July 4, 2012

Obamacare Ignorance

How many misconceptions can you spot in this letter to the editor from July 2 Readers' letters - San Jose Mercury News?

Roberts shouldn't have imposed another tax

Thank you, Chief Justice John Roberts, for imposing another tax on the American populace. I have health insurance -- it costs me the princely sum of over $1,300 a month. I have no choice (due to pre-existing conditions); but to pay the piper every month and am unable to qualify for any other health coverage.

I have to wonder what we, the taxpayers (and believe me, my husband and I pay taxes -- in proportions that are sickening) are indirectly billed for your guaranteed and unfettered health care coverage. Please allow me to add, that neither my husband or I are employed. We have been "involuntarily" retired.

You crossed the line and you know it. Shame on you. And here I thought you were a solid and steady captain in the rocky Supreme Court waters.

This is what Republicans depend on. Everything this person has been led to believe is wrong. And the news media of course does nothing to help, they just report who is "winning" and "both sides are to blame."

The cost of this person't health insurance is about to go WAY down, possibly to zero since they are unemployed. She can't get any other insurance because of a pre-existing condition, and that restriction is about to go away.

But she thinks that on top of what they pay now they are going to have to pay a huge tax.

The newspaper of course does nothing to provide readers with the correct information, they just publish the letter.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 2, 2012

Watch Mitt

Here he is in 2006, explaining the benefits of the health insurance mandate that he now opposes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:21 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

7 Ways Obama Lied About Your Health Coverage

President Obama promised that if you have health insurance now, it won't change. Here are 7 ways he lied:

1) Under the new law your insurer can't drop your coverage after you get sick. This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.

2) Your children can continue to be insured under your plan until they are 26. (Click and read this.) This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.

3) New coverage is added, including preventative care like mammograms and colonoscopies with no "out of pocket" like charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance. This is a change in the insurance you already have. Obama lied.

4) If you pay for your own insurance and your income is below a certain level, you will receive subsidies to help pay for your insurance. Even if you earn four times the federal poverty rate, or currently about $93,000 for a family of four, you will have to pay no more than 9.5 percent of your income. This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.

5) The law prohibits insurance companies from placing a "lifetime cap" on the amount of coverage you have. Many people were discovering that they reached this cap right when they needed insurance the most. This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.

6) The cost of your insurance will be lower than it would be without this law. There are several ways the new law will lower the cost of your insurance. First, by requiring people to have insurance, people can't "free load" by showing up at the emergency room without insurance. Currently when this happens hospitals charge more to everyone else. So the new law's "mandate" stops the "free loaders" -- the cause of these extra charges -- from running up your insurance cost. Also, the new law's "80/20 Rule" says insurers have to use 80% of their revenue for health care. This even means you might get a rebate. This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.

7) Insurers won/'t be able to keep you from getting insurance or charge you more based on a pre-existing condition. This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.

Therefore

So President Obama lied when he said that if you already have health coverage you don't have to worry about changes! Therefore we need to get rid of the law so insurers can cut you off after you get sick, charge you for preventative care, cut your children off from having insurance, keep you from getting insurance if you have a pre-existing condition, place a lifetime "cap" on your coverage and make you pay more! It's time to put some teeth into "let him die!"

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 27, 2012

Health Care

I'm curious what could lead anyone to think the Supreme Court isn't going to strike down the health care law, probably with the usual 5-4?

Seriously, we know Thomas will vote to strike it down, because his wife is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by its opponents. That one is a given, and has nothing to do with the Constitution, law or ethics.

We know Roberts, Scalia and Alito will vote to strike it down because they come out of the conservative movement, and the conservative movement sees killing it as a strategic step against Obama. That one is also a given, and also has nothing to do with the Constitution, law or ethics.

So on the right side of the court it comes down to Kennedy, appointed by Ronald Reagan. He will vote to strike it down.

But don't bet that the "liberal" minority will vote to keep this law. Many non-right-wingers might be boxed into reflexively hoping the court upholds this law, but don't forget what this law does. This law orders all of us to purchase insurance from the giant insurance near-monopolies. It was the "corporate/centrist" solution to keeping us from getting Medicare-For-All, and preserving private corporate health insurance. We shouldn't be hoping the "liberals" vote to confirm that is OK.

Private health care has been proven to not work without the government ordering us to buy it. So if the Court strikes down the law, the only alternative left is Medicare-For-All. Hope for that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 9, 2012

Cuts and Consequences - How Budget Cuts Hurt The Economy

Is smaller government really better for the economy? Conservatives chant that taxes and government "take money out of the economy" and we need to "cut and grow," meaning if government spending is cut way back the economy will grow as a result. Europe's conservatives are also forcing cuts in the things their governments do for regular people, claiming "austerity" will bring "confidence" that grows their economies. How is this experiment working out? What are we learning about the effect on the larger economy when government is cut?

What Does Government Do?

Almost everything the government does is because it needs to be done. We need roads, bridges, schools & colleges, dams, courts, police & fire departments, water management, etc. (We can discuss the need for military spending another time.)

These are all needed and contribute to the functioning of the economy. So if government is cut back and doesn’t do something that is needed, then how does it get done? Or does it just not get done? Either way, the real question we should be asking is what is the effect on the larger economy when our government cuts back on or stops doing needed things? If you save the “government” a bit of money but cost the economy a lot of money, are you saving money? Or are cuts in government really just shifting and even increasing the costs in the larger economy of doing these things?

Who Is Our Government For?

In the United States, our Constitution says that government is supposed to be of, by and for We, the People. The country was established after the colonists rebelled against the aristocracy of England -- a few people who had all of the wealth and power and would not let the colonists have a say in how things were run and who would benefit. So they fought the Revolutionary War and established a country where "We, the People" all have an equal say, and to "promote the general welfare." In other words, a country that aspires to be of, by and for the good of all of us.

So cutting back on government means cutting back on We, the People doing things for the good of all of us. It means cutting back on the things we have a say over. It means relinquishing the wealth and power that we hold in common to ... well, just where does our common wealth and power go if our government is cut back?

Medicare, For Example

Republicans say we need to cut back on what the government spends on Medicare. But if you cut Medicare the health problems of elderly people and the larger problem of fast-rising health care costs in the larger economy don’t disappear. In fact, both problems just get worse.

The "Ryan Budget" that Congressional Republicans voted to approve actually converts Medicare into a program that gives seniors a voucher that pays for part of a private medical insurance policy that seniors have to shop for. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan, took a look at that plan and explains what happens to the cost of health care. Summary: it shifts the costs to us, except each of us ends up paying as much as seven times as much as the same care costs under Medicare. From the CEPR explanation:

[The Republican] plan to revamp Medicare has been described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), however, shows that the [Republican] proposal will increase health care costs for seniors by more than seven dollars for every dollar it saves the government, a point missing from much of the debate over the plan.

... In addition to comparing the costs of Medicare to the government under the current system and under the [Republican] plan, the authors also show the effects of raising the age of Medicare eligibility. The paper also demonstrates that while [the Republican plan] shifts $4.9 trillion in health care costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries, this number is dwarfed by a $34 trillion increase in overall costs to beneficiaries that is projected ...

Repeat, the Republican plan to cut Medicare would cost the larger economy seven times as much as it cuts government spending.

Social Security, For Example

Conservatives have been trying to cut or gut Social Security for decades. While this might mean government has to pay out less of what is owed to seniors, such cuts would have a negative effect on the larger economy.

Social Security allows working people to retire with at least a minimal income. If this is cut many could not retire for many more years (if ever), which would increase the unemployment rate because their jobs would not open up. The same is true as the retirement age is increased - fewer job openings. If it is cut, the spending (on cat food) at local grocery stores and other necessities is reduced by the same amount. And the effect on children of retirees is increased, if they contribute to make up the difference.

This is why cutting Social Security or raising the retirement age only shifts costs onto the larger economy, dragging it down (and cruelly hurting our elderly).

Cutting Disease Control, For Example

One of the clearest examples of the way government helps us all, rich and poor, is the government's Center for Disease Control (CDC). One of the jobs of the CDC is to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. If an epidemic is spreading and killing people it doesn't matter if those people are rich or poor. And if a serious outbreak spreads this can damage the economy as people are too sick to, or decide not to show up for work. So of course cutting back the budget of the CDC could cause damage to the economy in any given year and is certain to cause damage eventually. (The CDC budget was cut back 11% last year.)

Budget Cuts Hurt The Economy

The above are only a few examples.

A government budget cut is like a huge tax increase on regular people because it increases what each of us pays for the things government does -- or forces us to go without. This is because cuts in government spending don’t actually cut the cost or the need for those things, they just shift those costs onto the larger economy. But because these shifts attack the economy-of-scale, transparency, integrity and public-good management that government provides, they almost always increase the costs and harms to the larger economy.


  • As government health care is cut (or not provided in the first place) each of us must take on those costs on our own, and as demonstrated, pay up to seven times what the same care would/could have cost.
  • As infrastructure maintenance and modernization is cut, our economy becomes less competitive, unemployment increases and our wages and spending power fall.
  • As spending on education is cut, our costs of educating ourselves and our kids increase. College costs soar. And the overall education level of our people will decrease, making our country less competitive in the world.
  • As environmental regulation and enforcement is cut the costs of the resulting health problems and cleanups increase and our quality-of-life will decrease.
  • As enforcement of labor laws is cut, our wages and protections fall.
  • As etc. is cut, the costs of etc. are shifted to the larger economy, and the total costs of accomplishing etc. actually increase.

As budgets are cut, the costs are increased and shifted to the larger economy.

Austerity In Europe

Several countries in Europe are severely cutting budgets. The result is that the economies in those countries are slowing. Reuters: Euro zone's slump in late 2011 points to recession.

A collapse in household spending, exports and manufacturing sucked the life out of the euro zone's economy in the final months of 2011, the EU said on Tuesday, showing the scope of the downturn that looks set to become a fully fledged recession.

... The European Commission forecasts a recession of the same magnitude this year. That would be the euro zone's second contraction in just three years as the bloc's debt crisis drags on a region that generates around 16 percent of the world's economic output.

[. . .] The battle between austerity and growth was already evident in the fourth quarter. Euro zone government expenditure fell 0.2 percent, while industry contracted 2 percent and imports were down 1.2 percent, making for some of the worst readings since the world was dragged into the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

The austerity experiment is making the case: cutting government budgets just shifts costs and hurts the larger economy.

Who Benefits From Cuts?

Governments dance with the ones that brung 'em. Whoever controls government is naturally going to direct government to benefit them – and only them. We-the-People democracies do things for We, the People; plutocracies do things for plutocrats. So when, as now, plutocrats are running government, you will get a government that only does things that benefit plutocrats. And when We, the People were running government, we did things that benefit We, the People -- all of us.

The plutocrats now demanding government budget cuts obviously understand that this will result in slowing economies, but don't care -- they are already fabulously wealthy. What they want is reduced taxes and increased power. They say that cuts will bring growth, in order to persuade people to accept cuts. Blocking governments from providing things that don't directly benefit them and only them is a means to that end. And cutting government cuts government's ability to reign them in.

What We, the People Want

When We, the People are running government we insist that government increases overall prosperity. We demand laws and regulations that bring us good wages, benefits and safe working conditions. We demand good public schools & colleges, parks, safety and opportunities for our smaller businesses to fairly compete. We insist on a clean environment, consumer protections, regulations on business behavior, rules against monopolies and (after learning the hard way) rules that keep banks from taking risks that threaten the economy. And we want controls and limits on the use of wealth and power by the 1%ers.

Plutocrats -- the 1%ers -- of course see all of these protections of regular people as hindering their power and ability to make as much for themselves as they can grab. Plutocrats just don’t see how public parks benefit them. They just don’t see why they should have to pay for public schools. What good do public schools do them, today? Plutocrats don’t see why it should be anyone else's problem if old people don’t have health care -- health care for seniors certainly isn't their problem.

They explain that things for anyone other than themselves and their interests just “wastes money.” Things for regular people are not their problem. And when plutocrats run government, it isn't their problem.

The fact is a public park “costs money.” Schools and infrastructure are just more “government spending.” Things like that just "redistribute income" because taxes on the income of plutocrats is used to build that park or school that anyone can use. The basic message of the plutocrat is, "Why should I pay for anything that benefits you?"

You and I might argue that this kind of austerity, cutting schools, Medicare, infrastructure, etc. slows the larger economy, hurting the plutocrats, too. But that doesn’t hurt the ones who are already rich, which is the definition of plutocrat. It puts more in their pockets, today, by lowering their taxes. They want out of taxes and they don't want government (We, the People) interfering with their power.

What We, The People Need

Democracies where We, the People make decisions demand things that are good for regular people and their small businesses: pensions, health care, modernized infrastructure, good schools & colleges, child care, regulations on the behavior of giant corporations... This is why strong democracies have proven to be more prosperous for regular people and for longer than other forms of government that leave people on their own against the wealthy and powerful and drive all of the income and wealth to a few at the top. This is why so many regular working people in our country were so much more prosperous in the decades before the plutocratic 1%-favoring policies of Reagan steered us toward plutocracy.

Understand what is going on here. Demands for budget cuts and austerity are really about shifting from democracy to a system where regular people -- the 99% -- are on their own, up against the wealthy and powerful. This is about shifting from a system where regular people can be prosperous together, to a system where a few -- the 1% -- have all the wealth and power.

We, the People need democracy restored. We need to be in charge again, before the economy can improve.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 14, 2012

Single-Payer Supporters Urge Supreme Court To Strike Down Mandate

Fifty Medical Doctors for Single Payer Urge Supreme Court to Strike Down Individual Mandate,

Fifty medical doctors who favor a single payer health insurance system today urged the US Supreme Court to strike down the individual mandate.

In a brief filed with the Court, the fifty doctors and two non-profit groups – Single Payer Action and It’s Our Economy – said that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate is unconstitutional.

The individual mandate is the provision of the ACA that requires Americans to purchase health insurance from private insurance companies if they do not otherwise have coverage.

... “It is not necessary to force Americans to buy private health insurance to achieve universal coverage,” said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. “There is a proven alternative that Congress didn’t seriously consider, and that alternative is a single payer national health insurance system.”

We went into this trying to find a way to do something about the terrible, corrupt monopoly insurance companies, lying, cheating, scamming, denying coverage after you got sick, overcharging, bankrupting people, etc. etc. etc... and we came out of it ordered to buy insurance from those companies.

Except I can't understand why they insist on calling this "single payer" which sounds to most people like it means you are going to have to pay for all your health care yourself. "Medicare For All" is a much better way to explain it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:15 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 13, 2011

Republicans Shout "Let Him Die!"

"Should society just let him die?"

Listen to the Republican debate audience enthusiastically yell "YEAH!" (Just after 1 minute in,)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 25, 2011

NY-26 Lesson: Don't Mess With Medicare -- Or Social Security!

In 2010 Republicans and corporate front groups ran ad after ad after ad after ad claiming that Democrats had "Cut 500 billion from Medicare." Those ads brought them the senior vote, and they took the House. Confident in their ability to "create their own reality" they came out with a plan to privatize Medicare and told the public it would save Medicare. Well, last night's win by Kathy Hochul in the NY-26 special election -- with pretty high turnout in a Republican district -- shows that the American people are smarter than they look, and figured out what was what. The lesson: don't mess with Medicare.

Soundly Defeated

Yesterday's NY-26 Congressional election turned on Medicare and the candidate who supported Medicare won. The candidate who supported the Republican plan to privatize Medicare was soundly defeated.

House Republicans voted to change Medicare from a single-payer plan to a private-insurance voucher plan as a measure to "cut government spending." Republicans had talked themselves into believing the public hates government as much as they do and therefore gutting it is what the public wants. Instead of working to control health care costs they just shifted those costs away from the government into "personal responsibility" land. In plain non-propagandized English personal responsibility means each of us on our own, alone, instead of all of us watching out for and taking care of each other.

The public figured it out and voted to keep the Medicare-gutter out.

American Majority

The American Majority understands what is going on. They know that our budget problems come from tax cuts, military spending and the lack of jobs. Those are the things the public wants the Congress to fix.

Where the deficits come from:

What the public wants:

Gallup Poll, January 14-16, 2011

  • 64% oppose spending cuts to Medicare.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll, February 24-28, 2011

  • 54% believe it will not be necessary to cut spending on Medicare to reduce the national deficit.
  • 76% believe cutting Medicare to help reduce the budget deficit is mostly or totally unacceptable.
  • 60% oppose turning the Medicare system into a government-issued voucher program, which would require the beneficiary to purchase private health insurance.

First Focus and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Poll, April 13-18, 2011

  • 70% oppose cuts/changes to the Medicare system as described in the House Republican Budget.
  • 49% support not reducing funds to Medicare.
  • 53% believe replacing the current Medicare program with a voucher system in which retirees will receive vouchers to use to purchase subsidized insurance from private insurance companies for those 55 or older is totally or mostly unacceptable.

CBS News/The New York Times Poll, April 15-20, 2011

  • 61% believe that Medicare is currently “worth the costs.”
  • 76% think government has the responsibility to provide health care coverage to the elderly.
  • 49% believe higher-income beneficiaries should pay more in taxes.

Bloomberg News Poll, March 4-7, 2011

  • 54% oppose replacing Medicare with a system in which government vouchers would help participants pay for their own health insurance.
  • 76% oppose reducing benefits for Medicare.

Pulse Opinion Research for The Hill Poll, April 28, 2011

  • 53% said they would oppose a reduction in Medicare benefits in order to get the deficit/debt under control.

Pew Research Poll, March 8-14, 2011

  • 65% oppose changes to Social Security as a way to reduce the budget deficit.

More recent polling shows the public has moved to an even strong support for Medicare, and will remove from office anyone who votes to cut it.

Social Security The Same

Those polls don't just test public support for Medicare, they test support for Social Security as well. The public feels just as strongly that politicians had best keep their hands off our Social Security.

In order to reduce the national debt, would you support or oppose cutting spending on Social Security, which is the retirement program for the elderly? Ohio: 16% support, 80% oppose Missouri: 17% support, 76% oppose Montana: 20% support, 76% oppose Minnesota: 23% support, 72% oppose

Reality Restored

During the Bush years the idea of a "reality-based community" circulated after an article by Ron Suskind about a meeting he had with "a senior advisor to Bush." In the article he described how the aide scoffed at people who bother with reality:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Republicans and their corporate money tried to create a reality that let them gut Medicare without the public rising up to do something about it. It didn't work.

Do The Right Thing

Well, reality is coming back. The public is figuring things out. Politicians should learn the lesson of NY-26: don't mess with Medicare -- or Social Security. To fix the deficit fix the causes of the deficit: invest in jobs through maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure, restore top tax rates to where they were before we had huge deficits and, by the way, the Soviet Union is long gone so cut military spending back to maybe only twice our nearest potential competitor.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 18, 2011

Medicare Video

Go here to help get this on TV.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 27, 2011

Corporate Propaganda Response To Town Hall Medicare Anger

The Republican plan for Medicare "cuts government spending" by shifting the cost of old-age health care directly to the middle class and poor. (I’ll explain below.) Here’s the thing: someone is going to get that $34 trillion. (I’ll explain below.) And that someone (the Supreme Court thinks corporations are "someone") is fighting hard for it. They'll say whatever it takes. It is up to you and me to get the word out about this. (I'll explain below.)

Say Whatever It Takes

Here is an example of what I mean by "say whatever it takes." Click through and listen to this commercial. Cheerful, uplifting music. Positive voice tones. Flat-out lies.

- TRANSCRIPT -

ANNOUNCER:

Something unusual happened last week…in Washington, DC of all places.

Elected officials actually did what they said they would.

The House passed a budget that protects and preserves Medicare for years to come.

And our Congressman, Allen West, voted to protect Medicare and keep it secure for future retirees.

Our national debt is $14 trillion…America is literally spending money we don’t have and future generations won’t be able to afford.

With 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day, important programs like Medicare are being crushed – and could collapse if we don’t act to strengthen and improve them.

No changes for seniors on Medicare now or those who will soon go on it.

Control costs by targeting waste, fraud and abuse – so current and future seniors receive the quality care they have earned.

Call Allen West at (954) 202-6211. Thank him for voting to protect Medicare and tell him to continue keeping his promise to seniors.

Paid for by the 60 Plus Association.

What's This About?

Last week all of the Republicans in the House except a few voted to approve a plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with “premium support” – vouchers – for private insurance, that only cover part of the cost of the private insurance. (As if any company would insure a 75-year-old with health problems. And as if an 80-year-old with cognitive disabilities can pick and choose which insurance scam policy is best.)

Yes, that's right, it phases out Medicare and replaces it with private insurance, as in, "What do you mean you won't cover that procedure, test, drug, operation? My doctor says I need it!" Right, that private insurance.

Medicare Costs Shifted To Middle Class

This plan shifts costs away from the government and on to We, the People. But it ends up adding trillions in total costs because private insurance costs so much more, and because of co-pays, and because of so many other reasons that are the cause of our country paying so much more per capita than other for health care. It actually makes the cost problem much worse. But it cuts “government spending” by shifting those costs to us individually.

Economist Dean Baker writes that the Republican Medicare phase-out costs us more than $30 trillion (over 75 years) above what we would pay without this phase-out,

[The Republican plan] to replace the current Medicare system with a system of vouchers or premium supports has been widely described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. However, the size of this shift is actually small relative to the projected increase in costs that would result from having Medicare provided by private insurers instead of the government-run Medicare system.

The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) projections imply that the Ryan plan would add more than $30 trillion to the cost of providing Medicare equivalent policies over the program’s 75-year planning period. This increase in costs – from waste associated with using a less efficient health care delivery system – has not received the attention that it deserves in the public debate.

And economist Mark Thoma writes that the phase-out leaves many seniors without the means to get health care at all,

The [Republican] plan would reduce Medicare payments far below what is currently available, and this would leave many without the means to obtain the care they need. But even if the vouchers were adequate, I would still not be in favor of a voucher system for health insurance.

The public will have to shell out trillions of dollars more because of the phase-out shifts seniors to private insurance. It saves the government money by shifting the cost to you and me, but adds $34 trillion more in total costs this way. So high-end taxpayers and corporations will pay lower taxes, the rest of us make it up.

Town Hall Anger

People are starting to hear about what the Republicans did and have been turning out at local "town hall" meetings where members of Congress talk to constituents. And, not surprisingly, they are angry.

Here is Republican Congressman Ryan being boo'ed by constituents:

Who Gets That Money?

They always say, when you are trying to figure out who is behind some scheme or scam, to "follow the money." Sure, in this case wealthy and corporate interests are pushing for even more huge tax cuts by "cutting government spending" with this scheme to phase out Medicare. But wait, there's more. The scheme goes beyond that because when you privatize government functions someone gets the money. That is the point of privatization -- to shift public wealth to private profit. They always claim privatization cuts costs, but in reality it actually costs more with what was formerly something We, the People held in common now going to a few for their own gain. So this costs us more because government doesn't pay CEOs huge salaries, and doesn't give million-dollar bonuses to the rest of the executives. Government doesn't pay out a profit. And government's job is to work in the interest of the public. Not so with private companies. Not so at all.

Privatizing means taking something away from us, so a few can benefit from it instead. And that is what is happening to Medicare under the Republican plan.

Enter The Corporate Front Group

In response to the town hall anger, a corporate front-group named 60 Plus is blanketing the radiowaves in Republican districts with these soothing ads thanking them for “preserving and protecting” Medicare. This is part of a campaign they named Seniors Thank Congress for Protecting Medicare.

60 Plus is one of the groups that spent millions and millions of dollars running campaign ads for Republicans last year, telling people Democrats "cut $500 billion from Medicare."

Thanks to the wisdom of our elected officials and Supreme Court, we don't get to find out just who is behind 60 Plus. Is it corporations? Billionaires? Foreign Governments? SourceWatch has some clues.

Muddy The Waters

This ad is part of a strategy to "muddy the waters,"

The GOP official added that the party “can fight the Medicare issue to a tie” by “muddying the waters” and painting Democrats as choosing status-quo options that would have Medicare “die a slow death.”

Go back and read the transcript of the 60 Plus ad again, see how closely it follows this strategy.

Regular people have jobs, drive to work (and listen to the radio where these ads are playing), work hard, come home, maybe take care of kids... They are busy. They are not experts on the issues. If they tune into the news they are told that "both sides" are "squabbling" and maybe that there is a plan to "reform" Medicare. So as much as Republicans can "muddy the waters" and keep the reporting on a "both sides" and horse race focus, this plan can succeed.

This organization is not put together by people who care if you and me get Medicare. This is put together as a front for the corporations that will get the money from privatizing Medicare, and the wealthy few who get the money from tax cuts. They count on regular people being busy and not well-informed.

The GOP official added that the party “can fight the Medicare issue to a tie” by “muddying the waters” and painting Democrats as choosing status-quo options that would have Medicare “die a slow death.”

It's up to you and me to get the word out about this.

We Can Fight This

So, will we be able to get the word out, or will the corporate money allow this and other front groups to saturate the airwaves?

I think we can fight this. We have the facts on our side, and the numbers, but not the money. They always have the advantage when it comes to money. So it is up to us to turn out the facts and the numbers.

Will YOU help? Will YOU get involved?

Will YOU tell people, talk to friends, neighbors and relatives? Will YOU show up at town hall meetings and demand answers? Will you call your member of Congress and your Senators? Will YOU join with "Don't Make Us Work Till We Die?" for their actions tomorrow, and join up with US Uncut or On May 12?

If you do, we can win.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:16 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

April 15, 2011

Republicans Vote For Plan To Privatize Medicare

House passes huge GOP budget cuts, opposing Obama,

n a prelude to a summer showdown with President Barack Obama, Republicans controlling the House pushed to passage on Friday a bold but politically dangerous budget blueprint to slash social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid and fundamentally restructure Medicare health care for the elderly. The nonbinding plan lays out a fiscal vision cutting $6.2 trillion from yearly federal deficits over the coming decade and calls for transforming Medicare from a program in which the government directly pays medical bills into a voucher-like system that subsidizes purchases of private insurance plans.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 16, 2011

It's A Really Bad Time to Be Middle Class

It’s a really bad time to even be middle class in this country, and forget about being poor. The only way to be protected is to be very wealthy: then you are guaranteed that your house is safe, your medical care is covered, and your children will have a future. It’s that bad, and not one bit of this is subtle.

There is a class war underway in this country. The rich, or those that represent their interests, and corporations want control. Dave Johnson, blogger for the Campaign for America’s Future, nailed it when he wrote that: “This budget fight is about a stark choice: jobs and growth for We, the People, or going down the road of plutocracy -- rule by the super-rich and big corporations -- with little or nothing left over for the rest of us.”

This is the power grab of our generation playing out in Obama’s budget. It reflects true entitlement for the super wealthy. The government revitalization of the “too big to fail” banks was only the tipping point. Of course, the bankers deserved their bonuses. Remember that you heard it here. The battleground is not about the so-called entitlement programs espoused by the Democrats. Social Security, and other such programs are not the culprits; they are the scapegoat for the real agenda.

Obama is being forced to rip open the social fabric of this country to reduce the Bush generated debts. In the President’s proposed budget, most social programs will be ravaged left and right (no pun intended). Yes admittedly, this budget is a massive jobs creation machine. But watch out – don’t get sick folks or have an on-the-job accident because there will little if any safety net. Certainly, we all know about health care reform, yet if Speaker Boehner and his boys have their way -- that too will be reduced to a hill of beans and severely compromised. The fight for survival of the middle class and the poor has been ratcheted up a notch. Strap in folks, this is class warfare.

Note, this will also appear in the Huffington Post.

Posted by Michelle at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 25, 2010

Health Care Poll - People Wanted MORE

Someone finally, finally, finally polled people on health care and asked the right questions. People are unhappy but mostly because they wanted the government to do MORE!

AP Poll: Repeal? Many wish health law went further

A new AP poll finds that Americans who think the law should have done more outnumber those who think the government should stay out of health care by 2-to-1.

"I was disappointed that it didn't provide universal coverage," said Bronwyn Bleakley, 35, a biology professor from Easton, Mass.

. . . The poll found that about four in 10 adults think the new law did not go far enough to change the health care system, regardless of whether they support the law, oppose it or remain neutral. On the other side, about one in five say they oppose the law because they think the federal government should not be involved in health care at all.

Go read it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 22, 2010

Need Public Option

The big insurance companies aren't leaving much choice: we need the public option. Congress can pass this right after the election, using reconciliation.

Health insurance: Big medical insurers to stop selling new child-only policies

Major health insurance companies in California and other states have decided to stop selling policies for children rather than comply with a new federal healthcare law that bars them from rejecting youngsters with preexisting medical conditions.

Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna Inc. and others will halt new child-only policies in California, Illinois, Florida, Connecticut and elsewhere as early as Thursday when provisions of the nation's new healthcare law take effect, including a requirement that insurers cover children under age 19 regardless of their health histories.

Idiot corporatists in the Congress thought the insurance companies were their friends.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 13, 2010

The Comments Are Just As Scary

This article about new antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" is scary but the comments are, too: New drug-resistant superbugs found in 3 states - Yahoo! News

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 28, 2010

Corporate Power

We went into health care reform looking to free ourselves from a predatory industry that was harming us and the country, and get ourselves Medicare-For-All.

We came out the other side with all of us ordered to buy health insurance from the predatory health insurers.

This has been another chapter in democracy v.s. predatory corporatist plutocracy.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 14, 2010

Against All Odds: Save the Middle Class and the American Dream

The American Dream is what is at stake for the Obama Administration, and they know it. This is the dirty, little secret that can longer be contained -- it is escalating, cannot remain hidden, and may have significant political ramifications for the 2010 elections. The atrocity of the past years is this broken promise with the people, and it is deeply affecting the way they think, behave, vote and live. Moreover, it could begin to explain the groundswell response to candidate Barack Obama in 2008. The power of his words helped them believe that the dream was recoverable. He exemplified what was possible through education and hard work in his meteoric rise through American politics to the Oval Office. Further and more importantly, it also explains why we are now suffering such profound political despair reflected in the dropping poll numbers.

The middle class, for its survival, needs life to return to a semblance of "normalcy" - a time when they didn't know how to spell the word "deficit" and didn't have to care. They want their retirement savings back so they don't have to work until they drop. They want a bank account that makes more then one percent interest. They want to know what their health insurance premiums will be this year and in ten. They want to know if their kids study, and if they save and sacrifice, that their lives will be better. They want their kids to get good jobs, and they want to hold onto our own jobs. And with despair and anger they realize that despite the heroic work of the Congress with this President in passing landmark legislation in all of these areas -- they still are not safe. Economic ruin may still be right around the corner, and makes it hard to sleep at night.

You know we've all been hoodwinked and sold a bill of goods about the sanctity of the middle class in this country. It is a basic tenet of our lives, and made us different from other countries. The ranks swelled over the last decades after FDR to the present. But now for the first time since the Great Depression, the middle class is at risk of tipping over once and for all. They are not coming out of the financial, housing and environmental crises intact. Interest rates have ratcheted up on the family home, maybe there's a balloon payment on the mortgage and its impossible to refinance under the "new" programs; savings have virtually no interest and are drying up; pensions have evaporated; health insurance premiums are basically unaffordable until 2014 if then; schools are overcrowded and on the decline; there are no jobs except in China and they don't speak Mandarin; and unemployment is still at 9.5% -- higher in key areas throughout the country. The new legislation is riddled with loopholes, as all legislation can be after laborious compromises and extensive details. What is different is that each of these loopholes is flagrantly being exploited by the banks, the credit card companies and the health insurance companies. For example, many of the unemployed cannot qualify for COBRA because their companies failed which is code for closed their doors. COBRA is not available when a company terminates their health insurance plan, and 2014 is a long way off when you need health insurance coverage now.

Frankly, this is not what the middle class signed up for. It was not part of the implicit promise made to them. As a result, they are angry (enter stage right the Tea Party to exploit this vulnerability), and depressed (evidenced in the lackluster June election voter turnout). This is a deadly combination that could seal the deal on the November elections for the big, bad guys. Yet somehow the middle class and its Democrats must rally again and rise above the collective depression (no pun intended). We cannot let the brilliant and effective message machine of the Republican Party lull them into universal amnesia -- forgetting all the wrongs of the past. Remember these are the same guys (Bush and Cheney) that put the nails in the coffin cementing the potential extermination of the middle class. These same guys two weeks ago even blocked the extension of unemployment benefits while they frolicked on vacation. How could they do that to working families in this country? The extension passed the House before the break, but was filibustered in the Senate. And given all that, imagine life when we essentially give away the House because we are too depressed to vote or disorganized to keep these seats.

I will take liberal Speaker Nancy Pelosi any day over anti-choice, sanctimonious Republican Representative John Boehner as Speaker of the House. That would be a bad dream that just keeps on giving. This threat should be enough for the White House to saddle up and come out with a plan, a message (remember "hope and change"), and leadership to deliver - not the White House Press Secretary Gibbs message yesterday. David Gregory of Meet the Press has gotten so very good and Gibbs just walked into a fiasco announcing the potential lose of seats in the House. It was as bad as giving away candy instead of feeding the homeless, and maybe that's why White House Special Advisor, David Axelrod, was so snarky with CNN's Candy Crowley during the next hour on the Sunday morning political shows because it sure didn't make any sense.

Snarky or not, we all know Obama and his team are awful busy with the economy, the oil spill and a few dozen Russian spies, but we need them to reach out to that disenfranchised middle class again, aka big voting block. After all, Obama is the master communicator and we know that he can do it because he has done it before to win in 2008. And now the stakes may even be higher. If we allow 40 seats in the House to go asunder and a few more in the US Senate -- we can start waving bye-bye to the American Dream, the middle class, economic recovery, and maybe the Supreme Court for the next couple of decades.

Please see my Pearltree for some of the reference materials with more to come. This is a new tool to organize and share materials on the web. In full disclosure, I advise them as they build out the new features of this platform.

Middlle Class

Note, an earlier version of this article appeared this week on the Huffington Post.

Posted by Michelle at 1:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 22, 2010

The Coming Republican Campaign For Medicare Buy-In

Step one of health care reform has passed. Republicans vow to campaign on repealing it, which means that from now until the election they will use all of their communication channels to tell the public about all the problems with the health care bill. This is an opportunity. We have to tell the public that the answer to the problems the Republicans describe is not repeal, it is Medicare Buy-In, leading to Medicare-For-All.

Like the Iraq War there are facts and there are Republican lies. Over time facts catch up with lies. In spite of what the Republicans had most of the country believing, over time the public came to understand that Iraq did not attack us on 9/11. Over time the public came to understand that Iraq was not preparing to attack us with nukes.

And just as with Iraq, over time the public will come to understand that Republicans have lied to them about health care. There are no "death panels." There is no "government takeover." Etc. Over time the public will become comfortable with the reform that has passed and it will become unthinkable to go back.

The coming Republican campaign to turn the public against items in the legislation should be answered by saying this is why we now need to add Medicare Buy-In before it takes effect. As Republicans proceed with their campaign to knock down the legislation we must make the solution a choice between going back to the bad old ways, and adding Medicare Buy-In.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Health Care Newspaper Front Pages

Go see: Health Reform Victory: Front Pages

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:28 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 21, 2010

On To Medicare Buy-In

Start tomorrow! Sign the petition.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

WTF Does That Even Mean?

OK I turned on the TV and saw about a minute of the health insurance debate. A Republican was saying "A government big enough to give you what you want is a government big enough to take it away."

WTF? WTF does that even MEAN?

It sounds scary and sinister, but I WANT the government big enough to give people what they want and need. I mean WTF?

And government is rule by the people. So I WANT it BIG. I WANT the people having lots of control over our affairs. I mean, what is the alternative if not big corporations making the decisions for us?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Health Care Bill

So finally, after a year of disengagement, President Obama steps up to the plate and works to get something passed, and we get a health care bill. I wonder if we'll see him get involved on labor rights, financial reform, infrastructure investment and so many other things the country needs..

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 15, 2010

Pass Health Care And Start Fixing It

I hate the health care bill. I hate that they are going to order us to buy insurance form the greedy monopolistic corporate snakes.

But it gets people care they need, and we can immediately start working to fix it, get Medicare buy-in and ultimately single-payer. If it doesn't pass, then there is nothing to build on, and won't be. So pass it and then get to work fixing it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 23, 2010

On Health Care Mandates

FORK IT! Fine me, tax me, whatever, but I ain't gonna pay,

Mandate? Bullcrap!

I am uninsured for a good reason. I CAN NOT AFFORD IT! I am unemployed now, but even when I was fully employed I still couldn't afford health insurance. Why? BECAUSE IT WAS TOO EXPENSIVE! Subsidies won't fix that without NON PROFIT COMPETITION to drive prices down. So sue me for not having an extra $700 lying around at the end of the month on my gaudy $10+ per hour wage. I didn't have it then and after the Wall St clusterf$%k that still hasn't been re-regulated or resolved, I don't have it now.

I don't need mandates to force me to buy shit I don't want or subsidies paid with my own tax dollars to help me want it more, I need a fucking job. If the fools on the Hill can't help me get a job but can spend my money for me before I have even earned it I have news for them, and it isn't suitable for any children in the room to hear.

As for a mandate to buy junk insurance from the private insurance industry that has bled my countrymen and women dry for over half a century, BULLSHIT!

Congress, you could have just passed Medicare-for-All, which is what everyone wanted. But you just had to keep the profits going for the monopolies.

And you think anyone is going to vote for you? HA!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 19, 2010

Pass Health Care With Strong Public Option Or No Votes For Dems

Here is something that the Democrats in DC need to understand: the "base" has not forgotten about health care with a public option. They have not dropped it. They have not run from it.

Pass health care with a strong public option, or a LOT of people are not going to show up at the polls in November.

I am not advocating this, I am afraid of this. Out there in "the real world" people are not tuned into the finer points of the legislative process. ALL they know is that the Congress spent the year on health care, and nothing has been done. And the polls still show that the public option is what the pubic wants. None of this has changed, even if Washington is tired of it.

Meanwhile, if you are watching the CPAC convention of crazy conservatives this week you are seeing the people who are going to be in office if people are not given good reasons to show up and vote.

The Republican agenda is Tax Cuts, Torture and Triggering a depression. We really don't want that. Democrats, get your act together and pass that health care! The country need to you get this done.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:58 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 15, 2010

Here Is When Obama Could Have Passed Health Care

Yes I'm writing about this again,

Way back in July President Obama had the option of keeping the Congress in session until they passed health care.

White House officials negotiated furiously on Thursday to keep major health care legislation on track after the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said his chamber would not vote on a health measure until after Congress returned from its summer recess.
The summer recess was when the corporate-and-Wall-Street-funded astroturf groups put so much effort into building up the tea party movement and reviving the Republican Party.

Just sayin'... He had the option to be tough and insist. So why didn't he? From the news story:

As Mr. Obama took questions from his audience in Shaker Heights, he was asked whether he intended to call on Democratic leaders in Congress to cancel their August recess to try to reach a compromise on health care. For now, he said, he had no plans to do so.
Here is the thing: THIS weekend President Obama had the chance to exercise his legitimate, Constitutional power to get things done for the public, and fill several vacancies in his administration. He could have made recess appointments of nominees that Republicans are blocking. Previous Presidents have done this. Bush did it more than 100 times! But he didn't.

I just don't understand this President's unwillingness to work for the People of the United states.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:10 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 11, 2010

COBRA Runs Out Soon For Many

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF). I am a Fellow with CAF.

The unemployed have a lot to fear, including losing COBRA itself.

Congress is considering passing an extension of COBRA subsidies for the unemployed. But a bigger problem is not just the subsidies running out, but COBRA itself running out.

COBRA allows people to continue to buy the same health insurance they had on the job, at full price (plus 5% to cover the administrative overhead of handling the paperwork.) COBRA lasts 18 months. It is very expensive, but the way insurance works in the U.S. many of these unemployed people would not be able to buy health insurance at any price.

Everyone had assumed that Congress could get its act together and pass health insurance reform by now, so the problem of COBRA's 18-month period has been ignored. But Congress didn't and that 18 months is running out soon for many, many of the people initially laid off after Wall Street deregulation caused the financial crisis. A subsidy does no good if it subsidizes insurance that you can't get.

These millions of people were not laid off because they scammed people and sold them CDO bonds fraudulently rated AAA. They didn't run "free" credit-card scams with incredibly small print or the ability to change the terms of the contract at will. They don't hold payments and then charge "late fees." They don't charge huge "fees" that drain your accounts. These millions of people don't get million-dollar bonuses paid for by taxpayer dollars and Fed guarantees or zero-percent "windows." So maybe this means they don't qualify for consideration by our Congress .

Congress: EXTEND COBRA FOR AN ADDITIONAL 18 MONTHS. There is no cost for doing this, it only allows people to buy health insurance that they would not be able to buy otherwise. AND pass another extension of the subsidies.

Oh, and pass health insurance reform, too.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:03 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 18, 2010

Health Care

Way back in July President Obama had the option of keeping the Congress in session until they passed health care.

White House officials negotiated furiously on Thursday to keep major health care legislation on track after the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said his chamber would not vote on a health measure until after Congress returned from its summer recess.

The summer recess was when the corporate-and-Wall-Street-funded astroturf groups put so much effort into building up the tea party movement and reviving the Republican Party.

Just sayin'... He had the option to be tough and insist. So why didn't he? From the news story:

As Mr. Obama took questions from his audience in Shaker Heights, he was asked whether he intended to call on Democratic leaders in Congress to cancel their August recess to try to reach a compromise on health care. For now, he said, he had no plans to do so.

“I don’t want a delay just because of politics,” he said. “I have to tell you that sometimes delays in Washington occur when people just don’t want to do anything that they think might be controversial.”

Mr. Reid tried to blame Republicans for the delay, saying they had asked for more time. But he also acknowledged the cooperation of three Republican negotiators, Senators Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine.

“Working with the Republicans, one of the things that they asked for was to have more time,” Mr. Reid said. He added: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable. This is a complex, difficult issue.”

Looking back now, it's just one blunder after another.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:07 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

January 13, 2010

Don't Leave Women's Health Care Out Of The Reform Bill

Passing this along:

We Will Not Be Thrown Under the Bus!

On January 13th, Not Under the Bus, the premier women's health care campaign from the Women’s Media Center, is asking women everywhere to take action against the discriminatory, anti-choice language that exists in both the House and Senate health care bills. These bills would effectively roll back women’s health care coverage in the area of reproductive rights. It is up to all of us to make sure we don’t get thrown under the bus by politicians in Washington.

Here’s how you can TAKE ACTION on Wednesday, January 13th:
Tweet: Take Action today with @NotUnderTheBus. Demand that women’s rights be protected in #HCR: http://bit.ly/7u15IG #underthebus

Post our video to your Facebook page, Blog, or status:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUtLTB6zKbo

Donate your Facebook Status to raise awareness:
“Today is Take Action Day with NotUnderTheBus.com. What are you doing to demand pro-choice, fair health care? http://bit.ly/7u15IG Take Action. Write an op-ed, call your Senator, and sign a petition. Demand that women’s rights be protected in health care reform.”

Sign and Share Our Petition: Tell lawmakers in Washington to keep women’s health care safe, fair and covered and urge them to strike any anti-abortion amendments from the final bill. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/do-not-throw-women-under-the-bus

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 4, 2010

37,313 Killed In Traffic In 2008

Tobacco companies killed approx. 443,000 people in the United States in 2008.

37,313 people were killed and countless more injured in traffic accidents in 2008 in the United States.

There were 14,180 people murdered in the United States in 2008.

565,650 Americans died of cancer in 2008.

Compare that to the threat of terror attacks. The terror threat is the only thing on the news.

Why is that?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 28, 2009

Does Corn Syrup Cause Obesity?

All you have to do is look around to see that something has changed in the American diet. Everyone is gaining a lot of weight. It isn't "personal responsibility" if it is systemic. You can't blame everyone who is getting fat if everyone is getting fat at the same time.

Many have suspected that corn syrup has something to do with it, and the timing certainly makes it look that way.

The corn problem is huge: The big ag corps get these huge subsidies to grow corn. So they pump corn products into everything. They use some of the subsidies to bribe legislators to give them more subsidies, further corrupting our government. Animals are fed corn, which makes them sick, which makes them need antibiotics, which eventually makes the antibiotics useless. The Gulf of Mexico has a huge dead zone coming out of the mouth of the Mississippi because all the fertilizer from growing corn runs down the river and pollutes the Gulf. Poor farmers in Mexico can't make a living growing corn because American corn is so heavily subsidized, so they give up and migrate north.

So take a look at this: High Fructose Corn Syrup Proven to Cause Human Obesity.

Stop the corn subsidies. Just stop them. Cut them off. This will lower "government spending" - especially when you add in the amounts spent on the resulting health care needs - and save our health, Mexican incomes, reduce government corruption, reduce pollution in the ocean, help stop animal suffering and even help us have antibiotics that are effective.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 26, 2009

Getting Corporate Money Out Of Politics Must Become Our #1 Priority

Health care: huge majorities of the public want something - anything - along the lines of a "public option" or Medicare buy-in. In the last election people turned out and overwhelmingly voted in Obama, 60 senators and a huge majority in the Congress.

But after "the system" plays itself out we instead end up with government power ordering all of us to buy insurance from giant insurance corporations. It remains illegal for us to buy into Medicare because this would interfere with the stream of money flowing from all of us to a few already-wealthy executives and owners.

It is so clear now what our system has become. The wealthy have a lock on our politics, and we can't help but see it. It is in the way of getting anything done. It is blocking our ability to do anything about our urgent problems like health care, climate change, financial reform, and of course the low-wage, everything-to-the-top structure of our jobs.

The other day I wrote, Concentration Of Wealth = An Influence Lock On Our Politics,

We have now reached the point where wealth is at least as concentrated as it was in 1929. With similar consequences.

Just how concentrated is the wealth and income? The L-Curve website graphically illustrates the disparity. Here's how it works. ... [click through to read this part] . . .

The societal consequences are dramatic. This happened as a result of wealth's ability to influence our country's decision-making. And that influence was used to increase the wealth of the influencers, which increased their influence. But this has come at the expense of regular people, whose incomes have stagnated, forcing them into increasing debt.

We have reached a breaking point where a consumer-based economy can no longer be sustained. But this has not led to any loosening of the grip that money has on our political system. If we don't force the political system out of that grip and restore democracy we will not be able to fix our economic system.


The question is, with the mask pulled aside - with everyone seeing how the wealthy are controlling the system - will we find ways of fixing it? Will we be able to take back democracy from the malefactors of great wealth? The obvious steps include getting all corporate money and influence out of our politics - and our lives. But even if we manage to vote in 100 Senators and 100% of the Congress, will we be able to accomplish this?

We all have to start talking about this, and making it the #1 priority of our political efforts. Nothing else can be accomplished until we take this on, but if we take this on then we can finally get on with the business of governing for the people.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 19, 2009

What Mike Lux Says

Here is a health care solution I can live with, amongst al the bad choices: Open Left:: That Gollum-like Feeling on Health Care,

3. One of the things progressives should absolutely extract before they even consider voting for this is a promise from Obama, Pelosi, and Reid that health care is revisited again, through reconciliation and in general, to keep improving the legislation as long as the Dems are in control. This should absolutely not be one of those deals where leadership says, "okay that was hard, we'll never go back to that issue again". Progressives should also demand a firm promise from Obama that the primary person doing the implementation of this bill in HHS should be a strong progressive, because the initial regs on this bill will be hugely important.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:39 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

December 18, 2009

Clearing Up On Health Care

To be clear, I don't say that the Congress should not pass the health care bill. I think if they pass this health care bill as it is in the Senate it is political suicide. This is easily remedied: remove the mandates.

What I think is the best solution is simple: Medicare buy-in with subsidies. Let anyone just buy in to Medicare at cost plus 5 or 10 percent for overhead. Add subsidies so people with lower incomes can afford this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

What 2010 Will Be Like For Dems

Wondering what 2010 will be like if you pass mandates with no public option? Watch this:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:27 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

December 17, 2009

White House Groupthink Is Locked In

This explains a lot: David Axelrod: Left 'insane' to sink health bill,

“To defeat a bill that will bend the curve on this inexorable rise in health-care costs is insane,” Axelrod said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” "I don’t think that you want this moment to pass. It will not come back."

This is what I feared. The groupthink has set in. To them this is about "cost control," not about providing health care to citizens. And they criticize Howard Dean for wanting this health care reform to serve the people, but they haven't criticized Joe Lieberman for forcing out the popular public option and Medicare buy-in.
Asked his response to progressives who say “kill this bill now,” Axelrod replied: “I think that would be a tragic, tragic outcome. … I guess if you’re hale and hearty and have insurance, it’s fine to say, ‘Kill this bill.'"

Well I have health insurance through COBRA, and I really, really resent that COBRA "allows" me to purchase corporate insurance at a very expensive price. Without it I wouldn't have health insurance at all because it is illegal for me to buy into Medicare. It is illegal because of the need to preserve corporate profits, at the expense of my health. The current health care bill REQUIRES me to purchase corporate insurance at a very high price.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Something The Public Will Love

Dear Senate: here is something the public will love and only takes 51 votes: Just give everyone Medicare buy-in. You can do that using "reconciliation" so the Republicans can't filibuster it. The public will LOVE it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:28 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 16, 2009

Health Care Solution - Remove The Mandates

There is a simple solution to my objections to the health care bill as it stands. My objection is that the government is ordering everyone to buy expensive insurance from giant corporations. The solution is to just drop that mandate that orders everyone to buy insurance, and keep everything else that is in the bill.

How hard is that?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 15, 2009

This Health Reform Bill Is Political Suicide

I posted this earlier at Open Left

Back in July I wrote here, in Democrats Had Better Find Hiding Places

I said it the other day, and I feel the need to repeat it: the public does not yet understand that the government is about to order people to buy health insurance, with their own money. Yes, the government is about to order people to cough up hundreds of dollars a month each.

When the Republicans start using their toxic message-machine magic on this, and the public starts to understand that they are being ordered by the government to cough up a huge amount of money every month, Democrats had better have good hiding places, because things are going to get really bad out there.

This is the kind of policy that results when "centrist" Democrats give in to to the demands of Republicans and big corporations and the top 1% of the wealthy. Instead of just taxing the wealthy and corporations at reasonable rates and using the money to provide We, the People with health care -- thereby vastly improving the economy for ... the wealthy and big corporations -- they instead come up with a scheme to order regular people to pay for health insurance because they don't already have it because they can't afford it.

Now it is December and the current health care reform bill orders everyone to buy very expensive insurance from the big corporations, with no public option and no Medicare buy-in. Even if you are in the income range where you receive subsidies you have to pay "only" 9 or 10% of your income, at a time when people are runnng up credit cards just to get by as it is. That is with the subsidies. Above that level you pay more.

The public hasn't really tuned into this yet, but if this passes and Republicans start working their toxic magic (with of course little or no organized effort by Dems to counter their lies and sell it to the public) I expect this will be as unppular as Bush's bailout of the big financial firms, which the Republicans have largely engineered the public into thinking was Obama's, just as they did with the Bush deficits.

So I think that when all these factors come into play for the next election, passing this will turn out to be suicide for the Democrats who hold office. They don't see that because at this point are in a mindset that the public wants them to just get it over with and pass anything.

But this is bad beyond just the next election.

Here is the larger problem: the public is going to judge US - progressives, liberals, Democrats, etc. - based on what these clucks pass.

This health "reform" bill plays right into decades of conservative/corporate propaganda about liberals and their policies - and government in general. Republicans will sell it as "big government ordering you around and reaching into your pocket" and the corporate media will echo that until everyone sees it that way. There won't be a word explaining that this money actually goes to big corporations, it will be about everyone losing the insurance they have and how people will soon be paying big money to a "government insurance bureaucracy." (Are we going to counter this by saying, "well, no, actually it goes to big corporations not government"?)

And, frankly, why should the public ever again listen to anyone left of John McCain after this, if this is what happens when Democrats get power? It is just wrong to use that power to order everyone to shell out a huge amount of money - while Wall Street hands out billions of taxpayer dollars as bonuses. They will be portrayed as confirming what the right has been saying about "liberals" they use the power of the state to order people to follow elitist schemes - which is exactly what this is, a scheme where elite people with power decide what is good for the rest of us - mandates are important because you can't cover pre-existing without them, etc. THIS is where a President is supposed to be a leader come in and insist on broader guidelines with a veto threat.

What I am most afraid of is what will happen when Republicans start making up shit about what passed, while people feel no immediate benefit. It doesn't take effect right away so it will just be this looming, terrifying, expensive "big government" program coming at people in a few years that is going to cost everyone a lot of money and ruin our health care system. Without sufficient immediate benefits that people feel, on the scale of free insurance for everyone, the Republicans will have lots of time to just make up shit about what is coming if they don't vote for Republicans so they can repeal it.

Unless you're pretty sure that Repubilcans wouldn't do that, wouldn't just make shit up to scare people. If you're like Senate Democrats who seem to think that, don't worry about this.

Here is what I am talking about. Last night I was driving and heard on the radio that there will be a 15-year jail term if you don't buy this government insurance. The announcer also said the bill bans things like Snickers bars, and that there is funding in the bill for government to come in and check your house for unhealthy food, as the liberals define it.

That is what I heard on the radio last night. This is what's out there now -- just the beginning of the 2010 election mantra.

And what are we going to do, explain that it isn't a 15-year jail term, only a big fine?

The bigger picture - the sellout.

Isn't this mandate to buy insurance really just another form of privatization of a pubilc service? In this case it is maintaining a privatization-by-refusing-to-provide. Most other countries provide health care as a right - a core function of government. But here privateers have seized it for themselves for profit. So to maintain this, to keep taxes low for the rich and keep the profits privatized we are ordered to buy it from companies instead of having it provided as a government service. This is the battle between democracy and plutocracy.

If this bill is passed and signed (progressives can filibuster, too) it means that Democrats as a party have abdicated their role as defenders of democracy against the forces of organized wealth.

Wrap it up

I hate to say this but money flowing out of big corporations has outmaneuvered the public good once again. If we don't pass a health care bill the Democrats have done little to show the public the value of showing up and electing Democrats: there is very high unemployment, no one has been held accountable for the crimes and corruption of the Bush years and Wall Street got and kept their bonuses after crashing the economy - $140 billion just this year. But if we do pass this, the way it is, it's even worse. And the joke is that this fix we're in is being engineered by a bunch of lobbyists!

So I'm with Chris,

I don't intend to help this bill pass. If progressives get backstabbed by Lieberman and then ordered to cave at the finish line, then as far as I am concerned the White House has made its own bed with this. They can try and pass the bill, but they are going to have to do it on their own. I'm not helping. In fact, I kind of just want to hang out in the tall grass for a while and plot my revenge.
But I am also trying to sound a warning, to wake up Democratic leadership and try to head off this disaster. Pass a good bill, not an insurance lobbyist's dream.

Tell me again, why was "Medicare-For-All" off the table? All of this complicated, 2000-page jumble of backroom deals and mandates and confusing formulas is to avoid just giving the people what they want - health care. And the reason it was off the table was to avoid being called "socialst."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:07 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos

December 14, 2009

My Take On The Health Reform Bill

The current health care reform bill orders everyone to buy insurance from the big corporations, and has few cost controls or other controls on those companies to make sure they don't just cheat people like they do now.

This is bad on a scale equivalent to Bush's huge bailout of the big financial firms.

Passing this is suicide for the Democrats who hold office. But not just for them. The public won't ever listen to anyone left of John McCain if this is what happens when Democrats get power. They use it to order everyone to shell out a huge amount of money? Never even mind that it is to evil corporations.

This bill provides subsidies that limit insurance payments to $8,000 for a family making $82,000 a year. This is with subsidies! If you make more than that there are no subsidies and no limit on what you have to pay!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:17 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

December 9, 2009

Why YOU Can't Have Medicare

There is one and only one reason YOU can't have Medicare: to preserve the huge checks for CEOs of giant health insurance companies. That is how our country works now.

Matthew Yglesias サ The New Health Care Deal

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 5, 2009

Fight For Women In The Health Reform Bill

Not Under The Bus is serving as a hub for online info about action centers fighting for women's health care in the health care reform bill before Congress.

This is not a redundant or competing effort, it links to all the groups, sites, etc. that are working on this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:28 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 28, 2009

Thanks Dems -- 7 Million Start Losing Health Insurance Next Week

The COBRA subsidy runs out next week. 7 million Americans are receiving that subsidy so next week the first wave of them loses their health insurance.

Well, they don't technically lose their insurance, they just have to pay hundreds of dollars more than they have been paying. Of course, these are UNEMPLOYED people, so in reality this means they lose their insurance.

This is just one MORE thing the Democratic Congress and President haven't done for people. Oh, did I mention that Wall Street has a $140 billion bonus pool this year?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 17, 2009

COBRA Subsidy Expiring - Hundred Of Thousands Will Lose Insurance

In two weeks the first wave of unemployed who qualified for COBRA health insurance subsidies under the "stimulus plan" will start losing their health insurance, and Congress has not acted.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans will start losing their health insurance each month as their COBRA subsidies expire.

Of course, these unemployed people can keep their insurance - if they can afford to pay the hundreds of dollars it will cost after the subsidy expires. In many cases the cost of COBRA insurance exceeds the amount a standard 2-week unemployment check.

Congress has an opportunity to give regular people a small, small bit of help here. Of course, they may be more interested in shoveling out more checks to the wealthy. Last week Congress extended unemployment benefits. The $2.4 billion cost was dwarfed by the $20 billion in checks going directly or indirectly to big corporations that was included in the bill - including a flat-out "gift" to big home building corporations.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:13 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

November 9, 2009

Why Public Option Or No Bill

In other countries the government's exist for the public good. The understand that health care is a human right, and provides health insurance, paid for by taxing companies and the wealthy.

America's health care "reform" bill solves the problem of people not having health insurance - and insurance companies dropping people as soon as they get sick, or refusing to pay for necessary treatments - by ordering everyone to buy insurance.

The "public option" make this slightly easier to swallow. At least you are not being ordered to buy the product of the companies that robbed and cheated us.

This news article explains the ideology behind this "reform" plan. House health bill unacceptable to many in Senate,

In the Senate, the stumbling block is the idea of the government competing with private insurers. Liberals may have to swallow hard and accept a deal without a public plan to keep the legislation alive. As in the House, the compromise appears to be to the right of the political spectrum.

If "liberals" swallow hard and accept this, it is the end of the Democratic Party.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 22, 2009

Creigh Deeds Tells Dems Not To Vote

Creigh Deeds is a Democrat running for Governor in Virginia. In a debate last night he told Democrats not to vote.

Here's the story: Deeds: 'I Would Consider Opting Out' Of A Public Option,

At the final debate of race last night, Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds said he "shared the broad goals" of health care reform, but would "certainly consider opting out" of a public option "if that were available to Virginia."

"I'm not afraid of going against my fellow Democrats when they're wrong," Deeds said. "A public option isn't required in my view."


Wow, if I was in Virginia I'd be far away from the polls on election day.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 21, 2009

Dems To Describe Public Option As Medicare-For-Everyone

This is huge news. House Dems want Medicare for everyone,

Say hello to “Medicare Part E” — as in, “Medicare for Everyone.”

House Democrats are looking at re-branding the public health insurance option as Medicare, an established government healthcare program that is better known than the public option.
. . . While much of the public is foggy on what a public option actually is, people understand Medicare. It also would place the new public option within the rubric of a familiar system rather than something new and unknown.


If they do this I think the battle is 90% won. Everyone loves Medicare.

I think they should say that are giving in to Republican demands to get rid of the public option and just letting everyone buy into Medicare instead.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:28 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 3, 2009

Bonuses From Bailout Money Would Pay Cost Of Healthcare

Banks that received government bailout money gave $33 Billion of that taxpayer money out as bonuses just this year. How much taxpayer money will be given out as bonuses next year and the year after that?

Meanwhile the apparent solution to people not being able to afford health insurance is they will be ordered to buy it. That is what a "mandate" means. Even with subsidies the poor will have to pay up to 13% of their income. The rest of us have no upper limit on what we will have to pay.

Insurance companies are ecstatic about this. Bankers are feeling pretty good, too.

I wonder how the voters are going to feel about all of this next year?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:36 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

September 22, 2009

Blue Dog Mike Ross In Fishy $$$ Deal

This really looks like a flat-out cash payment to kill health care reform.

Mike Ross Raises Eyebrows With Healthy Haul - ProPublica

Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross -- a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate -- sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment ... and an independent appraisal ... say it was worth.

The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.

Ross sold the real estate in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 -- an eye-popping number for real estate in the tiny train and lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock.

"You can buy half the town for $420,000," said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.

But the $420,000 was just the beginning of what Ross and his pharmacist wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly's Health Mart. The owner of USA Drug, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr., also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy's assets and paid Holly Ross another $100,001 to $250,000 for signing a non-compete agreement. Those numbers, which Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million. [emphasis added]


Go read!

I've said before that I think the Blue Dogs are all about leveraging their position for personal cash.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:09 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 21, 2009

Who Runs The Country?

Chris Bowers says that the health care debate isn't as much about health care as Its About Who Runs The Country,

So this is about who the Democrats in Congress and the White House are going to govern with:

--Those who think that protecting large industries is more important than providing lower cost health care;
--Those who think offering lower cost health care is more important than protecting large industries.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Health Care With 51 Votes

If Democrats present the public with a good health care plan that doesn't cost much the public will thank them and vote for them. If the public hears that Republicans tried to block it, they'll vote against Republicans in the future.

They will not care if it raises the deficit
. If they get health care cheap they will love it.

I mean, how much did the public care when Republicans forced through Bush's tax cuts for the rich? That was forced through using "reconciliation," and took the budget from a $250 billion surplus to a $1.25 trillion deficit.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 16, 2009

"Cost" Of Health care Reform

What is the "cost" of ordering 30 million uninsured to buy health insurance? Let's say that no one else will have to pay anything, only the uninsured. Let's say that they get off lucky at $250 a month average. That comes to $3000 a year times 30 million is $90 billion a year, is $900 billion over ten years.

That "cost" is not in any of the figures, it is shifted from the government as a huge uncounted tax that goes straight to insurance companies. It's also money people won't be spending elsewhere and is not redistributed to useful functions which real taxes are.

It's also 30 million people who will never, ever vote for a democrat again.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:30 AM | Comments (7) | Link Cosmos

September 15, 2009

Billionaires For Wealthcare

Billionaires for Wealthcare

Sing along:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Affordability in Health Care Reform

A big problem with the new health care plans is "affordability." The government is going to "mandate" that we buy a shitty product from the big insurance companies.

So how will people pay for the health care they are ordered by the government to buy? The current idea is to "subsidize" part of the bill for people making up to some multiple of the poverty level. This turns it into "welfare" instead of government-for-all, especially when the word "poverty" is applied. Why do people who make less than a certain amount have some right to health care that the rest of us do not? This is a sure-fire formula for resentment.

Also the proposed welfare subsidies are way too low. Even with the subsidies you will still have to pay huge amounts, and if your income is $1 more than that you have to pay a huge, huge amount.

This is a disaster in the making.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 11, 2009

Trip To A Canadian Emergency Room

Sara Robinson ended up in the emergency room Wednesday evening!

Postcard from Canada: Why I Missed Obama's Speech,


I had my first gallbladder attack. Not life-threatening, just the worst pain I can remember being in since the last time I was in labor. It started up just before dinner Tuesday night. At 2 am Wednesday, still awake and in worsening pain, I found my keys and shoes, stumbled down to the car (leaving the rest of the family sleeping), and drove the 25 blocks down to the hospital.

... First, the waiting time between walking in the door and being admitted was literally about 45 seconds. American conservatives have filled people's heads with images of Canadians packed into old, worn-out, badly-lit, overcrowded emergency rooms bustling and echoing with writhing, moaning souls enduring waits that can stretch to days. Sorry to blow the fantasy, but last night, I walked into a newly-remodeled, gently-lit, serenely quiet lobby that I had completely to myself.

Sure, you SAY that, but what did it COST you?

No bills. No worrying about how to pay for the surgery, either -- that will be covered, too.

Go read the rest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:32 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

September 9, 2009

Republicans Disrupt Obama Speech Just Like They Disrupted Town Halls

The Republicans tried to bring their summer town hall disruption strategy into the President's speech.

During President Obama's speech the Republicans were rude, heckled him, and at one point, when the President talked about the lie that undocumented immigrants one even disrupted the speech, shouting "Liar!"

The Republicans have become the party of Crazy.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Obama Plan Is On Web Now

It's up on the we now, not very long. Go read: The Obama Plan: Stability & Security for all Americans | The White House

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Health Care Speech

I'm going on the Mike Malloy radio show shortly to talk about health care, the meaning of government and progressive values generally.

I think Obama hit it out of the park, and we will get a health care bill with a solid public option.

"We did not come to fear the future we came here to shape it (republicans all sit on hands and frown)

THAT is our character"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:24 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

September 8, 2009

Health Care Question - Why Can't I Just Buy Into Medicare?

Why am I prevented by law from just being allowed to buy into Medicare for some formula of cost plus?

Think about it. This would not cost the government anything. In fact, by adding maybe 10% they would come out ahead. In fact, it would help the system a great deal because anyone who buys in is younger than the people in the system now, so generally would be less costly.

It would add no bureaucracy. The system is already set up to handle millions of people. All of the intake procedures are there.

Why am I prevented by law from just buying into Medicare? What is the logic of that? Except to keep a "market" alive -- people for insurance companies to feed off of.

OPEN UP MEDICARE!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:44 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

September 5, 2009

Is Obama Weak?

Watch this video: "We need a fighter."

I strongly suspect that last week's news on Obama backing off the public option led to a perception that Obama is weak, and backs down when intimidated, and was part of the calculation that led to this: West Bank settlement growth looks likely and this: North Korea: Uranium Program Near Completion

If you back off from bullies they don't just go away. Apparently Obama needs to learn this, and fast.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:02 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos

We're fighting for *this*?

Six of [California's] largest insurers rejected 45.7 million claims for medical care, or 22% of all claims, from 2002 to June 30, 2009, according to the California Nurses Assn.'s analysis of data submitted to regulators by the companies.

The rejection rates ranged from a high of 39.6% for PacifiCare to 6.5% for Aetna for the first half of 2009. Cigna denied 33%, and Health Net 30%. Anthem Blue Cross, the state's largest for-profit health plan, and Kaiser, the state's largest nonprofit plan, each rejected 28% of claims."

Source: HMO claims-rejection rates trigger state investigation, LA Times, September 4th, 2009.

The saying, "if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention", has never been truer. This is the system that the Democrats in Congress, and Obama, want to force us to participate in. One in which we'll be forced to pay $13,500 a year to private sector health insurance companies, plus deductibles, co-pays, and uninsured ancillaries, for the right to be randomly screwed over and financially devastated (if we live through the process) when we place a claim for coverage.

We're being played, folks - the debate over inclusion of a "public option" is a classic diversionary maneuver by the powers that be: get all of us radicals and progressives and liberals worked into a lather over defending and demanding that they follow through on some bullshit half-assed compromise which they've arbitrarily defined as being within the realm of political feasibility, and keep us off the street and from demanding what we really want, and NEED - Canadian style SINGLE PAYER healthcare.

Instead, we're sitting here desperately hoping the god damn yellow bellied Congressional Democrats will squeak some kind of lame ass, watered-down "public option" into what my local Congresscritter Sam Farr is now deliberately calling "health insurance reform" (because it doesn't touch anything else about the system other than how we pay for our health care). This despite the fact that a vast majority of physicians support universal health care[1], and at least 40% of the population at large does so as well (despite constant demonization by entities with a vested interest in the status quo).

Here's what they're talking about forcing everyone to pay for - this is the plan that Senator Roy Wyden, D-Oregon, is covered by:

Plan: Blue Cross and Blue Shield standard family plan Cost: $1,120.47 a month (or $13,445.64 a year)

Wyden's share: $356.59 a month (up $42.12 from 2008)

Annual deductible: $300 per member or $600 per family

Routine physical: $20 for doctor, screening tests fully covered*

Well-baby care for the twins: fully covered*

*with preferred providers

Source: Just how good a health plan does Congress have?, The Oregonian, August 3rd, 2009.

One way or another, the person covered pays for the insurance -- as anyone knows who has watched their local public employee unions accept a three year contract with no wage or salary increases, and increased employee contribution levels, just to keep their healthcare coverage intact. As a self-employed individual, I don't even have the fig leaf of pretending that my employer is paying a portion of this. ... and you there's no doubt that the "public option" will be priced right in the same range (otherwise it would be "anti-competitive").

Where the heck am I (or most other self-employed Americans) going to come up with over $1k a month to pay for crappy insurance?!? Plus deductibles and co-pays?!? My wife and I booked $35,000 in taxable income last year, after expenses, and we still owe roughly $5,000 in taxes. ... and that was when I was steadily employed for much of the year, billing out at least 25-30 hours a week. I'm supposed to drop almost half of my net income on health insurance?!? Pay almost as much for health insurance as I do on rent for my apartment?!? Are the folks in D.C. insane?

Seriously, this is what we're fighting for? The right to be forced to cough up $13,500 a year for health "insurance" to a private company (in most cases) whose sole goal is to turn as large a profit as it can by denying us access to healthcare (as the quote at the beginning of this posting strongly suggests is the case, and as the video except from Sicko that Dave posted earlier explictly states is the case)?!?

... and don't go ahead and think that giving everyone access to Congress' "Cadillac" health insurance plan will save the day. It's basically the same crappy insurance that everyone else has to put up with, with the proviso that they have to take all comers, and there are no lifetime limitations on coverage.

What does that actually get you? Let's take my Dad, who had essentially the same plan as Senator Wyden, via the state of California: last fall, he got sick with some mysterious illness, and wound up in the ICU - where he was taken care of beautifully... twice, as soon as he recovered enough to be let out of the ICU, he then wound up being dumped almost straight into an understaffed nursing home facility - the first time, he was left unsupervised for a long enough period to fall down on his way to the bathroom, aspirate (inhale vomit into his lungs) and have a heart attack... the second time, he was sent back to ICU less than a week after being released, and the nurse on duty immediately diagnosed the pnuemonia he had contracted (which lead to low blood oxygen and his eventual death) as being the product of inadequate "mouth care" (not being able to properly clean his palate after eating meant that unless a nurse did it for him, rotting food fell down his throat and into his lungs). Flat out, I believe that Blue Shield's cost-containment efforts killed him. A "public option" is going to function in the same marketplace, and provide care and treatment coverage that operate similarly.

For a more factual analysis, see what Physicians for a National Health Program has to say about why covering everyone the same way the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan does won't work. (PDF)

It's hard to convey the disdain and disgust I have for how the Democrats (and Obama) have let the debate on healthcare be framed. The white hot level of outrage I feel when I see headlines like the one quoted at the beginning of this article. The tears of rage and sadness I felt as I watched the woman in Sicko talk about how the hospital she worked for let her husband, her best friend, die of cancer because they wouldn't cover him.

This is a life and death issue, but it's not being framed that way. I'm actually in the process of applying for residency in Sweden (my wife is a citizen, so are my kids), for no other reason than I can't see any other way to be sure I'll have access to adequate health care... as soon as I get my national identity registration number (about six months from now), I'll have full and complete access to all healthcare services. Imagine that. Walking into a hospital and getting treated without worrying about how you're going to pay for it. Guess what? Most of the developed world doesn't have to.

I'll put it in the bluntest terms possible: the Democrats in Congress (and Obama) can take their $13,500+ a year "public option" and stick it where the sun don't shine. I want a Canadian style single-payer healthcare system. Anything short of that is unacceptable. Period.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 9:27 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos

September 4, 2009

Insurance Company Rules!!!

Deja Vu All Over Again ... Again

Now watch this, from SICKO:

Send these to family and friends and ask them to do the same.

Go read Deja Vu All Over Again ... Again

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 31, 2009

Healthcare Propaganda from Tobacco/Exxon

I received an email from the Tobacco/Exxon-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) promoting this video. The email said it is by Lee Doren (more here), not the video or the page it is on -- I had to track that down. There also isn't any info describing who made the video, or the connection with CEI. Doren heads "Bureaucrash," one more lobbyist astroturf group (a subsidiary of CEI).

"Bureaucrash is an international network of activists, called crashers, who share the goal of increasing individual freedom and decreasing the scope of government."
Actually, it is a subsidiary of a Tobacco/Exxon-funded lobbyist group that advocates replacing democracy with corporate rule. But who's counting?

The video is about how government is bad, public schools are bad, the post office is bad. "Health care is essential. Food, clothing, housing are all essential but we don't want the federal government paying for all those services for everybody." "Taxation equals force." "Advertising is a good thing." "Profits are essential. Profits prevent misallocation of resources in the economy." "CEOs make millions of people wealthy." "If insurance companies are forced to cover preexisting conditions it wouldn't be insurance." It even says Medicare is bad, and even advocates that firefighting be for=profit and at the same time run by volunteers not the government!

It actually says the only reason we need lobbyists is because of the socialists who are against corporations. The core message of the video is that corporations are better at making decisions for us than democracy.

Oh, one more thing, the video is entirely against Medicare-For-All single-payer health care, which isn't even on the table. Its very premise is a lie itself!

Anyway, take a look at what your corporate tobacco/Exxon dollars are paying for.

So why is Tobacco/Exxon paying for astroturf groups to fight against healthcare reform? Or is CEI getting checks from a new source lately?


Update - The following comment was trapped in the spam filter. It is posted now, but I am also highlighting it here:

Just for the record ExxonMobil does not fund the CEI. ExxonMobil has not provided any financial support to this organization since 2005. A simple check of our website shows the companies ExxonMobil supports. The report is published annually and can be found at http://www.exxonmobil.com/corporate/community_contributions_report.aspx
I'll look into this. CEI is still putting out climate-change denial stuff.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:42 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

August 29, 2009

One-Two Punch On Healthcare

Who could have known?

First we learn that there is a big effort by insurance-company lobbyists to use August to portray the health care effort as unpopular. Several lobbyist firms were involved in organizing loud, near-violent disruptions of Congressional town hall meetings, etc.

Then at the end of August we get lots of Republicans saying that we all saw how unpopular health care reform is: GOP senator signals fading hopes on health care,

"I heard a lot of frustration and anger as I traveled across my home state this last few weeks," said Enzi, who has been targeted by critics for seeking to negotiate on legislation. "People in Wyoming and across the country are anxious about what Washington has in mind. This is big. This is personal. This is one of the most important debates of our lifetime."

Gosh, do you think we are seeing a strategy unfold?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:50 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

August 27, 2009

The Medicare-For-All Opportunity Is Here Now

The Republicans have shifted their attack on health care reform by claiming that it endangers Medicare. They have even introduced a new "Health Care Bill of Rights for Seniors" proposal to "protect Medicare." The Blue Dogs have stepped up their own attack, claiming that the costs are too high. The insurance industry flacks are claiming that at over 1000 pages the bill is too complex. Etc.

The Republicans and Blue Dogs have given us an opportunity here. This is the opening to introduce to the bill the idea of adding people to Medicare by phasing in age groups starting with the youngest and oldest at the same time.

Immediately lower age eligibility to 55 and immediately cover everyone up to 21. Every year add 5 eligibility years on each end so 2011 it would be up to 26 and down to 50, etc.

Someone in the Congress can add a few paragraphs called the "Save Medicare Clause" or something to the reform bills. Just say you are addressing the concerns of the Republicans and their new "Protect Medicare" demands, and the Blue Dogs concerns about costs. The cost reduction from adding the youngest balances the added costs of adding people who are older, and this lowers all the costs in the current plan from covering these people. And the costs of doing this is so much less than the cost of covering these people under the current reform plans that this greatly lowers the costs of the overall reform schemes.

How to fight for this? Simple: Answer anyone who says it is a "government takeover" Republican-style. Just say it isn't, that we're just adding them to Medicare. Then let the Republicans then explain to everyone that Medicare is a government program! I am sure we can find ways to answer every objection to this proposal using this kind of Republican-blunting argument. In fact it would be fun. The Blue Dogs say it is costly, just point out that it is much less costly than their own plan. And much less complicated. Medicare already exists, is already set up to cover millions and add millions every year, etc...

We can point out how this simplifies everything people are worried about in the reform fight. Everyone loves Medicare -- so much so that the Republicans are using Medicare as a club to kill this complicated and expensive health care reform scheme. So what the hell, give them what they want, while giving the people what they want at the same time.

This is an opportunity to achieve Ted Kennedy's and our own health care goals that we did not have at the start of this reform effort. The opponents have stirred people up so much and raised so many objections that everyone is looking for something simpole to get us out of this. "Medicare-For-All" answers every objection that the opponents of health care reform have raised.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 26, 2009

Don't Be A Chump

Go read Jane Hamsher: Campaign Silo » Malcolm X: "Don't Be A Chump"€

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Move Medicare To 55 Then Drop It Every Year

I have an idea for a bipartisan solution to the health care reform effort that everyone can agree on.

Lower the age for Medicare to 55 right now, and then drop the minimum age by five years every year as the system adjusts to the influx of new people.

This is a bipartisan solution because it expands on the Republican Party's main concern that Medicare be protected, as stated in their "Health Care Bill of Rights for Seniors" proposal to "protect Medicare." It also protects the "Blue Dog" Democrats' main concern that a complicated "public option" would harm large insurance companies by offering the public superior services at a lower cost.

How hard would it be to add this idea to the health care legislation? It would be a simple addition to the current legislation, requiring only a few paragraphs in the 1000-page bill. There would be very little additional administrative cost because Medicare already exists and serves millions of people, and all the procedures for adding and serving lots of people are already in place.

People between 55 and 65 years of age would see an immediate benefit because they would be immediately covered. And each year more people would benefit. By 2013 when the current legislation is supposed to start phasing in, everyone over the age of 40 would already be covered, greatly lowering the costs of covering the remaining younger, healthier people who remain uncovered. And costs would be reduced further every year as the age of eligibility drops by another five years.

This would be a winner with voters because everyone understands and loves the Medicare program.

This idea addresses the complaints about the reform legislation before Congress:
* It is too complicated ("over 1000 pages") - this requires only a few paragraphs of legislation
* It amounts to a "government takeover" - this only expands on an existing, popular program
* It is too expensive - several centuries of all costs of this program can easily be covered for by rescinding the bailouts received by the Wall Street millionaires and billionaires and asking for the money back - requiring only another few paragraphs of legislation.

So how hard would it be to introduce this solution to the contentious health care reform debate?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 25, 2009

Who's Paying to Kill Health Reform?

Everyone should go see Who's Paying to Kill Health Reform? over at the Campaign for America's Future blog.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 18, 2009

2012 Primary Challenge To Obama Over Public Option?

Jill Cozzi: Did we see the birth of a 2012 primary challenge to Barack Obama tonight?

Barack Obama is throwing his entire base under the bus in a vain attempt to try to get Republicans to like him, to work with him, to help him succeed. He does not understand that it is the role of today's Republican Party to pummel Democrats into submission. In throwing the public option overboard, Obama has shown himself to the Republicans as a wuss -- and they are going to treat him like one.

[. . .] And the one thing I will tell the Obama Administration is that there are a lot of us out here who worked hard to put them in office. And if they fuck with us we will not hesitate to work to get them out of there and put in someone who understands that when the American people hand you a vote of confidence like the one Barack Obama and the Democrats were given, you do not respond by asking Republicans to please kick you again.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:42 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

August 17, 2009

Health Care Decision: Who Does Government Help?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

The health care debate is bringing America's division out into the open: Is America going to work for the benefit of its people or for the few who benefit from concentrated ownership of large corporations? Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

The argument over health care comes down to a clear choice: will the government provide a public choice that offers good health coverage to citizens for a low cost, or instead leave only a private system where the government promotes and subsidizes insurance companies (and their CEOs)?

The "public option" is an attempt to offer a choice between private insurance that is about maximizing profit for a few and a system designed to maximize benefits for the many. That is the difference between private companies and government. Government is We, the People banding together to empower and protect each other. Private companies are about systems that get money from people and try to deliver back as little as possible in return. The private system can work very well to incentivize innovation in consumer and other products. But health care delivery is not a "product" it is a human need and profit has no place in a health care delivery system.

Think about it, the perfected private company just taps into everyone's bank accounts and puts the money into the company's coffers, and that's it. Nothing has to be delivered in return. This is not unlike what AOL's business model became -- they just kept sucking out of your account long after you started trying to cancel the service!

Many health insurance companies apparently try to operate like this. You pay and pay, and then when you need the insurance to cover your medical expenses they find ways to get out of providing the service you had been paying for.

But government is We, the People taking care of each other. In a democracy everyone should have equal access to essential services. It must be delivered by the entity concerned with maximizing benefits to the people and that is government. The public option is essential.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 11, 2009

"Death Panels" - How Rovian

The old "Seeing the Forest Rule" is "When right-wingers are accusing others of something it is usually a cover for something THEY are doing." It is also very Carl Rovian, using the Sun Tzu tactic of attacking the enemy's greatest strength in ways that turn it into a weakness.

So if you look at health care reform, one of the biggest complaints people have -- and therefore one of reform's biggest strengths -- is that the insurance companies deny coverage if treatment is expensive: if the treatment might get in the way of the CEO's bonus the patient can just die.

So guess what, now they are saying that health care reform means that if treatment is expensive you can just die. This is the basis of the "Death Panel" myth.

I hope people can figure out what is happening here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:15 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

August 10, 2009

Fox Now Pushing Euthenasia Story

Here is a clip from Fox, promoting the story that kids in wheelchairs will be put to death by Obama's health care plan, with an additional incitement that Pelosi is sending thugs to visit people at night to threaten them. "The elderly will be discarded" etc...

Go watch: 'Concerned father' on Fox: Obama's health-care reforms 'sentencing our families to death' | Crooks and Liars.

Watch all the way to the end. There is no question they are trying to rile people up to an extreme degree and incite violence now.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:30 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Why Health Care Reform Is Losing

I haven't heard very many voices, prominently featured, explaining to the general public what the bill really does. President Obama is out there laying out general principles, and then there are a million conservative voices saying all kinds of stuff. Maybe because there isn't a bill yet.

So you can't really blame some people for coming to some of these conclusions. You and I say it sounds ridiculous to say these things but to a lot of people who don't really understand a lot about how things really work, when all they hear is one side of the story they're going to go with the only thing they hear.

The only thing that really matters - gets through to millions and millions - is what is on TV and radio. Sure, in a democracy it is the job if the news media to inform the voters. But in the 1980s our broadcast news media was released from the obligation to serve the public interest and they immediately stopped serving the public interest. Pro-government legislators seem to have just given up on fixing that. Go figure.

When the opposition is able to define you before you do, then you have lost the battle. The pubic is going to figure that the truth lies somewhere between the extremes they hear. And those are that on the one side the government is going to set up death panels to decide who gets to live, and on the other side the government is going to take over the entire system and ration care. So it must be somewhere between those.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:52 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

August 3, 2009

Lobbyist Town Hall Disruptions Begin

The Drudge Report is hiliting (promoting) astroturf disruptions of townhall meetings with members of Congress, without letting readers know this is organized by insurance company lobbyists.

Saturday I wrote about the corporate lobbyist astroturf groups that are organizing "Tea Party" groups to disrupt town hall meetings between members of Congress and constituents. Their goal is to make it appear that there is widespread disapproval of the health care reform efforts.

It is called "astroturf" because it is not really grassroots, which is regular people organizing to get something done. It is corporate lobbyists manufacturing the appearance that the public wants something.

The instructions that the lobbyists are giving the astroturf are clearly to violently disrupt the meetings. They include:

"Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

These are quoted from the instructions given to the astroturf groups.

Rep Doggett in Austin:

Sen. Spector, Pennsylvania:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 1, 2009

How Much They Are Spending

Pay to Play Is Washington's Sport of Kings,

"This week, the Center for Responsive Politics reported that in the second quarter of this year alone, the pharmaceuticals and health product industries spent $67,959,095 on lobbying, and the insurance industry $39,760,477. Another $25,552,088 was spent by lobbyists for hospitals and nursing homes. That's a total of $133,271,660 in just three months, and that's not even counting the lobbying money spent to fight health care reform by professional associations like the US Chamber of Commerce."

I would just love to have the Swiss bank account numbers of those Dems voting against health care reform. (Not to imply there is any bribery going on, of course. I asked that completely unrelated to the above discussion of how much money the big corporations are spending to blog health care reform.)

By the way, did you see the big jump in the stock prices of the related companies last week after it was announced that the "Blue Dog" Democrats had managed to delay (which means possibly kill) health care reform?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 28, 2009

No Reform Without Public Option!

One part of the health care reform plan is a requirement that everyone buy health insurance.

Without a "public option" -- allowing people to buy into a Medicare-like government health plan -- this will be one more corporate lobbyist scheme, getting the government to require us to give money to big insurance companies.

This is why the public plan is essential. it gives us an option to NOT pay the big corporations. Without this we must not let the health reform plan become law.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 25, 2009

Democrats Had Better Find Hiding Places

This post originally appeared at Open Left.
I said it the other day, and I feel the need to repeat it: the public does not yet understand that the government is about to order people to buy health insurance, with their own money. Yes, the government is about to order people to cough up hundreds of dollars a month each.

When the Republicans start using their toxic message-machine magic on this, and the public starts to understand that they are being ordered by the government to cough up a huge amount of money every month, Democrats had better have good hiding places, because things are going to get really bad out there.

This is the kind of policy that results when "centrist" Democrats give in to to the demands of Republicans and big corporations and the top 1% of the wealthy. Instead of just taxing the wealthy and corporations at reasonable rates and using the money to provide We, the People with health care -- thereby vastly improving the economy for ... the wealthy and big corporations -- they instead come up with a scheme to order regular people to pay for health insurance because they don't already have it because they can't afford it.

This is how things work in the Post-Reagan era: The corporations and vastly wealthy get tax cuts. We, the People get service cutbacks, increases in the retirement age, jobs outsourced, the infrastructure deteriorates... When huge financial corporations get in trouble because they got too greedy the government salutes and says, "Yes, Sir!" and coughs up trillions in bailouts. But when regular people can't afford insurance, the government as presently constituted comes up with a plan ordering them to buy it.

This fight over health care seems to be exposing the contradictions much more visibly than other policy battles we have had. Against the background of the vast sums spent on the bailouts we have people in power telling us that it wouldn't be fair to insurance company profits to come up with a health care plan that provides great care to the public for a low price.

Who is our economy FOR, anyway? That is the question that my own blog asks. Just asking the question takes your thinking in new directions.

What can we do about this? We need to fight for meaningful health care subsidies so regular people who do not now have health insurance will not have to pay for health insurance. It is a simple tradeoff, really: every dollar in new taxes on corporations and the top 1% can be applied to a dollar of subsidies covering health care. This will result in a more equitable, prosperous and healthier society -- and happier voters.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 24, 2009

Is Bipartisan Stance Destroying Obama's Presidency?

This post originally appeared at Open Left.

Is Obama's insistence on bipartisanship killing his presidency?

I submit that health care reform could fail and take the Obama Presidency with it, and that this may well be the result of attempting to appease Republicans who want only to destroy him.

Let's look at the record. When Obama took office the country urgently needed sufficient stimulus to make up for the slack in demand from consumers and businesses. But before even offering his plan Obama weakened it because he believed this would bring in Republican votes. And then while the plan was going through Congress more and more actual stimulus was removed. Then the stimulus didn't get a single Republican vote in the House, and only a couple in the Senate. In the name of bipartisanship Obama gave up a good plan in exchange for nothing. Now the economy is beginning to suffer the consequences.

Meanwhile the Republicans who Obama gave up so much to bring on board are working to destroy his administration with propaganda and lies about how the plan is failing, how the plan is part of a socialist conspiracy to ruin the country, etc.

With health care Obama is again repeatedly offering up compromise in the name of bipartisanship while the Republicans are again working to destroy him and health care reform. If he was giving things up in exchange for the promise of votes that is one thing, but there will be no Republican votes. This is the big game now, and the Republicans have correctly stated that a failure of health care means the failure of this presidency. So they are doing everything they can to kill health care reform. They are telling every lie they can find, using every scare tactic in the book, calling him every name, and encouraging the worst in every nutcase out there.

Bipartisan must be a two-way street. The assumption of bipartisanship on the part of the other side is a mistake when the other side has no intention of reciprocating. It misjudges the changes that have occurred in the Republican party.

This political call for bipartisanship in understandable and politically astute. The country longs for a return to the days when the parties could argue their positions with Senatorial camaraderie and reach compromises that incorporated the best ideas from both sides. Politicians are smart to recognize this longing and appeal to it. But they are not smart to extend that wish into a belief that today's Republicans are willing to play along.

We have seen this before. At the 2006 YearlyKos convention in Las Vegas a few bloggers were invited to a roundtable with Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who was contemplating a run for President. With the "mainstream" press watching from the sidelines as if this was a football game, Marcy Wheeler and Natasha Chart tried to pin down Warner on his insistence that Iran was a problem while Pakistan was not. (It turned out that Warner hadn't thought that much about Pakistan.)

Then we asked about his instinct for bipartisanship. "Hunter" from DailyKos asked Warner, "You said that in Virginia you got a lot done working across the aisle. Do you think that is possible on a national level now?" Warner answered that you can't "ram through transformational change in a 51-49 way, I don't think it 's going to get done. I may be naive on this, but I think there are still enough people of goodwill in the country and even in Congress. You have to reach out and grab them."

I then pointed out that in 1993 as a party strategy the Republicans had decided to block Clinton's health care plan, even before any plan was decided on. Then I asked, "I think part of what Hunter's asking is, what if they don't? What if, just like with Clinton's plan they decide they're just going to block whatever you do?"

Warner answered, "If you don't think there are enough people of goodwill willing to step up and do the right thing regardless of party, then I'm truly worried for the country."

I replied, "So are we. That's why we're here. The question is, what if they don't? What's plan B?"

Warner didn't have a plan B. He was going to just get bipartisanship because he was a nice guy who was willing to work with the other side. This appears to be Obama's position as well.

This is recorded in Matt Bai's book, The Argument, pages 248-249. In the book, Bai faults the bloggers for their attitude against working with Republicans, saying that we are uncompromising. I love Matt, but he gets it fundamentally wrong here. I, and I think most bloggers, long for a Republican party that can be worked with again, because the extremists that have taken over are harming the country and the world.

But when the other side is trying to destroy you, you just have to take that into account. You don't give in, and then give in more, and then give in more, thinking they will change. Why should they when you just keep giving them what they want? We're certainly learning that in California. Obama needs to learn that as well, before there is nothing left to give them.

That's what they are waiting for, and that's when they will make their move.

Here is my suggestion. The next time a Republican circulates anything like the picture of Obama dressed with a bone in his nose, and claims that he is trying to make us all live under socialism, Obama should say, "That's enough" and "ram through" a health care plan that works for the people. It will save his presidency.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:55 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

July 21, 2009

Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Medicare As Socialized Medicine

Hear it for yourself:

Listen to this wingnut talk about how if seniors get health care soon "the government" will control everything we do.

Here is how it ends:

If you don't stop Medicare, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free.

Here is some of the nonsense:

As if we’re not already overextended enough financially, the issue of National Health Care is now on the table once more vote. Here’s some perspective you might find interesting.

Now back in 1927 an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket, said the American people would never vote for socialism. But he said under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program.

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.

Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it. We had an example of this. Under the Truman administration it was proposed that we have a compulsory health insurance program for all people in the United States, and, of course, the American people unhesitatingly rejected this.

Let’s take a look at social security itself. Again, very few of us disagree with the original premise that there should be some form of savings that would keep destitution from following unemployment by reason of death, disability or old age. And to this end, social security was adopted, but it was never intended to supplant private savings, private insurance, pension programs of unions and industries.

Now in our country under our free enterprise system we have seen medicine reach the greatest heights that it has in any country in the world. Today, the relationship between patient and doctor in this country is something to be envied any place. The privacy, the care that is given to a person, the right to chose a doctor, the right to go from one doctor to the other.

But let’s also look from the other side, at the freedom the doctor loses. A doctor would be reluctant to say this. Well, like you, I am only a patient, so I can say it in his behalf. The doctor begins to lose freedoms; it’s like telling a lie, and one leads to another. First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then the doctors aren’t equally divided geographically, so a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him you can’t live in that town, they already have enough doctors. You have to go some place else. And from here it is only a short step to dictating where he will go.

This is a freedom that I wonder whether any of us have the right to take from any human being. All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it is a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay and pretty soon your children won’t decide when they’re in school where they will go or what they will do for a living. They will wait for the government to tell them where they will go to work and what they will do.

What can we do about this? Well, you and I can do a great deal. We can write to our congressmen and our senators. We can say right now that we want no further encroachment on these individual liberties and freedoms. And at the moment, the key issue is, we do not want socialized medicine.

Former Representative Halleck of Indiana has said, “When the American people want something from Congress, regardless of its political complexion, if they make their wants known, Congress does what the people want.”

So write, and if your representative writes back to you and tells you that he or she too is for free enterprise, that we have these great services and so forth, that must be performed by government, don’t let them get away with it. Show that you have not been convinced. Write a letter right back and tell them that you believe in government economy and fiscal responsibility; that you know governments don’t tax to get the money the need; governments will always find a need for the money they get and that you demand the continuation of our free enterprise system. You and I can do this. The only way we can do it is by writing to our congressmen even we believe that he is on our side to begin with. Write to strengthen his hand. Give him the ability to stand before his colleagues in Congress and say “I have heard from my constituents and this is what they want.”

Write those letters now; call your friends and them to write them. If you don’t, this program I promise you, will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow, and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country. Until, one day, as Normal Thomas said we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don’t do this and if I don’t do it, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:04 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

July 16, 2009

The Wingnuts Apparently Will Believe ANYthing

So now the wingnuts are trying to claim that the House health care reform plan makes private insurance illegal.

It's all over the RW blogosphere. Little children chasing a soccer ball, all terrified that the boogey-man is coming.

They are pointing to a provision that outlaws the OLD kinds of private plans that trick people out of their coverage once they get sick using pre-existing conditions, etc. The NEW plans from private insurers will have NEW rules that protect the people who buy them. For example new plans must have caps on what a person has to pay out themselves so no one goes bankrupt anymore. They can't refuse to pay when someone gets sick because they didn't tell the insurance company that they had acne when they were a teenager (yes insurance companies do refuse to pay because of that now.)

No wonder no one takes them seriously anymore.

Oh, and please read some of the comments at the referenced sites.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:26 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

July 15, 2009

House Health Reform Plan

This post originally appeared at Open Left

I’m looking over the House’s "Affordable Health Choices Act." Like so many families, my wife and I need a good health insurance plan when COBRA runs out in a few months, so let’s see what this plan offers us. (Of course like most people here I would prefer just one Medicare-like plan for everyone, but this would be unfair to insurance company profits so it is off the table.)

You can read the House health care bill here. Think Progress' Wonk Room post on this is here.

The proposed legislation includes a “mandate” requiring everyone in the country to purchase health insurance or pay 2.5% of their income as a penalty. Employers are required to pay for health insurance for all full-time workers or pay an 8% payroll tax instead. (That means that they pay the government 8% on top of all the wages they pay out.) I haven’t figured out yet what happens with part-time workers.

The supporting materials say that “public plans” have to be on a “level playing field’ with private insurance, including holding rates higher to cover "startup costs and contingency funds".

People making up to 133% of poverty level will be covered by Medicaid. Then the plan has a subsidy to help people pay for the mandated insurance, but only for individuals who make $43,320 or less and a family of 4 making $88,200 or less. People just above that 133% will have their payments limited to 1.5% of income by the subsidy. That slides up to the “high” end where people will have payments capped at 11% of income, which is $4765.20 per year, $9702 for a family of four. Above that income level, people apparently just have to buy health insurance without subsidies – currently as much as $4-500 a month per person if they want just a basic plan.

MY THOUGHTS

Good: Everyone will be covered so those with insurance won’t be paying for those without. And everyone GETS covered - no pre-existings, etc. Costs will be lower because people will have access to care instead of being forced to wait until desperate then heading to an emergency room. It will reduce the future health care burden on the economy.

Best: No one will ever be forced into bankruptcy again. (What about nursing homes and home care ?) No one will be forced to stay at a job just to be covered anymore. Age discrimination based on health coverage costs will end.(Assuming older people don't have to pay higher rates.)

Bad: Mandates without meaningful subsidies. People and businesses are required to cough up huge amounts of money. The people and businesses most affected by this are those who don’t have insurance now – often because they can’t afford to.

Worst: Republicans will be able to savage Democrats for this bill because they didn’t choose to subsidize the mandated costs in a meaningful way.

Summary: This is an excellent plan within the context of preserving insurance company profits, trying to appease Republicans who won’t vote for it anyway and not spending more over ten years than we spent on big financial corporation bailouts in about ten minutes. It makes some extremely important changes that we all need. But overall I think the restrictions they are operating under might make the plan unworkable because needed public support could erode before the plan takes effect.

This plan has a mandate requiring everyone to buy insurance. A mandate is the only way that health care reform can work because of the cost savings that come from universal coverage, but a mandate without meaningful subsidies is political dynamite that Republicans will use to try to destroy the plan – and Democrats – for decades. If you don’t think they will call the mandate a “big government ordering you to pay a huge tax” and do everything they can to destroy Democrats who vote for this, then you don’t know Republicans.

My wife and I currently pay about $850 a month for the minimal plan in this area under our COBRA, and under this House bill that becomes a mandate. So the House bill will require us to cough up about $10K per year if we make a dime more than whatever the married maximum is going to be, and quite a bit even if we don’t because the subsidy is minimal. The fact is we wouldn’t have health insurance today if COBRA were not subsidized, and certainly can’t afford anything approaching $10K, public option or not.

Businesses will have to cough up 8% of payroll. Ian wrote about this earlier.

The plan doesn’t appear to take effect until 2013, giving Republicans a lot of time to campaign on “stopping this massive tax” and spread lots of lies about it after it passes. So we could lose both Democratic control of Congress AND health care reform. I wonder how much of this plan is the result of political calculations by many Democrats who worry about directly taking on the Republicans and the insurance companies -- even though I expect both will work to kill this bill no matter what is in it. On the other hand maybe this plan is just a step in a strategy involving introducing increased subsidies later.

I think the political cost of mandates, combined with keeping private insurance, demonstrates why Medicare-For-All (insiders call this “single-payer,” apparently to confuse ordinary people) really is the only workable plan. But, as I said, meaningful subsidies could make this plan politically workable. As I said above it could be that this is a strategy to introduce a plan that “pays for itself” and gets that out of the way, but increasing subsidies later as the public reacts to the amounts they will have to pay.

At least there is a “public option.” Without it this mandate would be the final straw in the complete corporatization of the government – just passing a law requiring everyone to give the rest of their money to big companies. If the public option gets removed I’m not sure how requiring everyone to buy health insurance from private insurers is supposed to be different from requiring everyone to buy a cell phone (but only from ATT with a data plan) or cable TV, except health insurance costs a lot more. If the public option is removed a mandate must not pass.

I ran a business for a number of years and provided health coverage until I couldn’t afford to. I understand the effect that a new 8% payroll tax will have. (Of course businesses that don’t provide health insurance aren’t going to do so under this plan either, and will have to pay this tax instead.) But this may be worth it to help everyone get health insurance. I might think so, but most business owners are going to howl and scream about this. Remember, health care costs are a big reason companies like GM moved plants to Canada.

Final word: Increase the subsidies so no one making less than $100K has to pay very much and this will breeze through and be loved. Republicans and insurance companies are going to try to kill this no matter what you do so get the public behind you with meaningful subsidies.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:10 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

July 6, 2009

The Awesome Heft Of Conservative Intellect

'Tea Party Patriots' take to the streets to protest health care reform,

The equation was clear: More government equals less individual choice. And to prove it, Jackman showed that all politics are ultimately personal.

"My mother had two cataracts removed, two new knees and a new hip, and she's up and running at 79," he said. "With a single-payer system, she'd still be a long waiting list. And I don't want to be on a waiting list when I get to be her age."

I know I don't need to explain the problem with this person's statements to Seeing the Forest readers, but I will explain for the occasional people dropping by from Fox News:

1) The reform plan being discussed adds an EXTRA option, where we KEEP THE CURRENT system and we add one more option in which the government provides health insurance by letting people buy into a Medicare-like plan. This is called a "public option."

2) The person's 79-year-old mother certainly had her procedures done by Medicare, which is a "single-payer" system run by the government, and not by private insurance.

3) Whether she was on Medicare or not, Medicare (single-payer) exists, and she was not on a waiting list. Maybe she used her free Medicare, maybe she paid extra. This is how the new plan would work as well.

4) Dumbass.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:53 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

June 30, 2009

Who Is Our Economy FOR, Anyway?

The Seeing the Forest question: Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

If the government provides good, low-cost health care to citizens it reduces the profits of the big insurance and drug companies. This health care battle lays down a clear choice of who benefits: citizens or a wealthy few?

Republican Senator Snowe of Maine announces her choice. See Open Left:: The Problem With The Public Option Is That It Lowers The Cost Of Health Insurance,

In an Associated Press interview in Portland, Snowe said it would be unfair to include a government-run health insurance option that would take effect immediately.

"If you establish a public option at the forefront that goes head-to-head and competes with the private health insurance market ... the public option will have significant price advantages," she said.

Well, duh. That is the whole point. You can't lower the price of health insurance unless you start offering lower-priced health insurance. It's a tautology.

So, naturally, during the fight to lower the price of health insurance, so-called moderate Senators think that the problem with the public option is that it would... lower the price of health insurance. While it may be news to so-called moderate Senators, protecting the crappy products of large corporations is not their job description.


Yes, this health care battle is stripping some of the camouflage from the real fight: do the people benefit from our government, or do a wealthy few benefit?

Who is our economy for, anyway? I first asked that question here just about seven years ago, and it became the blog's tag line. I think the financial crisis and now this health care battle allow people to clearly see and understand which choice their Washington representatives make. And I think the way these twin crises are unfolding helps people to understanding the choice their own elected representatives make. I think will make a big difference come election time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 24, 2009

George Will Gets It Right About Government

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

Sunday's San Jose Mercury News contains an anti-government op-ed by George Will, "Democrats want nation dependent on government". (The online headline is different.)

This sounds scary, sinister, even somehow slightly evil. But if you look into the meaning of the words, the effect changes.

Here is what I mean. In America government is us. Our Constitution is the defining document of our government and it couldn't be clearer, declaring that We, the People formed this country "to promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves"... In other words, watch out for and take care of each other; "We, the People" have banded together to watch out for each other, take care of each other and build institutions to protect and empower each other.

So with them real meaning of the words in mind Will's headline becomes "Democrats want nation to take care of each other." Will is exactly right, and good for them.

Will's column is about the national healthcare reform battle and proposals for a "public option," which offers a Medicare-like health insurance plan to all of our citizens. Will opposes this, because,

"Competition from the public option must be unfair because government does not need to make a profit and has enormous pricing and negotiating powers."

In other words, he is complaining that a public option health insurance plan will provide more benefits to more citizens at a lower cost. Will casts this as a bad thing, because it threatens the ability of a few wealthy business owners to profit from people's need for health care.

Profits for a few instead of benefits to the public appears to be his idea of the purpose of government. But to the rest of us the point of health care reform is to take better care of each other while lowering the costs. This is why the "public option" is necessary -- private, profit-driven companies are not designed to accomplish delivery of essential services to everyone. Profit-driven companies are designed to deliver only to those who are willing to pay the most, which when applied to essential human needs violates fundamental tenets of democracy. We are supposed to be a one-person-one-vote country, not a one-dollar-one-vote country.

Again, Will and other conservatives use lots of scary words. But if you look at the meanings of the words, their complaint is with Americans who want to enjoy the fruits of democracy and equality, and take care of each other.

And this is supposed to be a bad thing?

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:48 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

June 20, 2009

Corp Media Wont Report On Health Insurers

Do read this by dday and then watch the video below. Health insurers refuse to stop denying coverage to people after they get sick. Testifying to Congress they said, "No" they will not stop this. Watch the video.

If you know about this at all it is because you read blogs. The corporate media outlets refuse to let the public know about this. You can come up with a number of reasons, but the fact is that they are not reporting on this story.

So go read Daily Kos: Paul Begala calls out the media: expose the insurance industry!

Since the media will not report on this, you have to. Send the video to people and explain to them what it means. Health insurance companies refuse to stop "rescission" which is denying insured people the coverage they have paid for -- after they get sick. This is why we need at the very least a "public option" in health care coverage. Demand this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 19, 2009

On Passing Health Care

Robert Reich has it exactly right: Memo to the President: What You Must Do To Save Universal Health Care | Robert Reich's Blog

This is where we learn if Obama has what it takes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 18, 2009

ACTION: Put an End to Backroom Health Care Deals

If you want the health care reform to have a "public option" instead of just orgering you to hand your money over to private insurance companies, you need to go read and DO this: Open Left:: ACTION: Put an End to Backroom Health Care Deals


Today, along with Health Care for America Now, Democracy for America and numerous blogs, a campaign is being launched to put an end to the backroom deals on health care. We made and delivered on a commitment to bring about wide Democratic majorities in Congress. Now, instead of negotiating in secret, this Congress needs to make a public commitment to us on where it stands on health care.

. . . Email--don't call, but email--these four questions to your Senators now. Make it clear that you want a written response to all four questions. There needs to be as little room for interpretation as possible. The Senate is going to be the biggest hurdle on health care, as it has proven to the biggest hurdle on all legislation in 2009. That is where we must focus our pressure.

OK, so the big corporations have the power to keep us from getting a national health care plan, but we can at least fight for an option to buy into a Medicare-like plan.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 17, 2009

Without A Public Option

Congress is getting ready to pass a law requiring all of us to cough up big money to buy health insurance from the big insurance companies.

Never mind that most people want a real national health care system, instead we get a requirement that we give even more money to big corporations who give little back. The idea of a "public option" that lets us at least buy into Medicare was proposed to help offset this. But that wouldn't have us all ordered by law to cough up big money to the insurance companies, so it looks like that option is going away.

This reminds me of a few years ago when Congress made it illegal to sue fast food companies that harm their customers.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:46 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Why A Public Option In Health Care Plan Is Necessary

In the discussion over health care reform the big debate is over whether to have a "public option" that lets people buy health care from the government instead of private companies.

Read about one reason this is necessary: Healthcare CEOs Shoot Themselves in the Foot | Mother Jones,

A Texas nurse said she lost her coverage, after she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, for failing to disclose a visit to a dermatologist for acne.

Of course a Medicare-For-All national health care plan is the best approach, and the only one that will work. But due to the power of large corporations over our democracy that is "off the table" and not even allowed to be discussed. So we are instead debating whether to let people buy a reasonable policy or just force them to give money to big companies.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 16, 2009

Donate For The Health Care Fight

"Hi,

I just made a donation to help ensure that real health care reform becomes a reality this year.

Today, spiraling health care costs are pushing our families and businesses to the brink of ruin, while millions of Americans go without the care they desperately need. Fixing this broken system will be enormously difficult.

To prevail, we must once more build a coast-to-coast operation ready to knock on doors, deploy volunteers, get out the facts and defy expectations with what ordinary people can do.

Will you make a donation to keep this grassroots movement going strong?

https://donate.barackobama.com/ObamaHealthCare

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:05 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

June 10, 2009

Health Care Reform Mistake

Don't the Democrats see what is going to happen?

An outline of health-care legislation drafted by House Democrats would require employers to provide insurance to workers and would require individuals to carry insurance.

Requiring people and businesses to pay out of pocket to big corporations (or even for a public option) is the exact opposite of the health care solutions that have worked in other countries. It is government abandoning people instead of protecting and empowering. This IS the worst of "big government" and will discredit the Democratic brand, as well as discredit government itself in people's minds.

Please read about what happened after the Congress passed the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988, requiring elderly people to pay for their coverage: House Panel Leader Jeered by Elderly in Chicago,

"Representative Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, one of the most powerful members of Congress, was booed and followed down the street by a group of screaming elderly people Thursday as he left a meeting with community leaders opposed to his stance on a program intended to protect the elderly from the high costs of extended illnesses.

. . . The group briefly blocked his car, hitting it with picket signs and pounding on the windows. Mr. Rostenkowski got out of the car and walked briskly down the street for about a block, with the protesters in pursuit. The driver then drove the car to a gasoline station, the Congressman got back in and the car sped away.

. . . The law expanded Medicare, the Federal health insurance program for the elderly, by providing coverage for the high costs of extended illness. But the law has come under attack from many elderly people because the expanded coverage is financed in part through a surtax, paid by about 40 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, of $22.50 for every $150 of income tax liability up to a maximum of $800 this year. Opponents say many middle-income retired people will pay some of the highest tax rates in the nation."

That was then. This requires MORE people and businesses to pay out MUCH MORE. If they require uninsured people and the businesses that currently do not provide health insurance to pay for health insurance there will be a rebellion like none we have ever witnessed. It really IS the worst of "big government" and Republicans are just itching to unleash their attacks.

1) The reason people don't have health insurance is they can't or don't want to pay for it.
2) The reason GM moved plants to Canada is so they don't have to pay health insurance.
3) The reason businesses don't provide health insurance is it costs money.
4) Businesses will be forced to outsource even more if they are mandated to pay for health insurance.

I know it is too late to say this but please, please don't do this. If you can't fight the insurance companies and provide "Medicare for all" then say so, but don't get so caught up in the "need a health care bill, any health care bill" approach that you kill off the party and respect for government.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:44 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

June 9, 2009

Health Care "Reform" -- Wait A Minute!

Democrats Nearing Consensus on Health Plan,

... Democratic leaders in both houses said they would require individuals to carry insurance and employers to help pay for it.

. . . The House bill, as outlined on Tuesday, would allow people to enroll in a government-run health insurance plan similar to Medicare.

By contrast, some Senate Democrats are trying to limit the scope of any new government plan, in the hope they can persuade some Republicans to vote for their legislation.

They are planning to REQUIRE BY LAW that everyone who is currently uninsured and every business that currently doesn't provide insurance pay huge sums of money to big insurance corporations? For me and my wife health insurance costs somewhere around $1400 a month! With or without a public option people will riot in the streets. This will bankrupt every person and business in the country that doesn't already have insurance.

THIS is what they come up with, while refusing to even discuss Medicare-for-all? Do they somehow imagine that anyone in the country would ever, ever vote for a Democrat again, ever, whether this passes or not? This isn't "fixing" health care, this is "fixing it" for insurance companies!

I knew they were out of touch, but I never imagined that they could be THIS out of touch!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 8, 2009

The Health Care Reform Question

I think the health care "reform" debate boils down to a simple question: Is this about delivering for the people, or about delivering for the big corporations? Or really I should say for the few wealthy people who benefit when big corporations get their way.

Really, as always it just boils down to a raw, naked fight between these competing interests. We, the People, or the wealthy few.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Health Care Reform Lost At Start

The current health care "reform" plan is that we will all be required by law to give our money to big insurance corporations who might or might not provide or deny some amount of good or not-so-good health care.

The only debate is whether to include a "public option" to let us pay to buy into a Medicare-type plan. But this isn't about taxing g corporations and the rich so we can have the health care that every other country provides. No, this is about making us pay instead of our receiving the fruits of our economy.

The original hopes for a system like what every other country in the world has, where our government - We, the People - provides some form of health care for us disappeared even before any debate began. Government-paid health care for all, the same as Medicare for those over 65 (sometimes confusingly called "single-payer"), is not even allowed to be discussed in the Congress. From this we can clearly see that the power of a few wealthy people who have access to corporate resources currently is greater than the power of all of the rest of the people of the country.

What we should learn from this is that we have reached a point where the only players in the national legislative process are big corporations and the wealthy. The interests of the public are no longer even a consideration. Right now it has reached the point where we have no voice at all.

The answer is to organize. If we organize we can fight this. Get connected, respond to calls to action, give money, and learn that you have to get off your butt and make noise or nothing will happen.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 6, 2009

Health Care: Public Option Is A Must

I just want to go on the record here that any health care reform must include a "public option." This is an option for insurance that comes from the government, not from for-profit companies. Without it there really is no "reform."

This is a deal-breaker: no public option, then no anything, and we keep trying to get health care that works for the public instead of just taking our money to benefit a few.

Conservatives like to say that government is inefficient, incompetent, cumbersome, wasteful and can't compete with "the private sector." But NOW they're suddenly all worried that private businesses can't compete with government. The ONLY reason there is consideration of continuing the failed, greedy, destructive corporate insurance system is because the few who get rich off of it are paying off politicians to keep things they way they are.

This is about providing what is best for the people, not about watching out for corporate interests and the profits that get funneled up to a few people at the top. If business can serve the people better than the people (government) can, let them prove it by including a public insurance option in the health care reform.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:30 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

June 1, 2009

DC Vigil For Dr. Tiller

am in DC for the America's Future Now! conference. Last night there was a spontaneous vigil in Dupont Circle for Dr. Tiller, killed by a right-wing terrorist. About 100 people showed up on very short notice from a Facebook, Twitter and emailed announcement a few hours earlier. Here is a picture, (taken in the dark with a cell phone):

DCvigil.jpg

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 29, 2009

A Call To Action For Health Care

Go read Daily Kos: A Call To Arms: Howard Dean NEEDS Your Help Today! and please help by doing some or all of what is asked.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 8, 2009

Medicare-For-All Not Allowed In Senate Hearing On Health Care

The senate is discussing options on health care - but Medicare-For-All ("single-payer"), the choice of 60% of Americans was not allowed to participate. It was shut out of the hearing. It is off the table, not allowed in the discussion.

This is flat-out and obviously the result of bribery from the big insurance companies. These companies are paying to keep public options out of the discussion, because they are made wealthy by harvesting the public. We, the People need to step in and do something about this.

Make your voice heard. Call your own House members and Senators and DEMAND that Medicare-For-All be "on the table" in the discussions leading up to the health care legislation! Call them, and call them, and call them. DEMAND that Medicare-For-All be part of the discussion!

Watch the Ed Schultz Show segment on this:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy


I grabbed this video from Insurance Companies at the Table, Single Payer Not

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 2, 2009

Actually Not Good News

Talking Points memo, Numbers Coming Into Focus

We have some more tentatively encouraging news emerging about the Swine Flu virus.

Yesterday, we noted that the Mexican government had substantially revised downward the number of deaths attributed to the Swine Flu, from 159 to 84, after tests had ruled out many of the suspected cases.

Now comes word from the Times that Mexican officials have now reported that of the 908 suspected cases that have now been tested, only 397 turned out to have suffered from the Swine Flu.

Actually that is not encouraging, unless your biggest concern is overpopulation. 84 deaths from 397 cases is a 21% mortality rate. Since few people have antibodies many, many more could become infected than during the usual flu season -- if it is highly contagious. That is the encouraging part of this story -- it might not be as contagious as it appeared earlier. We had better hope this mortality rate is exaggerated.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 27, 2009

On The Swine Flu

The "swine flu" H1N1 virus is a potential pandemic flu that started in Mexico and is spreading. Pandemics, meaning influenza epidemics in multiple countries, happen every 20 years or so, and we are overdue. Flu pandemics are very serious. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 had an estimated mortality rate of 2.5% and killed between 20 and 40 million people. The Hong Kong flu of 1968 had a lower death rate, killing 33,800 in the United States and 1 million worldwide.

The reason flu pandemics happen is that the influenza virus constantly mutates. Every year the new flu viruses are usually only a little bit different from the prior year, so even though we may get sick, some of us have some immunity and the existing antibodies (from earlier times we had flu or a flu vaccine) provide some protection. Public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) track the emergence of new viruses and usually have time to prepare the yearly vaccines. So usually the new flu strains don't hit as many people, and therefore fewer sick people are spreading it, and most people aren't getting sick to the point where death is a possibility.

But sometimes there is a major genetic shift, in which a flu virus appears that contains pieces from bird and/or swine influenza viruses as well a human virus. Humans have no immunity to this new virus. So the flu sweeps through the population, and those who get it get much sicker. The new Mexican swine flu virus contains a mixture of genetic material from swine, bird, and human influenza viruses.

These influenza epidemics can sometimes be very, very serious, like that 1918 Spanish flu. The recent "Bird Flu" human fatalities appeared to be over 60% , but it appears that the "bird flu" (avian influenza) was not easily transmitted from one human to another. However, if there is another small modification in the bird flu virus such that it acquired the ability to be easily spread between people, the result could be beyond catostrophic -- like the plague years. That is why bird flu was so much in the news. SARS (the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which was caused by a non-influenza type virus, killed 17% of humans it infected, but the epidemic was stopped before it spread widely. This new Mexican swine flu seems to be killing about 10% of the people it has sickened in Mexico, if the numbers are correct, but there is no way to know accurately yet.

Usually, influenza is more serious in the elderly and the very young, whose immune systems are weakers. However, pandemic flus, which are caused by novel new flu virus strains, are more deadly in stronger people (like young adults) than in the very old or very young, because it causes their stronger immune systems to overreact, called a "cytokine storm" -- a major release of infection-fighting substances in the body that can, in large quantities, cause serious damage. This extreme immune reaction is what makes pandemic flu so serious, and is the reason it strikes so much harder in healthy young people. It appears that this new Mexican flu is killing young adults--people of the right age--which is another sign it could be dangerous. On the other hand, there have been no fatalities yet in the United States, which is a promising sign. It may mean there is some factor involved in the cases in Mexico that aggravated the disease, that wasn't present in the US cases. Or it may mean that the flu spreading in the US is somehow different.

Note, when I search for "swine flu" on Google News I get lots of stories about how "the scare" is "affecting the markets." It's like how they cover movies, not according to whether they are any good, but how much money they make each weekend. So the major media mindset is still more concerned with money than people.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Interactive Swine Flu Map


View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map


H1N1 Swine flu in 2009
Pink markers are suspect
Purple markers are confirmed
Deaths lack a dot in marker
Yellow markers are negative

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

A Market For Selling Organs

I've been noticing that the usual suspects on the right have been pushing to remove regulations on organ donations, and allow "the market" to rule. So we can be more like the slums of India, I guess.

Here is an example of this,

The establishment of a transparent, public market to permit the sale of organs from live donors will transform organ procurement from a lengthy, stressful, medically damaging waiting game into a safer, more efficient, routine, life-saving process. Such a market would have both economic and moral merit; it would deliver more and better organs at less cost than alternative options, and will result in more lives saved.
The right has largely become a pay-to-play operation, so this might mean that some really, really rich person somewhere is on a waiting list for a kidney...

Expect to see more of this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 26, 2009

Swine Flu - Republicans STILL Creating Catastrophe

We face a potential swine flu pandemic, and we do not have the people in place in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that we need. Why not? The Republicans are blocking confirmation of Obama's nominee, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Why are they blocking this nomination? Because Gov. Sebelius won't approve Kansas Republican bills to block abortion even if the abortion will save the mother's life. They say she is "an enemy of the unborn," because she thinks doctors should be able to save the mother's life.

So as you worry about this possible flu pandemic, think about why your governement is not yet fully up and running to do its part and protect us. As we saw when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, government-hating Republicans destroyed our ability to respond to emergencies, and instead set up a system where contracts were awarded to cronies who collected the cash but never delivered the services. And now they continue to block our government's ability to protect us, because they think that a mother's life is not as important as a fetus.

The Senate should vote to confirm Sebelius tomorrow, no excuses.

Update - The Republicans fought hard and got all of the money for pandemic flu preparedness taken out of the stimulus package. Quick, before it is taken down, here is Republican Senator Collins' website bragging that she led the fight to remove "$780 million for pandemic-flu preparedness" from the stimulus package! And here is Karl Rove, with talking points attacking the stimulus package spending on "$462 million for the Centers for Disease Control, and $900 million for pandemic flu preparations."

More here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:10 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

April 3, 2009

Wonder Who Paid For This?

The far-right Heritage Foundation has an ussie piece out, Single Payer: Why Government-Run Health Care Will Harm Both Patients and Doctors.

I haven't read it yet, but I can already tell you who probably PAID for it!

--

OK I read it. The argument is like the Republican Katrina argument - "Look how poorly the government handled Katrina, therefore you should hate government and elect Republicans." This time the argument is that because Republicans have done everything they can to destroy Medicare, therefore extending Medicare to everyone will put people into into a partially-destroyed system.

And it pretends that patients and doctors are happy with the current system in which insurance companies do what they can to stiff patients and doctors from promised payments, instead handing the money out as bonuses for their CEOs and executives.

* but it's academic and scholarly because it has footnotes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 25, 2009

What Happened To Medicare-For-All?

The plan for government-paid national health care for all is referred to by policy insiders as "single payer." Since no one knows what that means, and since that sounds like you're going to be on your own, by yourself expected to pay all your own medical bills, I prefer to call it "Medicare For All." Everyone knows what Medicare is, loves it, and wants it for themselves. So I figure you start out three steps ahead instead of in a deep hole by calling it something that people want instead of something that makes people run away from you.

ANYWAY, here is an interesting viewpoint on the current debate. Obama and HCAN Marginalize Single Payer Health Care | Center for Media and Democracy,

Most western democracies guarantee their citizens a right to medical services through their own version of government managed single payer health care. But such a system has been attacked in the US as "socialized medicine" since the 1950s especially by lobbyists for the insurance and drug industries who would see their profits decline. Although Barack Obama was elected on a health care reform platform, his version ignores single payer. Nor is single payer advocated by his allies in the well-funded coalition called Health Care for America Now, composed of MoveOn, USAction, ACORN, Americans United for Change, the unions SEIU and UFCW and other liberal heavy hitters.
There are lots of links in the original, so go there and read the rest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 9, 2009

Canadian Healthcare: It's All About The Patient

Apple's web site has a feature on how a Canadian health care clinic was able to benefit its patients by converting to a paperless office (running Macs, of course).

Notice what is, and is not talked about, in the article: not one word here about automating health insurance claims, reimbursement paperwork, tracking approvals from insurance companies and appeals of denied claims, optomizing the reimbursement "coding" process, or automating the bill collections process. Instead, it is all about being able to more efficiently serve the patient's medical needs, and automating the paperwork associated with keeping a patient's medical records up to date and usable.

Note the language on the sidebar about "Accounting": "To keep track of expenses, New Vision runs SimplyAccounting" (a low end accounting package, costing as little as $299/yr.). "expenses" is the key word, not "income and expenses". I bet the "revenue" side of their accounting is vastly more simple (given Canada's single-payer system) than even that of a small single person American doctor's office.

59% of American doctors support a national health care program. They want to treat patients, not argue with insurance companies and engage in mortal combat with claims adjusters. I bet 99% of American doctors read this article and think, "God, I wish I had their problems with paperwork."

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 2:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 1, 2009

Let People Buy Into Medicare Until New Plan Ready

I was part of a group who had lunch with former Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis a couple of days ago. At one point he offered what I think is a great idea. He said that the country should let people buy into Medicare at cost today, while health care reform is worked out.

I've been thinking about the benefits of this idea. Medicare doesn't have to pay any CEOs hundreds of millions a year, or give million-dollar bonuses to management. Its overhead is microscopic compared to the overhead of private insurance companies, so their costs are much lower.

So:

* Companies that provide employees with insurance could immediately lower their costs dramatically. Just transfer all the employees over the the Medicare buy-in plan instead of the expensive private insurance company plans they now buy.

* Individuals who now buy their own insurance could immediately reduce their own costs.

* Some people who cannot afford health insurance today could afford to buy into Medicare.

* Every doctor's office already handles Medicare claims, so this would greatly reduce the current overhead costs of doctor's offices.

* This would bolster the Medicare program.

* People would get better health care because Medicare doesn't deny treatments to increase their own profits.

* People would actually be insured because Medicare doesn't look for reasons to cut off coverage when people get sick, like private insurance companies do.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:37 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 11, 2009

First Details of Stimulus Deal

It looks like they gave up on helping the economy, to give tax breaks to people who don't need it.

Agreement in Congress Appears Near on Stimulus - NYTimes.com,

. . . sharply curtailed health care subsidies for the unemployed . . . But the final bill retained a $70 billion tax cut that would spare millions of middle-class Americans from paying the alternative minimum tax in 2009, which some Democrats decried as wasting a large chunk of the bill on something that would do little to lift the economy and that Congress would have approved regardless of the recession.

[. . .] “I am not happy with it,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa. “You are not looking at a happy camper. I mean, they took a lot of stuff out of education. They took it out of health, school construction and they put it more into tax issues.”

Mr. Harkin said he was particularly frustrated by the money being spent on fixing the alternative minimum tax. “It’s about 9 percent of the whole bill,” he said, “which we were going to do later this year in a tax bill. Why is it in there? It has nothing to do with stimulus. It has nothing to do with recovery. This makes no sense whatsoever.”

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:48 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 9, 2009

Stimulus Money To Also Fight Cancer

Patrick Swayze, I'm Battling Cancer. How About Some Help, Congress?,

Congress is facing two proposals: a bill approved by the House of Representatives, which includes $3.5 billion for the NIH, and a Senate bill that provides $10 billion for lifesaving scientific work. At a moment when our economy is on its back, the money will also create high-paying jobs and spark economic activity in every part of the United States: The NIH funds projects at hospitals, universities and medical research facilities in towns and cities in each of the 50 states. This money will help every region of America, as well as the individual Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer across the land. Congress should be aggressive and vote for the $10 billion.

[. . .] According to Families USA, a nonprofit group that works for better health care, every dollar in federal research spending generates about $2.20 in total economic activity in communities that host funded projects -- about $22 billion in all under the Senate measure.

Wow, stimulating the economy AND fighting cancer at the same time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:40 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

January 8, 2009

Second-Hand Smoke and Heart Attacks

Doctors did a study in Peublo, Colorado after the city banned smoking in workplaces and indoor public areas. They compared hospital admissions for heart attacks for a year before and three years after the ban, and compared the results with two nearby areas that did not have similar bans.

The study found a 41 percent drop in hospital admissions for heart attacks resulting from the public smoking ban.

It turns out that tobacco companies started studying this in 1971 and knew about these results. But instead of doing something about it "Philip Morris masterminded a massive global effort to confuse and deceive the public about the health hazards of secondhand smoke and to delay laws restricting smoking in indoor public places."

Read about the techniques they used to prevent smoking bans at: Deadly Deception: The Tobacco Industry's Secondhand Smoke Cover Up | Center for Media and Democracy

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:35 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

December 9, 2008

Auto Company Competitiveness Problem

The big cost problem with the American car companies is that Japan, Germany and other countries provide health insurance and good pensions, while the United States does not. This means that the American auto companies have to try to compete while providing these benefits to their workers against companies that do not provide those benefits.

Republicans say that the cure is for companies to stop providing these benefits. And the way to get that is to break the unions. That is their beef with the auto loan discussion. They want to break unions across the board, and stop companies from providing any benefits. (Remember that McCain's health care plan was to stop companies from providing health care benefits.)

So, who is our economy for? And are we going to continue to make things in this country?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:06 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

December 1, 2008

Democrat Says Medicare-For-All "Off The Table"

Montana Senator Max Baucus, flush with millions in corporate (including insurance company) money, is a gatekeeper for any health care bill. He recently said:

The only thing that’s not on the table is a single-payer system. That’s going nowhere in this country.
So he is target number one. Can we get him removed from those important committee assignments? Can we get him recalled? Can we get him impeached for accepting bribes with a quid quo pro of blocking health care reform? How can we get a health care system that works for us instead of harvests us past this guy?

See the comprehensive diary Daily Kos: Naughty Max Baucus: "The only thing that’s not on the table is a single-payer system."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 19, 2008

Our Health Insurance

We get health insurance through my wife's job. They pay hers, I have to pay for mine. MY share has been a little over $600 a month. It just jumped to $850, and she now has to pay $75. So we went from $600 to $925 a month. This is WITH employer participation. And drug co=pays are maybe another $100 per month.

Health insurance for the two of us would be about $1700 a month -- $20,400 a year -- if the company didn't pay anything. But if we didn't do this, we risk losing our house and everything else if one of us gets sick.

This is so CEOs and other executives of health insurance companies can have private jets and multiple houses.

What is YOUR health insurance story?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:09 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

November 13, 2008

Bird Flu - Keep An Eye On This

Keep an eye on this, it could be serious: The Jakarta Post - 17 in hospital with suspected bird flu,

A South Sulawesi hospital was overwhelmed as it admitted in two days 17 patients believed to have bird flu, an official said Thursday.

. . . Kurnia said the hospital had conducted urgent tests for the first seven patients, with the results indicating the presence of the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 16, 2008

Choice?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 15, 2008

Health of the Mother

Asshole.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 22, 2008

What You Eat If You Eat Meat

This is the Humane Society's video, that led to the huge beef recall. This is what was going on at ONE slaughterhouse, where the Humane Society managed to get video.

Do you trust the American corporate system with your health?

Does the corporate system have the capacity to be humane to animals? (Does that matter to people?)

If you eat meat in America, this is what you are eating.

Warning, graphic

Humane Society video page.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 4, 2008

Health Insurance Mandates

Here is the main reason I am not endorsing Hillary or Obama. Hillary's health care plan has "mandates." Everyone must buy insurance. Obama's does not have mandates. The government will make it easier to buy insurance. Neither has a Medicare-for-all health plan.

Paul Krugman is in an argument
with Obama, because he points out that not having mandates means that you won't get to universal health care. The young, healthy people will decide not to get insurance, others will decide not to spend the money for whatever reason, and soon only the expensive people will have insurance and we're back where we are now. Obama's plan can not work. On top of that his ads against Hillary's plan, saying it is wrong for the government to mandate that you join a program, reinforce the right's anti-government arguments, including those against Social Security.

But Hillary says her plan will have a mandate to buy health insurance. FORCING people to give money to greedy, corrupt corporations? This is political suicide. Readers know how I feel about insurance companies. I will never vote for someone with the brilliant idea of forcing me to give my money to greedy corporations so their CEOs can buy bigger jets. This shows that Hillary now (correctly) feels it is safer politically to go up against the needs of the people than the wishes of the insurance companies.

Hillary's "mandates" plan proves that the only way we can have health insurance is with a Medicare-for-all system. Period. She may be trying to tell us that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 31, 2008

Health Insurance

I learned today that our health insurance decided I can't have Lipitor anymore. I've been taking it for years. It works, and I don't have side-effects. But they know better than my doctor.

They also decided my wife can't have one of her prescriptions, either.

And they raised our prescription co-pay to $40. We also have co-pays and deductibles for office visits as well.

The two of us pay between $1200 and $1300 a MONTH for health insurance, and now we will also pay about $200 a month more for prescription co-pays - if they let us have the drugs at all.

And if we DO get sick, will they decide not to cover us?

This is what private health insurance companies are about.

The ONLY solution is setting up a Medicare-for-all system, run by the people for the people.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 26, 2007

Republicans Again Choose Corporations Over Citizens

This time it's the elderly that get screwed. You see, actually providing promised health care might mean a CEO has to get a smaller second jet.

Many Retirees May Lose Benefits From Employers - New York Times

,The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday that employers could reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

The policy, set forth in a new regulation, allows employers to establish two classes of retirees, with more comprehensive benefits for those under 65 and more limited benefits — or none at all — for those older.

More than 10 million retirees rely on employer-sponsored health plans as a primary source of coverage or as a supplement to Medicare, and Naomi C. Earp, the commission’s chairwoman, said, “This rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important health benefits.”

Don't you just LOVE that? I mean, how smooth is that? "will help employers continue to VOLUNTARILY provide" ... which of course means get rid of.
The new policy creates an explicit exemption from age-discrimination laws for employers that scale back benefits of retirees 65 and over. Mr. Mackaronis asserted that the exemption was “in direct conflict” with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 24, 2007

Health Care Mandates

Let me say this about that.

People are discussing Health Care Mandates. The idea is that you require everyone to purchase health insurance. There - problem solved, you have Universal Health Care.

Health care doesn't work unless everyone has insurance. Otherwise you are only insuring the sick, which is expensive. And the sick who aren't uninsured aren't insured so what is the point?

Hillary and Edwards are for it, Obama says he is against it. Which means, of course, his plan can't work.

The reason this is discussed as an option at all is that everyone is afraid of the big insurance companies. The feel that if they don't offer a plan that keeps the big insurance companies in the deal those companies will campaign against them,like they did against Bill Clinton after Hillary offered her plan in the early 90's. So they come up with plans that depend on pumping money to private insurance companies.

Of course, the big insurance companies are going to work to undermine a Democratic President no matter what, but the candidates have to pretend this won't happen... otherwise they would have to offer the dreaded Medicare-For-All plan that every other country in the world has, and works, and covers everyone, and costs so much less...

Mandates require us to give large amounts of our money to corporations. Cool! My wife and I currently pay about $1200 a month for health care for two people. Imagine thinking you can get elected by offering a plan that requires everyone to give $1200 a month to corporations!

This all shows that the candidates are far more afraid of offending the big corporations than of offending the People.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 22, 2007

"We're gonna take their power away and we're not gonna have this kind of problem again."

Edwards Says He'll Take On Big Insurance Companies - From The Road,

John Edwards tonight cited the case of a 17-year-old California girl who died after her insurance company refused coverage on a liver transplant to save her life as a call to action to change the current system of healthcare in America.

Nataline Sarkysian died last night at UCLA Medical Center after complications arose from a bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia. Her insurance provider, CIGNA Healthcare, first denied the potentially lifesaving transplant, but relented after a loud public protest and outrage. By that time, though, Sarkysian passed away before the procedure could be performed.

"Are you telling me that we're gonna sit at a table and negotiate with those people?" asked a visibly angered Edwards, challenging the health care companies. "We're gonna take their power away and we're not gonna have this kind of problem again."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 17, 2007

Wages Falling Further And Further Behind

Regular people's wages are stagnant and falling behind. On top of that there are debates over whether inflation is back, or maybe we're heading into a period of deflation.

Here's what I know. I work free-lance so my pay varies. But my wife works in a 9-to-five job and gets a raise every year. And every year the amount taken out of her paycheck to cover her health insurance co-pay goes up more than her raise. The result is that every year my wife's take-home is lower.

And this cut in take-home pay happens before we pay for the medicine co-pay increases, the rent increases, car insurance increases, food price increases, gas price increases, home electric and heating increases, cable TV increases, etc. Whether there is "core inflation" or not this is what is happening in OUR house. And I am sure this is what is happening in a lot of other people's family budget as well.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 21, 2007

Toys With Lead - Where Is Government?

There is lead in the toys our kids play with. What is the Republican government doing about it?

Accepting expensive trips, etc. from the toy industry, refusing to inspect toys. What else did you expect?

And who's gonna do anything about it, punk. Democrats in Congress? Not on your life. (Or your kids' lives.)

Campaign for america's Future has a petition. Go sign it, and send others to see the video.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 5, 2007

HOW Deadly is Bird Flu?

Bird flu death toll reaches 90,

The number of deaths from bird flu in Indonesia reached 90 after a woman in Tangerang, West Java, was confirmed to have died of the virus on Saturday.

"Until now a total of 112 have been infected with the virus and 90 of them have died," Tontro, a staffer at the Health Ministry`s bird flu control center, said here on Monday.

90 deaths out of 112 infected is 80%.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 17, 2007

Don't Think of a Sick Child

Rockridge Institute is launching a campaign, Don't Think of a Sick Child.

This is a prototype ad:

About the campaign:

The national debate over the future of health care security is complex and confusing to many Americans. There is little doubt that the country is in the midst of a health care crisis as more than 100 million Americans find themselves underinsured, uninsured and without adequate health care. Advocates on multiple sides of the debate inundate voters with various plans, statistics, prescriptions, and political sloganeering. Yet, the confusion remains.

In launching this campaign, the Rockridge Institute is contributing to progressives as they consider and focus their health care message. We have written a thoughtful white paper, as well as talking points, prototype television advertisements, blog posts, op-eds, and other material designed to bring some consistency and honest framing to the cause of health care security. To the many groups and individuals engaged in this cause, it is our hope we will be of some help to your heroic efforts.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 5, 2007

Bird Flu - Pay Attention

Bird flu is still out there, still mutating. It still could learn how to easily infext humans and become the feared pandemic.

This is not the worst news, but it is bad news: Bird flu virus mutating into human-unfriendly form

The H5N1 bird flu virus has mutated to infect people more easily, although it still has not transformed into a pandemic strain, researchers said on Thursday.

The changes are worrying, said Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"We have identified a specific change that could make bird flu grow in the upper respiratory tract of humans," said Kawaoka, who led the study.

How deadly is bird flu when it infects humans?
The H5N1 avian flu virus, which mostly infects birds, has since 2003 infected 329 people in 12 countries, killing 201 of them.
We urgently need to get competent people in charge of our government. The conservatives we have now, if bird flu becomes pandemic, will most likely propose tax breaks for private jet buyers hoping to fly away from the problem.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

A Bad Ad In A Teachable Moment

The AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, MoveOn.org, Americans United for Change, USAction, and True Majority are going to spend millions of dollars running an ad against targeted Republicans urging them to override President Bush's veto of SCHIP, the child health coverage bill. The ad says the candidates are targeted because they support “Billions of Dollars for Iraq War, But Veto for Children’s Health Care”

My problem with the ad is that it does not teach a larger lesson. This is "a teachable moment." People are upset that President Bush is vetoing this bill, but they do not understand the deeper ideological principals behind what is happening to them. This is an opportunity to teach people that conservatives believe in a you-are-on-your-own, dog-eat-dog philosophy and progressives believe we are all in this together for each other.

The ad says "George Bush and his backers would rather send half a trillion to Iraq than spend a fraction of that here to keep our kids healthy." Even by changing "and his backers" to "and the conservatives" they could have let people know that it isn't just Bush and it isn't about particular politicians, it's the conservative ideology that is hurting them. This issue is about differences in philosophy between conservatives and progressives.

But instead of teaching the public a lesson about what is happening to us all, this coalition will spend millions running this ad against individual politicians, and in the end the money will literally just go up in the air(waves) and nothing will remain behind.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:49 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 3, 2007

Bush Vetoes Children's Health Care -- Say Money Must Be Used For War

Bush vetoes bill on children's health care,

President George W. Bush on Wednesday vetoed a measure to expand a popular children's health care program, launching the first in a series of major battles with Democrats over domestic spending.

... Democrats have vowed to lobby Republicans who voted against the bill to try to get them to switch their votes. The party plans a series of television ads attacking Republicans over the children's health issue, including one featuring a mom with a chronically ill child.

Bush, with 16 months left in his presidency and waging an unpopular war in Iraq, has also threatened to veto a series of annual funding bills to keep domestic spending within his proposed limit of $933 billion.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 22, 2007

Republicans Deny Health Care To Children To Protect Insurance Companies

It comes down to who you think the government should protect - citizens or corporations. It's as simple as that.

Republicans voted against a health plan for kids, and Bush promises a veto, and they say this is because it doesn't protect private health insurance companies. So the kids don't get health care coverage.

Bush: Kids' health care will get vetoed,

But Bush has promised a veto, saying the measure is too costly, unacceptably raises taxes, extends government-covered insurance to children in families who can afford private coverage, and smacks of a move toward completely federalized health care....

"Our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage — not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage," Bush said.

Newt Gingrich elaborates on this philosophical divide,
Fundamental questions over which direction our country takes on health care are at the heart of the discussion over SCHIP: Will we as a nation embrace a consumer-centered, market-driven health system or a government-run, European-style approach?
It isn't about the kids, it's about protecting corporations.

Should decisions like this be public (us, you and me, the people deciding together what is best) or private (corporate and one-dollar-one-vote systems)?

Who is our economy for, anyway?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 12, 2007

Stop Saying 'Single-Payer' PLEASE

A letter-to-the-editor titled, "Single-payer plan is the way to go" in the San Jose Mercury News this morning reminded me to keep this drumbeat going. PLEASE stop saying "single-payer" and start saying "Medicare For All."

NO ONE KNOWS WHAT "SINGLE-PAYER" MEANS!!! I was talking to someone last week who thought "single-payer" means you have to pay all your medical bills by yourself with no help. That's what it sounds like it means, and no one understands what it means otherwise, so why would anyone think it is a good thing? But everyone understands what Medicare is, and loves it, so why not just say "Medicare For All?" Sheesh!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 29, 2007

Edwards On Health Care

There is more here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Single-Payer vs Medicare For All

I'm hearing proposals for "Single-payer healthcare" again.

Please, please, please don't call it "Single-payer healthcare." Please call it "Medicare for all".

Everyone knows and likes and understands Medicare. It has been around for a while. It has the word "care" in it. Everyone knows it works and helps people.

NO ONE understands what "single-payer" means. It is a complicated word-construct. It contains the word "payer" which works against acceptance. It requires you to start from scratch to sell the idea, and from a marketing background I can tell you that all the money in the world isn't going to sell "single-payer healthcare" to the public.

If you call it Medicare for all, people immediately understand, accept and like the idea.

Please, please banish "single-payer healthcare" from your vocabulary. Please.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 26, 2007

The War On Terror

The country is at war on terror. Why? Because terrorists can kill us.

Cigarettes kill about 400,000 Americans a year. Cars kill about 44,000 Americans each year. Guns kill about 30,000 Americans each year. And then there are the deaths from diseases related to obesity caused by processed and fat-laden foods, deaths from various causes stemming from lack of health insurance... Do I need to go on? These are all examples of Americans killed while big corporations keep us from bringing them under control.

I think the war on terror might just be about distracting us from the things that really CAN kill us.

Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 22, 2007

Health Care -- Public Or Private Best?

I would like to comment of this letter to the editor that appeared in the San Jose Mercury News this morning, Let market rule in health care:

...Under a single-payer system, the government has sole control over health care coverage, so it controls how and when money can be allocated to health care expenses. With this system, government bureaucrats will be charged with saving money for the government - not patients' lives. The current health care system is in need of reform, but a single-payer system is not the cure for universal access to proper coverage. We need to seek alternative solutions, such as free-market competition, and not assume government-run care is in our best interest.
This is an example of the thinking that sets in after years of anti-government propaganda.

So how does this letter read if you think of government as citizens banding together to take care of each other and get things done?

...Under a single-payer system, the people have control over their health care coverage, so they control how and when money can be allocated to health care expenses to best benefit the public. Compare this to the current system, in which corporate accountant bureaucrats are charged with saving money for the company - not patients' lives. ... We need to corporate-run health care, and should not assume publicly-run care is in the public's best interest.
Huh. Interesting.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 21, 2007

Bush Blocking Efforts To Crack Down On Lead In Paint

Another example of what Republican crony government means to your life.

Efforts to crack down on lead paint thwarted by China, Bush Administration,

The Bush administration and China have both undermined efforts to tighten rules designed to ensure that lead paint isn't used in toys, bibs, jewelry and other children’s products.

Both have fought efforts to better police imported toys from China.

... Lead paint is toxic when ingested by children and can cause brain damage or death. It’s been mostly banned in the United States since the late 1970s, but is permitted in the coating of toys, providing it amounts to less than six parts per million.

The Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts, consumer advocates say. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.

“The overall philosophy is regulations are bad and they are too large a cost for industry, and the market will take care of it,” said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMBWatch, a government watchdog group formed in 1983. “That’s been the philosophy of the Bush administration.”

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Bush Orders States To Reduce Health Care Coverage For Children

The public wants health care. Democrats are trying to bring health care coverage to more people. Republicans understand this will cause more people to appreciate the value of government, so they are trying to block efforts to bring health care coverage to more children. Also, government health care is much more efficient than corporate insurance programs. Which means cronies don't make big profits.

This is what Republicans in government means to your lives.

White House moves to limit health coverage for children,

The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children's Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for California, New York and other states to extend coverage to children in middle-income families.

... After learning of the new policy, some state officials said Monday that it could cripple their efforts to cover more children and would impose standards that could not be met.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 16, 2007

Cancer Panel Blasts Government Food Policies

About time and a big deal! The panel says we don't have the political will to protect the public health. The government lets tobacco and processed food companies off the hook for the harm they cause - because they make big profits - while persuing policies that make healthy foods more expensive.

Story one: U.S. panel calls for political will in dealing with tobacco, unhealthy foods, excerpts:

To aid the fight against cancer, the U.S. government should increase taxes on tobacco products and strictly regulate the sales and marketing of tobacco, says an advisory panel to the president.

Both recommendations, part of a report released Thursday, place the panel at odds with President George W. Bush.

... The panel said efforts to reduce cancer are often compromised by government policies that decrease the availability of healthy foods and limit physical education.

To reverse those trends, schools should reinstate physical education at meaningful levels from kindergarten through a student's last year in secondary school, the panel said, saying that schools should also replace unhealthy foods in cafeterias and vending machines.

... From January 2001 through August 2006, tobacco-affiliated political action committee contributions were accepted by 321 of the 533 politicians serving in Congress at this time last year, according to a report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington-based advocacy group. There were 93 Democrats and 228 Republicans.

Story two:Cancer panel attacks U.S. food subsidies. Excerpts from the story:

A new presidential report on cancer takes on not only tobacco companies but the food industry while calling on the federal government to "cease being a purveyor of unhealthy foods" and switch to policies that encourage Americans to eat vegetables and exercise.

... "Ineffective policies, in conjunction with limited regulation of sales and marketing in the food and beverage industry, have spawned a culture that struggles to make healthy choices -- a culture in dire need of change," said the report, available on the Internet at http://pcp.cancer.gov.

Margaret Kripke of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson cancer center, a member of the President's Cancer Panel, said in a telephone interview, "What became clear to me is that we simply don't have the political will to protect the public health."

Several reports have shown that a third of all cancers are caused by tobacco use, and another one-third by obesity and inactivity.

... The federal government also should "require the elimination of unhealthy foods from school breakfast and lunch programs" and "must cease being a purveyor of unhealthy foods that lead to disease and increased health care costs," the report said.

This includes regulation of food advertising and changing agricultural support policies, it said.

"We heavily subsidize the growth of foods (e.g., corn, soy) that in their processed forms (e.g., high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated corn and soybean oils, grain-fed cattle) are known contributors to obesity and associated chronic diseases, including cancer," the report reads.

Story three tells us where the problem really lies:Advisory Panel Calls for Tobacco Regulation, Higher Taxes, excerpt:

In addition, the House and Senate have each passed bills that would raise tobacco taxes to finance an expansion of children’s health insurance. The House bill (HR 3162) would raise the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes by 45 cents, to 84 cents, while the Senate’s version (HR 976) would raise the tax by 61 cents, to $1 per pack.

... While the Senate version of the children’s health insurance bill enjoys bipartisan support, the House version was opposed by nearly all Republicans in that chamber.

... Bush has threatened to veto both children’s health insurance bills, saying tobacco taxes are regressive and should not be raised to finance spending increases.

The government subsidizes foods that harm our health because the big corporations that profit from it run the show. The "deregulation" of industry - pushed by industry - has harmed all of us.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 12, 2007

Good Animation Explaining Single-Payer Health Care

What Is Single-Payer? | Animated | Single-Payer: Answers and Facts about Health Care for All

It's good, but I think just saying "Medicare For All" is a much better way to explain to the public what we need. Just say "Medicare For All" and there's nothing else that you need to say.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 5, 2007

Broder Weighs In Against Democracy

I have been saying here for some time that we are at a turning point for democracy. The corporatist authoritarians, disguised as an ideological movement, have been waging a propaganda war for decades. They want to convince us that "markets" and "market solutions" are superior to self-governance and a common-good, watch-out-for-each-other society. The result is that we are increasingly a one-dollar-one-vote instead of a one-person-one-vote country. Pay-or-die health care is just one example. Stopping government inspection of food-processing plants is another.

Today the "dean" of the Washington pundits weighs in - against democracy. David S. Broder - A Mob-Rule Moment

A particularly virulent strain of populism has made official Washington altogether too responsive to public opinion.
Broder complains about Congress "caving" to public insistence on adding labor and environmental minimum requirements to trade deals, writing, "But the action by the House means that any further deals are unlikely as long as Bush is president." And that's the public's fault, for wanting a living wage and a clean environment, not Bush's for being against those.

Broder ends by writing, "In today's Washington, the "wants" of people count far more heavily than the nation's needs." His prescription to remedy this?

You can win elections by promising people what they want. But you win your place in history by doing what the country needs done.
And by this he means pro-corporate and cheap-labor trade and immigration deals.

Are you for democracy or are you for corporate rule? It is time to choose.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 30, 2007

Politics of Cancer

Setting the Stage: Part One in a Series on the Politics and PR of Cervical Cancer | Center for Media and Democracy

Many women, myself included, have been affected by cervical cancer or Human Papillomavirus (HPV) at some point in their lives. In this series of four articles, I will examine HPV and Gardasil -- the facts, the hype, and what Merck stands to gain; the marketing campaigns promoting Gardasil in the U.S. and the media's lack of attention to concerns about the rush to mandate vaccination; the role of the non-profit group Women In Government in promoting mandatory vaccination against HPV; and what is going on outside of the U.S. on this issue.
Go read.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 29, 2007

Why I don't have health insurance...

PNHP's Senior Health Policy Fellow Don McCanne, M.D. writes a daily health policy update, taking an excerpt or quote from a health care news story or analysis on the Internet and commenting on its significance to the single-payer health care reform movement. My mother forwarded me his posting for June 29th, 2007 (not yet up on the site as of this writing), discussing a paper produced by Health Access on the topic of high deductible insurance plans.

The money quote:

...the high deductible plans would only add more stress to the thin financial resources of middle-income families and do little to protect families from significant medical debts of thousands of dollars. An individual mandate for a high-deductible plan would have a perverse result of bringing a middle-income family closer to bankruptcy, not protecting it.

... and that, short and sweet, is why I don't carry health insurance at this point - the insurance I can afford wouldn't make any substantive difference with regards to whether I went bankrupt as a result of getting severely ill, and it wouldn't offer any advantage over simply paying cash on the barrelhead to deal with minor illnesses.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 2:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 27, 2007

Cigarett Century on Smoking Politics BlogTalkRadio Show Today At Noon EST

Today at noon listen live and call in at (718) 508-9604

Listen Live

The Smoking Politics, BlogTalkRadio show interviews Dr. Allan Brandt, author of The Cigarette Century. This is an important book, and Dr. Brandt tells an important story about how the tobacco industry shaped the 20th century.

So tune in. And if you miss the show you can always listen to it later.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 22, 2007

Centrist Dem Reaction To 'Sicko' Movie: Appease The Corporations

Michael Moore's movie 'Sicko' documenting America's health insurance crisis is likely to incite strong grassroots demand for a "single-payer" Medicare-For-All type of solution. So the Washington consultants/appeasers are at it again.

From the article, 'Sicko' leaves top Democrats ill at ease

Stoking the passions of rank-and-file Democrats for a government takeover of the healthcare system amounts to political folly, respond some liberal veterans of Washington's healthcare battles.

"To presume that the private sector is going to sit idly by to see the destruction of private coverage I think is a misreading of reality," ... "I think the presidential candidates understand that if healthcare reform is going to have a chance of success, it will require bipartisanship and a balance of public and private coverage."

This is what I call the "Afraid Rush Limbaugh Will Say Something Bad About You" syndrome. Clue: He will anyway.

Whatever plan you propose, here is what will happen: the health insurance companies WILL oppose your plan, no matter what the plan is.

Conventional Wisdom thinking is that you have to include private insurance companies in any plan, or they'll put so much money and effort into opposing your plan - and you - that nothing can pass. In the 90's the Clinton administration offered a comprehensive health care plan that involved private insurers instead of a "Medicare-For-All"-style national health plan, hoping to ward off industry opposition. ... And of course the private insurance companies did oppose the Clinton plan anyway, putting so much money into opposing it that it never even came up for a vote.

.. So here is some news for Democrats who are offering health care plans that offer tribute to private insurance companies: They are going to oppose your plan.

The logic seems to be that if we appease them, they will compromise. This ignores the reality - they want it all.

"Medicare For All" is simple to understand and implement. On this subject Ezra Klein wrote,

That's why Medicare-for-All is such a great banner. Medicare happens to be a very good, though deeply underfunded program. It keeps costs down better than the private sector, it enjoys sky-high satisfaction ratings from those on it, its administrative costs are dirt cheap, and so forth. ... It's just normal health care that the government pays for. Simple as that.

Better yet, Republicans can't demonize the idea because it already exists and everybody's parents and grandparents use it.

And if companies complain about all the jobs that will be lost - what they are saying is that the private sector is less efficient than a government solution. Medicare's overhead is a fraction of the insurance companies.

It is time. It's simple. Let's expand Medicare to cover everyone.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 13, 2007

Dogs With Cancer

A number of dogs of friends of mine have recently succumbed to or come down with one or another form of cancer. This kind of thing is usually a coincidence, but I thought I might ask if others are seeing anything like this in your circles? Let me know in the comments.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 18, 2007

Don't Reward Failure

At Firedoglake: Don’t Reward Failure By Giving Money to NARAL,

And what did they do with all that cash? They sat it and didn't do a damn thing, didn't lift a finger to fight Samuel Alito. Worse yet, when the Gang of 14 decided to vote in favor of cloture, they said that they did not consider cloture votes "significant" and would not be considering them in their scorecard. They then went on to add insult to injury by asking their membership to thank Lincoln Chafee and Joe Lieberman for the beatings they delivered with their "aye" cloture vote by pretending that their "nay" floor votes were significant. They then poured salt into the wound by endorsing both "short ride" Lieberman and Chafee over their opponents who made it clear that they would not have voted for cloture for Alito, which gave us the 5-4 decision we have today.
Go read.
Don't reward failure. Tell your friends. Don't give money to NARAL when they come knocking on your door to tell you that choice is going down the crapper unless you give them a lot of money, because what you'll be giving money for is Nancy Keenan's ability to point her little pinky over tea at Washington cocktail parties and tut-tut over the state of choice in this country at the hands of the fundamentalists. She'll take no responsibility for the fact that NARAL will not fight, will not back those that fight, and worse yet, that NARAL sucks up all the pro-choice money so nobody else can mount a meaningful fight, either.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 5, 2007

Right-Wing Narrative Coming: Government To Blame For VA Mess

Have you been following the Walter Reed & VA Hospital mess? Read this. The Republicans privatized care at Walter Reed (corruptly throwing a contract to the SAME PEOPLE - Republican campaign contributors - who screwed up ice delivery after Katrina). They gutted the professional staff and cut everything so the money would flow to a few rich fucks instead of to caring for the troops.

But what are they telling the public? That it's an example of the problem with GOVERNMENT! After firing all the professional staff and outsourcing everything they're telling people that government can't fire people so they don't care about the troops.

Republicans: Gut the government, pocket the funds, then BLAME the government when things stop working.

Example: NPR : Is Bureaucracy to Blame for Walter Reed Shame?

Example

Newsflash: Government-run health care sucks The Washington Post is back today with another story about the pitfalls of the military health care system.:
Example: Government Healthcare and YOU!
If you’ve been watching the news lately you will most likely will have seen a special or two on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The men and women who put their lives on the line for their country are being placed in horrible conditions.

... THIS, is what you will get nation wide if you decide to hand over your health care to the federal government.

Example:
If you had any doubts about universal health care, which is to say, health care furnished and managed by the government, examine the complaints about the health care furnished our veteran's by the government.

If they can't get it together to furnish decent health care to our veteran's, what chance do the rest of us have?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 4, 2007

Conservatives Always Choose Corporate Profits Over People's Lives

The Bush Administration is about to let a drug company sell one of our few remaining effective antibiotics for use on livestock. This is so the drug company can make higher profits. They do not care that this decision could kill a LOT of us.

Here is what is going on: These days people don't think of infections as serious, not to mention potentially fatal. This is because we have antibiotics to kill the germs. But throughout human history bacteria were one of the biggest - if not the biggest - causes of death. All the way up until the discovery of penicillin - less than 100 years ago - people used to die from things as simple as a cut getting infected.

The germs have been fighting back. They build up resistance to the drugs we use against them, and over time the drugs stop working. This is the reason doctors tell people to be sure to take ALL of the antibiotics in a prescription even if they start to feel better -- you need to kill ALL of the germs or the ones that survive develop resistance. The other reason is that drugs are given to livestock because they help them get fatter quicker. Over time, through simple evolution and natural selection, the germs become resistant to the antibiotics and we all are put at risk. One after another the antibiotics have become nearly useless. In fact, we only have a few effective antibiotics left.

Think about what would happen if germs get a chance to build resistance to the few remaining effective antibiotics. Now read this news story:

FDA Rules Override Warnings About Drug - Cattle Antibiotic Moves Forward Despite Fears of Human Risk,

The government is on track to approve a new antibiotic to treat a pneumonia-like disease in cattle, despite warnings from health groups and a majority of the agency's own expert advisers that the decision will be dangerous for people.

... The American Medical Association and about a dozen other health groups warned the Food and Drug Administration that giving cefquinome to animals would probably speed the emergence of microbes resistant to that important class of antibiotics, as has happened with other drugs. Those super-microbes could then spread to people.

And WHY are they going to approve using this drug in cattle? Because the company is willing to sacrifice future effectiveness of the drug in order to make higher profits today. From the story,
"The industry says that 'until you show us a direct link to human mortality from the use of these drugs in animals, we don't think you should preclude their use,' " said Edward Belongia, an epidemiologist at the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Wisconsin. "But do we really want to drive more resistance genes into the human population? It's easy to open the barn door, but it's hard to close the door once it's open."
This has already happened before. Again, from the story,
The FDA knows how hard it can be to close that door. In the mid-1990s, overriding the objections of public health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the drug agency approved the marketing of two drugs, Baytril and SaraFlox, for use in poultry. Both are fluoroquinolones, a class of drugs important for their ability to fight the bioterror bacterium that causes anthrax and a food-borne bacterium called campylobacter, which causes a serious diarrheal disease in people.
A broader question is raised by this: If there are so few effective antibiotics, shouldn't they be considered to be a common resource -- something that is "owned" by the people for the people? How can a corporation be allowed to decide something like this, something that could kill a LOT of us, on the basis of making a short-term profit, a quick buck?

Conservatives -- they choose corporate profits over people every single time.

Update - Mary has more on this at The Left Coaster.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 26, 2006

Health Insurance Companies WILL Oppose Your Plan Anyway

With a Democratic Congress coming in January, obviously several health care plans are going to be introduced. Here is some free advice to legislators. Don't even bother including private insurance companies in your plans.

Conventional Wisdom thinking is that you have to include private insurance companies in any plan, or they'll put so much money and effort into opposing your plan - and you - that nothing can pass. In the 90's the Clinton administration offered a comprehensive health care plan that involved private insurers instead of a "Medicare-For-All"-style national health plan, hoping to ward off industry opposition. This was an example of what I call the "Afraid Rush Will Say Something Bad About You" syndrome - the point being that Rush will say something bad about you anyway, no matter what you do. And of course the private insurance companies did oppose the Clinton plan anyway, putting so much money into opposing it that it never even came up for a vote. The effort went beyond just opposing the plan and became personal, with smears and take-no-prisoners tactics directed against anyone involved in trying to bring health care to the public. So much of that money and venom was left over that it helped bring in a Republican congress the following year.

So here is some news for Democrats who are offering health care plans that offer tribute to private insurance companies: They are going to oppose your plan.

Do you think that it is more efficient to use a private insurance company to provide health insurance? Then take a look at what the big corporations do when offering health insurance to large numbers of employees. The big companies "self-insure." They set up their own little internal national-health-care plans for their employees and administer them themselves rather than use private insurance companies because private insurance companies cost too much. Face it: Medicare-For-All is the only plan that will work. These days the private insurance companies are designed to deliver profits and enormous CEO salaries, while delivering the absolute minimum benefit to the public that they can get away with without personally being put in jail -- fines and civil judgments being already factored in.

Do I have a low opinion of insurance companies? You bet. Am I alone? Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 5, 2006

Paid Sick Days

There is a move to require companies to pay for sick days. Conservatives say this is "Socialism."

If basic human rights is "Socialism" then I guess I'm a Socialist! How about you?

In Europe people get several weeks paid vacation each year - by law. They get generous pensions and fully-paid health care for everyone.

What sorts of things should we, the people, require of the companies we, through the laws we pass, allow to operate? Who is our economy FOR? Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:04 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 18, 2006

Bird Flu Still A Threat

Luckily we made it through last year's flu season without bird flu mutating into a form that can spread easily among humans. This bought us a year to study the disease. But it's still out there and the season is beginning, and people are still catching it from direct contact with infected birds. More than half of the people who are reported with this disease are dying. So if it does mutate into a human-contagious it will be a disaster.

Indonesia reports two more human bird flu cases,

Indonesia has confirmed two new human cases of bird flu, with both victims alive and being treated in a Jakarta hospital, a health ministry official said on Monday.

Confirmation came from two tests, Dr. Muhammad Nadhirin, from the ministry's national bird flu centre, told Reuters.

"The position is 74 cases, 55 of whom have died," he said.

The boy died, Indonesia: Bird flu kills 2-year-old

There are vaccines in testing now. Let's hope they are effective.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 2, 2006

Phony Mailers From Tobacco and Oil Companies

In California two of the several propositions are to tax oil companies to fund research into alternative energy and to tax cigarettes to pay for health care.

So the tobacco and oil companies have paid for a flier that has been mailed to registered Democrats telling them that the Democratic Party opposes those propositions. AP Wire | Democrats angry over flier suggesting they oppose oil tax measure.

Leading Democrats joined supporters of Proposition 87, an initiative seeking to fund alternative fuel research by taxing instate oil production, to publicly distance the party from the flier, which was mailed to 4.2 million households.

The so-called Voter Information Guide for Democrats endorses Democratic candidates running for statewide offices. But it also urges voters to defeat the oil tax measure and another initiative seeking to boost taxes on cigarettes to fund health programs. Both initiatives are supported by the California Democratic Party.

I'll bet that things like this are happening all across the country. It is time to put corporate executives in jail for things like this. And it is time to get corporations OUT of our politics.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 4, 2006

What Is Personal Responsibility?

Personal Responsibility is a tobacco (and other) lobbyist PR slogan that tries to persuade us that children - and the rest of us - should be left on their own, against corporations capable of spending billions of dollars on the very latest methods to get people to do things that are not healthy for them, but which bring immense profits to the companies.

Do we want everyone to be left on their own, in a dog-eat-dog, everyone-out-for-themselves world? Or do we want to stick together and watch out for each other?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 14, 2006

Bush's Medicare Changes

Here's a video over at Current TV, about the effects of Bush's Medicare plan.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 13, 2006

Just Get Rid Of Government?

Today my local newspaper' subjects me to this right-wing propaganda comic strip (click to enlarge):

Mallard_FillmoreAug12.gif

Today the cartoon's message is: Get rid of public schools, then we don't have to pay property taxes, and everyone can pick out for themselves what education their kids get. At least today we get to see the pure, honest message of the Right without the usual disguises -- today's cartoon is not even offering the usual pretense of vouchers.

The larger exchange offered is clear: just get rid of government and the taxes it requires, and leave everyone to fend for themselves.

This exchange extends beyond just schools -- it's about parks, water systems, sewer systems, roads, bridges, highways, public transportation, public health systems, hospitals, Social Security, Medicare and everything else that we as a people, a community, have decided to gather together and provide for the people of this country. The Right dismisses all of this as "collectivism."

I'll just make a couple of points here. If you get rid of schools only the richest will be able to get any education at all. This is the way things used to be. But in America every town got together to build a school and hire a teacher, and this is how public education grew. Everyone understood (learned the hard way) that more education for everyone ends up being better for everyone. If the kids in poor neighborhoods are provided with an education, the community is a better, safer and more prosperous place.

And, likewise, if you get rid of public health systems, the rich are still just as susceptible to catching diseases as everyone else. If we as a collective group don't work to keep the poorest among us from catching TB, then we ALL are at risk of catching TB.

Democracy is about one-person-one-vote and not about one-dollar-one-vote. History has proven that systems based on the Right's dream of one-dollar-one-vote just do not work. But we don't hear this side - the pro-democracy side - of the argument anymore. The increasing concentration of our sources of information into just a few corporate hands means that we even have to be subjected to this kind of far-right propaganda in our Sunday comics. (And when was the last time you saw someone on TV advocating that workers form unions?)

But the reason we are constantly subjected to far-right propaganda like this without hearing counter-messaging is not just because of this concentration of media. It is also because the counter-messaging just isn't being produced and distributed. The Right has a vast messaging machine pumping out propaganda designed to systematically attack the institutions of democracy. But Progressives -- the forces of democracy and community -- aren't doing much to counter it.

We need to build organizations designed to reach the general public with messages that explain and reinforce the values of democracy and community, to counter the Right's incessant messaging.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 19, 2006

Frozen Embryos

Bush Insists Frozen Embryos Stay Frozen

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 20, 2006

Bush Proves Government Can't Work?

I meant to post about this the other day. A letter to the editor, MercuryNews.com | 06/17/2006 | Government can't handle health care,

In reading the report of fraud by bogus victims of Katrina (Page 6A, June 14), I don't find myself surprised that our society has people of such low character. I'm also not surprised that we have government employees who do such an inept job of administrating my tax dollars. What does surprise and baffle me is that there are still people that think our health issues can be improved and even solved by these same types of government employees.
Republican incompetence used to prove that Republicans are right.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:53 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 20, 2006

Bird Flu Mortality Rate Rises

Bird Flu Fatality Rate in Humans Climbs to 64% as Virus Spreads,

Bird flu has killed 64 percent of those people known to be infected with the virus this year, according to World Health Organization statistics, with the number of fatalities since Jan. 1 surpassing 2005 levels.

At least 47 of 73 people known to be infected with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza are reported to have died in the first five months of this year, the WHO said on its Web site yesterday. In 2005, 41 of 95 -- or 43 percent -- died.

... In Indonesia, where the rate of fatalities among H5N1 patients is 78 percent, officials are investigating a suspected 33rd death in the country.

Do YOU think the Bush government will be competent to handle things if/when bird flu starts spreading between humans? Or will they get all ideological and say that having a competent government in place to protect each other "makes people dependent?"

Your life depends on it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

People Want Transformational Change

One thing Republican rule has done is help a lot of people sort out their thinking. People have had enough. People are fed up with business-as-usual, and dysfunctional systems that allow wingnuts to gain power. People are ready for transformational change. Half-assed namby-pamby measures aren't going to satisfy anymore.

For example, people don't want to fix the energy problem by raising the fuel economy standards a bit in 2009, they want to invest $1 trillion in developing new, sustainable energy sources and moving away from using fossil fuels entirely - now. That's transformational change.

People don't want to tweak health insurance rules, they want to implement Medicare For All, where every single person in the United States receives health coverage and prescription coverage as a right.

People don't want to fix the political system by lowering the limits on PAC donations, they want public financing of elections.

People want to ban all use of corporate money for any politician or so-called charity or anything else.

People want to stop this idea of corporate personhood and similar nonsense that depowers the public. People want corporations to serve the public good.

Let's discuss this. Please leave comments with other examples of the kind of truly transformational change we need.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:22 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 26, 2006

Miserable, Miserable Falure

The headline reads, Percentage of Uninsured Americans Rising, but "rising" is a dramatic understatement:

The percentage of working-age Americans with moderate to middle incomes who lacked health insurance for at least part of the year rose to 41 percent in 2005, a dramatic increase from the 28 percent in 2001 without coverage, a study released on Wednesday found.
28 to 41 percent in five years! Actually, the story itself calls it an "explosion."
The report paints a bleak health care picture for the uninsured. "It represents an explosion of the insurance crisis into those with moderate incomes," said Sara Collins, a senior program officer at the Commonwealth Fund.
And people without insurance put off treatment until things get very expensive - or worse.

Bush's forced decline of America accelerates.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 26, 2006

Obesity

I ask everyone to please read the diary Daily Kos: Vegetables of Mass Destruction - Obesity: Whose Fault? and remember to recommend it. It is important to your health to understand what she is writing.

I am working on something that touches on this, about what I call "marketing diseases." I think obesity is a marketing disease. Wanting a new car is a marketing disease. Debt is a marketing disease. Global warming is a marketing disease. The corporate Right's mantra of "personal responsibility" really means pitting isolated individuals against billions of dollars of research into marketing and psychological manipulation...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 14, 2006

If/When Bird Flu Mutates

As if Iraq and Katrina were not enough reason, here is ONE MORE reason elections matter.

Renowned Bird Flu Expert Warns: Be Prepared,

"I personally believe it will happen and make personal preparations," said Webster, who has stored a three-month supply of food and water at his home in case of an outbreak.

"Society just can't accept the idea that 50 percent of the population could die. And I think we have to face that possibility," Webster said. "I'm sorry if I'm making people a little frightened, but I feel it's my role." [emphasis added]

Do YOU think Bush and the Republicans have taken sufficient steps to prepare the country to deal with this?

And another point, have YOU prepared for the possibility of bird flu pasing from human to human? Do YOU have 3 months of supplies saved up so you won't have to go outside?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:27 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 6, 2006

EXCELLENT News!

Beer fights heart disease: official ,

More good news for those of you who like a swift pint or two: beer doesn't just fight cancer and make you clever but also blocks "interferon-gamma-induced chemical processes".

This is a good thing, trust us, because what the Innsbruck Medical University team behind this revelation has shown - in layman's terms - is that beer offers a resultant anti-inflammatory effect which may have a "beneficial impact on coronary heart diseases".

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 11, 2006

Medicare Prescription Drug Glitch

An excellent column from Michael Hiltik on Tuesday describes how hopelessly confused Bush's medicare prescription drug plan is for America's seniors. Glitch Adds to Medicare Drug Plan Confusion:

Peculiarities and complexities that render it almost useless for millions of potential beneficiaries. The most serious drawback is the one that snagged me: While the program bases its calculations of prescription costs on a "30-day supply" of each drug, for those taken orally it assumes that a 30-day supply is 30 pills.

But many medications aren't taken once a day. Unless the user manually overrides the 30-pill default, the result can be wildly misleading.

Hiltzik is a tad more blunt at his Golden State Blog

--HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt's one-month progress report on the drug plan. This is a terrific example of the Bush Administration's Potemkin village approach to dealing with crises: Pretend it's someone else's fault or an act of God, and claim to be doing your level best while you turn everything you touch into crap

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 9:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 31, 2006

Alito Sworn In - 5 States Readying Abortion Bans

Same-day service. Alito sworn-in, 5 states readying abortion bans.

Moonie Times, Sweeping anti-abortion laws proposed,

Legislators in at least five states are proposing bold anti-abortion measures as the Bush administration reshapes the U.S. Supreme Court, a report said.

With the goal of challenging the Roe vs. Wade ruling that ensured a woman's right to an abortion, lawmakers in Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee propose banning all abortions except when the woman's life is in danger, Stateline.org reported.

If enacted, legal experts said the laws would be the first absolute abortion bans since the landmark 1973 ruling.

As I said earlier, don't be fooled by Senators who voted 'No' on Alito today but voted to end the filibuster. They put Alito on the court.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 19, 2006

America's Seniors Flummoxed By Bush's Medicare Plan

This is old news with a personal touch. Michael Hiltzig pays a visit to the front lines of Bush's war on America's seniors and confirms that Bush's Medicare Drug Plan Looks Like a Big Scam:

One recent afternoon in Los Alamitos, I watched Marcy Zwelling-Aamot, M.D., pick her way through a government website designed to help elderly patients select the right Medicare drug plan, based on their prescription needs and hometown.
The website, created for the launch of Medicare's new prescription drug benefit, identified 48 individual plans available for Southern California residents. All were sponsored by private health insurance companies administering the government drug benefit for a profit. The plans' monthly premiums ranged from $5.41 to $66.08; their lists of covered drugs differed from one another, sometimes significantly; and all imposed different annual out-of-pocket costs on enrollees — a critical consideration for patients on fixed incomes.

A marginally useful website that is hiding in plain site:

Why are people holding off?

Even the government acknowledges that selecting a plan is dauntingly confusing for those without access to its Internet help site. That's a big hurdle, because an estimated 70% of Americans over 65 have never been online.

Big oops? Or intended to boost profits for Big Pharma?

The toll-free information lines set up by Medicare and various health plans have been overwhelmed for weeks. Medicare regulations discourage physicians, pharmacists and healthcare advocates from helping patients select a specific plan. Yet many professionals say they themselves are so confounded by the program's intricacies that their patients will be hard pressed to make the right choices on their own.

The health plans have filled the vacuum with glossy marketing brochures, some of which are flagrantly misleading. "You're pitting big corporations against the most vulnerable people in society, and you're telling them that they can't turn to the people they trust for advice," observes Thomas R. Clark, director of policy and advocacy for the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, an organization of pharmacists specializing in geriatric and long-term care.

Isn’t that special? Hiltzig reminds us that Bush’s Medicare Prescription Drug Plan is a red headed step child of blatant and intentional fraud:

Its worth remembering that the prescription drug program was born in an act of fraud. The Bush administration sold it to Congress in 2003 by estimating its cost at less than $400 billion over 10 years. Scarcely a month after its enactment, the White House issued a new estimate: $535 billion. That figure might well have killed the bill, which had passed the House by a razor-thin margin even with the lower price tag.

It soon came to light that Richard Foster, Medicare's chief actuary, had known of the higher estimate — but had been told he'd be fired if he warned Congress before the vote. (The current estimate is $700 billion.)

As written, the legislation complied with a drug industry demand that Medicare be prohibited from negotiating with manufacturers for lower drug prices. Among those helping the industry make its stand was Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-Louisiana), whose committee on energy and commerce oversaw Medicare. In an odoriferous development, Tauzin soon quit Congress to become president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America — Big Pharma's Washington lobbying group.

The program's implementation, meanwhile, was handed over to commercial health insurance companies, subject to indifferent oversight. That explains the perverse variations in monthly premiums, drug prices, even approved drugs, which will make it all but impossible for consumers to be sure they've selected the right plan.

Here’s a kicker from Kevin Drum over at Political Animal, The Prescription Drug Debacle .... Part 341:

It's a Government Accounting Office report, issued in December, warning that the Bush administration hadn't done enough to make sure the most medically and financially vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries could actually get their drugs.

If you do get around to reading it, make sure to check out the part where Mark McClellan, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, says the GAO has it all wrong — the part where he insists that "CMS has established effective contingency plans to ensure that dual-eligible beneficiaries will be able to obtain comprehensive coverage and obtain necessary drugs beginning January 1, 2006."

You know, that sounds familiar. The Bush administration is warned that its planning is inadequate but it ignores the advice and plows ahead without listening.

Very familiar. It's on the tip of my tongue. Help me out here.


Posted by Gary Boatwright at 8:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 14, 2006

Bush's Medicare Plan Is A Colossal Failure

The L.A. Times has back to back stories about how Bush's Medicare Prescription Drug Bill has already turned into a colossal failure.

State Orders Help for Elderly as Medicare Glitches Spread: California joins other states in giving seniors emergency assistance. Bush's signature program draws sharp criticism nationwide

Medicare Situation Still Chaotic: With some drugstores unaware of emergency state measures to cover medication costs, many patients are turned away for lack of money

Also on the healthcare front, courtesy of Matthew Yglesias, filling in for Josh at TPM, Maryland's passage of a historic WalMart health care bill

The bottom line to all three stories is that you can't trust the private sector with your health care benefits.

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 4:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 9, 2006

Medicare Recipients Wrongly Denied Prescriptions

The reaction from one insurance company spokesperson to widespread reports of problems?

Thomas T. Noland Jr., a spokesman for Humana Inc., a major national insurer, said that some problems were "to be expected in a new program with lots of new enrollment taking effect all at once."

Yeah, o.k., I feel better now - it is clear that the Republican's cherished and efficient private sector takes our healthcare ever so seriously - NOT. Are any of these companies going to lose their contracts as a result of this? Are any executives going to be required to commit corporate hari-kari? Not likely. How about any of the folks in the Bush Administration responsible for overseeing the implementation of this program? I doubt it.

More deadly incompetence from our nation's "leaders" in the executive branch.

States Intervene After Drug Plan Hits Snags

By ROBERT PEAR

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 - Low-income Medicare beneficiaries around the
country were often overcharged, and some were turned away from
pharmacies without getting their medications, in the first week of
Medicare's new drug benefit. The problems have prompted emergency
action by some states to protect their citizens.

[snip]

At least four states - Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota and
Vermont - acted this week to make sure poor people received the
drugs they were promised but could not obtain through the federal
Medicare program.

[snip]

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 7:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 18, 2005

Market Thinking Will Kill You

This is about regular flu, not avian flu. This is extremely important, as I'll explain after the excerpt. Flu Vaccine Maker Lowers Supply Expectations Again,

The Chiron Corporation said Monday that it would supply less flu vaccine than it had expected this year, increasing the chances that supplies would be tight this winter.

[. . .] Last year Chiron had expected to provide about 50 million flu shots, half the nation's anticipated supply. But it ended up supplying no shots because British regulators shut down the company's factory in Liverpool, England, citing sanitary problems.

[. . .] Mr. Pien said the company would not be able to produce as much as it expected because the installation of new equipment and procedures and worker training detracted from production.

And a related story, Bird flu drug maker won't share patent - Roche the sole manufacturer, a company spokesman says,

As nations begin to stockpile the drug in anticipation of a flu pandemic, calls are mounting for countries to sidestep patents on the drug -- as Brazil first did for AIDS medications -- and make their own generic versions.

But Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche, which acquired rights to the drug from Gilead Sciences Inc. of Foster City in 1996, said Wednesday it had no intention of letting others make it.

"Roche ... fully intends to remain the sole manufacturer of Tamiflu,'' said company spokesman Terry Hurley.

Bird flu is on the horizon, and could kill as many as 1/4 of all people. We don't have the means in place to make enough regular flu vaccine, and the company that owns the patent on the flu drug won't allow licensing so the world can make more. They see the potential for huge profits, selling at premium prices to the richest few.

At what point do we break out of "market" thinking and just start building vaccine and Tamiflu production facilities? If you have children you love and want to protect you need to be asking yourself this question now. Not after bird flu starts to spread and kill. Now.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:31 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 13, 2005

Avian Flu - Look Who Bush Has In Charge

Is the Bush government any more ready for Avian Flu than they were for hurricane Katrina? Of course not: Michael Brown Clone Will Oversee U.S. Response to Avian Flu Pandemic.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

The Right Idea on Bird Flu - Won't Happen

There's a simple idea that will help prevent Bird Flu from mutating into a contagious form easily passed between humans. The idea is to give regular flu vaccinations everyone who might come into contact with infected birds. This way the Bird Flu virus won't get a chance to mix with regular contagious flu.

The way that viruses mutate is by mixing with other viruses. They exchange genetic material. So if a deadly but not-easily-passed virus like Bird Flu mixes with the more common easily-passed but not-as-deadly versions of the flu, the result could be a deadly easily-passed version.

From Asian Shots Are Proposed as Flu Fighter,

"The idea is simple," said Dr. Daniel Perez, a flu virus expert at the University of Maryland. If a poultry worker is unlucky enough to catch both conventional and avian flu, Dr. Perez said, the fear is that the human and bird viruses will mix in a process called reassortment. The mixing might create a virus that would spread easily from human to human, leading to a global pandemic of avian flu.

But if the workers are vaccinated against human influenza, he said, "they can't catch it, so you won't get reassortment.

So why is this not likely to happen?
[. . .]One reason is cost. "If the health care budget of Vietnam is about $7 a person, that would be enough for one flu shot," said Dr. Earl G. Brown, a virologist at the University of Ottawa. (In the United States, the wholesale price of a flu shot is about $10. Doctors typically charge $25 or more.)

For that reason, the money for flu shots would have to come from the West. "

A worst-case Bird Flu scenario could kill 1/4 of all people and leave the rest of us in poverty for years.

Where DOES our money go? It mostly goes to our military budget and to tax cuts for the rich. The military budget is officially about $425 billion, but this figure does not include intelligence, nuclear weapons, or veterans' benefits and health care. It also doesn't include the cost of the Iraq war.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 23, 2005

Allowing Release of Toxics!!!!!!!

EPA seeks to ease reporting of toxics,

WASHINGTON -- The government wants to stop forcing companies to report small releases of toxic pollutants and allow them to submit reports on their pollution less frequently.

Saying it wants to ease its regulatory burden on companies, the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday proposed adopting a ''short form" that would excuse companies from disclosing spills and other releases of toxic substances if:

They say they release fewer than 5,000 pounds of a specific chemical. The current limit is 500 pounds.

[. . .] EPA said it also plans to ask Congress for permission to require the accounting every other year instead of annually. [emphasis added]

Just like what we have learned about FEMA, the EPA is probably staffed entirely with Republican Party campaign hacks who are pocketing money from companies seeking breaks.

Do any of the readers have children or care about your own health? Then you HAVE TO get involved in getting these people out of office!!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 18, 2005

Today's Avian Flu Post -- Kill The Poor

Brief comment from a friend involved in public health:

Substantial chance of worldwide spread. Worse for developing world than developed world, for multiple reasons. Don't know when a form that is readily transmitted between humans will evolve, but this H5N1 virus has shown that it is capable of that on a limited basis. We also don't know whether a human-to-human form will have as high a mortality rate. US woefully unprepared, due to years of underfunding our public health infrastructure. Pharma industry not able to pick up the ball in terms of rapid development and mass production of vaccine. US & other govts should subsidize vaccine development, because market incentives are inadequate and liability incentives discourage private industry from this field.
And I just had to elevate the comments our troll left at the previous avian flu post. They so well illustrate the Republican mindset:

Mass hysteria promoted by people who would be the beneficiaries of government funds to fight said viral plague.

[. . .] Anyhow, my suspicion is that this is being used by the left to expand the governments already massive control of the finances of Health care. The virologists and MDs who are arguing for this out of an (unconscious) drive to expand funding I can understand; it is myopic, but understandable. The left using this to force this country to their vision of utopian socialized medicine because of their socialist theology I think is repugnant.

The right is so anti-community (not to mention anti-science...) that they even oppose public health programs. But pandemics (epidemics over a wide area) aren't Libertarians - they don't just kill the poor.

Old Dead Kennedys song time:

Efficiency and progress is ours once more
Now that we have the Neutron bomb
It's nice and quick and clean and gets things done
Away with excess enemy
But no less value to property
No sense in war but perfect sense at home:

The sun beams down on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light
Jobless millions whisked away
At last we have more room to play
All systems go to kill the poor tonight

Gonna
Kill kill kill kill Kill the poor:Tonight

Behold the sparkle of champagne
The crime rate's gone
Feel free again
O' life's a dream with you, Miss Lily White
Jane Fonda on the screen today
Convinced the liberals it's okay
So let's get dressed and dance away the night

While they:
Kill kill kill kill Kill the poor:Tonight

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 26, 2005

Scary Avian Flu News

World Health Organization: China Engaging In Bird Flu Cover Up

However this variant has mutated into the most lethal strain of influenza ever recorded...

[. . .] Further complicating the effort to combat H5N1, it was reported that the People's Republic of China has been illegally administering the medication Amantadine to poultry; the result has been that the virus is now largely immune to the medication and is significantly deadlier. World Health Organization officials had been preparing to use the drug to fight a future pandemic and now it has been rendered useless.

[. . .] Three outbreaks of H5N1 have affected China in recent months but the World Health Organization has not received the information or the virus samples from infected birds that they requested. "It is a matter of urgency," said Roy Wadia, the WHO's speaker in China. "We stress that this virus is highly unpredictable and versatile and can change any time. It is highly dangerous."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 20, 2005

$342/mo. with three kids = not eligible for Medicaid

My Mom's from rural Missouri, so I get the Ozark's Newsstand in my email inbox... this article caught my attention this morning: Polk County families lose Medicaid coverage due to state budget cuts.
Clearly, at least some of the folks in the Red States are following the money.

The woman featured in the story just lost her Medicaid eligibility a couple of months ago, and now her three children are losing theirs. Budget cuts - state doesn't want to raise taxes. She makes too much money. How much is too much? $342/mo.

... maybe my perspective is a little bit distorted, living here in Santa Cruz, where that won't even pay for the rent on an unconverted chicken coop, but how in the hell is anyone supposed to survive on less than that?!? With three children?!?

How is someone who earns $350/mo. supposed to afford medical care? Where are they supposed to come up with the money for a doctor visit... as a parent, I know my two kids can easily ring up half a dozen visits to the doctor inside of a single month. Three kids? You could easily spend $350/mo. just paying for doctor visits and associated lab fees - not counting medications, trauma care, or serious/long term medical issues.

Of course, the state (and the Feds too, I guess) don't really care that all they are doing with these changes is shifting the costs - monetarily, onto the pocketbooks of hospitals, private sector insurance companies, and self-insured patients. Shifting money from low cost, pre-emptive/preventive/early stage care to expensive emergency room trauma care.

But more importantly, shifting the costs to the bodies and well being of the working poor - and their children. Your kid falls out of a tree and wacks her arm on something, then complains loudly about it hurting... 9 times out of 10, it is nothing and will go away overnight - but you go to the doctor anyway, just in case - but what if you don't have the dough? Well, she either suffers for a day or two until you become convinced that she has to go to the doctor (most likely the emergency room), or you go to the emergency room right away... well geez, there goes your "savings" in the Medicaid budget for the year.

Problem ain't that bad... child just acting not too peppy and whining about this and that unspecific problem? Take her to the doctor - hmm, there's a low grade sinus infection. Or not, if you don't have the money... that's Republican cost shifting for you: onto the bodies and well being of the children, who have no ability to help themselves, and really shouldn't be held responsible for their parent's inadequacies.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 1, 2005

Suicide Is Painless

Last fall the FDA issued a warning about a link between anti-depressants and suicidal tendencies in children. The FDA has just ordered a review of anti-depressants "to determine whether the widely used drugs can increase the risk of suicidal tendencies in adults."

Has Big Pharma discovered a line of anti-depressants that make you happy about being suicidal? Could that explain Bush's recent behavior?

In other news, China has opened a clinic for online addicts.

According to government figures, China has the world's second-largest online population -- 94 million -- after the United States.

Treatment includes therapy, medication, acupuncture and sports. If you are reading this post, it is very likely you are a crazed internet addict. In the absence of treatment centers in the United States, you might try getting a prescription for anti-depressants.

[Title edited] I edited the title of this post as an after thought tribute to the theme song for Mash, Suicide Is Painless

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 3:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 1, 2005

Well, No, Actually

Matt Miller, Beyond Viagra Politics, blasts "social" Democrats.

Truth-telling Democrats would come clean on their own charades. Imagine a Democrat declaring that the party must stop pretending that mandates on business (for health coverage, say) are "free" ways to get social results Democrats like - when such mandates impose costs ultimately borne by workers or consumers.

And imagine if Democrats said it was time to stop scaring seniors about the G.O.P.'s nefarious plans for Medicare. Truly "new" Democrats would instead teach party activists something different: that the enemy of liberal causes a decade from now will not be the evil heirs of Newt Gingrich, but Medicare itself.

Well, no, Matt. If you mandate universal health care coverage, the cost of health care GOES WAY DOWN. There are lots of reasons for this including preventative care, people don't have to go to the E.R.... And no, Matt, costs (and taxes) on businesses are not necessarily borne by workers and consumers. That's a right-wing talking point. It might force marginal businesses to raise prices but businesses want to stay competitive so they will not raise their prices past their competitors. Maybe they'll pay the CEO $100 million less that year to cover the costs.

And no, Matt, health care for our elderly isn't the budget enemy, military spending is. Democrats are not "scaring seniors" they are warning them that the Right wants to do away with the program.

Matt, you work for a supposedly "Progressive' think tank and ought to know better than to repeat right-wing talking points. There are plenty of well-paid right-wingers for that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:25 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 5, 2005

Market Solutions Or Health, Choose One

Left I on the News says Capitalism kills. Example: Uninsured people with colon or breast cancer face a 50% higher risk of death.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos