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Why we needed Reform

Energy, Food, Shelter, Healthcare. What do they all have in common? They are absolute necessities.
What else do they have in common?
All are becoming priced well beyond reason.
Why? Because Free Market principals have been applied to them.

Like it or not, human nature is not geared towards altruism. Like any other animal, human beings are about survival. We have a long and full history of bloodshed. We’ll kill if it benefits us. Just imagine what that means in terms of getting what we want without having to kill for it. Screw the next guy over? Pfffft, that’s nothing!

 What makes ANYONE think that the next guy is going to care if you can’t feed your kid? Or that you’re going to lose your home no matter how hard you worked? What do they care if you are going to die from a treatable illness, because you had to choose between a roof and food for your family, or insurance? What do they care, if they have, and you don’t? As long as they have, the incentive to make having easier just isn’t there.

Imagine how many conservatives would be liberals tomorrow, if today they got dropped by their insurance company, had their job shipped overseas and lost their home. All of a sudden they’d be the have not’s, and their plight would be all too much like the plight of those who have supported reform like this. It’d be all too much like the plight of those damn socialists.

The problem is that although there are a great many who have not, there are many more who do have. The haves fear losing that status. Although it is irrational, the natural instinct is to maintain the current situation, avoid the unknown, and maintain the status quo. It’s a comfort zone, and as long as no one threatens to change the balance while tilted in their favor, no matter how badly skewed it is, you won’t hear a peep from them. It’s irrational, because in truth there is plenty for all to be haves, especially in a country like the U.S. It not that there isn’t enough, and some must be taken from one to give to another. The issue is that greed, selfishness, intolerance, and lack of personal responsibility have led to a situation where it is simply too hard to become a part of the success if you are not already.
 
How do you become educated if you cannot afford schooling because rent, food, healthcare, and heat eat every last resource you are currently capable of producing? How do you invest if you are always at a deficit? How do you get ahead if every time you advance, make more money, the bar gets raised just high enough to keep you where you are at with increased costs for food, energy, and healthcare? How do you invest a buck, if you are perpetually kept owing a buck?

And why do these things continually rise in cost? Is it because they become more expensive to produce? No, of course not. We can easily produce a surplus of food, and do all the time. There is plenty of housing, just look at all the empty homes anywhere you go in the U.S. Can’t be a lack of doctors, or efficient medicine, because current medicine is far advanced from what it was twenty years ago, and there is a doctor’s office every few miles. 

So what is it? 

Free market principals. Sell to the highest bidder. Charge whatever “the market will bear”. Whatever the market will bear is not an indicator of the health of the market. It is only an arbitrary standard that has a finite limit that is not considered reached until the market is on the verge of collapse. At this time the “market”, meaning the general population, is nearing that point of collapse.

Look at what human beings do when left unchecked and to their own instincts. They decimate natural resources, and will do so until absolutely nothing is left. Remember the Indians and the Buffalo? 

Rationality, discipline, objective honesty and evaluation forming a bedrock of control and regulation. That is the only way a sustainable and fair outcome can be expected. Without some form of control, human beings will allow their natural instincts to lead them to ruin. 

Of course, I could be wrong.

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My only fear, is that I might get sick and die before health care reform is a reality.

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I love syndicated columnists. Wouldn’t mind having that gig myself. What I don’t like is that rarely do you see anyone call them on anything they write. I can’t count how many times I’ve sat down and read a column, and thought to myself “Wow, that ones gonna leave a mark!” I later note that as usual, whatever they wrote is gone and forgotten. Guess the internet has spoiled me for newsprint since rebutting anything in print is a smidge more difficult. No matter.

In her March 17th column in Florida Today, Debra Saunders talks about the current health care debacle, and president Obama’s efforts to drag a kicking and screaming Washington into the realm of effective legislation. Her piece is titled “Playing the fear card”, and it’s a fairly disjointed piece that takes a couple readings to digest. It doesn’t do much to tie anything she mentions together, and it certainly does nothing to expound on the idea that president Obama is playing on “fear” to get health care legislation passed. That’s what I was looking for when I reread the piece. Where is the premise that Obama is playing on fears supported?  

Her opening paragraph states “As a candidate for president, Sen. Barack Obama rejected “the politics of fear”. Well, he won. So now he’s playing the fear card to the hilt.”

She then goes on to cite the President’s speech in Strongsville Ohio, where he spoke about the fears that U.S. citizens ALREADY have, and that are the originating impetus for his current determination to do something about the health care system. I have to guess that her intent was to paint the President as an opportunist who is trying to exploit the sick in order to further his democrat agenda. I say I have to guess, because she does a pretty admirable job of insulating herself from any criticisms of her own character. She does this by in one paragraph insinuating in a roundabout manner that the woman Obama was citing as an example of what is wrong with health care today is actually responsible for her own plight, because  she cancelled her own insurance in favor of falling behind on her mortgage payments, and in the next sympathizing with the poor woman. It’s a bit of a murky read in that portion of her piece, because she adeptly sidesteps actually committing to any real intent behind her mention of Natoma Canfield’s plight.

The best part however comes after she somewhat sarcastically mentions the fact that the woman could not attend the event with Obama because,

“‘Alas, Canfield could not attend, as she since was diagnosed with leukemia and was in the hospital Monday.”

Yes, the best part comes when she says, and this is a conservative talking head remember,

“The ObamaCare fear is not of being poor and not having health care. Medicaid covers the poor. Federally funded public health care clinics offer health, dental and medical care to the uninsured. (Google “free health care clinic” — I found 29 within 11 miles of my home.) The fear is not that if you are sick that you will be denied health care. Canfield is in a hospital, and according to Obama, “She expects to face a month or more of aggressive chemotherapy.”

Do you see it? That one paragraph, that one set of blithely typed and published words says so much about how conservatives really think. It’s amazing really. Who would have thought that it was so simple? You get sick, just hop on over to your local clinic and you’ll get all the care you could need. I certainly wish I’d have known that five years ago when I had to have a massive amount of dental work done. Silly me, I went and applied for a credit based insurance system, and paid a nice fat interest rate on over eight thousand dollars worth of dental work. If I had only known I could have gone to my local federally funded clinic and gotten it done for, well, she doesn’t say what it would cost, but since it’s federally funded it must be practically free.  You see, I did not have the cash on hand to pay the bill, and I could not afford insurance, and of course my problem was a pre existing condition, so stupid me went and found a way to pay for it myself. Imagine that; A non conservative who handled the responsibility himself. In truth though, I got lucky. I made decent money, and did not have to contend with serious illness or being unable to work.

But this is not about me. No, this is about how a conservative seems to be saying that we don’t need to worry about people like the woman Obama says he is fighting for, because by golly they can get all the care they need. Cancer? Going to lose your home? Not going to be able to work for months after treatment, if ever again? Pshaw! Don’t be such a baby! The free clinic will take good care of you. I’m sure that free clinic will make sure you can get all those insanely expensive prescriptions filled without a single hitch. And I am sure that any surgeries, advanced treatments, therapy and the like will all be top notch with no delays. So what if you have no home left to go to, no food to eat, no way to provide for your family anymore; the free clinic will make sure you get the best health care possible in America.

Yes I’m being ridiculous and facetious. No, Medicaid does not cover the poor. It covers SOME of the poor. And it ignores or excludes hundreds of thousands more, if not millions, deemed to make too much money to qualify. Like my better half who at one time was lucky to bring home eight hundred dollars a month working full time, yet was told that she did not qualify because her income was too high. It was suggested that she should let go of her home, move into government subsidized housing, apply for welfare, and THEN she might qualify. See, our current system is oky doky don’t ya know.

Saunders then goes on to say that the fears regarding the current state of health care are in fact real, that insurance rates are in fact ridiculous, that in fact things really are broken. And of course, Mrs. Canfield just made a “risky” decision by dropping her health insurance instead of choosing to drop her house, and now is going to lose it anyways. Lets ignore that the woman could very well have been hoping to ride out the current economic mess, and gotten back on track when things were once again looking up. No no no. It’s her fault you see. She had a choice, and she made the wrong one, although I can’t say as I would ever want to be in the position of having to make such a decision myself. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t pretty much sums that one up. But Saunders seems to feel that the woman somehow made the wrong choice. Apparently the woman should have known she’d be sick again.

All of this is absolutely asinine because, in any other case, were massive health care overhaul not knocking on the door courtesy of a ballsy democratic president, the conservative line would be that the government is doing too much, that social programs should be cut, that we should be lifting regulation off of insurers and the health care industry so that they could cut costs and offer better rates. Say bye bye to those wonderful free clinics. And we’ve had it amply demonstrated how grateful big industry is when they get tax breaks and lax regulation, by thier shipping of jobs overseas and stagnant wages for the workers who are left, while they put those breaks to good use in bumping up their market values and corporate bonuses.

Her line is that it’s not the group health market that is a problem, but the private insurance market. Has this woman even been to a doctor in the last twenty years? Has she seen what an overnight hospital stay costs? Are you going to tell me that  a night of lying in a hospital bed, while nurses make four overnight checks on your vital signs and write them in a log is worth two grand? That one hundred and fifty dollars is reasonable for a doctor spending twenty minutes putting a tongue depresser down your throat and a light in your ear? I won’t even go into the recent brouhahas about all the fraud and lawsuits flying around regarding these private groups. It’s just too obvious.

These private groups are every bit as culpable as the insurance industry. They work hand in hand, lobbying for legislation beneficial to their causes, stonewalling any attempts to regulate their activities, and justifying one price hike after another as just the reasonable course of business. They get caught over and over again for fraudulent charging practices, inflating medical costs and earn their reputations for shadiness.

This is just too ridiculous to be honest. The truth is that our health care system is not a health care system any longer. While bad when George W Bush took office, it went straight to free market hell when he let industry contributions buy providers their way into crafting their own legislation. Our health care system is no longer about providing health care. It’s about selling a commodity, at the highest prices the market will sustain. It’s now the very epitome of Republican values. The problem is, health care isn’t a commodity. It’s not a product to be sold to the highest bidder. It’s a matter of life and death. It’s a matter of the greatest country on earth failing to ensure that its citizens all benefit from the best health care on the planet. In America, people die all the time. It’s just how life is. The pathetic shame of it all is, that there are too many who don’t have to die, but will, because others think you have to pay to play, and that only winners, or in other words, the wealthy, should be able to live.

Obama is not playing the fear card. George Bush dealt that hand.Obama is just playing the hand thats been dealt. It’s the fact that he might win that doesn’t sit too well with conservatives, because then we might all be able to afford health care. And that just makes everyone a little too equal for their tastes.

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I feel your pain. Really, I do.

Ah the wonderful world of politics. A world where the normal rules of common sense, reasonable expectations, and responsibility are alien entities. A world populated by those who revel in their lack as if they were living in a Utopia. A world where the basest, most avaricious facets of human nature underpin reality and the populace represents a mindless herd; valued for its sheer numbers, and disdained for its gullibility.

Why shouldn’t I see it that way? After the last nine years, I don’t think I could possibly see it any other way. And I even dare say I’m not the only one who does. This kind of cynicism is everywhere you look and it’s there with good reason.

For eight years we had a political party in control that seemed more concerned with the growth and consolidation of its power than it was with the productive and beneficial management of a nation. One after another, examples of abuses rolled down the pike and were splashed across the news pages. Each time you could almost feel the collective grumblings of a beleaguered American public as these abuses washed over them. The 2000 election fraud allegations, Enron, Haliburton, Valerie Plame, Tom Delay, John Ashcroft, Jack Abramoff, The Iraq War, suppression and distortion of scientists and studies, USA attorney firings, Abu Gharib, and on and on and on. From the first four years of George Bush’s term, it seemed the American public was in for one hell of a ride, and for eight years a hell of a ride it was. Over a year after Bush left office the fallout still lingers. Thick as ever, permeating and poisoning an American political system that wasn’t too healthy to begin with.

For awhile it seemed like relief was at hand. The Bush administrations end was drawing near, and a feeling that it could only get better seemed to be taking root. A vicious presidential election tempered this optimism, and resentful, irrational partisanship drove a spike through its heart. What should have been the clean start of a new administration has turned into a battleground. Every glimmer of opportunity for the American public is quashed under a torrent of political infighting. New players have entered the stage exploiting every move towards recovery and healing as a tool for the acquisition of partisan control. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, only worse.

So why shouldn’t I feel cynical? Why shouldn’t I feel as if the country I love and live in is being eaten alive from within by the division and hatred of ridiculous faux political ideologies? Am I supposed to be heartened by the headlines? How can I when every morning brings with it another update on why the Republicans hate the Democrats and will do anything within their power to obstruct them, and the Democrats can’t get past being scared of losing their first taste of control in a decade long enough to actually get something done?

Why shouldn’t I be sick of Sarah Palin, Rod  Blagojevich, Mark Sanford,  Joe Wilson, William Jefferson, Michele Bachmann?

And who suffers? The political and rich, or the victimized and trampled public? Does anyone buy any elected officials claims to understanding and feeling our pain? How can they feel our pain? How can they when their healthcare is assured? How can they when unemployment is just a word, and despair a tool for manipulation? What kind of pain comes from losing an election, then making millions pandering to the fears of the voters? What kind of pain comes from stealing millions, then getting a slap on the wrist and a vacation on a far away island?

I was always under the impression that pain was an impetus for action. That hurt spurred efforts at relief. I’m not seeing any relief. Neither is anyone else if the news has got anything even half right. I’m seeing more and more injury. It’s in the lost jobs and the uninsured. It’s in the giant bonuses for corporate failures and the bailouts for dismal investments.  How does the saying go? “It’s easy to hurt others, when you can’t feel pain”?

I’m no longer interested in who’s the latest victim of political gotcha. I started calling myself an independent 9 years ago when the disgust with our political system first began settling in and my then fledgling appreciation of objectivity forced personal appraisals. But holding no political affiliation is not insulation from the effects of partisanship run amok. I DO feel the pain. I feel it every time our twelve year old has to go to the doctor and the rent is due. I feel it every time my spouse complains of the exhaustion that never seems to go away. I feel it every time the Republicans attack a modest proposal, and Democrats do their deer in the headlights impression.

The public does feel the pain. Their world is not the world of politics. Theirs is the world of realities. Where pain is real and present, and actions have consequences. But it must not hurt enough yet, because although the public is ultimately the victim in the game of ideological facades, it’s also the ultimate rules maker as well. Rather than use its ability to enforce the rules, to kick out of the game those who would lie, cheat, and steal, it gives them power and control in exchange for promises to play nice, then wonders why nothing ever changes.

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Psychology and the Supreme Court

cubicle_feverUnless you’ve been under a rock or hiding out in your cave, you’re by now all too familiar with the recent ruling by the supreme court that says Corporations have the right to contribute freely to campaign advertisements. The riff in the media contains all the usual sound bytes we’ve become accustomed to hearing at every political twist and turn. Rarely is much insight given into what any of these politically charged incidents actually mean. Ok, so big money gets to spend loads on getting someone elected who is friendly to their interests or vice versa. Got it.

But why does it work? You would think that no amount of money could buy away the public’s common sense, or its rationality. Well, actually, it apparently can. Not only can it buy it, it can keep it. In the Jan 22nd issue of USA Today a small piece on the psychology of political advertising appeared that is absolutely unsettling in its implications. It’s common knowledge that political advertisements have an effect.

But what is perhaps not so common knowledge, is just how strong that effect can be, and lasting.

Even confronted with irrefutable evidence after the fact, voters swayed by political advertisements will STILL accept the erroneous claims as truthful. Worse, psychologist’s state there is a tendency for refuting evidence to amplify the bad.

Add into the mix, an influx of corporate cash not seen in decades, and this misleading type of advertising is almost guaranteed to reach unprecedented levels as corporate decision makers seek to install their candidates of choice based on how favorable they are to their business, and not the best interests of the public.

Read for yourself, and try not to shudder.

Psychologists: Propaganda works better than you think

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