Health Care In the Meantime

The people who bring medical and dental care to the rural poor are saints. Recent articles have described big tents set up twice a year, and the caravans of poor people with problems arriving by hundreds, hurting, desperate. For the most part, these folks are proudly independent. But a toothache will bring them in.

These are people who have no medical care at all. Usually they go it alone, but when illness strikes, even something so mundane as a toothache, their pain compels them to seek relief. For some, that means pulling their own teeth with a pair of pliers. These are US American citizens, the ones who should be served by the national health care we, the last among modern nations, don’t have.

Republicans recoil from national health care in horror, screaming “Socialism!”—apparently ignorant of the fact that national health care is not socialism. Instead, it’s the most economical way to provide health care, even when we must pay for the very poor.

Perhaps the fact that best tells us how effective it is is that no nation that enacted national health care has ever given it up.

Who knows how long it will be before Republicans wake up and realize that health care is a right, that no one deserves to be denied whatever will save their life or bring them back to health. Penicillin was invented long ago. What would you say about the morals of someone who would deny an inexpensive injection that will completely cure an otherwise fatal disease? Obviously, such persons are amoral. Denial is murder, bringing death to someone for no reason.

If you agree, then you must also agree that the only thing preventing the provision of even the most modern and expensive treatment can be that the cost is too expensive even for the nation. But that’s ridiculous when a single military plane can cost billions.

There can be no moral reason to deny any person health care, which means national health care is imperative. But Republicans deny it, and seem compelled to do so for the foreseeable future, so the question becomes, What can we do about it until then?

What we can do is to greatly expand these Big Tent programs. They cost money and they are an imperfect system, but like national health care, the cost is far lower than our present corrupt corporate system.

Corrupt? You bet. There is no other way to describe the Congressional sellout to thousands of Big Med and Big Pharma lobbyists when they passed laws that favor and protect only the bigwigs of the industry, not us. The Pharma industry are the only ones allowed to set prices for their wares; bargaining for better prices is disallowed. It cannot be denied that this is corruption.

Then there is the Med Insurance program, which peddles the most expensive and least effective medical care in the modern world, and leaves millions with no health care at all. Call it the Med Execs benefit program. Med insurance provides zero health care and should go riding into the sunset, thus reducing our medical costs by at least a third.

Big Tents and national health care are cheap compared to what we have.

Now, why should we do this tent thing? Isn’t it just dollars down the drain? No. Aside from the moral compulsion to keep our own citizens healthy, there is good reason to believe that such programs make sense economically as well. Illness and pain will bring any of us up short. We come to a complete halt until we are well again. If we have a job, we won’t be able to go to work. If that goes on long enough, our employer will be compelled to replace us. The ill person will need help, which often means unemployment benefits and other government assistance, and most likely further medical care. A healthy employed populace will be contributing to government revenue.

Big Tent health care ain’t nearly enough, but for those brought low by bad teeth, by an unrelenting stomach pain, by cataracts, or any number of other conditions, being able to see a real doctor, even twice a year, can be the difference between being able to function normally and not.

Until Republicans come to their senses about national health care we should support and encourage these Big Tent health providers.

Published in: on 2017/08/02 at 3:14 pm  Comments (3)  

Dem Rx

Certain folk are complaining that the Democratic Party has gone off the rails, and is incapable of doing anything right. Nonsense. Dems believe in what they have always believed, that the strength of our democracy depends on how well our citizens are treated.

It’s the Republicans who have gone off the rails, and are now devoting all their time to serving the very rich and living in a fantasy world where magic works just fine. In recent decades Republicans have operated at the edge of the law. This has resulted in 120 indictments, 89 convictions, and 34 prison sentences for Republicans, compared to 3 indictments, 1 conviction, and 1 prison sentence for Democrats over the same period. And that’s pre-Trump.

But aren’t the Dems just as corrupted by corporate bribery as the Repubs? The way I see it is that the Dems have no choice but to accept Corporate Personhood bucks if they want to mount an electoral defense against multi-billionaire fossil fuel science deniers and the like. That’s unfortunate, but unavoidable, and Dems in this trap have to be extremely careful.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to correct the ongoing lies that Trump voters believe no matter what evidence there is to the contrary. The absurd Republican belief is that making the billionaires richer will help everyone. The opposite has been proven numerous times to be the case. Pure greed is the only thing the Republican belief serves. It makes the rest of us worse off.

Some problems and how to fix them.

Poverty: It seems so obvious. Set a minimum wage that allows people to simply live, without working two jobs. Currently that seems to be about $15 per hour. Every place where $15 has been tried has thrived.

Shorten the work week. We no longer work a 72-hour week, yet the 40-hour week didn’t bankrupt us. A 20-to-30 hour week is overdue. The transition will need to be carefully managed, but the result will be that more people will have work and fewer will be unemployed, which helps the country.

Get rid of desperate poverty with a guaranteed minimum income that prevents suffering from the worst effects of extreme poverty, but won’t be enough that it would be desirable.

Establish tax-supported national health care. This will save tens of thousands of lives yearly, and will vastly improve the national health, which in turn will boost economic health. Since cost control would be a part of national health care, excessive costs from fees, technology, and medicines would be reduced. We would no longer waste one of every three dollars on insurance administration, which contributes absolutely nothing to health care. The cost savings would be some $200B annually. That’s a savings of $645 per person per year just for instituting universal health care.

There are many other things Dems should support, policies that create greater common wealth. For example, encouragement of worker ownership of businesses. Policies that help domestic businesses be more competitive against overseas businesses that exploit workers with very low pay. For example assistance in financing a new business and modernizing older ones, and improvements in transportation and marketing. Tax breaks that help real people, not just corporate billionaires.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Dems is reaching Trumpsters, who have fallen for blatant lies, and live in a fantasy world where Trump will make them all rich. Dems must learn how to reach these people and show them how government actually works, and what will help them personally. That’s a tough challenge, because many such people are very resistant to such realization, and would rather remain in their fantasy world. They hate Obama and Democrats because they hate Obama and Democrats.

No, Democrats haven’t gone off the rails. The Democratic platform should be what it has always been: serve the people, all the people, not just the rich. Enact laws based on factual evidence, not quasi-religious faith that doesn’t hold up under inspection.

Repubs Must Now Decide Who Is To Die

In the modern countries that have national health care—which means every one of them except ours—the unfortunate souls who are diagnosed with a serious condition such as cancer are more likely than anyone in the rest of the world to survive. That is because they will receive the very best, most up to date treatment there is.

Whether you or I survive just depends. Mostly it depends on our income. If we make as much as, say, members of Congress, who make a lot of money, and whose health care is also subsidized, our chance of survival is as good as the best.

At the bottom of the income scale no one survives cancer, because they earn so little they can’t afford health care at all. That’s not quite true right now, because the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, somewhat corrects for this inequality.

But it has been a primary Republican goal to kill Obamacare from the first day it became effective. Now, with control of the executive and both houses of Congress, Republicans are free to finally get their wish. But that also presents them with a decision they must make:

Who should be the ones who die because they are denied health care? They must decide who shall die.

Now, obviously, the chronically unemployed fit the category, because as it is well known, the only acceptable reason for being unemployed is laziness. Every Republican knows that. At the other end of the scale, people who earn adequate income should have the best health care, because as every Republican knows, income is a fitting measure of virtue.

But here’s the rub: where is the line of demarcation separating the virtuous from the lazy? The point above which most survive, and below which all die. What is the level of income necessary that we can be assured that such persons deserve a full-out effort to battle their cancer, and below which we should not bother because they are not worth it and can’t afford it?

This is the dilemma Republicans must resolve, because they are certain that a full-out effort to save a person from cancer should depend entirely on their personal income, which is a measure completely equivalent to their virtue, and therefore their value to society.

You would think that somewhere along the line Republicans would realize that bad health is bad for the country, that the only equitable health care is national health care that is available to all, that you can’t be paying billions of dollars to insurance executives who contribute absolutely nothing toward health and expect reasonable costs. But so far they haven’t. They just keep trying to kill the Affordable Care Act, again and again, but never have anything better to offer. That’s because all those old white guys just can’t get over the notion that anything national is—shudder—Socialism, and we will all end up in Siberia. Like France, I suppose.

Published in: on 2017/04/28 at 8:49 pm  Comments (2)  

The Self-Destructive Folly of Trump’s Hatreds

Trump campaigned on a policy of hate, and nearly every picture we see of him shows a contorted face of hatred. He hates virtually every human group that is not white, male, and rich.

He said that all Mexicans are rapists and criminals. All Muslims are terrorists. All blacks are lazy. Women should stay home and raise children. And so on. All the standard prejudices of our times, none of which is true.

The tragedy is that poorly educated whites, those already convinced that they are naturally superior, accepted what he said in spite of its obviously self-contradictory nature, as Trump lied and lied and lied. Even now, some 70% of what he says consists of lies. Lies and contradictions.

He made hatred acceptable. Shortly after his inauguration there were dozens of acts of violence against individual persons and groups he has as much as said it was OK to kill. And some did kill.

Hatred is not a good foundation on which to build a country. Germany can vouch for that.

But the lesson is lost on Republicans. If it weren’t, Trump and his billionaire toadies bent on destroying the promise of our country would have been tossed out by now. Instead, Congress passes one bill after another designed to punish people, always the poor, people of color, immigrants and refugees, Muslims, and women. The very people who should be protected the same way everyone else is. And Trump, in the absence of understanding what he is supposed to be doing, has signed endless executive orders designed only to hurt people.

Republicans are always against the poor because they believe poverty is always the result of “bad choices”. But here’s something: Five million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2000. Lost to the changing nature of work, and shipped offshore to very poor countries with very low wages. Many of the US Americans who lost their jobs have not been able to find another, and are in great financial difficulty, with very little income. Now, Republicans, since these people worked faithfully and well for decades, who is it who made these “bad choices”? The unemployed workers who can find no work at any pay? More likely it’s the Republicans in Congress who have acted in favor of wealthy capitalists, while the fortunes of the faithful employees who came to work every day went down and down.

There are many things that Congress could have done to improve conditions for workers. The work week could have been shortened, which would have provided work for more people. The minimum wage could have been raised to the point where no one working full time would need three jobs. A minimum income law could have been passed, so the people who could find no work at least had food and shelter, and we wouldn’t find them living under the bridge in tents. National health care could have been established, health care like every modern nation has except ours. Ways could have been found to assist companies that make goods here. Laws could have been passed to prevent corporations from hiding their profit.

All these possibilities were ignored, and many laws were passed to boost the income of the very wealthy, so that the very wealthy could become yet more wealthy at the expense of the poor. Income that cannot even be spent, it is so great.

What we have ended up with is a bunch of very rich people dictating what the rest of us are supposed to feel and believe about our lack of equality. And they think only rich white males are worth bothering with. All the rest—the poor, the people of color, the Jews, the Muslims, the ill and infirm, the aged, the children, the women—they are expected to fend for themselves, because we all know they are lazy and will not work. That’s why minimum wage doesn’t matter, why we don’t need medical care, why only schools for the rich are important, why immigration must be ended, why Muslims and Mexicans must be deported, on and on.

The Republican agenda is to create the limits that support these beliefs, to keep the poor so poor that they cannot rise. The tragedy is that Trump convinced so many poor whites that they were superior, and should therefore vote for him. They did vote for him, and immediately launched acts of hatred against his approved villains. What they didn’t understand, though, was that Trump and the Republicans thought that they were no more worthy than the official list of villains. They soon began to feel the sting of his betrayal.

This is not the way to run a country in which equality is the benchmark by which we will be judged. Equality of opportunity, no matter who your parents are, what color or religion you are, no matter what you do for a living. Our foundational principles are falling away at an alarming rate. Obviously, Trump and the Republicans think this is what should happen.

We Don’t Have a Choice

I’ll check my Constitution again, but I don’t believe any of the things Republicans are promoting these days are part of it.

Free speech is protected, but I don’t see anything about hate being a right protected by the Constitution. Yet the recent election has established hate as a foundational principle of the Republican party. It has become acceptable, even required, to hate whole classes of people—gays, the poor, blacks, Jews, the disabled, liberals, refugees, Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims—all of whom were persistently badmouthed by Donald Trump. This earned him the endorsement of every hate group in the country, the KKK, the skinhead Nazis, the southern racists—all of them are now mainstream. None of them represent any part of the American ideal.

Some of the most virulent right wing haters are in fact becoming members of the White House personnel, entrusted with protection of the rights embedded in our foundational documents. People who have coined new terms of hate, and used them until they became common coin for the hating right.

It’s so easy to be tolerant. You don’t have to like everyone. In fact, I suspect there aren’t many people who can truthfully say they like everyone. But all you have to do to be tolerant is not hurt anyone, in any way. Just leave them alone.

But haters can’t even do that. Hate groups want to kill or injure people. Government haters want to make laws that hurt people for being who they are.

As everyone except the right is painfully aware of, the United States is entering a period we might not survive, because of people who look for those to hate. Those of us who are not haters have no choice. If the noble ideals of the American democracy are to survive at all, we must somehow defeat the forces of hatred.

Not an easy task, because, no matter how much we deplore the viciousness of the rampant hatreds that have begun to define us as a country, it is hate we want to defeat, not our brothers and sisters, no matter how far astray they have gone.

As I and many others pointed out during the campaigning, the people who fell for Trump’s incessant lies did have some legitimate gripes. Likewise, sprinkled here and there among Trump’s endless lies were some reasonable goals. Those of us on the left must accept the legitimate complaints, and work to address them. It should be enough to point out that Republican plans simply will not work, and in fact will make them worse. But it won’t, because they don’t want to solve problems. They want to punish people for being who they are.

The biggest failure among Trumpsters was believing that Trump was their champion. He said he was for the working class, but he doesn’t give a damn about those who work for a living, which we can tell by he way he shafts his employees at every opportunity. Trump is a billionaire, and his interests are the interests of the rich.

As a rich Republican he will grant favors to the rich that will make them even richer, and all the rest of us poorer. He will want to do away with as much government as he can, because rules and laws tend to help the rest of us.

One of his first goals is to end Obamacare and Medicare. That will leave many millions without health care. Every person with a serious medical condition, like cancer or a heart condition, will simply die. There is no way they can find the money to treat their condition or even to buy insurance.

How Can We Say This?

Donald Trump has tried to sell himself as someone who will “make America great again”. The trouble is that the US is already great, not to mention that he has no idea how to do that even if it weren’t. He is quite ignorant about the Constitution and how government works, or doesn’t. He has the attention span of a kindergartener, for a position that requires hours of intense concentration.

The worst thing, though, is that he has encouraged and glorified hate. This has earned him the endorsement of every hate group in the country, the neo-Nazis, the KKK, yahoos who drive pickups with a gun rack and the Confederate flag on a broomstick, the pseudo-brave weekend machine gun warriors, and all the rest, all of them part of a minority white population, all of them racists, all of them intolerant and hateful and not terribly smart or well educated. Trump has shown them their violence is not only acceptable but desirable, which has been responsible for numerous attacks and hate crimes against innocents.

Trump’s attitude toward women has always been atrocious, as is forcefully demonstrated by recently revealed tapes and prior revelations in which he regards all women, even his own daughter, as sex objects available for whatever groping or sexual advances he wishes to make because he’s a big star. That was only a precursor to the arguments Republican presidential candidates had about who had the biggest dick.

He teaches that all immigrants are to be hated as inferior people who steal jobs, as well as hatching terrorist plots. This is a supreme irony in a country composed of 97% immigrants, not to mention that burning and bombing of black Christian churches, Jewish temples, Muslim mosques, and various minority businesses, all done by not-terribly-bright white hate groups, are terrorist plots themselves. 

No, what Trump calls the enemy is not the enemy. Trump himself is the enemy, because he is a self-proclaimed member of the very rich, and what he plans to do because of that can only weaken the country. If in fact he hasn’t squandered the entire fortune gifted to him. He fantasizes that he got this money because of his wonderfulness and brains. The truth is, however, that his money is inherited, and he has lost more than he has gained. If he had put his wealth in a good index fund and skipped all his yuge incredible projects—most of which have failed and gone bankrupt—he would be far richer than he is today.

He promises to do wonderful things for the poor and middle class, but what he has in mind, tax breaks for the rich, actually helps only the rich. Trump will make the rich even richer. He has no interest in the middle class, let alone the poor. What making the rich richer does is to make everyone else poorer, something we’ve had demonstrated many times, including in several Republican states in recent years. Not exactly what he is advertising, is it?

What’s that you say? Trump understands the middle class? Right. Trump is a guy who has always been a millionaire, who has never experienced a single day of deprivation, the kind where there isn’t enough money for food, or for essential medications. He got his start in business with a “little” loan of a million dollars from his father, who was also a despicable creature. Trump hasn’t a clue about how the real world lives, let alone how to manage the needs of a population of 325-million immigrant Americans.