Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Why Should Our Fellow Americans Suffer & Die?



"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care 
is the most shocking and inhumane."
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Unspoken Question

In the game of Jeopardy it's not the answer that's called for--it's the question.

We've been bombarded with a lot of "answers" lately, but somewhere in this barrage of outrage a basic question exists. When the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, announced their estimate of Americans who would lose their health care coverage if the Republican health care plan took effect, eyes popped and jaws dropped at the staggering statistics. Even self-professed conservatives admitted to feeling a bit uneasy about the proposed Republican plan, and some have distanced themselves from it. 

Why all the uproar? The CBO predicts, by 2020, 21 million Americans will be without any health insurance coverage whatsoever. By 2026, that number soars to 52 million Americans without as the Republican health plan takes effect. In contrast, if the Affordable Care Act remains as is, there would be only 28 million without health coverage by 2026. The biggest surprise seems to be how popular and well-utilized the Medicaid extension program of the ACA has been for many Americans. Of course, several Southern states flat-out refused to enter into the program, which explains the 21 million currently uninsured. Even more Americans would have coverage today if all qualified in the opted-out Southern states were allowed to receive health care through the Medicaid extension program as well.

With a growing number of Americans not being able to obtain private health insurance due to pre-existing conditions, unemployment, under-employment and outright finagling by employers to avoid insuring any employee, the time for a single-payer or "Medicare-for-All" plan seems at hand. Study after study has shown it is the most efficient health delivery model in the U.S. In fact, in 1995 the Tawainese government modeled their national health care delivery program after U.S. Medicare because of its cost efficiency. If our bloated
defense budget can be expanded another $52.3 billion, surely a program which pays for itself through payroll taxes qualifies as cost effective. To any rational mind, it seems the answer to the question, "How best do we provide health care to all Americans?" is "By implementing Medicare-for-All."

But why are Republicans and many corporate Democrats avoiding the most rational answer to this question? There doesn't seem to be any one answer, but one strong reason is that they're being paid good money not to recommend Medicare-for-All. According to Term Limits for U.S. Congress.com, from 1998 - 2015 the following amounts of lobbying money were spent in Congress:


Pharmaceutical/Health Care Products: $3,146,090, 212
Insurance Industry: $2,190,651,832
Hospitals/Nursing Homes: $1,310,021,801  
Health Professionals: $1,189,983,794 
HMOs: $863,410,051

Yes, those are trillions of dollars.

Even more telling, according to OpenSecrets.org, from 2005 - 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accepted $5.9 million dollars from the health care lobbyists, while House Speaker Paul Ryan accepted over $3.5 million dollars from lobbyists. When those in Congressional leadership positions are being paid so well by the private health care industry to keep things the way they are (or make it even better for private industry), can anyone really expect they'd promote the more efficient and egalitarian Medicare-for-All program?
There's no use in asking why lobbyists bribe our politicians. It's allowed by law, and it's what they do--the lobbyists bribe and the politicians accept the bribes and thank the lobbyists for thinking of them, while promptly forgetting their constituents' needs for decent and affordable health care. But possibly the cruelest cut of all is the fact the Republican plan allows private health insurers to write off as a business expense the entire amount of their executives' salaries on their taxes and not just the first $500,000, as is the case presently under the ACA

The rich get yet another big tax break at working class Americans' expense.
Lucky them!

According to Harvard Medical School researchers, an estimated 45,000 Americans die each year simply because they lack insurance and cannot receive a decent standard of health care. (These preventable deaths outnumber yearly drunk driving deaths and homicides combined.)  It has been noted that over 60% of all bankruptcies in the U.S. involve medical bills--the leading cause of all filings, far outpacing credit card debt. (That's 643,000 Americans per year in bankruptcy court according to a NerdWallet Health Analysis.) Someone is making a lot of money off of these individuals and families going bankrupt and losing their homes, cars and property. Some group is directly benefiting from so many Americans' premature deaths.

There's something deeper, more profound going on than simple greed here. There is a desire to exert the power of life and death over others of a less fortunate status. There is a desire to take money and material goods away from those who have little and redistribute it upward to the richest echelons of society. There is a desire to put those of a different class, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation--or any of a number of protected statuses (at least currently)--in their place.  (Read The True Purpose of TrumpCare for the chilling details.) There is a desire to discriminate in one group's favor. More than likely, it's not a group whose members would allow us ordinary folks to join them.

The question remains unspoken: Why should our fellow Americans suffer and die needlessly without adequate health care?  Face it, we know the answer. So, the essential question becomes: What are we willing to do to provide health care for all Americans?
Want to know how to take action on health care? Check out organizations such as Single Payer Action Network (Ohio): http://spanohio.org/ 
 and the Campaign for Guaranteed Healthcare--click here to learn how to call your representative today: https://campaignforguaranteedhealthcare.org/call-your-representative/  and also at Hands Off Medicare: https://handsoffmedicare.wordpress.com/

Here are some more tips to fight for health care from Indivisible:

Republicans are rushing to pass "TrumpCare" (Republican Health Care Plan) before the upcoming April recess, ignoring the normal legislative process, because they don’t want to face you, their constituents. They are attempting to ram through a TrumpCare bill that will cut coverage for millions and raise premiums for millions more. Their proposal simultaneously guts Medicaid and gives a $600 billion tax break to the wealthy and corporations. We can’t let them get away with this—millions of lives hang in the balance. 

The House vote this coming week is the first step towards enactment of this devastating TrumpCare bill. Your Member of Congress (MoC) needs to know that you oppose it. Here’s how you can show your opposition:

  • Show up. Show up at your MoC’s District Office with your group to demand that your MoC vote against TrumpCare. Bring affected individuals to these meetings and use personal stories as much as possible. Your stories are powerful—stories change minds and alter what is politically possible. Your story should answer this question: How will you or your family be affected by TrumpCare?
  • Create a public demonstration. Hold a vigil outside your MoC’s office. Invite the media. Their vote in favor of this bill would mean the difference between life or death for thousands each year. You need to demonstrate your resolve. If your member has already committed to vote no, show up and thank them. In a big way.
  • Make your calls to your Representative. Start with this script and tell your Representative that a vote to take away health care from 24 million people is a vote you'll be watching. Spread the word on social media using #ProtectOurCare and tell your friends, neighbors, and colleagues to call their Representatives.
  • Get others involved. This vote is too important for people to sit on the sidelines. Time to get someone else involved—empower a friend, family member, neighbor, or colleague. Create social media events, tag a friend on Facebook, or just tell someone else why you get involved.
  • Get creative. You’re leading this movement—it’s your constituent power, so use it how you see fit. We’ve seen some local  groups create scrapbooks of local constituents who would be affected by TrumpCare. Others have brought their children who stand to lose coverage to the MoC’s district office. Your goal is to make clear to your Senators and Representatives—and any local media who will listen—what TrumpCare means for you and your family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Plan a Friday district office visit to hold your MoCs accountable. The House vote is expected Thursday. No matter how your MoC votes, you should provide immediate feedback (positive or negative) by making a visit to their district office on Friday with your group. Your MoCs will have to take more votes in the future on TrumpCare to pass the final bill. They’ll be holding their breath and watching carefully after this vote, hoping that the outrage dies down. By providing immediate feedback today, you’ll change their political calculus tomorrow. 

    Need More ACA Info?

  • Wondering how TrumpCare will affect people in your state? Our friends at the Center for American Progress have an interactive map showing TrumpCare’s impact around the country. Check it out here: TrumpCare by the Numbers.
  • Want to get wonky? Republicans are trying to push TrumpCare through with a process called “reconciliation” that allows them to pass the bill without the usual 60 votes in the Senate needed to pass legislation. Read up on this tricky bit of congressional procedure with our new explainer: Legislative Process 101—Budget Reconciliation.
  • Just want all of the the Indivisible Project’s ACA materials in one place? Absolutely—here’s our resource page: Save the ACA.
You have a chance to stop this legislation by getting involved on your home turf now. If enough members stand up and say no, Republican leaders will be forced to pull the bill from their weekly schedule—which would be a devastating defeat for Trump. If TrumpCare does pass the House, the fight’s not over. In that scenario, TrumpCare will soon move to the Senate—and then the fight will shift to your Senators.
***

From Facebook:

When I was hungry, you canceled my food stamps
When I was thirsty, you diverted lead and coal into my water
When I was sick, you tripled my insurance rates
When
I was naked, you raped me and blamed me because I was naked.
When I was in prison, you enslaved me to corporations
When I was a stranger with brown skin you deported me
From the lonely you took away social programs
From the elderly, you took away meals and medicine
From the workers, you took away legal protections
From the young, you took away school funding
From the victims, you took away shelter
Instead of diversity, you encourage intolerance
Instead of caring, you encourage isolation
Instead of equity, you encourage military excess
When the 1% has ground us into the dust, taken all of our money, and let us die for lack of insurance - who will you feed upon?

 ***

Paul Ryan -- The Anti-Robin Hood
by Coastwatcher

Last week Paul Ryan unleashed his party's budget upon the American people. At the stroke of a pen he plans to destroy the Meals on Wheels service, environmental protections, arts funding and foreign aid, along with any kind of public medical assistance in the form of the ACA. To avoid his proposed measures being filibustered to death in Congress, Ryan has worked his budget so much of it can be done through budget reconciliation. This means they can be moved quickly through a maneuver that requires a simple majority in the Senate and House. You read that right. With or without help from the corporate Democrats, these measures will be rammed through into law.

All the above cuts are worthy of mention, but space precludes me from writing about them here. Let us focus instead on the issue of the ACA, the proposed loss of which will hit Americans in the area which fundamentally affects every person on Earth – their health.

Today, in part due to Obamacare’s expansion of the program, Medicaid covers more than 73 million Americans, most struggling to survive in a country that

is growing increasingly hostile to the poor and disadvantaged. Ryan’s measures will gradually end funding for the Medicaid expansion to the point where some 14 million fewer Americans will be covered by the program by 2026. That number could skyrocket if the work requirements and block-granting proposals currently being worked out in Congress make it into the final bill.

Never in the political history of the United States has one government set out to do the maximum harm to the maximum number of its citizens in the shortest possible time – all in the name of those good old Republican values of self-reliance. It doesn’t matter to them if you were born with a congenital disability or complaint. They don’t care if you were injured in the workplace and are unable to work. In the eyes of the Republican government if you’re unable to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" (which is impossible – think about it and read this article) then you are of no value to them or society. This Republican government, headed by Donald Trump, is populated by nothing more than a bunch of sociopaths.

These are the defining characteristics of sociopathic behavior:
    Superficial charm and good intelligence

    Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
    Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
    Unreliability
    Untruthfulness and insincerity
    Lack of remorse and shame
    Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
    Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
    Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
    General poverty in major affective reactions
    Specific loss of insight
    Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
    Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201305/how-spot-sociopath

That last trait is all the more revealing when you consider Paul Ryan’s boast in a recent video: “So, the health care entitlements are the big, big, big drivers of our debt. There are three. Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare. Two out of three are going through Congress right now. So, Medicaid—sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since you and I were drinking out of a keg.”

That’s right. Ryan dreamed of depriving his fellow citizens of any kind of government aid since he was a privileged white guy in college. These "big, big, big drivers of our debt" are as nothing compared to the bloated military budget, which the proposed cuts are supposed to help increase to the tune of over $52 billion.

Let’s consider the definition of sociopath in the Urban Dictionary.
Sociopath:
A person with antisocial personality disorder. Probably the most widely recognized personality disorder. A sociopath is often well liked because of their charm and high charisma, but they do not usually care about other people. They think mainly of themselves and often blame others for the things that they do. They have a complete disregard for rules and lie constantly. They seldom feel guilt or learn from punishments. Though some sociopaths have become murders, most reveal their sociopathy through less deadly and sensational means. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sociopath
Ryan is obviously not the kind of sociopath who reveals his sociopathy through less deadly and sensational means. His proposed measures will kill citizens of the United States through no fault of their own. It sets the United States even further back in comparison to other countries with socialized medicine.

Perhaps Ryan’s cold-eyed ambitions will yet be thwarted by dissenting voices within his own party. The prospect of so many people being dropped from Medicaid and the prospect of states footing a much larger share of Medicaid’s bills has unnerved the more moderate Republicans across the country. It’s no secret that the majority of states where Federal government spends far more than the average on state Medicaid programs are all Republican in outlook, the so-called "Deep Red" states. Certainly the raised voices of millions of Americans in town hall meetings across the country are being heard with increasing nervousness by representatives who until now have gone largely untroubled by public opinion. It might come as a shock to these Republican politicians that a great many who voted for Trump are suffering "buyer’s remorse" now the full scope of his plans are being made plain.

The people are awake and paying attention, something the oligarchs and the  Republicans who worship them are going to regret. 

Bio: Coastwatcher observes what is happening in our world and senses a change in the weather, literally and figuratively.
 ***

In a galaxy long, long ago...
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I sincerely thank you for your generosity. May the "Bern" be with you always!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Follow The Money


Follow the Money
by Cindy A. Matthews
 
When things don't make sense
And the world isn't as sweet as honey
I've found the fastest way to find life's answers
Is to simply follow the money.

All Americans need basic health care
To think otherwise really isn't funny
What good reason is there to deny folks such vital help?
Three short words: Follow the money. 


Our precious planet needs tender care
In extreme heat, glaciers become runny
Can't we save flora, fauna, land, water and air?
Ha, ha! Just follow the money.

Eternal wars for non-endless oil
While the sun shines free on days when it's sunny
Why sacrifice sons and daughters for dead end fossil fuels?
You got it--follow the money.
Things can't be all that simple, or so you say
I must have the brains of a daft bunny
But to connect the dots on what's going wrong in our world
Is easy--I just follow the money.


Click here to read about this outrageous price gouging for Muscular Dystrophy medication.
I didn't know what topic to cover this week--there are so many--but a thread that seemed to tie everything together came to me in a dream. Our world isn't  all that complicated when you look at people's motivations and you realize what is driving their decision-making. Once that's exposed, everything falls into place

It's not a million things going wrong in our economy, it's only one--and it's a pretty basic one. A  small handful of people are hoarding all the resources and money for themselves. If we can prevent them from behaving so selfishly with our resources and redistribute their unimaginably large stashes of wealth (primarily in non-taxable offshore accounts) back into our economy, things would improve immeasurably for all of humanity. 

Yes, this is a progressive democratic socialist idea, but then this is a blog created by supporters of a progressive democratic socialist. What did you expect? We like government of the people, by the people and for the people. (And we mean people not corporations.) We want to create a welcoming, compassionate society where all are cared for and wanted just because they're our fellow human beings, and it's the right thing to do. The idea of making money off of the sick and dying like Mr. Aronin does (see article link above) is anathema to us. Our philosophy isn't, "He who dies with the most toys wins!" It's along the lines of, "He who shares the most toys with his playmates wins because everyone wins."

My fellow blogger, Dirk Droll, takes a look at a controversial recent event and spots this underlying thread. By following the money, the DNC's choice of Tom Perez makes sense, doesn't it? Progressives leaving the Democratic Party in droves makes sense, too, doesn't it? (#DemExit is trending as well as #GreenEnter). Many Americans are following their hearts and working to build a better world for all. That way everyone wins!

***


The Bankster Bundle: Trump-Perez
by Dirk Droll


Back in November, I wrote the establishment had won the election. It’s nothing new, of course. The oligarchs have owned our politicians for decades and will continue to do so if we – the people – don’t start fighting back effectively. Rubber-stamping the establishment’s candidates on election day isn’t the way to fight back. Neither is losing ourselves in their dog-and-pony shows such as the current anti-Trump hysteria, which deflects us from the anti-establishment war we should be waging. Not that there aren’t terrible Trump deeds that need opposition, mind you; we just shouldn’t lose sight of the main target or let neo-liberal sell-outs place themselves at the front of our protests and marches to co-opt us.

Naturally, where the presidency was concerned, the establishment had already won the election back on July 26th when the cheating DNC installed the vastly unpopular establishment candidate Hillary Clinton
as the “Democratic” nominee over the very popular people’s candidate Bernie Sanders. From that moment onward our country’s course was set for yet another establishment president (Clinton or Trump). Only a massive voter shift to the Green Party’s Jill Stein could have turned that ship around. 

But we voters apparently aren’t yet smart enough to break out of the Dem-Publican voter jail without a popular leader showing us the way. It’s time  we grew some brains — for example to build a third party for Bernie Sanders (or his close associates) to pull in millions of awakened voters who used to be part of the “Democratic” base but now know that the “Democratic” party has abandoned them. On the down-ballot ticket, we could still have accomplished a great deal in November by, for example, using the Berniecrats List for informed voting, a list I recommended repeatedly. It didn’t happen. 


Bloggers like Cindy and me, we spend our nightly hours trying to inform our fellow Americans, to share knowledge the corporate mainstream media denies us. Yet, so many people who could subscribe to our blogs and recommend them to their friends just don’t. Imagine if more people did, creating a chain reaction which would make all of us so much better informed... But I digress.

With the establishment winning our elections, the question arises if there are parts of the establishment rising above others. It's a question also instrumental in understanding the trends of change in our economy where traditional capitalism has moved on not only to crony capitalism (which buys up our government and uses it as a cash cow) but also casino capitalism. Rather than profiting from the building and running of productive industries, the biggest capitalists – who are top investment bankers – merely shift investments around, gamble with them on the stock markets, and manipulate commodity markets. The result is it sucks ever more prosperity and wealth out of every aspect of people’s lives until life itself becomes unaffordable to more and more of us. (There is a short article which illuminates one of the many dirty tricks they use. It’s a good entry into the subject to help open people’s eyes: Parasite Capitalism: The Economic Model of the 21st Century.)

So, in the economy banksters have risen to the top. The point I wish to make in

this article is  the same is true in our politics. Trump, the “swamp drainer,” has not only appointed so many billionaires that their combined net worth exceeds that of the bottom two-thirds of Americans, but he has literally stuffed cabinet positions and other appointments with banksters, especially from the one of the most criminal of investment banks, Goldman Sachs, whose Wikipedia entry looks like an FBI rap sheet.

Trump is clearly a close friend of the big banks or their straw man or even their puppet. That’s bad enough. But what about the alleged opposition, the “Democratic” Party? Well, we just had a new DNC chair elected for the “Democratic” Party
not democratically elected by the party’s base, of course— don’t ever expect democracy from the “Democratic” party or the GOPthe little known Tom Perez. 

What do we know about Perez and the banks? Personally, I haven’t been following his career, but there are some red flags. For example, ex-president Obama threw his weight around to shoe him into the contest when it looked that the Sanders-friendly Keith Ellison would get the position in spite of the fact  our oligarchy prefers Clinton-friendly, establishment operatives like Perez for the last three decades. That, if you recall Obama’s relationship with the big banks, is a clear link to the banksters. 

Remember how Obama adopted and continued George W. Bush’s bailout of the big banks (rather than bailing out the people) after they tanked the world’s economy? And how he used our (the people’s!) hard-earned tax dollars to do so? So  many of us lost our homes, jobs, pensions, and careers and he did next to nothing for us--and that wasn’t all! Unlike in prior bubble bursts, none of the culprits went to jail. Obama’s administration saw to that. Indictments were not even attempted. 

Obama, who had received massive campaign contributions from the banksters in 2008 as the banking crisis was brewing, and who – just like Trump – made many bankster appointments, and who gave Goldman Sachs a $20 billion tax dollar gift (a handsome return on their 2008 campaign investment of $994,795 wouldn’t you say?), was a straw man of the big banks in the Oval Office just like Trump is now. The banksters are holding the new administration and the DNC’s chairmanship in their hands. Winners across the board. And we, the people, have once again lost across the board.

Oh, and if you think that the link I just described is weak, a brief internet search quickly reveals more links of Tom Perez to the banks. He has an established record of not taking on the banks, both at the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor. An article in The Intercept goes over Perez’ record and concludes: “Both Perez and Ellison support pro-labor policies. But Ellison shows that he also wants to oppose concentrated financial power. Perez represents the finance-friendly status quo that has relegated Democrats to minority status.”
 

 I hope you will keep the fire in you burning to fight our corrupt establishment, and that you will share information like this with your friends and family and anyone else you have political conversations with. Let them know what is happening behind the scenes. This blog, and mine, are regular sources for information and analysis which can keep us all informed and shape our strategy for pushback as well as a vision for a better world. I urge you to revisit (better, yet subscribe or follow by email) and refer your friends and family as well.

Bio: Dirk Droll blogs for a better world on his own Beanstock’s World and other sites.


***

The Cynical Optimist -- Lee Camp Live!
wobbly words and photos by C. A. Matthews

If you ever get a chance to see comedian Lee Camp perform in person, I highly recommend you take it and go. Raise money by selling your comic book collection or recycle metal car bumpers thrown away because their owners couldn't get the Trump stickers off them, but do anything you have to in order to get there. Better yet, go to Lee's web site, LeeCamp.net, and vote for Lee to come to your city and perform for you and your friends. (This is the direct link: LeeCamp.net/schedule. )Be sure to tell a few dozen of your friends to vote for your city as well. (If you can't think of a particular city to vote for, vote for Toledo. We'll be eternally grateful if you do.)

Most progressives know Lee from his TV show Redacted Tonight and his podcast, Moment of Clarity. If you've never experienced his humor before, you are in for a treat. Lee and company's weekly compendium of news and views is hysterically funny and extremely informative. In other words, you can laugh and cry at the same time and feel great afterward in spite of the fact an idiotic, Cheeto-faced, tiny-handed Twitterer currently resides in the White House (when not in Florida).

We saw Lee perform in Cleveland, and his opening act was a fantastic young comedian named Krish Mohan. I have to say I really relate to Krish's experiences as an immigrant on a playground at age eight. I was an immigrant of sorts myself at that age, having moved to the North from the South, complete with Southern accent, cross-eyes and lisp. (At least I didn't have the beard.) Kids can be so cruel at times. 

 
Lee took command of the stage after Krish and didn't let up on the hilarity for over an hour. Nothing is sacred. Things might sound bleak, yet Lee is a self-professed "cynical optimist." He points out the insanity in our world in order to to help us all become just a bit more sane. After going through an intensely personal pat down by T.S.A. security at the airport, Lee wonders why they can't at least trade emails. Also, why don't politicians discuss "hamster wheels"And what really was in that Elmer's glue in art class we as kids enjoyed consuming? Does eating paste and our manipulative corporate media explain the dumbing down of Americans?

 Progressives need to share Lee's insights with others to help them remain awake and aware of what is going on in our country and on our planet. We need more commentators like Lee and company to keep us all on our toes, so be sure to like and subscribe to Redacted Tonight at You Tube and vote for him to come and perform in your city at LeeCamp.net/schedule


To quote Lee: Keep fighting!