Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The New Medicare Maze

If you have never seen a riddle in an enigma, wrapped in a conundrum, just log into the Medicare or the AARP site and try to figure out the plans for Medicare, Part D. Now, this is not to be confused in any way with Medicare as we know it. Gone is the "single-payer" program. This is nothing more nor less than a mandatory requirement to engage in commerce with the regularly licensed insurance companies with which we are all too familiar.

First, you are not only required to know what medications you are currently taking, but you must predict what medications you might possibly require later in life. Some companies may refuse to pay for one medicine but will cover another. Your job will be to carry with you the list of covered medications every time you see a doctor or check into an emergency room so that your physician will not prescribe a non-covered drug. Some companies will waive the deductible while charging a higher co-payment. Others base the co-payment schedule on the medication used. If you have prescriptions for "generic" drugs, you may pay less than for a "brand name" medication. Others have a "tier" system whereby you pay a higher co-pay for some drugs than for others, and some are only usable in their chain system of pharmacies, requiring one to have to go some distance away to obtain their prescriptions. Many of the medications commonly prescribed by doctors will not be covered at all!

It has been stated that use of generic drugs will save money for the company issuing the insurance, but that sometimes has drawbacks which a patient is not able to tolerate. A good example is the difference between the blood-thinner, Coumadin, and its generic "cousin", Warfarin. Cumadin is what is called a "stable dosage" medication, which means that each tablet will have the same dosage of the essential ingredient as the others. This creates a steady control of the desired activity in the system. On the other hand, Warafin is known as an "unstable dosage" medication in that the tablets may vary in strength and allow the clotting effect to be variable, possibly contributing to either stroke or uncontrolled internal bleeding. Other "generic" drugs may have side-effects that may be similar if not so serious. In many cases, something as simple as a reaction to one of the "inert" ingredients, used to contain or to stabilize the essential ingredients, may jeoparize the life of the patient, requiring a switch to a different brand, which may or may not be included in your insurance company's "pharmacoepia".

Even with the handy-dandy little "help tools" which are furnished by the government, the AARP, and the insurance companies, it is simply impossible for the private citizen, especially the elderly who are supposed to benefit by it, to compute the financial impact on their budget. One must simply consult all those advisors who are willing to help and then reach into the grab-bag and pull out an insurance company which will control your health until you are moved to reach back into the bag and choose another, but not until after you have to deal with the shortfall with which you are faced as the result of the policies of the first company.

In addition, you have the option to have the premiums deducted from your Social Security check. That way the insurancce company will get their money before you get yours, and you will be left with less total income and still have the deductibles and co-payments with which to contend. Bear in mind that with the "cost-of living" increase, there is also an increase in the premiums for Medicare and for Part B which will leave most beneficiaries with slightly less in their check this year even before the Part D premiums are taken out. Thus, rather than an increase in Social Security benefits for the year, the elderly are facing a reduction in their disposable income and many will be left with even greater bills than before for their medical care.

Those who have been eligible for Medicaid and have had their Part B premiums paid for and little or no co-payments with which to deal, are finding themselves faced with paying the deductibles and co-payments inflicted by this "insurance" coverage and will be less able than before to afford medical care. In addition we must consider the reduction in LIHEAPP funds and the increase in fuel prices. We will hear no more about people who have to choose between keeping warm or staying healthy. They will be able to do neither! Medicaid beneficiaries who have not signed with a company by now will find that they have already been "enrolled" with a company that has been designated by their state and will have no choice but to complete their research and go through the process of changing, should such action benefit them. In the meantime, they may be tasked with finding transportation to distant drug stores in order to obtain their medicines. The rest of us have a few more months before we must enroll before being penalized, unless Congress acts in the meantime to simplify, defer, or repeal this blunderbus of a "program" with which we are afflicted.

This is but the latest boondoggle to bleed the limited resources of the poor, the weak, and the elderly to the benefit of the corporate moguls. If one dares to mention the possibility and the advantages of single-payer health care based on the pattern currently employed by Medicare, one is lambasted with charges of wanting "socialized medicine" and "rationed Medical care"., but these charges are spurious. It would cover only the essential services and doctor-prescribed necessary medications, leaving things like "elective surgery" such as face-lifts and tummy-tucks to be paid by the patient and drugs like Viagra to be paid out-of-pocket as would be other "recreational" items.

The United States spends a greater amount for medical care than any other nation in the world but does not have the highest quality of care by far. This can be partially accounted for by the unconscionable prices of prescription drugs, but also by the exhorbitant premiums charged for health insurance. The costs for health insurance of employees has broken many American manufacturing corporations and left uncounted persons unable to provide the basics of health care for their families. The insurance companies merely raise the rates charged to those who can still afford to pay and continue to show record profits as their owners pocket ever-expanding dividends.

As a couple who are eligible for Medicare Part D, we find ouselves sifting through insurance company advertising in our mail on a daily basis, each offering the limitless sky and each adding to the confusion over choice. This leads one to believe that they have been given a bonanza by the passage of this undecypherable legislation and there is no way the American public can participate on an equal basis with their corporate gobbledegook. It is merely another bone thrown to the corporate dogs in order to assure the continuation of the river of campaign funds flowing into the political parties. I charge the "compassionate conservatives" for further victimizing the American public and the "party-of-the-people" Democrats for allowing this travesty of an "insurance program" to pass out of Congresss and onto the backs of those who have already been reduced to pauperhood and who find their meager income looted once again.

God save America!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It Is SO About Class!

Whenever our government sells us another abominable ripoff of the ill, the elderly, and the handicapped or increases the burden of the working people, they are prompt to tell us that "it is not about class". They lie. It is always about "class" and it has always been about "class". There is no other reason for ambition, for the never-ending struggle for control of whatever medium of exchange passes for wealth and the assumption that wealth equals power.

Whether man struggled upward for the primordial ooze or was created in all his glory, perfect in the eyes of God and himself, "class" has been the driving force of his primitive being. When human beings huddled together in caves, the strongest man with the most capable killing instrument, whether a sick or the leg-bone of an animal, assumed leadership of the clan. His superior hunting abilities enabled him to accumulate more food, more skins in which to wrap a chilled body and, thus, more "wealth" and prestige. This entitled him to the choicest bits of food and the most desirable female. Thus was "class" created. The small, the weak, the disabled were regarded as dependent and a waste of food and warmth and were valued only as slaves and dispensable when they had outlived their usefulness. Only when a contender arose who was stronger, more inventive, and more vicious would the holder of this "class distinction" lose his position in society and be forced to adapt a more servile attitude.

Even in the ancient tomes on which modern religion is based, the theme of "class" is a vital subject and history clearly delineates its importance. In Genesis, Abel was the son who was favored by his parents and by God. The reason? He made a "better offering" by offering meat rather than "the fruit of the ground". Thus was established for all time the higher value placed upon those who kill rather than upon the 'humble tillers of the soil". The Torah, the Old Testament, is full of tales of those who were "blessed" and given power over others even unto the destruction of other human beings. They were the ones who were entitled to the perquisites and the prerogatives inherent in the bestowal of "class". Most prominent of these tales is that of Isaac and Ishmael whose supposed enmity troubles the world even to this day. Ishmael, the first-born, who was conceived of a handmaiden because of Abraham's desperation for an heir, was banished for his illegitimacy in order to clear the path for Israel to inherent his father's riches, setting the stage for discriminatory practices against the "ill-born" to preserve the privileges of the "well-born". The history of the advancement of mankind is replete with examples of the rule by the rich and powerful at the cost of the poor, the un-schooled, and the handicapped. Slavery is the best example of this, the rich actually owning members of the underprivileged class and forcing them into unpaid labor, military service, and duels to the death for the entertainment of their masters.

The closest that mankind has come to the elimination of this practice has been in the history of the United States as it evolved from legal slavery toward true democracy, the culmination coming with the civil rights movement and the improvements in equality that resulted from it. However, when it seemed that we had almost attained true equality, we were suddenly thrust back into the old way of thinking and behaving as the "ultra-right" took control of our government. In the name of "conservatism", the social programs of a century were either ended or the budget tightened so severely that their purpose could no longer be achieved.

The war in which we find ourselves currently engaged was begun for the benefit of the privileged and has served as a smokescreen as the budget of the United States has been looted by the privileged class and the "underclass" has been condemned to poverty, illness, and homelessness as the "compassionate conservatives" ignore the conditions in our own nation. One of our major cities lies in ruins that can only be compared to the Iraqi city of Fallujah, its residents scattered to the four winds and dependent upon the charity of others and our government takes no action to correct the causes of their distress. We spend two billion dollars a week to make war upon a shattered nation in order to force "democracy" upon them while neglecting brutally the needs and the rights of our own people.

Now, our President tells us that he has "authorized" the National Security Agency to wiretap our telephones, monitor our computer communications, and otherwise spy upon law-abiding American citizens at will. Not only that but he blatantly stated that he intends to continue with these illegal and immoral acts, regardless of the terms of the law which specifically forbids it. While even the former supporters from his own party are aghast at this declaration that he considers himself to have the authority to do this under the War Powers Act as the Commander-In-Chief of the military he continues his campaign to establish the Presidency as a virtual dictatorship. Not only have the "sneak-and-peak" provisions of the hated Patriot Act nullified our Fourth Amendment Rights, but we now know that our precious First Amendment rights, the most important of all are under attack. We have written and forced Iraq to approve a "democratic constitution" while our own President off-handedly dismisses own Constitution, the very bedrock of our national governing system, as "just a goddam piece of paper" and beneath his consideration.

It would seem that in a very few years, mankind has done a reverse evolution and degenerated into the old cave-man mystique. While the President rants about "individual responsibilty" he is advocating the old "every man for himself" mentality. Here in Kansas, we are watching the power brokers as they struggle over the relative correctness of the Theory of Evolution or Intelligent Design. I would venture that, if the theory of evolution is correct, it has reversed itself and, if we are the product of design, it certainly has not been very intelligent. As mankind develops technology which makes possible a better standard of living, the greed of the ruling class is causing them to become more intent on keeping all the goodies for themselves regardless of the consequence to the poor. The agenda of the current administration appears to be to allow the poor, the ill, and the old to die and get out of the way while "guest workers" pour into the country to perform all the odious duties which the rich require in maintaining their elegant lifestyles.

It all absolutely is "about class"!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

TIME TO FISH OR CUT BAIT

While Congress is obediently cutting taxes for the rich in response to the wishes of the President, the displaced persons from New Orleans are still crowded into hotels or the living quarters of relatives and other caring persons and rapidly losing hope of ever going home. In the meantime, whatever remains of their homes and possessions are rotting away as are the bodies of their friends and neighbors whom the contractors have not bothered to remove. Many have lost relatives, some even the children from whom they were forcibly separated during the crisis and, as time goes on, their reunion is even more unlikely.

One could assume that there is quibbling over the cost of repairing the levees and/or raising the ground level of the area that was so devastated in order to prevent another such occurrence, but there is no agreement and no plan. There is absolutely no discussion in Congress or the administration about plans to correct the conditions which led to the disaster and to re-establish the city of New Orleans as a viable community. Further , the public appear to have lost their once-deep concern for the plight of these people or the future of their city. When a group of New Orleanians appeared before a Senate committee to tell their stories, one Senator was absolutely un-civil in his questioning, as if they had reason to dissemble about the events before, during, and after the flood.

As with so many things that concern caring people, the government is prone to say, "It's over. Nothing to see here. Move on." After all, the flood damaged only the "poor" section of town, occupied by people of color and the super-poor. They got to have a wonderfully exciting camp-out in the Super Dome and the Astro Dome which, according to Barbara Bush, was a taste of luxury after what they were accustomed to. They got some free credit cards, which should please any poor person, and they got to travel! What more do they want?

They want to go home! It is the Christmas season and they want, as all of us do, to be with their familes, (whatever is left of them). They want to hold their children, to worship and celebrate the birth of Jesus in familiar congregations with their friends. They want to walk familiar streets and shop in neighborhood stores, being greeted by familiar faces in the spirit of the season. Instead they are faced with the possibility of arrest on charges of looting if they try to enter their damaged homes to clean up or to salvage any mementos that might be left. It will yet be a long while until they have the time and the opportunity to recognize their losses, homes, friends, jobs, and opportunities, and to grieve for them. There is work to be done and they eager to engage in it.

Meanwhile, the mobile homes and the travel trailers which have been ordered are sitting within a couple of days distant and waiting for FEMA to provide the money to pay for them. This one simple act could have the temporary housing inside New Orleans in a matter of days, available for the families to stay in them and begin the chore of cleaning out and cleaning up their own propety and restoring or rebuilding their homes. The low-income housing that might be appropriate for people to live in are locked up and barred from entry, much less occupancy, and no reasons are given for the failure to open them for the previous residents to move back in. Small wonder that many New Orleanians are convinced of some major conspiracy by the government to prevent them from ever returning to their previous living environment.

Discard the idea that New Orleans is nothing more than a party town. The partying is done by the tourists who take advantage of the celebrations to throw aside their inhibitions and to make fools of themselves in an anonymous setting. New Orleans is traditionally a very religious community. Whether Catholic, Baptist, or a mixture of these and native religions, the people are very family-oriented and devout in their faith. They celebrate life and they celebrate death, they honor their origins, and they rejoice in their freedoms. While they do have a problem with crime, do not we all? Yes, many of them are poor, but is that not why they were living in the flood-prone area rather than on Snob Hill? Many are, nonetheless, well-educated and well capable of self-representation, and some may even decide to enter the political arena as the result of this fiasco.

If you were to lose your home to a disaster, how would you like to be treated? Would you expect your insurance company to brush you off? Would you expect the banks to foreclose on what was left of your home in order to sell it to industrial developers? Would you tolerate being separated from your friends and family and transplanted into a strange community and culture? Or would you get mad as hell and take action? Not only those from New Orelans but also ones who lived in Texas, Mississippi, Florida,and Alabama are facing the same problems, non-caring lassitude on the part of the elected officials who are supposed to represent their interests. If those elected officials who are responsible for their neglect expect to run for re-election in 2006 and 2008. it would seem that they would want to see all those people safely tucked into real homes in a location of their choice. Otherwise, some may find that the "Solid South" is no longer ripe for the picking by any Bible-thumping, psalm-singing "conservative" who puts his name on the ballot.

The people of the Gulf Coast are entitled to courteous answers to their questions and attention to their plight. If they are not to allowed to return to their homes, they should be allowed re-settlement money sufficient to let them put down roots elsewhere instead of being perpetually maintained in the position of beggars and welfare dependents. They have the right, as Americans, to be able to take permanent jobs, to have their children enrolled in schools of which they can feel a part, and in homes of their choice where they can re-build their lives. To expect them to quietly acquiesce to one more condescending insult as their homes are forfeited and their families destroyed as the result of neglect and exploitation by their own countrymen would be the crowning atrocity among the many that have already been perpetrated against the American people by this war-obsessed administration. It is well past time for these people and their problems to be given the attention that they deserve.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Even the Constitution Is Not Safe

Just a Goddamned Piece of Paper

Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed
into the Oval Office to meet with President George W.
Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA
Patriot Act.

Several provisions of the act, passed in the shell
shocked period immediately following the 9/11
terrorist attacks, caused enough anger that liberal
groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had
joined forces with prominent conservatives like
Phyllis Schlafly and Bob Barr to oppose renewal.

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew
the more onerous provisions of the act could further
alienate conservatives still mad at the President from
his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel
Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

"I don't give a goddamn," Bush retorted. "I'm the
President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."

"Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There
is a valid case that the provisions in this law
undermine the Constitution."

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush
screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"

I've talked to three people present for the meeting
that day and they all confirm that the President of
the United States called the Constitution "a goddamned
piece of paper."

And, to the Bush Administration, the Constitution of
the United States is little more than toilet paper
stained from all the shit that this group of power-mad
despots have dumped on the freedoms that "goddamned
piece of paper" used to guarantee.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while still White
House counsel, wrote that the "Constitution is an
outdated document."

Put aside, for a moment, political affiliation or
personal beliefs. It doesn't matter if you are a
Democrat, Republican or Independent. It doesn't matter
if you support the invasion or Iraq or not. Despite
our differences, the Constitution has stood for two
centuries as the defining document of our government,
the final source to determine - in the end - if
something is legal or right.

Every federal official - including the President - who
takes an oath of office swears to "uphold and defend
the Constitution of the United States."

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says he cringes
when someone calls the Constitution a "living
document."

""Oh, how I hate the phrase we have-a 'living
document,'" Scalia says. "We now have a Constitution
that means whatever we want it to mean. The
Constitution is not a living organism, for Pete's
sake."

As a judge, Scalia says, "I don't have to prove that
the Constitution is perfect; I just have to prove that
it's better than anything else."

President Bush has proposed seven amendments to the
Constitution over the last five years, including a
controversial amendment to define marriage as a "union
between a man and woman." Members of Congress have
proposed some 11,000 amendments over the last decade,
ranging from repeal of the right to bear arms to a
Constitutional ban on abortion.

Scalia says the danger of tinkering with the
Constitution comes from a loss of rights.

"We can take away rights just as we can grant new
ones," Scalia warns. "Don't think that it's a one-way
street."

And don't buy the White House hype that the USA
Patriot Act is a necessary tool to fight terrorism. It
is a dangerous law that infringes on the rights of
every American citizen and, as one brave aide told
President Bush, something that undermines the
Constitution of the United States.

But why should Bush care? After all, the Constitution
is just "a goddamned piece of paper."

© Copyright 2005 Capitol Hill Blue

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Shameful Blasphemy of the Religious Right

In the 1930's, when I was but a child, my aunt was married to a travelling evangelist who presided over camp meetings and she was very proud of his work. She loved telling me of his "miracles" of healing, saving souls, and casting out demons. She used to sit me down and tell stories of things that she had "witnessed" at his meetings. Being a simple country child, I asked questions and, over time and after following her urging to read the Bible "cover to cover", I developed a healthy skepticism toward believing what I was told and have spent a good deal of time in the informal study of the Bible, its teachings, and the history of these sacred writings. Especially at this time, when religious leaders have such close ties with the politicians and share their aspirations, it is most important for Christians to study carefully what they are being told and search the scriptures to learn the truth for themselves.

I was verbally instructed, first, that the first five books of the Old Testament as it is known today were written by Moses under divine inspiration, which allowed him to write of events concerning and after his own death. Even to a small child this simply did not compute! Later studies showed that the history of this entire period of time was created by "scribes" from ancient, (even at that time), writings which were translated and collected into what became the Jewish Torah and are the basis of the beliefs of the Jewish faith. The Old Testament is now an anthology of the history of the Jews, including the prophecies of such seers as the oft-quoted Isaiah, Micah, and Malachi.

As with any book, the events documented therein must be taken in context. The Ten Commandments, for example, are the basis for Jewish Law and were validated in the teachings of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5:17, He exhorts his followers to keep the Law but follows that statement by instructions that mere lawfulness is not enough and the rest of the chapter is a list of caveats about personal behavior which is even more stringent. Some even now attempt to abide by the dietary restrictions which were given to the Jews as they began their forty-year trek through the desert, prohibiting those foods which could quickly spoil in the heat or might be dangerous if under-cooked. They fail to include Romans 14:14 where Paul tells the Faithful that "nothing is unclean of itself". This is a problem with the present-day "prophets and seers". They pick and choose those chapters and verses which comport with their personal viewpoints and delete the rest, relying upon the laziness of their listeners to assure that they accept those words and do not bother to read the rest of the pertinent writings.

A prime example of this is their excusing the hatred of those of the Muslim faith and to justify killing them for no reason but that of their faith. They quote Genesis 16:11-12 wherein God, as punishment for the disobedience of Hagar, places a curse upon Ishmael, condemning him to be a "wild man: his hand will be against every man and every man's hand against him", and neglect the later passage of Genesis 17:20 wherein, at Abraham's supplication, God relents and blesses Ishmael and promises to make him "a great nation". Later, in chapter 25, he joined Isaac in burying their father and, in chapter 28, it is mentioned that his daughter married Esau, the son of Isaac who sold his birthright to Jacob for "a mess of potage". However, it is only verses 11 and 12 that are quoted, ad nauseum, as justification for the incessant killing of Muslims thousands of years later.

Much of the Bible is written in allegories, parables, and exemplars and it is important to determine the context of each individual passage. Even in the New Testament letters of Paul to various churches at a distance, the advice given is in response to particular problems which existed in that church at that time and are not neccesarily commandments by which we are bound to live. God gave us a brain capable of reason and Jesus bequeathed us the privilege of discerning for ourselves the motivations of those who would lead or mis-lead us, but it is our responsibility to exercise these gifts. I have never seen a scripture wherein ignorance would be accepted as an excuse good enough to get us through those "Pearly Gates" and to attempt to excuse our sins by saying, "Jerry Falwell said so," just couldn't result in a good outcome. The good Reverend will account for his own sins but we are responsible for ours.

Those who elevate themselves and claim to teach the true Word of God need to spend some time in prayerful contemplation of II Timothy 2:15, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth ." The Bible should be studied by each individual who wishes to follow its precepts and they should not accept as "Bible truth" every sermon that is pronounced from a pulpit but should read far before and after the text which is prescribed by someone else. Thus, we learn that pastors and evengelists are merely human as we are and are not infallible beings who know the Word of God and preach it infallibly. We must "beware of false prophets" who just may be skewing the facts in order to make their own points of view acceptable to us rather than telling us "the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth".

It is fortunate that , in this age of enlightenment, it is no longer appropriate to stone to death those who pervert the Word of God to their own ends under the Law against blasphemy, but sometimes, at moments of great frustration, it may seem to be a good idea. We will just have to pray about that!

Friday, November 25, 2005

HOWARD DEAN AND THE DEMO MONEY PROBLEM

Dr. Howard Dean, whose constructive use of the internet broke all records in raising money for his political campaign in 2004, is said to be having a bit of a problem in doing the same for the national Democratic Party. There are those who are quick to condemn the man as a "flash in the pan" who is incapable of doing an adequate job for the party as a whole. They fail to recognize the difference in the circumstances.
When Dr. Dean was running for the presidential nomination, there were many of us "small people" who were willing to dig into our very shallow pockets to donate whatever we could spare to assist in the changes which he and other progressive Democrats hoped to effect. Throughout the primary campaign, the field seemed to consist of Dean, Kucinich, Edwards, and Gephardt with a smaller amount of support for Braun and Sharpton. With the assistance of the media, the "establishment Democrats" weighed in and John Kerry swept in and took home all the marbles. We witnessed a campaign in which Sen Kerry, a true war hero in his own right was instantly put on the defensive and the same media which promoted his candidacy turned against him and gave us a Bush re-run, right down to another election scandal which went largely unreported until it was too late to correct it.
The progressives among us became understandably gun-shy. We are holding our fire and keeping our little bits of money in our pockets until we are sure that it will be used on behalf of those policies which we espouse. The Democratic Party as a national organization, as well as the media, is looking no further than those politicians whom we regularly see on the Sunday morning news shows, mouthpieces for the party line, Republican-lites, and stay-the-course advocates, willing to play nice at the game of "politics -as-usual". They cannot see beyond the huge profiles of Clinton, Biden, Kerry, and Gore while the media likes to hype an all-female field headed by Hillary on one side and Condi Rice on the other. With a contest like that, most of us who truly care about our country and its well-being may just stay home in bed and cover up our heads.
The great majority of us who are at the bottom of the human food chain have had enough of the same old "kiss the rich and screw the poor" choices that we have had for the last 24 years! We are sick and tired of being required to choose "the lesser of two evils" on election day, of holding our noses as we mark our ballots. We want to support someone who can think constructively, who will restore our democracy to "one man, one vote, and actually count the votes", who will stop spending our grandchildren's money on a needless and un-winnable war, and who will concentrate on rebuilding our national economy with real jobs by restoring our neglected super-structure and salvaging whatever is left of our damaged society. We need a candidate with guts, who will speak truth to power, a real barn-burning ass-kicker who is not afraid to tell the American people the truth about the liars and manipulators who have held our very existence in their hands for much too long
This candidate should be one who could marshall and organize his/her thoughts and present them in a cogent fashion so that there is no misunderstanding of what the nation needs and the steps that will be taken to correct the devastation which has been inflicted upon us by the last few administrations. We hear our corporations complaining that the pension plans for long-term employees are crippling them financially. There is an answer to that problem and they should be made to understand what that answer is. The cap should come off the Social Security contributions to allow that program to grow as it once did and that pension expense would no longer be necessary. When they cry about the cost of maintaining employee health insurance, they should be reminded that universal health insurance, with an administrative expense of only the 2% cost of administering Medicare would relieve them of that responsibility. Those who complain about the taxes that would be necessary to pay for these programs should be presented with facts and figures on what they currently pay for private insurance compared to the taxes necessary to fund universal health care and learn that their own financial situation would actually improve.
American corporations who have moved their plants overseas should be taxed as foreign corporations and have their American tax breaks ended. We will see if cheap foreign labor benefits them more than shipping, import taxes and tariffs. We want a candidate who can tell them their free ride is over and they must start paying their fair share for the benefits of the privileges and protection of the greatest nation in the world. The "fair tax" for which the rich so ardently advocate should be introduced, not as they present it but as it would be if it were totally fair. During the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, admittedly the greatest Republican President of the twentieth century, those in the top tax bracket paid income tax at the rate of 90%, business boomed, super-highways were built, many workers were able to buy their first home, and not a few millionaires were created. Now we have millionaires, good Republicans to a fault, who cry a river when they are asked to pay a measly 15% on their capital gains!
Yes, Dr. Dean, those who contributed to your campaign so liberally in 2004 are now keeping their hands on what little remains in their wallets. And we shall continue to do so until we are convinced that it will not be wasted like our contributions were then and in the same way our tax dollars have been mis-used ever since. When a real leader appears who is willing to stand up for us, for our aspirations, and our needs, the money will be available to launch a stem-winder of a campaign that will wash the crooks of both parties into the Potomac and put in their places true representatives of the people. True, you have been hired and are being paid by the Democratic "establishment" who are complaining about the amounts you are collecting for the purpose of electing their choices into office. I thought you might like to be prepared to give them the reasons the money is tricking in so slowly.
Tell them the American people are ready for a real change. When they are prepared to deliver it, we are prepared to support them with volunteers and with cash in amounts necessary to bring it about. Until we are convinced that they are seriously committed to effective the necessary changes rather than to continue to be Republican-Liteand "go along to get along", we will keep our money in our pockets, thank you.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Economy Gap

Having wakened a bit early and turned to my usual morning fodder of whatever is on C-Span, I was treated (?) to a re-broadcast of an appearance of Alan Greenspan before Congress Now, requiring a barely functional brain to decypher this man's message before fully awake is asking a lot, so I really concentrated in order to absorb the words of this guru of finance. As he talked and I strained to grasp bits and pieces of his dissertation about how successfully our economy has been managed, I was struck by two points that he made.

First, when he and others like him talk about a "robust economy", they are speaking of the money supply in general, as if it were a separate entity from the lives of Americans at large. To them, if there is a good supply of money and "globalization" is bringing a greater share of it to this country, that's good! For instance, "outsourcing" is good because it is accomplishing that goal. Never mind that every citizen of China, India, or any other nation who works in an American-owned factory means one less American with a job, it's "good for the economy" and the economy is god!

When queried as to the reasons for the ever-widening gap between the super-wealthy and the middle-class, this great wise man wrinkled his forehead even more and admitted that he simply could not understand why this is happening. This fiscal genius betrayed the fact that the world view and the comprehension of nothing but money completely ignores the problem that is uppermost in the minds of working Americans, that of the ability to make a good living and to accomplish personal progress in the modern age. He also lamented the fact that people are saving their money rather than investing. I would venture that the working class no longer has any money either to save or to invest. The super-rich, while having investments that are worth far more than they and their immediate descendants can spend in this lifetime, are also putting cash back "in the sock" in preparation for the great crash which even they expect.
For those of us whose major "investments" are our homes, our cars, and our children, watching the "economy" would be amusing if it were not so serious. It's rather like watching a kitten in its first adventure at tree-climbing. At first it is fun but, as it goes higher, it becomes more desperate. The cat never looks down but keeps its eyes on the next branch and the next after that. As the branches become smaller and more frail until there are only twigs to support the climb, it becomes more desperate and an onlooker can only watch it go up and up, wondering if one should call the fire department for a rescue or if the poor thing will simply fall before help can arrive. The goal is simply "the top", though we know there will be disappointment because, once "the top" is gained, there is nothing more there and it will be a long way down.
The religious among us could consider another aspect of this whole situation. Never mind the good advice in the Scriptures as to helping our neighbors, honoring our elders, or feeding the poor. The pertinent caveat that is contained there which applies to this situation is even more specific: "You cannot serve both God and Mammon!" Even the "good reverends" who profess to be the artbiters of our morality as a society somehow forget this message as they appeal for more and more funds from the poor to whom they hold out hope for "mansions in Heaven" as rewards for their poverty in this life. Perhaps in his retirement, our honored fiscal guru should "go to the mountaintop" and await enlightenment which would enable him to understand that "the economy" is not everything but that what is accomplished with that economy is the measure of our nation's true value.

One ventures at one's peril to impugn the intelligence of such a sage as Mr. Greenspan but he can be excused if his brilliant mind is so consumed with the problems of the money supply that he can be forgiven for not being aware of the social issues involved in the present situation. When he sees the news of the rioting in France, he has not time to ponder the fact that it is caused by the desperation of the people as they suffer from lack of productive employment, the means to establish themselves in society, to provide for their families, and to overcome the ever-present racial discrimination. As the President travels to Argentina to help form the economic future of the two continents, he is met by demonstarations and similar riots as the Argentinian people are faced with the same problems.

The world over, the wealthy are reaping the profits of the labor of the poor while the working class sink more deeply into debt and desperation. While the powerful concentrate on the dangers of nuclear wars and a crashing world economy, they are neglecting to notice a much greater threat to their power and position. The unrest and growing desperation of the poor could cause a world-wide upheaval that would repeat history as demonstrated by the first American Revolution, the overthrow of the monarchy in France, the Communist takeover of Russia, and the South African rebellion which led to the changes in the political landscape there. Political changes are in the wind in every nation of the world as a more intelligent and better educated working class realize that a mere subsistence is not enough and they determine to gain their freedom and opportunities for a better life. Slavery, whether imposed by bond and whip or by starvation and neglect, will not long be tolerated by any living person so long as the breath of God stirs in his body.

The only salient fact that Mr. Greenspan cannot grasp is the "trickle-down economics" simply does not work and never has. The super-rich will not voluntarily concern themselves with the plight of the lower classes unless they are forced to by a higher power and that power is the Federal government, "Putting the money back in their pockets" is to take it out of the pockets of the working class and the poor and "creating wealth" should not be the only end product of a democratic economy. It matters little how much money is created in a nation if it creates class division that is so pronounced that revolution is incubated thereby. And, Mr. Greenspan, the policies that have been advanced by you and President Bush have established such a condition.
Now, do you understand?