What Veterans Really Need

US veterans since 1954, when America took over the war in Vietnam after the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, may be tragic figures but we are not heros needing tax breaks. It is not heroic to be the instrument of a government which illegally and immorally invades and occupies other countries, decimates its population and its culture, destroys its infrastructure, and leaves genetic destruction in its wake through defoliants and depleted uranium. That is not heroic, but it is tragic for all concerned.

Since 1954, the US has attacked or invaded countries or groups who originally were our allies, who we created or maintained, or who we aided and abetted in their wars against others. Our military excursions have exclusively been choices on our part. The freedom, safety, and sovereignty of this country have never been in question. And if you are going to tell me that 19 Saudis and 1 Egyptian flying planes into US buildings was an act of war by Afghanistan and Iraq, then you need some serious remedial educational help.

Homeless veterans (some 500,000 every day) do not need tax breaks. Veterans in prisons and jails (Vietnam veterans made up the largest minority federal prison population in the 1970s and ‘80s – thanks for the help) do not need tax breaks. Veterans with drug, alcohol and behavioral problems from combat do not need tax breaks. Their broken families and children do not need tax breaks. We need homes. We need help with our lifelong physical and mental health issues from days, months, and years of hunting and being hunted by other human beings. We need the VA to be abolished and we need to be given medical credit cards so that we can be cared for at home by people we know and trust, and where we can have the support of our families and friends (get a letter lately from your hospital saying you need to come in and be checked for HIV/AIDS because they were not sterilizing their equipment correctly, as hundreds of VA-using veterans like me have?). We need education and job skills (killing people and blowing up buildings are not good on a resume). We have a host of needs, many of which will never be resolved for us, we know, because they can’t be – we will always have to live with them, and “just suck it up” (grandpa never talked about the war) helps as little as “just say no.”

Veterans certainly do not need mindless politicians falling all over themselves trying to one-up each other being the best little fascist they can be by bestowing gifts on veterans. Sometimes I think I am in 1920s Italy where Mussolini and the Pope fashioned a militaristic fascist state – how’d that work out? Does your minister pray for God to be on our side and to protect our invaders? And veterans really don’t need holier-than-thou people with their trite “thanks for your service” smugly looking down their noses while lecturing others about how invading soldiers are somehow keeping us safe and free.

What we veterans really need is for you to quit creating us.

Bob Watson
Decorah, Iowa

America’s Vindictive Safety Net

Since late 2013 I have had the pleasure of familiarizing myself with America’s safety nets, namely Medicare and Medicaid. Although it has paid many of my mother’s medical bills and for that she and I are grateful, I find it to be vindictive in the “We paid for most of your care and now we will make you suffer in return” mode.

Even for my 90-year-old mother it was necessary to document that she was barely getting by to be accepted on Medicaid spend down programs which then take over 30% of her of meager Social Security check. After paying the portion of previous medical bills not covered by Medicare (20%) prior to her Medicaid enrollment and utility bills, there is about $50 left for the last 15-20 or so days of the month. This is for food, toiletries and heating fuel among other things. If not for food banks, there would be nothing to eat and that I can gather free fire wood on nearby public lands is a lucky accident of location. I can’t help but consider the design of our social safety net as deliberately deficient and even sadistic to a large degree. Does it really have to be so?

In recent months I have heard several stories by those that have been forced to deplete retirement accounts on medical bills and sell off assists just to get assistance that keeps them a frog’s hair from utter destitution. One woman told me she was forced to sell her car because it was “too new”. She had to ‘low ball’ sell it lest she be denied eligibility (too wealthy!); for her a totally unnecessary humiliation. They toss you a rope as you fall off a cliff and leave you swinging over the abyss clutching that rope unable to either climb to safety or let go. Those that say America’s social safety net is “too generous” are those that never have and believe they never will find themselves in this situation of last resorts. I’d love to see their luck change.

Why does Medicare have that 80-20 split? What purpose does leaving the patient liable for that 20% serve other than as a punishment for having to use it in the first place? If Medicare covered medical expenses 100%, Medicaid spend downs would be totally unnecessary, as would reliance on supplementary PRIVATE INSURANCE if one can afford that. Was the 80-20 split a compromise to the insurance industry to get the bills passed in any form at all? I feel only deepest contempt and loathing for the Supreme Court and those red state Randian demagogues, those pigs, those self centered pious ‘hypochrystians’ (and I include those in Utah where I live) who killed the national public option health delivery system and refused Medicaid expansion in the name of the American myth of hyper individualism. Thousands of untimely deaths will be on their hands and not a single indictment for murder or even involuntary man slaughter? Why the American public continues putting up with this is a mystery to me.

Clee P. Ames
Eureka, Utah

Economic Assumptions

Thank you for bringing Robert Reich to us. His article — ‘The ‘You’re Paid What You’re Worth’ Myth” [4/15/14 TPP] is the only instance I have ever seen in print in a nationally distributed publication that calls this concept what it really is — a myth. I have always called it a “Big Lie,” but he is more elegant. He is right. It is a myth!

This concept appears in every economics textbook, in every city, state and country of the world, starting about chapter 6 or 7 as “marginal productivity” and eventually evolving into “marginal revenue product” — the amount of money brought into a firm by adding one more worker. It dominates all subsequent discussion of labor economics. The problem with it is that it has no basis whatsoever in fact or reality. It sounds reasonable, so economists thoughtfully repeat it, but there is no data that verifies it. ...

This is typical of almost all concepts in economics. The downwards-sloping demand curve, the utility maximizing consumer, the competitive price set where marginal cost equals marginal revenue, etc. They’re all a priori concepts that sound reasonable, but are supported by no data!

When I was a graduate student at a prominent midwestern university, the top professor in charge of approving these topics told me I could not examine such assumptions. “We are scientists. We do not make assumptions” is what he said. I have always remembered this as the stupidest remark I have ever heard from a high official. That is why I admire Professor Reich.

Harvey Stoneburner
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Stingy Capitalists Make Class War Inevitable

Re: “Communism Saved the American Worker” by Edward McClellan [5/1/14 TPP]

Just because communism has vanished as a threat to capitalism, it doesn’t mean that the working class is thrilled to be exploited by the avaricious masters of our economic system.

The worst nightmare of the capitalistic elite — an apocalyptic class struggle — will likely become inevitable if they continue with their refusal to pay fair wages to those to whom they owe their wealth.

Thus, if the plight of the working poor is not remedied by the corporations who own our country and their legislative servants, the greedy rich might soon see their day of reckoning.

As the history of organized labor has shown, capitalists will begin to treat their workers fairly only when they are forced to do so — either at the bargaining table with labor unions, or by law.

For that reason, if nothing else, employers should be compelled to pay their workers fairly. 

Even under a capitalist system, no one should have to endure two or three shifts, or work multiple jobs, only to earn enough to feed and house his or her family.   

All workers deserve to receive a living wage for their labor — no matter if it is with their brains, or by the sweat of their brow.

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Money and Speech

Money is not political speech, it encourages more plutocracy. Speech is not political power, it encourages more democracy.

Telemachos Mavrides
St. Johns, Ariz.


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From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2014


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