Right to Decide on Health Care

Who should have the right to decide the health care you need?
A. You and your doctor
B. An insurance corporation

The entire health care debate comes down for me to this 1 single question. If the answer is “A,” then there should be no place in providing health care to human beings for insurance corporations. The only solution is Medicare for everybody — a single-payer health care model.

With the federal budget blueprint now passed by Congress, attention will soon turn to health care “reform.” The article below starkly lays out the challenges — and the contrasts.

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Published on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
Standing Against Single Payer

My Ron Pollack Problem ­ and Yours
by Russell Mokhiber

Karen Ignagni is not the problem.

As president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, Karen Ignagni represents the health insurance industry.

The same health insurance industry that would be wiped out by a single payer national health insurance system.

We know where Karen Ignagni stands.

She stands with the health insurance industry.

Against the will of the American people.

If she stood with the will of the American people, she would effectively be asking her member insurance companies to commit suicide.

Not going to happen.

Ron Pollack is executive director of Families USA.

Ron Pollack identifies himself as a consumer advocate.

Or more precisely as an advocate for health care consumers.

The majority of the American people stand with single payer.

And against the health insurance industry.

And against the pharmaceutical industry.

But Ron Pollack stands against single payer.

Against the will of the American people.

With the health insurance industry.

And with the pharmaceutical industry.

Think we’re kidding?

Well, on Thursday at 3 p.m., Ron Pollack will join Karen Ignagni in a live web chat to discuss “health reform.”

The live web chat is sponsored by The Campaign for an American Solution. [1]

The Campaign for an American Solution is a fake grassroots group created by the health insurance industry.

The idea is that we can’t have single payer because it’s not American.

Or as Senator Max Baucus put it when asked about single payer last month – “We have come up with a uniquely American solution which is a combination of public and private, because we are America.”

Yes we are, Max.

But there is a uniquely American solution and it’s called single payer.

Check out Jonathan Cohn’s New Republic interview [2] with Michael Chen of Taiwan’s single payer system. Chen told Cohn that when Taiwan was in our predicament years ago, they searched the world for a better health care system. They came to the United States and studied Medicare. And they then went back to Taiwan and modeled their single payer system on Medicare.

Anyway, on Thursday at 3 p.m.,this so called consumer advocate, Ron Pollack, will be standing with Karen Ignagni, advocating against single payer.

Last week, Ron Pollack joined with Billy Tauzin, the head of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, and unveiled [3] “a campaign to promote three key policies designed to help achieve high-quality, affordable health coverage for all Americans.”

None of which will do anything to fundamentally alter the private health insurance industry and drug industry’s death grip on America’s health consumers.

So, no Karen Ignagni is not the problem.

Billy Tauzin is not the problem.

The Republican Party is not the problem.

We know where they stand.

They stand with big corporations.

Against the American people.

The problem is Ron Pollack.

The problem is Max Baucus.

The problem is the Democratic Party.

The problem lies with people who say they stand with the people.

But end up standing with Billy Tauzin.

And Karen Ignagni.

And big pharma.

And the private health insurance industry.

The problem is that the so called opposition is no opposition at all.

Yesterday, I attended a conference on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform – another “collegial group.”

Dirksen 106 was packed with over 200 staffers and lobbyists.

The topic: Public Plan Option: Fair Competition or a Recipe for Crowd Out?

There were four people on the panel.

Two argued against giving consumers a choice between public plan and private plan – Karen Ignagni and Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation.

Two argued for giving consumers a choice for a public plan – John Holahan of the Urban Institute and Karen Davis of the Commonwealth Fund.

In opening remarks, John Holahan was downright defensive.

Holahan said a public plan was not part of a “a secret plot to destroy the insurance industry and bring about a single payer system.”

There were no advocates for single payer at the table.

Of the 75 or so health policy experts listed in the packet, I couldn’t find one advocate for single payer.

So, when question time arrived, I got to a microphone:

“John Holahan said that he’s not part of a secret plot to destroy the insurance industry,” I said. “But there is actually a public plot to destroy the private insurance industry. It’s called HR 676. It’s single payer. And it has 76 members of the House who support it. The Lewin Group did a side by side analysis of all of the plans, and they found that single payer saves the most money. The single payer idea is that the private health insurance industry deserves to be destroyed. In Canada and the UK it’s unlawful to sell private health insurance for basic health needs. That’s the idea behind single payer. Other than the fact that it would be the death penalty to Karen Ignagni’s companies, why not do it?”

Out of deference to Karen Ignagni, the panelists pretty much ignored the question.

It was as if the question hadn’t been asked.

That’s the problem with collegiality.

The industry is facing the death penalty.

It’s either them.

Or us.

No amount of collegiality can mask that stark reality.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter [4]. He is also founder of singlepayeraction.org [5].

Education and Action on Bank Bailouts

There is both hope and concern about the increasing awareness and actions on the ongoing plunder of the public treasury to bail out the mega banks and their investors.

The hope springs from this fact from a recent email from A New Way Forward…

1. 94% of Americans don’t agree with the bailout plans. More than 50% of people support temporary nationalization (1).

A major concern is based on two other facts from the same A New Way Forward email…

2. So far, the bailouts have cost each U.S. household $18,584. If you factor in the money we have thrown at banks in the form of guarantees, that figure jumps to $79,646 (2).

3. Companies that received TARP bailout funds spent over $114 million lobbying in 2008 (3).

Based on the actions of Congress concerning the banks, one must conclude the $114 million was money very well spent…or invested. Note, our federal elected officials have yet to:
– Audit bailout funds that went to banks (where have our tax dollars actually gone?)
demand that misused bailout funds be returned
– Investigate and prosecute those in the financial sector responsible for the global financial crisis
– Demand that insolvent banks be taken over (as federal statute requires under the Prompt Corrective Action Law)
– Oppose any additional funding in the fiscal year 2010 budget for bank bailouts.

Our challenge is immense. Due to the lack of financial literacy in our schools, media, and rest of society, most of the public (myself included) are trying to catch up and understand the ABCs of money and finance. Banksters already know this stuff…and their lobbying and campaign contributions are powerful reinforcements to elected officials dependent on huge sums of money to remain in office.

On the other hand, none of us need to become financial wiz kids to understand that this issue is more than just about dollars (be they millions, billions, or trillions).

It’s also, if not primarily, about self-governance…
– The ability to limit or prohibit banks from creating arcane financial “products” that don’t add anything to the real economy or to the lives of people and communities
– The power to hold those who have acted unaccountable to the public responsible for their actions
– The authority of the public to be the primary agent for issuing money rather than private banks.

These are critical if we have any hope of being in charge of our money and finances…which are the basis of most everything else.

Public Education Opportunities

Several efforts are underway to encourage public education on the bank bailout and related issues of justice and self-governance. They are listed here to inspire you to consider taking part in or replicating them where you are:

Bail-out working people — Not the Banks”
May 9, San Francisco
http://wercampaign.org/?p=331

A New Way Forward Financial Crisis Forums — June 10
If you want to hold a forum, show a video, invite speakers, etc. on the financial crisis in your city, sign up here:
http://www.anewwayforward.org/demonstrations/host_demonstration.php

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Notes:

1. Forbes article on 6% in support of current bailout plans.
http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/01/barack-obama-popular-opinions-columnists-banking-bailout.html

2. Where’s My Money?
http://wheresmymoney.blogs.foxbusiness.com/2009/03/09/cost-so-far-of-financial-bailout-18584-per-household/

3. TARP Funds from Open Secrets.
https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2009/02/tarp-recipients-paid-out-114-m.html

Proposals:

http://wercampaign.org/
Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign

http://www.monetary.org/amacolorpamphlet.pdf
American Monetary Act

http://www.monetary.org/monetarytransparency.htm
Transparency in the Creation of Wealth Act of 2008
Introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, October 3, 2008

Articles:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/27/business/27geithner.html
Geithner, Member and Overseer of Finance Club

http://money.aol.com/article/bank-of-america-citigroup-reportedly/449168
BofA, Citi May Need More Capital

OPEN LETTER TO OHIO US FEDERAL ELECTED OFFICIALS: PROTECT TAXPAYERS BY ENFORCING THE FEDERAL PROMPT CORRECTIVE ACTION LAW

From the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee
April 22, 2009

Many of the largest banks in the nation are effectively insolvent. They continue in existence only because they have received hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. The proposed FY 2010 federal budget contains upwards of $750 billion to bailout insolvent banks and other financial institutions. This is in addition to the $700 billion in emergency funding approved by Congress last year plus another $3.3 trillion the executive branch approved in loans and leverages.

The Prompt Corrective Action Law (Title 12, Chapter 16, Section 1831o) was created following the bailout of the Savings and Loan crisis to protect taxpayers. The law mandates that severely undercapitalized banks be promptly put into receivership (i.e., nationalized or democratized).

William K. Black, former senior regulator during the 1980’s savings and loan crisis and current Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri, asserts that both the Bush and Obama administrations have consciously and deliberately violated this law by not taking over insolvent banks. By not doing so, the US continues to pour billions of taxpayer dollars down the bank bailout drain.

We ask that you call on the Obama Administration to enforce the Prompt Corrective Action Law. We ask that you communicate this message through your legislative powers — write a letter, speak out on the floor of Congress, call or organize a congressional hearing, and/or introduce legislation.

Earlier this week, Neil Barofsky, the Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) concluded that federal bank bailout program is “tilted in favor of private investors.” Taxpayers are the losers.

JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo Wachovia, the five major US-based banking corporations, hold the vast majority of all known toxic assets. Their speculative financial gambles have imperiled the overall economy, citizens and taxpayers. The Prompt Corrective Action Law should be applied first and foremost to any or all these banks if they are proven to be insolvent.

Present US taxpayers and their descendents cannot afford to bailout insolvent banks. Our federal budget priorities demand that our tax dollars should be spent helping the real economy and real people through investments in jobs, health care, education, alternative energy, and infrastructure.

Laws meant to protect our institutions and society in general should be enforced, not ignored. That includes the Prompt Corrective Action Law.

Bank Bailout Report: Investors Favored Over Taxpayers

Now here’s shocking news.

The US Inspector General says in a quarterly report that the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is tilted in favor of bank investors over taxpayers.

Isn’t this what the average person on the street has been saying for six months?

Taxpayer bailout money hasn’t resulted in increased bank lending, which has declined. Instead, banks have used taxpayer money to bail out their investors.

In a twist of the military “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the report states the US Treasury has also refused to adopt the inspector general’s earlier recommendation that all recipients of TARP funds account for the use of all government money received. Consequently, banks haven’t had to disclose where and how our tax dollars have been spent.

The historic heist of our tax dollars can only be remedied by public take over of failed banks.

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Bank bailout may hurt taxpayers, be open to fraud
By JIM KUHNHENN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
April 20, 2009

WASHINGTON — Taxpayers are increasingly exposed to losses and the government is more vulnerable to fraud under Obama administration initiatives that have created a federal bank bailout program of “unprecedented scope,” a government report finds.

In a 250-page quarterly report to Congress, the rescue program’s special inspector general concludes that a private-public partnership designed to rid financial institutions of their “toxic assets” is tilted in favor of private investors and creates “potential unfairness to the taxpayer.”

The report, which examines the six-month old, $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, is scheduled for release Tuesday.

TESTIMONY AT CLEVELAND PEOPLES BUDGET PRIORITIES HEARING

Greg Coleridge April 16, 2009 Epiphany Catholic Church Cleveland

My name is Greg Coleridge. I’m the Director of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker related social action organization. We work for the dignity and respect of every person, regardless of race, gender, income, religion, ethnicity, physical ability, or sexual orientation.

The proposed FY 2010 federal budget contains upwards of $750 billion to bailout out insolvent banks and other financial institutions. This is in addition to the $700 billion in emergency funding approved by Congress last year plus another $3.3 trillion that the administration slipped through the back door in loans and leverage for crappy mortgage paper.

– These are the same insolvent banks and financial institutions largely responsible though their wild and bizarre investments for the massive housing foreclosure crisis that have caused an economic Katrina in communities like Cleveland
– They are the same insolvent banks and financial institutions that have drawn from $700 billion in emergency funding and another $3.3 previous taxpayer bailout funds to give their CEO’s huge bonuses and perks, buy other banks, and bailout wealthy investors.
– The same insolvent banks and financial institutions that have refused to disclose to the federal government how they have actually spent the tax payers dollars they have already spent.
– Many of the same insolvent banks and financial institutions who still are not lending money to businesses or people – the reason for the bailout to begin with
– And many of the same insolvent banks and financial institutions who lobbied and gave political contributions to reduce or eliminate regulations prior to the financial crisis and to continue to lobby and make political contributions today to prevent tough regulations and controls.

Not a penny more of our tax dollars should be flushed down the bank bailout drain. Rather, federal funds should be used to clean up the financial mess and help real people and the real economy. Here are 4 proposals:

1. Federal funds should be directed to enforce the Prompt Corrective Action Law, a federal law that mandates the government seize insolvent banks to protect tax payers. Insolvent banks are a financial drain that we can no longer afford. Banks that are too big to fail are simply too big to exist.
2. Federal funds should be directed to low and moderate income people facing home foreclosure. Foreclosures soared in March, up 44 percent over February’s high. This is a crisis that must immediately be addressed.
3. The global financial crisis has led to a real unemployment rate, what economists call the U-6 rate, of 16%. This is almost at Great Depression levels. More federal funds are needed to hire people of all races and genders.
4. Federal funds need to be set aside to create a national bank — to assume the responsibilities of the mis-named Federal Reserve Bank. With big banks unwilling to make money available for loans, it’s time for the federal government to create what many other federal governments have – a national bank independent from any corporate bank or financial institution. The creation and allocation of money is too important to be left to financial corporations who operate in a profit maximization mode. It’s time to create a national public bank accountable to the public to serve the needs of the public.

Thank you.

Tipping Point for Single-Payer Health Care?

The free market medical care system is bankrupt. Why is the US the only western so-called civilized nation in the world that does not provide national health care to ALL its citizens?

Maybe learning that injured US military contractors who worked in Iraq being shafted by insurance corporations, including AIG — poster child for massive government welfare, will pierce the consciousness of at least some who see medicare for all as “socialism” (link below).

It will happen one of these days — not for moral or human reasons, but economic. US businesses (most notably at the moment the automotive) are in large part uncompetitive because they must add the cost of health care to their sticker price. Japanese, European, and Canadian auto companies do not.

There is simply no greater disconnect of any issue in this nation than what a majority of people desire and where politicians stand than on health care. The insurance corporations have bought, leased, rented, and retained public officials to keep insurance corporations in the loop of any/all health care “reforms.” Only a single-payer system (where individuals can still visit the doctors and other medical providers of their choice) removes them from the equation.

Injured War Zone Contractors Fight to Get Care
http://www.truthout.org/041809F
T. Christian Miller and Doug Smith, The Los Angeles Times: “Civilian workers who suffered devastating injuries while supporting the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home to a grinding battle for basic medical care, artificial limbs, psychological counseling and other services. The insurance companies responsible for their treatment under taxpayer-funded policies have routinely denied the most serious medical claims. Those insurers – primarily American International Group (AIG) – recorded hundreds of millions of dollars in profits on this business.”

Democracy Taxed

Nobody prefers paying taxes…with the possible exception of IRS employees who realize that their tax returns along with those of others keep them employed.

Hardly anyone enjoys coughing up hard-earned money to “the government.”

Everyone likes to rail about taxes especially today, “Tax Day,” April 15.

But taxes are the necessary price for a civil society.

Fire and police protection. Food inspectors. Air traffic controllers. Libraries. Unemployment insurance. Water and sewer systems. Border protection. Medical care for senior citizens. Courts. Public parks and open spaces. Educational, nutritional, and medical programs for pre-school age children. Boards of elections. Enforcement of clean air and water laws.

These and hundreds of other social, economic and political functions are the glue that bond people and their/our institutions together to forge community. Humans are social beings. We need social networks — both informal and formal.

Governments are one type of formal network that at their best reflect the will of their inhabitants through their constitutions, rules, laws, policies and programs. Taxes provide the funds that allow governments to create and maintain these functions.

Are all taxes fair? No. Are tax dollars wasted? Absolutely. Can other formal networks besides governments sometimes perform the same social function without tax dollars. Sure.

This doesn’t mean we don’t need taxes.

At their best, governments are us. We need public structures and institutions that create, maintain, protect, and defend the commons and collective goals. We also need governments to control and define the other major organized structure and institution in our societies that threaten self-governance — the major one being business corporations.

As problematic as governments may be in representing its citizens, they are bastions of self-governance compared to business corporations. Business corporations are not democratic. Employees have no Bill of Rights protections. Business corporations are not loyal to any people or place. Business corporations, in fact, seek to supplant the role of government not just economically but politically. That’s what drives privatization of public assets and institutions.  

Several dozen “Tax Day Tea Parties” are taking place today across Ohio — as part of a nationwide revolt against  taxes. They’re billed as nonpartisan. Many I’ve read about are focused on opposing President Obama’s stimulus programs. Whether deliberate or not, the tenor of these brewing tax revolt actions, however, seems to be much more — to reduce the power, authority, and wherewithal of government to:

  1. Define and control corporate actions
  2. Ensure that governments can’t assume new authorities that may be better in the public rather than the corporate domain — i.e. controlling the issuance of national currency, and/or
  3. Decrease the ability of government to meet basic public functions, thereby, opening the door to selling or leasing them to for-profit business corporations.


There’s no question we need a tax revolt. The proposed fiscal year federal budget calls for over $700 billion for military spending (to maintain a military empire with bases and troops in more than 100 nations, including current wars and occupations in several) and $750 billion more to bailout banks that lost trillions in risky and bizarre financial gambles. An increasing amount of our tax dollars are in the form of corporate welfare. None of this increases housing security, health care security, environmental security, job security (expect for bankers and military contractors), or education security. It’s not taxes that are revolting but how and where they’re spent.

Reducing taxes for any of the three reasons above simply taxes democracy by decreasing the ability of governments to set and enforce laws, rules, priorities and programs that reflect the wishes and interests of the vast majority of the public — and against those running national and transnational business corporations.

In a time when the “free market” and Wall Street has demonstrated beyond doubt its lack of service to the public interest and lack of public accountability, government provides the best institutional path to authentic public accountability and responsibility.

Tax Day Tea Parties only brews blanket hostility at the government and represents an effort to divert popular anger away from where it most needs to be — against the growing power and rights of business corporations and toward creating a government ruled by people.