Guest Commentary (3255)
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Steven Brill's article in Time Magazine about the cost of private health care is likely to make most of his readers very angry. Angry about the prices we pay, about the lives that are devastated, and about the fact that we're one of the few developed countries without adequate health care for its citizens.
Economists have told us that the profit motive of privatization comes with an "invisible hand" that automatically corrects inequities in the market. It hasn't worked that way for health care. The personal stories recounted below, and some additional facts to complement them, make it clear that an essential human need has been turned into a product that benefits a few people at the expense of many others.
$15,000 for Blood Tests
Brill's article begins with the story of a 42-year-old Ohio man named Sean Recchi, who traveled to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He and his wife Stephanie had paid $469 a month, or about 20% of their income, for insurance that covered $2,000 per day of hospital costs. His financial troubles started when MD Anderson told him, "We don't take that kind of discount insurance."
But he had to go to the hospital. His wife recalled that he was "sweating and shaking with chills and pains. He had a large mass in his chest that was..growing. He was panicked."
Stephanie asked her mother to write a check for $48,900.
Sean waited for 90 minutes while the hospital confirmed that the check had cleared. He was also required to advance MD Anderson $7,500 from his credit card. The total cost for the initial treatment and chemotherapy was $83,900, including a $15,000 charge for lab tests for which a Medicare patient would have paid a few hundred dollars, $283 for an x-ray that Medicare categorizes as a $20 charge, and $1.50 for a generic version of a Tylenol pill.
ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The U.S. State Department’s “Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement Keystone XL Project” released on Friday evening, makes no mention of the impact on the world’s climate that would result from construction of the proposed Pipeline.
The study does discuss “Climate Change Impacts on the Proposed Project,” but not the proposed project’s impacts on climate change. It finds that climate change will have no significant impact upon either the construction, or the operation, of the Pipeline.
In fact, a separate section, “Summary of Impacts,” summarizes the “Climate Change Impacts on the Proposed Project” by saying, “Climate change would have no substantive effects on construction of the proposed Project,” and, “Climate change would have no substantive effects on operation of the proposed Project.”
That is the only section that this study devotes to climate change.
Environmentalists oppose this Pipeline virtually entirely because of the impact that it would have on climate change: speeding it up. They are virtually uninterested in the impact climate change will have on the Pipeline.
NASA’s James Hansen warned on 9 May 2012 in The New York Times, about the Alberta Canada tar-sands oil that this Pipeline would transport, by saying “It Will Be Game Over for the Climate” (you can see his reasoning if you click on that link) if this Pipeline to a Texas port ever does get constructed. However, he presented no analysis there of the climate-change impact specifically of the Keystone XL. He simply said that “Canada’s tar sands ... contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history,” and that “That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control.” Those were unanalyzed bare assertions.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Peter G. Peterson’s cringe-worthy Fix the Debt campaign can hoover the kind of attention that most ordinary Americans couldn’t even dream about. If Peterson succeeds, a new era of austerity will be unleashed, and programs that the middle class and poor depend on will be decimated.
Peterson, a longtime political operative and one of the wealthiest men in the country, made his personal fortune “at the Blackstone Group on Wall Street, [where he] … cashed out with $2 billion shortly before the 2008 financial meltdown,” the Madison, Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) recently pointed out.
Now Peterson has assembled a huge war chest, recruited a high-powered supporting cast, developed a nationwide infrastructure, and is preparing to plop a chunk of his Blackstone money into “convince[ing] Americans -- who overwhelmingly want to keep and strengthen Social Security and Medicare -- that these programs threaten our very existence as a nation.”
HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Sometimes what I fear most is that the disintegration of public life — indeed, the very idea of the public good — is complete. The vultures and profiteers swarm around the carcass and make a profit and that’s all that matters.
Thirty years on, the Reagan Revolution has done its job, or nearly so. There’s no sustaining integrity left to how our society is organized, no principle that can’t be gamed for private benefit. And even awareness of all this has been successfully marginalized. We still proclaim ourselves, in the prevailing media, the world’s oldest, greatest democracy, and worship the old rituals.
But the common good has been auctioned off.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I’m happy for Ben Affleck that “Argo” won best picture of the year at the Academy Awards.
But in order for the audience to fully appreciate the film, they should know why Americans were taken hostage during the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and why Iranians were boiling over with anger at the U.S. government and CIA.
The U.S. oil companies and British Petroleum (Anglo-Iranian Oil Company) were stealing most of the oil from Iran and reaping the profits, leaving a mere 16 percent for the Iranians. While the British got rich off the profits, Iranians lived in poverty. Oil field workers earned less than 50 cents a day and received no benefits or vacations. The Iranians were outraged in 1950 when the U.S. oil company ARAMCO signed a contract giving Saudi Arabia 50 percent of the profits from Saudi oil.
ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The first-ever analysis of the taxpayer-subsidy to the Wall Street mega-banks finds that this subsidy is $83 billion this year. This amount is only $2 billion less than this year’s sequester cuts are estimated to be.
That $83 billion subsidy this year is, according to Bloomberg’s, also approximately the amount of profits that those banks are “earning” this year.
The editors at Bloomberg News calculated this $83 billion figure on February 20th, headlining, “Why Should Taxpayers Give Big Banks $83 Billion a Year?” which was the value based upon their analysis of the figures in a widely ignored but rigorous study by IMF economists, a study that had been issued months back, in May 2012, and which was titled “Quantifying Structural Subsidy Values for Systemically Important Financial Institutions.” As Bloomberg’s editors summarized the reason for this ongoing federal subsidy: “The banks that are potentially the most dangerous can borrow at lower rates, because creditors perceive them as too big to fail,” due to the special Government backing for too-big-to-fail (TBTF) institutions.
ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Although most Americans anxiously await insight into the nation’s most pressing issues, politicians in Washington haven’t been able to bridge the partisan divide to find workable solutions. Instead, lesser minds keep appearing at every turn of the dial to make mind-numbing proposals on TV shows purporting to provide ‘the latest news.’
Marsha Blackburn turns up constantly to offer down-home wisdom from Tennessee. Her latest observation was that Sequester was a good thing for reasons that were necessarily unclear. Apparently her constituents are a forgiving lot - - Freedom of speech engenders a lot of gibberistic clap trap, but what’s a free society to do except hope that education catches up with its idiot fringes. Blackburn is a gun-carrying supporter of the NRA who criticizes the president for not having photos of him ‘skeeting’ at Camp David. Shouldn’t we have known about this activity if it is really true, she asks? - - To which a Huffpost blogger responds, If Marsha Blackburn is a real person, why have we not heard of her?
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The peace symbol is arguably the world’s most widely recognized protest symbol. In 2008, on the occasion of its fiftieth birthday, BBC News noted that the peace symbol has been “adapted, attacked and commercialized.” At fifty-five, the peace symbol remains a cultural icon, but as it ages, is it more than that?
Originally created as a symbol for the British anti-nuclear movement, it is now ubiquitous: appearing at thousands of anti-nuclear and anti-war protests; adorning posters, buttons, badges, and peace flags; becoming a fixture on postal stamps; and, decorating clothing, beach towels, jewelry, and people’s skin.
GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich and other major economists have pointed out that the deficit is not an urgent economic problem and that, to the contrary, the economy would be helped by an increase in public investment and harmed by drastic cuts. The Sequester would hurt the economy, millions of people, and the country as a whole.
President Obama has detailed the vast range of harms that the sequester would bring. They are well-known. And they are not necessary. The president sees the sequester, if it happens, as an enormous self-inflicted wound, inflicted on America by a Republican-dominated House elected by Americans.
But pointing out Republican-caused harms to millions of people - many of them Republicans - does not sway the ultra-right. Why? Democratic pundits say that Republicans want to hurt the president, to show government doesn't work by making it not work, and to protect "special interests" from higher taxes. All true. But there is an additional and deeper reason. Ultra-conservatives believe that the sequester is moral, that it is the right thing to do.