Sunday, September 27, 2009

An Arguing Idiot's Perverted Common Sense

Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives ~ John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher, political economist and influential liberal thinker of the 19th century.

Program: Countdown with Keith Olbermann 9/24/2009.

Subject: World's worst person.

Winner: Lonesome Rhodes Beck. Referring to The Constitution, Article One, Section 9...

"The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person".

Glenn Beck Says: That's right. The founders actually put a price on coming to this country: $10 a person. Apparently they felt like there was a value to being able to live here. Not anymore. These days we can't ask anything of immigrants - including that they abide by our laws.

Keith Olbermann Responds: A clause requiring the continuation of slavery, he thinks is about immigration. He may be the dumbest man on the planet.

My Commentary: Shouldn't Glenn Beck's new book be titled "Arguing with Myself", instead of "with Idiots"? Or "My Arguments Prove I'm an Idiot"? Is Glenn really this dumb, or does he just think his fans are? How was he even able to write a book, let alone four (since November of 2007). Clearly the guy has problems simply READING. I Googled "Ghostwriter" and "Glenn Beck", but all I found was a headline concerning Sarah Palin hiring a ghostwriter for her memoirs.

Before the self-proclaimed book czar's latest anti-Obama screed he had the gall to write a book "inspired" by Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Apparently Beck was inspired by the title and obvious (to Beck) anti-government polemic contained within. When Mr. Paine writes, "society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness" and concludes that government is a "necessary evil" (because it restrains our vices), this translates for Beck as a warning against the dangers of "big government".

But the government Thomas Paine was railing against was the monarchy of Great Britain, not one of, for, and by the people. When Mr. Paine wrote Common Sense the notion that the people of a nation could govern themselves was unheard of. Which is why fellow founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson referred to our new representative democracy as a "liberal experiment".

Thomas Paine may have said, "government is best which governs least" (a quote conservatives appreciate), although he certainly wasn't a conservative or a libertarian (as Beck claims to be) by today's standards. Some of Mr. Paine's revolutionary ideas included a progressive income tax targeting the wealthy "to give the poor bootstraps by which they could pull themselves up", a fund to provide housing and food for the poor, a pension for all workers in their old age, public employment and a 90 percent reduction of armaments by all nations to ensure world peace.

Do these sound like ideas that would be championed by the Republican Party of today? Or, would their response to such suggestions be that redistribution of wealth by governmental theft is socialism - and that if we're weak on national defense we may as well surrender to the Socialist Marxist Commies and/or Muslim terrorists (and become atheists and/or Muslim converts, presumably)?

Glenn puts himself forward as a populist, but being a Libertarian makes this claim quite dubious in my opinion. Wikipedia defines (classical) populism as being "derived from the Latin word populus, which means people in English (in the sense of nation, as in: The Roman People (populus Romanus), not in the sense of multiple individual persons".

That we are a nation of individuals and not at all a "we society" - as Michael Moore suggests we should strive to be in his documentary film "Sicko" - is the essence of Libertarianism. (BTW I don't give a damn what the Populist Party of America thinks, Libertarianism and Populism are at odds with one another. Libertarians, the same as Republicans, would be against all of Paine's "revolutionary ideas" detailed above).

According to Beck "The populist sentiment is Common Sense" (a direct quote from Beck's own website), which is correct, but not at all what he is doing (promoting a populist sentiment). What Beck is doing with his "common sense" book is fraudulently recasting Thomas Paine as someone SHARING his anti-"big government socialism" point of view. Which is an out-and-out perversion of Mr. Paine's legacy. The "idiot" book is clearly more of the same nonsense. With Beck what it is really all about is protecting his millions.

In fact, it is fairly easy to discern that Beck is a fraud. Look at who he's attacking - labor unions and ACORN, two populist organizations! American Rights at Work, a union advocacy group truly states that "Unions, by fighting for higher standards for workers, businesses, families, the environment, and public health and safety, have helped to build the middle class and make sure the economy works for everyone". That's populism.

ACORN advocates "for low and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing, and other social issues". That's populism.

By Beck's own admission populism is common sense. But by Beck's own actions it is obvious he doesn't support populism. Although, it is common sense for him to promote the interests of America's super wealthy, the modern-day equivalent of Great Britain's aristocracy. He has done so successfully (people are buying his books and watching his show) and he has been rewarded handsomely.

A positive review of the "idiot" book declares it to be "chock-a-block with all the facts and data one needs to successfully and authoritatively rebut the Left's preposterous proletarian propaganda". "Proletarian propaganda", is, of course, code for "rhetoric in support of working people", or POPULISM.

Populism is preposterous, and needs to be attacked. That's according to a positive review of the "idiot" book. And Glenn Beck is a fraud and a moron. That's according to ME. Although, as Beck's earnings illustrate, there are quite a few gullible fools eager to buy into his faux populism. In regards to such people, Thomas Paine said, "When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon", and "Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it".

I'll leave you with a deft observation regarding Glenn Beck...

Glenn Beck likes arguing, but has a deep-seated hatred for logic ~ Stephen Colbert, 7/29/2009 on the "Colbert Report"

Further Reading
[1] Thomas Paine (1737-1809) A Sort History by Eric Foner.
[2] Thomas Paine and the Promise of America by Harvey J. Kaye, Thom Hartmann's "Independent Thinker" Book of the Month Review, BuzzFlash 2/2/2006.
[3] Senate Votes to Deny Funds To ACORN by Andrew Taylor, Associated Press 9/14/2009 (Reason to Read: ACORN alleges "prostitute & pimp" videos were doctored).

SWTD #23

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Baucus Bill A Shameless Shakedown

The Bill it (the Senate) sends to the President may as well be called "The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act" ~ Wendell Potter, Former Vice President of corporate communications at CIGNA, testifying before Congress on 9/11/2009

First Representative Wilson called the President a liar, and now, Senator Max Baucus, after listening to the President's instruction request plea for the inclusion of a limited public-option in the health insurance reform legislation, submits a bill that says, in effect, "fu*k you" to Barack Obama - and to the American people.

Keith Olbermann and Wendell Potter discuss the health insurance reform bill - an excerpt from the September 16, 2009 broadcast of Countdown: (edited for brevity and clarity)

Keith: Good Evening from New York. If it were up to Senator Max Baucus, middle class families would be forced, literally forced to pay far more on healthcare than they already do right now. 13 percent of what they make could be deducted directly from their paychecks and mainlined to insurance companies. A so-called "Max tax", that would be handed over to the very industry that has given the chairman of the finance committee three million dollars in campaign donations. And that thirteen percent payroll deduction does not count co-pays and deductibles. See a doctor for any reason, or get sick, and you can expect to pay nearly $12,000 a year more.

Our 5th story in the countdown - only three million dollars to chairman Baucus? In exchange for a bill, in which the health insurance industry is guaranteed to make billions upon billions? We know what you are Senator Baucus, we're now arguing about the price.

Mr. Baucus today releasing his version of the healthcare reform bill that would give coverage to 30 million Americans who currently do not have any, first by extending Medicaid, the state federal insurance program for the poor, next by providing government subsidies to modest income families and individuals to help them buy over the counter coverage. Only those who make less than 300 percent of the poverty level would fall into either of those categories.

That means any individual making more than $32,500, or any family of four making more than $66,150 is on their own, subject to the "Max tax" of 13 percent. For a family making $66,150 that is $700 a month they'd have to pay. If the family does not buy insurance they would be fined nearly half that amount.

Some other nuggets in the Baucus bill - private insurers would be allowed to charge older individuals up to 5 times as much for coverage. You heard that right, 5 times. Forget about pulling the plug on Grandma, Max Baucus wants to help the insurance industry steal her purse. Also in the bill, anyone with pre-existing conditions would go into a high-risk pool. But the provision says they would need to be uninsured for 6 months before they could even gain access to that pool. Exactly what you want for those who are already sick.

For more on what's in the Baucus bill lets turn to a veteran of the insurance industry, Wendell Potter, former communications director at CIGNA, now senior fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy. Much thanks again for your time tonight sir.

WP: Thank you very much.

Keith: We anticipated the Baucus bill would be bad, it would be difficult to swallow - but a bill that actually makes healthcare more expensive for the middle class, and essentially taxes them off the start, 13 percent. And then starts talking about what you're actually paying to see a doctor. How could it possibly be this stunningly awful?

WP: You know, I can't imagine. I read the framework of the bill before this was actually released. That was bad enough, but to see what it really looks like... I got an email from a medical director I used to work with that said that Karen Ignagni must have been doing a jiggity-jig when she saw this. Karen is the head of the trade group for the health insurance companies. It really is just an absolute gift to the health insurance industry.

Keith: Was this bill more or less written by the insurance lobby, or did somebody just anticipate their needs and decide to double them?

WP: You know that's a good point. It looked at first like it might have been written by the lobbyists and the lawyers for the health insurance industry, but I don't think they would have been quite this audacious to have expected something like this.

Keith: If your family's income is in the $60,000 range and you don't hand over your 13 percent, the government could fine you $3,800 under Baucus' plan. You get no public option to turn to. You have no leverage to negotiate a lower price. Is this not exactly the opposite of the premise of the choices that President Obama discussed just last week, let alone in the entire buildup to this?

WP: Oh absolutely the opposite. And the President said during his address to the joint session of Congress that he wanted to make sure that no family would go bankrupt or lose their homes because of high medical expenses. This would guarantee that more and more of us would be in that boat. It's just absolutely ludicrous to think that this would be something that the President would sign.

Keith: You could go bankrupt without seeing the doctor. $13,000 subtracted from an income in the $60,000 range is often make or break for a family with that kind of an income in this kind of America.

WP: Right, it is. Another thing to keep in mind is that people who really can't afford those premiums will get subsidies from taxpayer dollars that will go straight to the insurance companies as well. So they win, win, win and we lose, lose, lose.

My Commentary: This bill is nothing more than a shameless shakedown by Max Baucus and the so-called "bipartisan six" on behalf of their corporate donors. Or, rather, an attempted shakedown. It was mentioned on Countdown that the Senate Democratic leadership is not happy, and that this bill is essentially DOA. And yet, according to the Washington Post, "the legislative dance is just starting". Senator "pull the plug on grandma" promises to "keep working until we get it right". I suppose that means he thinks that the bill isn't generous enough to the Healthcare Insurers?!

SWTD #22

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Universal Coverage A Hardship for Health Insurers?

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed ~ Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement.

If you didn't watch the coverage on MSNBC Wednesday night after the President's speech (9/9/2009) you probably missed what I think was the most important clarification of the evening. David Axelrod, appearing post-speech on the Rachel Maddow Show explained how there could be a mandate for everyone to buy insurance, yet what we would end up with would NOT be universal coverage. According to Axelrod, if you can't afford the not-for-profit health insurance, you will be granted a "hardship exemption". Which means, I suppose, that people who can't afford the reduced rate because they are too poor should be grateful they will be allowed to continue to not have access to health care.

Of course Republicans will approve, as we can not have more lazy lowlifes "suckling from the teat of big government". This explains why they're so upset about Obama's death panels - death panels fall under the purview of the for profit health insurers (Death panels are only bad when they are run by the government I guess). The Supreme Court has ruled that money is free speech - and it is the insurance companies who have spoken loudest. They are the ones who would suffer a "hardship" if the health insurance reform legislation included a true public-option (one which anyone could buy into). Think of the billions in lost profits!

I am not joking. These contract breaking death-panel running parasites actually DO have the temerity to argue that an overhead of up to 40 percent is reasonable while Medicare can do the same job for under 4%.

In an 8/25/2005 article from US News & World Report titled "Why Health Insurers Make Lousy Villains", author Rick Newman declares that, "blaming insurance firms for runaway healthcare costs is a weak argument, because the insurance industry isn't all that profitable to start with". As proof to back up this misleading claim that the health insurance racket "isn't all that profitable", Mr. Newman correctly points out that "the profit margin for health insurance companies was a modest 3.4 percent over the past year".

How can the profit margin stat be both correct AND misleading, you might ask? Mr. Newman reveals the fatal flaw in his own logic when he states that, "profit margins basically reflect the percentage of revenue left over after paying salaries, expenses, taxes and lots of other things. So it's possible for firms to pay their executives a lot and still have a low profit margin". They don't pay their executives "a lot", they pay their executives WAY TO DAMN MUCH. Even though he himself points out how looking at profit margins can be misleading, this fact goes completely unaddressed in Mr. Newman's article. Not even a quick dismissal.

I'm guessing he believes exorbitant Health Insurer CEO compensation to be justified, beyond reproach, and thus not even worth discussing (his article goes on to point a finger at the pharmaceutical industry, which, overall has higher profit margins). I agree that Big Pharma is another leaches draining the American health consumer, but that is a topic for a future blog post.

David O. Friedrichs of the Department of Sociology/Criminal Justice, University of Scranton PA asserts "some immense forms of social harm are not formally classified as crime" in a paper titled Exorbitant CEO compensation: just reward or grand theft? The article concludes that "such compensation is neither warranted nor necessary" and may very well jeopardize the "economy which produces their wealth in the first place".

The author's determination - which I happen to strongly agree with...

David O. Friedrichs: Walking into a bank with a gun and demanding money from a teller is one way to steal money. Walking into a corporate boardroom and securing from that board's compensation committee, made up of cronies, consultants, and even relatives, compensation of millions - sometimes tens of millions or hundreds of millions - is another way to steal money. ...exorbitant CEO compensation is, in a very real sense, a form of crime.

However, excessive CEO compensation is not the only way to dispose of dollars that would otherwise be profit. Former Vice President of corporate communications at CIGNA, Wendell Potter, knows all to well how policyholder money can be squandered on corporate jets, gold-plated silverware, country club memberships, security services and other "gilded excess".

Unlike Medicare, private insurance plan also have high administrative costs - which include sales, marketing, and underwriting expenses. Given these facts, can anyone explain why town hall protesters are falling for this "socialism" baloney? Government already provides public education, police and fire protection, not to mention health insurance for people over 65 (which the private health insurers love, by the way, since those individuals are the most costly to insure).

The solution, while it may be a "hardship" for the private health insurers, is a no-brainer. Expand Medicare to enable anyone to buy into it. Liberal talk show host Thom Hartman, in his article "Medicare Part E: Everybody", explains that if we used the rate "set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - which reflects the actual cost for us to buy into it ...Medicare Part E would be revenue neutral".

Revenue neutral means we wouldn't be adding to the national deficit, which is the primary Republican oppositional talking point. Or we can continue allowing health insurance execs to continue stealing billions because it would apparently be better than allowing lazy poor people to avoid dying.

Further Reading
[1] The Private Health Industry's Time is Up by Bernie Sanders, Christian Science Monitor 5/16/2009.
[2] The Health Care Racket by Paul Krugman, The New York Times 2/16/2007.

SWTD #21

Thursday, September 10, 2009

President Obama Mandates Larger Profits for Health Insurance Companies?

Maybe the President is saying to the blue dogs, "don't worry, don't worry, we'll give them a phony-baloney public option" ~ Liberal Talk Show Radio Host Thom Hartmann on his program 9/10/2009.

I've been thinking about this since last night, and it occurred to me that, while the MSNBC pundits may have thought that President Obama stated that he was in favor of a single-payer type public option being included in the healthcare reform legislation, what he actually said was that there should be a "not for profit public option available in the insurance exchange". And that this option would only be "for those who don't have insurance".

In other words, he SAID public option, but then described something that isn't a public option. Single payer means that the government is the insurer. An "insurance exchange" describes a place where the health insurance consumers can go to choose from a variety of PRIVATE plans.

David Axelrod (who appeared post-speech on the Rachel Maddow show), explained that low-income individuals would qualify for tax credits - and if they still could not afford to buy - then they could be exempted under a "hardship" provision. So the plan will NOT offer UNIVERSAL coverage - and thus will not prevent people from showing up in an emergency room after having let whatever health problem they are experiencing go untreated for to long.

And what's the deal with TAX CREDITS?? Tax credits are only of use if you actually pay taxes, number one - and secondly, just because someone gets a tax credit doesn't mean they suddenly have extra money. This is more Republican appeasement, which there seemed to be quite of bit of in the speech.

My conclusion is that while this will probably be an improvement for those in the middle class, it won't do a damn thing for poor people who can't afford insurance now.

The President also brought up MANDATES. A mandate and an extremely limited public option (possibly in name only) equal a BIG payday for the insurance companies - in my opinion.

I need to hear what Thom Hartmann thinks. That should clarify it for me if any of my fears are justified. My fear is that the President used the term "public option" but it won't be a real public option. The "not for profit" option will be administered through a private company instead of the government and only certain people will qualify.

If you have access to insurance through your employer you'll be required to take it. Even if it is not that good. Even if it stinks. Access to the "public option" will be carefully controlled. You'll have to be poor to get it, but not too poor that you can't afford it. In other words very few people will get in, thus defeating one of the main purposes of the public option, which was to keep prices down. This, in my opinion, is a fake public option. The only reason it was in the speech was to placate President Obama's liberal supporters.

People with insurance won't be subject to Recission. People with pre-existing conditions won't be denied coverage. Some people who couldn't previously afford insurance may now be able to, thanks to "tax credits". The insurance companies may be making less per person (maybe), but with insurance now mandatory, they'll make up the difference with new customers.

So, will this help everyone? Absolutely not. People will still fall through the cracks, people will still be showing up in emergency rooms without insurance, and people will still die due to lack of insurance. I can't say I'm surprised, but I also can't say that I'm not disappointed.

SWTD #20

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Who Supports Healthcare Insurance Reform

I think Wednesday is going to be a make it or break it day for President Obama's presidency ~ Thom Hartmann on his radio program (9/3/2009)

Obama will address a joint session of Congress on health care reform in prime time today (Wednesday, Sept. 9th). If the public option, which President Obama has previously described as a "must" is indeed dead (as proclaimed by Glenn Beck and other right wing news sites/pundits), we will probably find out then. An 8/17/2009 article on "The Daily Kos" by Jed Lewison says, "If the White House does end up letting the public option disappear without a major fight, many of President Obama's most ardent supporters, inspired by his Yes we can attitude, will withdraw from politics, their previous cynicism once again affirmed by a broken system".

In my previous post titled "Who Opposes Healthcare Insurance Reform", I addressed the right's assertion that it is average Americans who are opposing healthcare insurance reform. In said post I clearly illustrated that those against reform are "billionaires posing as grassroots groups to oppose anything that isn't in the billionaires' interests" - to reiterate the quote I concluded that post with.

Average Americans are, in fact, largely in favor of reform. According to a CBS News/New York Times poll, "72 percent [of Americans] support a government-sponsored health care plan to compete with private insurers ... [and] think the government would do a better job than private industry at keeping down costs".

I linked to this poll on a conservative website, and of course a Con chimed in disputing the figures. Because CBS News is "liberal". If "liberal" equates to "no conflict of interest", then I suppose CBS News is liberal. Actually, it is because CBS News - as reported by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) - is one of the few news organization without a conflict of interest, I believe their figures to be the most trustworthy.

So, what is the conflict of interest? FAIR explains that, "when a director from one company sits on the board of directors of another company, that's known as an interlocking directorate"; and, "save for CBS, every media corporation has board connections to either an insurance or pharmaceutical company".

Wow, every one? Yes, read the article. A Con faced with that fact would probably next attack FAIR, because they are "a progressive media criticism organization", but the facts, and the conflict of interest remain. The proprietor of a conservative blog I recently visited, and was quickly banned from posting on, argued that an organization having a conflict of interest does not preclude their information from being correct. So, billions of dollars are on the table, but polls produced by news organizations on whose boards health insurance executives sit - polls that tell us a majority of Americans are against a "government takeover" of healthcare - they might not be rigged.

I think common sense should indicate clearly which side in this debate is telling the truth - fake grassroots organizations backed by health insurance industry money and news organizations with health insurance industry executives on their board of directors - or polls from non-biased sources that tell us that a large majority of Americans want a public option?

Also supporting a single-payer system or a public option are a number of physician and medical professional organizations (see the list below). It is an impressive list, but there is one notable exception. The American Medical Association (representing approximately 20 percent of practicing physicians) has, historically, always opposed the public option.

Because they're worried about mandatory participation and reimbursement rates - they're whining that government run insurance programs aren't paying them enough. I'm in favor of paying doctors fairly, but I'm not convinced that this isn't about greed as opposed to fair pay. Otherwise you'd think that argument could stand on it's own.

In the past the AMA has referred to the public option as "socialized medicine" and made the Sarah Palin-ish claim that a government-sponsored system would be a gateway to totalitarianism. This go-round they're alleging a public option would lead to "an explosion of costs that would need to be absorbed by taxpayers". If this were really about adequate compensation why trot out these obvious lies? Insulting my intelligence doesn't help your case, AMA.

As with my previous post, again we can follow the money and discover whom, in actuality, the AMA is concerned about. Is the AMA all about protecting taxpayers from "an explosion of costs" and totalitarianism, or their own bottom line? An article by Matthew Yglesias on "Think Progress" reveals that at least 20 percent of the AMA's budget comes from the pharmaceutical lobby.

The AMA was willing to whore itself out for money in the past when it accepted money from the tobacco industry (see the Think Progress article), and, in my opinion, the same thing is going on now. Which may be why a recent survey by Sermo (an online community for physicians) found that 91 percent of physicians feel that the AMA does not accurately reflect their opinion as physicians. Which could explain why membership in the AMA has been declining in recent years.

In any case, I didn't intend for this post to be about the AMA, but about who supports the public option (the American people), and speculation regarding whether President Obama will, or will not, stand up and fight for what the American people want. If he does not I fear for the future of his agenda and for the future of the Democratic Party. If President Obama is of the opinion - and from what I've heard he may very well be - that any bill is a win, I think he is mistaken.

No public option is a win for the Republicans, and could very well render the rest of Mr. Obama's presidency ineffectual. Does this leave a lot of Democrats wondering, as a blogger on Atlanta's put it, "is Obama's presidency about to self-destruct over health care?".

Physician and Medical Professional Organizations Supporting Healthcare Reform
[1] The National Physicians Alliance with a membership of approximately 20,000 physicians.
[2] Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) representing aproximately 14,000 American physicians, medical students, and health professionals.
[3] Mad as Hell Doctors representing Oregon physicians.

Further Reading
[1] Health Care Reform vs. Single Payer Like HR676 (8/17/2009) Reason to read: Lays out how a public option would lead to tremendous savings and other benefits.
[2] The Pharmaceutical Payoffs? by Candice Lane, M.D. (blog post from Wellsphere's General Medical Community, 4/16/2008). Reason to read: Reveals how drug companies are paying off doctors to hawk their products.

SWTD #19

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Reagan Indoctrinated School Children

...America's revolutionary economic message [is one of] of free enterprise, low taxes, and open world trade ... that truth is fundamental to both liberty and prosperity ~ Ronald Reagan addressing middle school children on 11/14/1988.

President Obama plans to address our nation's school children on September 8th, 2009. The Department of Education's website notes that the speech will be "about persisting and succeeding in school". And that "The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning". You may have heard that Republicans are "outraged", believing that the President will take the opportunity to indoctrinate the school children with his "socialist agenda".

Is this just another partisan attack, or are they really worried? Maybe they really are worried, considering the fact that their hero Ronald Reagan DID take the opportunity to interject conservative ideology when he addressed a group of school children back in 1988. The quote from Reagan I opened my post with certainly could be described as conservative indoctrination - or at least completely inappropriate.

Seeing as every US president from Ronald Reagan forward have followed a policy of "open world trade", perhaps Reagan's indoctrination was successful. Reagan got the ball rolling in 1986 with the Uruguay Round, a series of multilateral trade negotiations which dropped US tariffs from an average of 48% down to 3%.

The Uruguay Round eventually lead to the formation of the World Trade Organization in 1995 and the signing of NAFTA by President Bill Clinton in 1993 - although negotiations began in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, hundreds of thousands of high-wage manufacturing jobs have been lost since the signing of NAFTA. Progressive talk show radio host Thom Hartmann puts it bluntly, credibly claiming that "Free trade is a guaranteed ticket to the poorhouse for any nation".

The sub prime mortgage crisis may have been what took us over the edge of the cliff, but it has been the Milton Freedman free trade polices we've been following since Reagan which has taken us to the edge. And, even though, during the Democratic primaries all the candidates appeared to acknowledge that NAFTA had it's "failings", now President Obama thinks that maybe NAFTA is not so bad after all.

Is "open world trade" good for US businesses because it allows them to export their wares without being slapped with high import tariffs (thus making their exported goods cheaper), and good for US (Wal-Mart) consumers who benefit from lower prices? Or are the primary beneficiaries trans-national corporations who export US jobs to lower wage countries and import their finished goods without having to worry about "protectionist" tariffs?

Another policy that funnels more money upwards to the determent of everyone else (except for workers in 3rd world countries who snagged some sweet pennies-per-hour jobs)? Maybe it's time we went back to a sane trade policy? A policy which was put forward by conservative Alexander Hamilton in his 1791 Report on Manufactures, adopted by Congress and largely adhered to until Reagan. Following sane trade polices, regulation of the private sector, and the application of progressive tax rates may be why the period starting in 1935 with the New Deal and ending with Reagan's massive tax cuts in 1981 was the last time America experienced sustained stable, steady growth (without bubbles).

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, describing how our economy functioned during this time period, writes, "[it was a] virtuous cycle of prosperity ...where productivity growth was widely distributed in wage gains, which increased consumption, which increased corporate investment and expansion, which led to increased productivity growth [and so on, and so on]". Since Reagan took office productivity growth has been widely distributed in wage gains - for CEOs - while wages for ordinary workers has flatlined.

Back to President Obama's upcoming indoctrination of our school children - if protectionism, which was conservative in Hamilton's day, is now socialist - I say go for it. "Get good grades" and "stay in school" are both important messages, but how about instituting some policies that encourage companies to keep jobs in the US? It's kind of discouraging to students who want to get a good job after leaving school when they see our government instituting policies which encourage US businesses to take those jobs elsewhere.

SWTD #18

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Who Opposes Healthcare Insurance Reform

...It's official: no public option. Congratulations! Because you stood up, the President and the government heard you. The spineless wonders probably only caved because they care about their own hides, BUT if you didn't stand up you can bet Universal Health would have been passed. But don't celebrate yet -- there is still work to be done. Think the progressives will give up that easily? ~ Glenn Beck, Right-wing loony toon and Fox News propagandizer.

This morning I received an "urgent message" via email from the "League of American Voters" which warned me that I shouldn't become "complacent" regarding the defeat of "ObamaCare" (although the message implied that such a defeat may be imminent, otherwise Obama wouldn't be "frantic" about getting an interim senator to replace Ted Kennedy until the MA special election in January).

A "League" that purports to represent "American Voters" has got to be one of those "grass roots" organizations representing ordinary middle-class Americans, right? If "ordinary" Americans are really against reforming the healthcare insurance industry then this "monstrosity" should go down in defeat, shouldn't it? This is a democracy, after all. Shouldn't our REPRESENATIVES be giving us what we want?

So, lets take a look at the "League of American Voters" and the other so-called grassroots organizations and try to discern who, exactly, they are representing.

The "urgent message" concerning the fact that "ObamaCare" isn't quite dead yet was sent out by Newsmax. Financial backing for Newsmax was provided by a group of conservative investors, including billionaire, and "vast right-wing conspiracy" Godfather, Richard Mellon Scaife (dubbed the "funding father" of the Right by the Washington Post).

Newsmax founder Christopher W. Ruddy ascribes to the cuckoo right-wing conspiracy that Hillary Clinton murdered Vince Foster. In my opinion, Newsmax is in the same category as another blatant right-wing propaganda peddling "media organization" World NUT Daily, which claims that they are "A free press for a free people". They're good for a laugh, but not to be taken seriously.

According to PR watch, whose stated mission is to expose deceptive and misleading public relations campaigns, "the League of American Voters is housed at the very same Washington, D.C. address as a slew of other pro-business, conservative supposed grassroots citizen groups that lobby for business interests, like Americans for Tax Reform, the American Family Business Institute, and the Property Rights Alliance" (From "Big Insurance, Big Tobacco and You". Submitted to PR Watch by Anne Landman on 8/6/2009)

An article on Think Progress says, "The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo ... details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress".

If we take a look at who is bankrolling these supposed "grassroots" organizations - we find that Americans for Prosperity's largest contributor, "Koch Family Foundations" is a long-time supporter of conservative and libertarian political causes (with a damaged reputation due to multiple guilty rulings in federal and state lawsuits) (from Wikipedia).

FreedomWorks contributors include foundations controlled by the conservative Scaife family (as reported by Mark Ames' in "The Exiled" and The Washington Post). Another deceptively named group, "Patients United Now", is actually a subsidiary of "Americans for Prosperity".

Given these facts, I think I can honestly conclude that opposition to healthcare reform isn't coming from average Americans citizens who've come together to form a non-partisan grassroots "league". Opposition to healthcare reform is coming wealthy conservatives defending the revenue streams of other wealthy conservatives, or as journalist Mark Ames puts it "billionaires are posing as grassroots groups to oppose anything that isn't in the billionaires' interests, including health care reform...".

SWTD #17