Some thoughts on last nights speech…Liars, Illegal Immigrants, Jesus Christ & Money Changers

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Some thoughts on last nights speech…Liars, Illegal Immigrants, Jesus Christ & Money Changers
by Davey D

daveyd-raider2Its been a long time since we heard from the President Barack Obama who many of us enthusiastically elected into office. It was the Obama who was passionate, inspiring, hopeful and clear. It was an Obama who wasn’t capitulating and forever apologizing. It was good to hear President Obama for once directly take on his critics and dispel many of the myths, lies and distortions that have plagued aspects of his Health Reform Bill… We give President Obama an ‘A’ for style and an ‘A’ for effort…

We’re still evaluating to see if he can execute and deliver. As he spoke, weighing in the back of my mind as well as on the minds of those who I sat around  and tweeted with, was senior advisor Van Jones being forced to resign after enduring two or three weeks of relentless attacks from Fox News pundits and far right opponents.  We didn’t see or hear an impassioned Obama put up a strong defense for Jones, a man he went and sought out for the job of overseeing his Green Jobs policies. 

It was hard not to imagine what phrase or excerpt of last night’s speech would be lifted, dissected and used as cannon fodder to force President Obama to backpedal. It’s hard not to be cynical when we’ve seen that his opponents will not let up while President Obama has seemingly worked overtime to bend over backwards and be accommodating.  But as was noted we’re still evaluating.

Obama-Bidden-PelosiAt this point in time, if President Obama is able to get through a Healthcare Bill that has a strong public option  then that will be a good thing. It’ll be a good thing from where we sit right now where everything is in disarray and a Democratic dominated House and Senate are divided with so called Blue Dog Dems going at it with Progressive Dems. Dems who are middle of the road have been floundering between Fox News inspired lies and talking points and  30 second soundbites for various aspects of an 1100 word document  that they’ve amassed for themselves.

Single-Payer and support for HR 676 Medicare for All bill should’ve been what was being discussed last night, but alas such was not the case. Maybe next time. Maybe next time after all those who enthusiastically put Obama in the White House with the expectation that he would fulfill his pledge to bring something like Single-payer to fruition will redirect that enthusiasm into an action plan that would force him and every other elected official to do what they feel is right.

Congressman Joe Wilson spazzed Out and Yelled out 'You Lie"

Congressman Joe Wilson spazzed Out and Yelled out 'You Lie"

One interesting aspect of Obama’s speech was the brief disruption caused by  South Carolina Republican congressman Joe Wilson who yelled out ‘You Lie’ when President Obama said that any bill he signed would not extend healthcare benefits to ‘illegal immigrants’.  A lot has been made about Congressman Wilson being disrespectful and violating the rules of the chamber. One is not supposed to heckle.

A lot has been made about his apology. He called and spoke to President Obama’s chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel and explained that he let his emotions get the best of him-Yeah right. From where I sit, Wilson’s yell was a calculated move designed to get him face time and praise among far right dingle berries nut sacks who thrive off such things. He’s a hero in their eyes.

What hasn’t been talked about were the moans and groans of many outside the room who wanted to know why would we not want to make sure everyone who is here is not taken care of.. I sent off a tweet which reflected the sentiment of many I know..

I don’t know about Obama not helping out immigrants.. Human Beings need health coverage-Illegal immigrants are pilgrims & settlers

Needless to say this set off a flurry of responses as folks began debating.  The main argument against helping out immigrants were that we have enough problems and not enough resources, hence ‘let those people fend for themselves’.  People were quick to point out that all countries have immigration laws and so should we hence we should not be helping illegals immigrants. Most countries have comprehensive health reform, many of them in the form of single-payer, but such retorts seemed to fall on deaf ears. People kept insisting that we simply didn’t have enough to pay for the health of millions of people who don’t belong here..

rosaclementepr-225Former Vice Presidential candidate Rosa Clemente of the Green Party finally jumped in and responded to the pervasive question; ‘How can we pay for all this’?
“STOP FUNDING WARS CUT MILITARY BUDGET IN HALF AND HEALTHCARE CAN BE COVERED, come on yall this is america, the empire of the world, stop acting like there isn’t money to give people their damn human right of HEALTHCARE, and any immigrant bashing by other people of color is disgusting and should not be tolerated at  alll!!!! Only people not immigrants up in here are INDIGENOUS PEOPLE and Africans descendants that were taken on a middle passage…”

Clemente’s remarks were sobering but the debate raged on as some took an angry and somewhat dismissive tone as they insisted that in no uncertain terms immigrants here illegally should be provided healthcare. Some made it seem like that the reason our healthcare system is in a crises is because of immigrants and we need to close the border. 

I found such thoughts a bit confusing, because my experience has been that those who live near the borders often cross them to get cheaper and often times free healthcare and medicine.  Sure if someone is an accident they’ll go to the nearest emergency room, but when it comes to getting medicine, glasses and other supplies, folks are crossing into Mexico in the south and Canada in the North. Those who are undocumented will definitely send someone over to get whats needed. But lets not digress too much.

The basic point here is we live in a society where we routinely come in contact with one another and have undocumented folks picking our fruits and vegetables, working in restaurants and in our homes, we would want them to be healthy. We would want whoever is in the back of that restaurant  to feel comfortable and welcome into getting healthcare at the first sign of illness.  It would be tragic to see that some new communicable swine flu/eboli like disease popped up because someone was forbidden from seeing a doctor and what started out to be small and preventable morphed into something massive and out of control.  My warning to folks was becareful for what you wish for…

What would Jesus Do? Would he demand to see your insurance card before healing folks?

What would Jesus Do? Would he demand to see your insurance card before healing folks?

Another point that raised  to those who were feeling high and mighty about us as a country helping immigrants was the proverbial ‘What Would Jesus Do’? We are a nation that prides itself on being rooted in Christian values. Would Jesus who routinely crossed borders and administered aid to people no matter what Holy day or Holy time it was, be asking folks for an insurance card? Could you imagine that?  Why are we so quick to praise him and then turn around reject some basic principles he always upheld which was tending to the sick and needy.

Author and former Vibe Magazine columnist Cristina Veran raised the stakes on my Jesus question by challenging the churches to step their game up and get more involved in this healthcare crises. She asked “Why can’t every church/temple/mosque collectively sponsor a physician ???”

Those sponsored doctors would be responsible for helping out everyone in the community. She cited an example of where this works in Lima, Peru. “The church in my familia’s ‘hood in Lima, Peru has an office with a doctor there several days a week to see people in the neighborhood. I think it cost me $5 for a visit, a few years back. Here, a church could sponsor 2 or 3 days a week for a physician to see patients, referring them elsewhere if need be for further attention/tests/etc.”.

Conrad Tillard who was once dubbed the Hip Hop Minister added to the discussion when he wrote; “… churches can do this far more effectively when young progressive, aware people become members of churches and vote and financially support the church to be more progressive. “Churches ARE ONLY BUILDINGS,THE “CHURCH” is made up of the people that are apart of that organization. I would say brother Davey, “People need to STEP UP THEIR GAME ,join the Churches and other institution and get this done”
 
 Throughout the evening people tweeted and posted up examples of how churches in various neighborhoods around the country where doing this.  Others reminded us that this is what groups like the Black Panthers did. They opened up Free clinics. Others pointed out that one prominent church that excelled in doing this was Trinity Church which was home to Pastor Jeremiah Wright and where Barack Obama was spiritually mentored.
 
As this healthcare debate rolls on and this bill gets crafted,  one has to wonder to what extent have these churches who trying to fill a void, been involved or consulted.  At the very least we need to see some sort of network for them. Is there an iphone app for that? Is there an app that allows me to find out what churches have healthcare facilities in each city?
 
On a more serious note, too much of this healthcare debate has centered around money and profits, where all we hear about is how much and who is going to pay. Healthcare should not be about money. It should be a moral issue.  It should be a spiritual thing. The Jesus Christ I know would not be at a townhall yelling ‘Fuck the Poor’ in front of  a cheering crowd.. This happened a few weeks ago in Danville,  California. He wouldn’t be telling people close the borders and turning people away and I mentioned he wouldn’t be asking for your insurance card. Why are we? If anything he might have that righteous anger kick up which would have him turning over tables and chasing out the money changers
 
Back in Jesus’ day the money changers were scumbags who sat up in front of the temple demanding money so folks could hear the word of God. They were the nutjobs trying to prevent us from getting ‘spiritual healing’ .  Today the  money changers are the folks collecting coinage and preventing us from getting physically healthy. I hope President Obama goes back to his religious roots and starts chasing these pharmacutical and health insurance companies (the new money changers) out the proverbial temple.. All of us have a right to live and be healthy…
 
something to ponder
 
-Davey D-

How the Healthcare Debate Got Hijacked

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If we let these powerful interests get their way, we’ll see more outlandish increases in premiums, and millions more people being denied care.

How Corporate Media, Sellouts in Congress and Industry Bigs Have Hijacked the Health Care Debate

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted July 29, 2009.

If you can frame the terms of a debate, you’ve gone a long way towards winning it before you’ve begun. Tragically, Republicans, the health care industry and business-friendly Blue Dog Democrats have largely been able to do exactly that, with a substantial assist from the corporate-owned media.

They’ve successfully focused the health care debate on the short-term costs to the federal government’s bottom line, obscuring the potential impact that a meaningful realignment of the health care system would have on the economy as a whole. In so doing, opponents of reform have hoodwinked much of the public into believing that investments in America’s national health care system will wind up costing individuals more than they’d gain from the effort.

In fact, they’ve done such a good job that much of the discourse has revolved around what is arguably one of the least relevant aspects of the proposals being debated in Congress: whether they “cost too much” or are “deficit neutral” in terms of their impact on the federal budget over the next 10 years.

Much of that discussion has been fueled by a series of estimates issued by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — estimates based on incomplete drafts of the legislation now moving through Congress. Yet by and large the mainstream media have dutifully repeated the spin without mentioning that the critics are touting the CBO’s preliminary projections as definitive and final.

Even worse, a study of cable news reporting by the media watchdog group Media Matters found that when the CBO issued a follow-up to an earlier, more pessimistic projection of the bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee, it went all but unreported by the cable news networks. CBO projected it would cost $611 billion, while an earlier estimate — which was dissected eight ways to Sunday by the same cable networks — suggested it would run an even trillion.

There are also benefits contained within the proposals that are impossible to score in limited budgetary terms. For example, if the House bill were passed as it stands today, it would all but eliminate health-care related bankruptcies by capping the amount of out-of-pocket expenses with which a family or individual can be burdened. A group of researchers from Harvard studied over 2,300 bankruptcies filed in 2007 and concluded that more than 6 in 10 were due to medical causes. What is it “worth” to our society to ease that kind of pain? It’s not in the purview of the CBO to say.

That’s just one of several reasons why the budgetary impact over 10 years of a program of long-term reforms is such a poor metric for judging its value. First, the very same preliminary CBO estimates that are being used to gin up fear of a budget-busting boondoggle that will saddle our grandkids with debt for generations to come also suggest that the proposals would extend health coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. Why such a significant improvement in the health and economic security of so many real people should be expected to come at no cost to the government’s balance sheet is a mystery.

Second, it fundamentally obscures the actual terms of the debate in Congress. Leaders in both the House and Senate have promised that the final legislation will be fully-funded — “deficit neutral” — and the battle lines have in fact been drawn not only around what form the final bill will take, but also how to pay for it. 

Moreover, the narrative is based only on the impact of the proposals on the federal budget in isolation, all but ignoring the larger effect that fixing the system (if done right) might have on the economy as a whole. Under consideration are various proposals designed to rein in the spiraling cost of health care across the entire system.

So these are not sunk costs, but investments that analysts expect will have a significant pay-off. A study by David Cutler of Harvard and the Rand Corporation’s Melinda Beeuwkes Buntin estimated that just three elements within the larger proposals offered by Democrats so far — all of which come with start-up costs in the beginning — would result in $550 billion in savings to the larger health care system over the next 10 years (PDF).

Those kinds of savings are desperately needed over the longer term — the status quo, if allowed to continue on track, threatens to undermine the competitiveness of American business and leave more and more people without coverage (researchers have found that fast-rising premiums, more than any other factor, has driven the decades-long growth in the number of uninsured Americans).  And skyrocketing premiums force employers to squeeze wages, which impacts communities’ tax revenues and deprives the economy of consumer dollars.

So the more salient question is: how can we possibly afford not to fix the current system? In 1960, we spent less than 5 percent of GDP on health care and all but a small number of working-age Americans had access to care. Today, health care spending represents around 17 percent of our economic output, and about one in six lack coverage. And, according to virtually every projection out there, it’s only going to get worse unless we make substantial reforms soon.

In 2007, the U.S. spent an average of $7,290 per person on health in total (both public and private care). The average costs in other wealthy countries — generally with better outcomes — was $2,964. Here’s a graphic representation of where we’re likely to go in terms of costs if we leave things as they stand

healthcare1-blogimage_cbohealth

 (click for larger version)

As economist Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute wrote, the non-budgetary effects of fixing the system “will pay off big for American families in the form of lower premiums, co-pays, and space for wage growth.”

Bivens adds, “The reason is simple: health care is an area where the more costs are loaded up on the federal government, the more efficiently care tends to be delivered overall.” Bivens points out that although the U.S. spends far more than other advanced countries on health care, far fewer of those dollars are in the public sector, and suggests that the difference is a major reason why we get far worse results (in terms of access, life expectancy at birth, our chances of living until age 60 and most other meaningful metrics).

To illustrate the savings built into public-sector health spending, he goes on to cite an analysis by the Lewin Group of competing approaches to reform that measures the impact on both federal spending and overall health spending. The results are summarized in this graphic:

healthchart2lg-storyimage_lewin

(click for larger version)

On the left, is Pete Stark’s, D-Calif., proposal for a single-payer system (one that closely mirrors John Conyers’, D-MICH., HR 676, which has 85 co-sponsors in the House). As you can see, while it extends coverage to everyone — which obviously costs money — it is the only approach studied that would also result in a reduction of health care spending overall.

In the middle is a hybrid along the lines of the House bill (the Lewin Group used a similar proposal promoted by the Commonwealth Fund). According to Bivens’ analysis, although “federal health spending [would] rise” as the system was first implemented, the “increases in federal spending … are accompanied by large reductions in spending by households and businesses. Net total health spending would rise by less than $18 billion, an amount that is more than explained” by new funding to cover the previously uninsured.

The right column, appropriately, shows the impact of Mike Enzi’s, R-WYOM., plan, a boilerplate conservative proposal based on offering tax cuts to those who purchase private insurance and slightly expanding eligibility for Medicaid. It does increase federal spending by slightly less than the other approaches analyzed, but in the process it also increases total health care costs more than the amount of tax dollars sunk into the plan, while insuring only the relatively small number of people who make just a bit more than the current cut-off for Medicaid.

But even that standard doesn’t tell the whole story. Looking only at how the current proposals impact health spending over a 10-year window ignores the longer-term impact they might have. For example, contained within both the Senate and House bills are provisions that would create more incentives for preventive care. Most analysts agree that prevention costs a lot less than waiting for people to develop serious illnesses and then treating them, as we now do, but those savings can only be fully realized over the long term. If a young obese person visits a doctor whom he or she might not have seen because of a lack of insurance, and as a result of that visit makes changes that prevent him or her from developing diabetes — with all its attendant complications — it will save the health care system a small fortune, but probably not for several decades.

Finally, there’s a sad irony to this whole discussion — one that few commenters have bothered to note. It is true that the potential savings contained in the proposals currently on the table are limited, but it is also true that the reason for that shortcoming is that Congressional leaders have ushered through a series of bills that are far less expansive than progressive reformers have long advocated, and that’s only been done to mollify the very same Dems and Republicans — those ideologically opposed to the effort and/or especially cozy with the “disease-care” industry — who are now complaining about the limited potential for savings (It’s enough to make your head spin).

Just consider the “public insurance option.” While progressives were promised a “robust” public insurance program that would be open to all comers, what emerged from the Senate HELP Committee and from the leaders of three House committees was a pale shadow of what had been touted during last fall’s campaign season. Instead of insuring as many as 130 million Americans as candidate Obama suggested his public option would, lawmakers restricted eligibility for the program in such a way that the CBO’s preliminary estimate suggested that just 10 million Americans would be enrolled in the public insurance plan by 2019. (That’s out of about 30 million who could buy insurance — either public or private — through the publicly-run insurance exchanges.) This was a nod to the power of the insurance industry — nothing more, nothing less.

In designing a (pretty good) system, but then tightly controlling who could gain access to it, the potential for cost-containment — through greater economies of scale, more bargaining power with providers and a decrease in the shuffling of paperwork that’s estimated to account for about 30 percent of our health spending — has been greatly diminished.

So, next time you see some congressional meat-puppet on TV discussing how much a plan will cost, or lamenting its limited potential for cost-containment, keep in mind that it’s his or her ideology that is directly to blame for those shortcomings.

 It’s only because of pressure from industry groups, Republicans and Blue Dog Dems that congressional leaders took single-payer off the table (and threw advocates out of the room) and gave us a limited public insurance option — a pale shadow of what reformers had been promised. Now, those same forces are bent on killing an already watered-down proposal. If they succeed, we can expect more human suffering, more outlandish increases in premiums, more people being denied care, an increase in the numbers of uninsured and a continued drag on the American economy.