Archive for health care reform

Looking for Rage in All the Wrong Places

Posted in 4. Institutions with tags , , , , on April 21, 2010 by talewis

We Americans live in a country engaged in the longest war of its entire history — in Afghanistan — which is now in its ninth year with no end in sight. No military or political leader of our country can explain to us why we are fighting this war, how we are going to win it, or what benefit will accrue if and when we do. (Yes, yes, we understand why we started the war, the question is why are we still fighting it?) Continue reading

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Cash and Carry On Government

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , on March 5, 2010 by talewis

Health care reform: stalled. Climate change legislation: on hold. Financial industry regulation: fogeddaboudit. Deficit reduction: gedoudahere. California and New York: gridlocked government. Instead of just being critical of the people who got us here and can’t get us out — how easy is that? — how about taking a moment to identify with them? Would that be too much to ask? Continue reading

Deforming Health Care: A Banner Year

Posted in The Failed State with tags , on February 23, 2010 by talewis

Note to business-school grads: if they’ve told you you’re too greedy and cruel to be an investment banker or an oil executive, don’t despair; they’re going to love you in the health-insurance industry.

The country’s five largest health-insurance companies increased their combined profits by $4.4 billion dollars in 2009 — the year everyone else was struggling to stay aflloat in the worst recession in memory — according to a study by the reform advocacy group “Health Care for America Now!” Continue reading

Deforming Health Care

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , , , on October 29, 2009 by talewis

Just about a year ago, for the first time in modern American history, voters selected a president who had not been vetted and funded by Big Money. In the euphoria of the celebration, we did not notice for a while that no similar winds of change had blown through the Congress. As a result the drive for health care reform (or was it health care insurance reform? Or both?) by the new president, with the backing of about 70 per cent of the American people, has not only missed the cup, in the parlance of golf, but the green, and cannot be found anywhere on the fairway. They are out among the trees now, looking for its remains. Continue reading

Forget Everything, I Said

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , , on September 24, 2009 by talewis
The mantra of the industrial age rises in intensity, all around us, louder and more insistent as it becomes less defensible: we have to change everything, is the way it goes, but we can’t change any single thing.
On health care: yes, it’s terrible, the system is broken. The industry (imagine: in this country, health care is an industry), as President Obama likes to remind us, is on board this time, and agrees we must reform the system. It’s just that they are against changing any single thing about the system. Reduce their profits? That would be un-American. Offer Medicare to the people they have rejected as too poor or sick to help? Socialism! Sure, they’re willing to stop refusing or cancelling coverage of people who are, or get, sick. But that’s a no-brainer when, in return, 45 million Americans, now without insurance, are going to be required by law to pay them premiums. Now that’s a reform even an insurance coimpany could like.
The journalism industry — yes, it’s an industry now, too, I’m afraid — is complicit in all this. To cite just one example: two of the country’s most successful and respected columnists, Gail Collins and David Brooks, discuss the health care reform battle as if it were a contest of ideas between Republicans and Democrats, or the House and the Senate, or the Administration and Congress.
Compromising on Health Care
It is no such thing. It’s a contest between the 70% of Americans who want access to decent health care at a reasonable cost — and the industries that are making their profits by either denying the care or bankrupting the patient. Of course the industries are winning, at least partly because the journalists who should be shining light on what the companies are doing are instead flapping their right wings against their left wings.
Similarly. the oil industry agrees that we are going to run short of oil, and soon. Their most optimistic scenarios put peak oil — the begining of the perpetual and irreversible decline of the world’s oil supply in the face of steadily increasing demand — at 20 years away. Most reputable observers believe it’s happening now. But Big Oil says yes! we have to change everything! They even allowed their wholly-owned President, George W. Bush, say it explicity: we are addicted to foreign oil.
Just don’t try to change any single thing. Higher gas-mileage requirements for cars? No way. Tax gasoline to reduce consumption and stimulate atlternative, renewable fuels? Are you kidding? Limit carbon emissions as a late and lame admission that we are changing the climate of the planet, to our own peril? No, no, no. Instead, British Petroleum will rebrand itself as “Beyond Petroleum,” and run TV ads about how we have to change everything.
What I argue, here and in Brace for Impact, is that survival requires that we flip this brain-dead mantra on its head, admit that we cannot change everything, and then change something.

The mantra of the industrial age rises in intensity, all around us, louder and more insistent as it becomes less defensible: we have to change everything, is the way it goes, but we can’t change any single thing. Continue reading

Three Strikes

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , on September 1, 2009 by talewis
Two of the country’s leading columnists are inching toward the first part of the premise of Brace for Impact — that the industrial world is facing imminent collapse and cannot prevent it.
Eugene Robinson, writing in the Washington Post [“Seemed Like a Good Idea…”], looks long and hard at fire-ravaged, earthquake-threatened California, then at hurricane-battered New Orleans, and wonders whether they ever should have been built. Immediately he shrugs this notion off, as if physically burned by contact with the heresy, to say that not building them, not repaitring them after every predictable, unavoidable catastrophe, would be “unthinkable.”
In one sentence he comes very close to where Brace for Impact starts: “In the end, the least — and, probably, the most — we can do is try our best to envision which of our good ideas seems least likely to burden future generations…Is there anything in the works, in other words, that’s the equivalent of building one great city that regularly burns and another that regularly drowns?”
Of course there is not. Big Oil and Big Agriculture need New Orleans, Big Money of all kinds needs California, and they need them just as they are where they are, and they don’t mind spending the money to convince us that any alternative is “unthinkable.”
And the alternative — sustainable living, which can save any of us from the coming crash — will remain “unthinkable” as long as Big Money retains its grip on our government, as Paul Krugman recognizes in his New York Times column [“Missing Richard Nixon”]. He points out that the health care reform that Nixon proposed 35 years ago looked very much like what Barack Obama is proposing today, indeed was in some respects more “socialist.”
Krugman marvels that in the face of extreme partisanship and unfettered corporate spending, significant reform of health care and/or health insurance is simply not going to happen. And, he says, it’s not just health care: “Every desperately needed reform I can think of, from controlling greenhouse gases to restoring fiscal balance, will have to run the same gantlet of lobbying and lies.”
A third example, from yesterday’s Washington Post [“Environmentalists Slow to Adjust in Climate Debate”], details how corporate money is killing the current attempt to place a few restraints on carbon emissions. The contest, as the report typically portrays it, is between the “oil lobby” and the “coal industry” on one side, and “environmentalists” — that radical fringe group that desires the survival of humans on the planet — on the other. Ordinary people do not appear in this article, which reports admiringly that industry is providing free lunches, concerts and t-shirts (not to mention millions of dollars worth of propaganda on TV) then oserves sarcastically that all the environmentalists were offering, on this particular day in Athens Ohio, was a “sedate panel discussion.”
How naive of these radicals, to think that important legislation ought to be discussed — sedately, at that! Don’t they know that what you do now is accuse the oil companies of killing grandma, and hand out guns to everybody who comes to your town meeting?
“Actually turning this country around,” writes Krugman, “is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.” Who is going to conduct this warfare, and where are they going to get the money to do it? The most probable answer: No one and no where.
Brace for impact.

Two of the country’s leading columnists are inching toward the first part of the premise of Brace for Impact — that the industrial world is facing imminent collapse and cannot prevent it.

Eugene Robinson, writing in the Washington Post [“Seemed Like a Good Idea...”], looks long and hard at fire-ravaged, earthquake-threatened California, then at hurricane-battered New Orleans, and wonders whether they ever should have been built. Continue reading

It’s Not Funny

Posted in The Failed State with tags , , , on August 25, 2009 by talewis
Of all the players in the rancid shoutfest — please don’t call it a “debate” — about “health care reform,”  the most reprehensible may be the journalists. At least the others — the politicians, the lobbyists, the corporations, the perpetually paranoid — are acting and speaking in ways that are true to their natures.
Most journalists, on the other hand, pretend to a higher calling, then fail to answer the call. Most of them are as cowed by the loud and the stupid as anyone, but pretend to be judiciously weighing their words. Because the right has trumpeted that the government is proposing to conduct euthenasia on old people, the journalists have cravenly classified this as a conservative-liberal dispute, calling for an even-handed presentation quoting both sides. In fact (if I may use that word in its absolute sense) the only useful distinction to be made about this odious allegation is whether it is true, which it patently and obviously is not, or whether it is a lie. Not a mis-statement, not an exaggeration or a matter of opinion, but a damned lie.
Journalistic objectivity does not forbid the branding of a lie as a lie, it requires it. Who has done it?
I have seen a woman proclaim on a television ad dozens of times that she was denied treatment for her brain tumor in Canada, and the ad proceeds to imply that “health care reform” will lead to a Canadian style of health system in America. I have never seen a news cable network or newscast check the womn’s claim, or analyze the ad’s implication. Every news organization had fact-checks for all the allegations made in the presidential election campaign, but they don’t do it when it concerns the actual government of the country?
Perhaps the industrial media are so distracted by their own death spiral of declining circulation, ratings and revenues that they are unable to remember, let alone summon, the integrity, courage and service to the truth that is supposed to be their hallmark.
The depth of their failure in this essential regard is illuminated by the stellar performance of a non-journalist, a man who insists he is just a comedian, in doing the work that journalism is supposed to do. John Stewart’s Daily Show interview of Betsy McCaughey — a slightly-less-loopy-than-usual proponent of the death squad crowd, is by far the best journalistic performace of the year. He knows the subject better than she does, refuses to let her get away with non-sequitirs, lies, and other offenses, exposes her as a demagogue, and does so without becoming in any way offensive.
Watch both parts of the interview. And see what we’re missing on CBS and CNN.    Of all the players in the rancid shoutfest — please don’t call it a “debate” — about “health care reform,”  the most reprehensible may be the journalists. At least the others — the politicians, the lobbyists, the corporations, the perpetually paranoid — are acting and speaking in ways that are true to their natures.
Most journalists, on the other hand, pretend to a higher calling, then fail to answer the call. Most of them are as cowed by the loud and the stupid as anyone, but pretend to be judiciously weighing their words. Because the right has trumpeted that the government is proposing to conduct euthenasia on old people, the journalists have cravenly classified this as a conservative-liberal dispute, calling for an even-handed presentation quoting both sides. In fact (if I may use that word in its absolute sense) the only useful distinction to be made about this odious allegation is whether it is true, which it patently and obviously is not, or whether it is a lie. Not a mis-statement, not an exaggeration or a matter of opinion, but a damned lie.
Journalistic objectivity does not forbid the branding of a lie as a lie, it requires it. Who has done it?
I have seen a woman proclaim on a television ad dozens of times that she was denied treatment for her brain tumor in Canada, and the ad proceeds to imply that “health care reform” will lead to a Canadian style of health system in America. I have never seen a news cable network or newscast check the womn’s claim, or analyze the ad’s implication. Every news organization had fact-checks for all the allegations made in the presidential election campaign, but they don’t do it when it concerns the actual government of the country?
Perhaps the industrial media are so distracted by their own death spiral of declining circulation, ratings and revenues that they are unable to remember, let alone summon, the integrity, courage and service to the truth that is supposed to be their hallmark.
The depth of their failure in this essential regard is illuminated by the stellar performance of a non-journalist, a man who insists he is just a comedian, in doing the work that journalism is supposed to do. John Stewart’s Daily Show interview of Betsy McCaughey — a slightly-less-loopy-than-usual proponent of the death squad crowd, is by far the best journalistic performace of the year. He knows the subject better than she does, refuses to let her get away with non-sequitirs, lies, and other offenses, exposes her as a demagogue, and does so without becoming in any way offensive.
Watch both parts of the interview. And see what we’re missing on CBS and CNN.

Of all the players in the rancid shoutfest — please don’t call it a “debate” — about “health care reform,”  the most reprehensible may be the journalists. At least the others — the politicians, the lobbyists, the corporations, the perpetually paranoid — are acting and speaking in ways that are true to their natures. Continue reading