immediately come about. But, it will be a step in the direction of change that our country needs. Several years ago, I changed my voting registration to independent after a lifetime as a Democrat (I am over 70). If some individuals tell you that you need to be “realistic” and be only a Democrat or Republican — tell them to “stuff it!”

Elizabeth Axtell
Raleigh, N.C.

Government Option and Prisoners Dilemma

About 30 years ago, perhaps more, and I believe at Stanford, psychologists devised a game that came to be known as “prisoner’s dilemma.” It was based on the idea that if two co-conspirators to a crime, wherein there was scant actual evidence, were each told individually that if they confessed, they would get a lighter sentence for cooperating. So the dilemma is trusting that your partner in crime keeps his mouth shut; if you both refuse to cooperate, there is no evidence to convict either; but if your partner sells you out and you don’t also sell him out, you get the longer sentence and he gets the shorter one.

What the game demonstrated is that over time, each party would indirectly learn that tacit cooperation with the other was the way to maximize one’s gains.

This is the lesson corporate America has learned to play well. There need not be any overt collusion; no smoking gun; you just need to understand the lessons of “prisoner’s dilemma,” to get around the need for competition. I will raise my price a bit, but not enough to make you uncompetitive; you will do the same. We do not need to talk about it; no memos, letters, texts, or email; we both just know the implicit rules — and that together in playing by the rules of “prisoner’s dilemma” — we can both maximize our profits.

Now, of course, this violates the cardinal premise of capitalism, that competition will keep prices low. But that is, in my opinion, the single greatest problem with capitalism as it exists in America today; corporations do not compete; rather, they implicitly collude because they all have learned to play, and play well, “prisoner’s dilemma.”

And that is why we need a public option; that is the only way to put competition back into the game. I believe Medicare premiums are about $180 monthly. My monthly premium for a much higher deductible BC/BS plan is almost $600 monthly.

Douglas E. Mould, Ph.D.
Benton, Kansas

Corporate Goals

The apparent goal of American capitalism for the last 30 years has been elimination of living-wage employees. Capitalism’s next goal may very well be elimination of common stock investors.

John Davoren
Denver, Colo.

Craving Crowther

Whew! I didn’t think I’d make it through the summer. I was feeling restless and irritable — a kind of malaise set in and I felt a craving — for what I didn’t know. I tried all manner of things to shake it — nothing worked. Even laughing a lot each day didn’t help. The old thoughts of drop kicking my neighbor’s little yapping dog reappeared. It was summer — the rain stopped — the sun was shining. What was happening to me? Is this the beginning of the end ? Then in early September, my 9/15/09 TPP was delivered. I hurriedly leafed through the pages,as I always do, looking for an old friend. Finally he was back! I could feel the tension lifting, the irritability was gone — replaced by a sense of well being. So there it is, fellow readers. If you have experienced what I went through — no worries — it’s just withdrawal from an addiction — but a magnificent addiction — to reading Hal Crowther. Let this be a warning: If you read H.C., you too will be addicted. If you are not, get help immediately.

Jim Schaefer
Waldport, Ore.

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2009


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