Wednesday, July 29, 2009

EVERYBODY'S Medicine is On The Line

A Summer Recess now for the U. S. Congress? With their work not yet completed on health care? Out in the precincts we hear that the House of Representatives will depart Washington this week. The Senate Leader announces that he won't bring any bill to the floor before their recess. They will vote on Judge Sotomayor next week, but that's it.

The President wants a health care bill on his desk this Summer that meets his pledge to the country. Health coverage available and affordable for all Americans. Real reform to bend costs lower over time. A public government option - along the lines of Medicare - so this marketplace has serious competition. No one will be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Health care that is about healing and caring - not about profit taking and maximizing. I believe this is part of what we voted for in November.

In the Senate Judiciary Committee debate, Senator Graham, a Republican, told us that "Elections have consequences." Senator Klobuchar reminded her colleagues, "You can have your own opinions, but you can't have your own facts."

Can anyone today believe that all Americans are well served by the present health care arrangements? The national polling is clear on the public's overwhelming desire for medical coverage that includes the federal government's guarantee that basic health services will be available to everybody.

So where are we after six months with our new President? We voted him into office. Will we support him now when some of the most powerful corporations are exerting their control over their Congressmen? Flexing their lobbyists and flooding the media with stories and distortions?

My answer is plain. It is time to step up and speak against their corporate power.
It is time to vote a responsible health reform bill out of committee and into law. Before flying home and taking vacation. It is time to work harder at the public's business. All of us.

Citizens, consider doing this right now. Google Oberstar, Klobuchar, and Franken. Send them your message - by telephone, email, letter, or fax. And tell them what you want for your families in this new health care reform package.

Medicine is expensive - we are already paying a lot - all of us, in many ways. But it should be for Everybody. And we have the power - the citizenry - right now - to make it so!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's Time to "Cronkite America"

This week the CBS Newsman Walter Cronkite has been remembered and hailed as the "most trusted" man of his time. Why? Because he told his listeners and watchers the news, the way it was. He told us not what we wanted to hear, but what we needed to know.

The current "news" includes memories of the 40-year-old steps onto the Moon by Armstrong and Aldrin, astronauts, along with Michael Collins, who dared to risk everything in a voyage to the future. We also just learned today that California has found a way to stop sending IOU statements to cover its obligations. State services will be cut in order to erase a $26 billion dollar deficit this year. These drastic measures were invoked to prevent any tax increases or any new taxes in the Golden State.

In 1968 Walter Cronkite came back from Viet Nam with his report on that war.
It could not be won militarily he told us, but it was time to negotiate an ending.
America - and President Johnson - listened. I am suggesting that the name Cronkite might become a "verb" for our time. "To Cronkite" - to tell the country what it needs to hear.

There are two areas where a Walter Cronkite could enlighten us today.

The first is again about a war. Today's reporter is named Seth Jones. His report is contained in the recently-published "In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan."

The fighting began over there for the United States in late 2001 and has been escalated with thousands of new troops in 2009. Three presidents prosecuted the Viet Nam War. So far there have been two U.S. presidents for Afghanistan. We are at least "waist-deep" in this war, and Generals say to push on. What is our purpose in Afghanistan? Are we searching for Bin Laden and al Qaida in nearby Pakistan?
Are we attempting to bring "democracy" to the people and wipe out the source of much of the world's opium? How many American lives is it worth? How many Arab lives?

The "American Empire" may be next for this graveyard.

The second area "to Cronkite" is all about "taxpayers" and the taxes we pay. At one time we learn there were 400,000 Americans employed in the space program to fulfill President Kennedy's pledge to beat the Russians to the Moon, inside of a decade. The cost was high, and as soon as the five or six landing missions were completed, the NASA budget was reduced sharply. But in the 1960s, with Russian cosmonauts over our skies, there was no revolt of taxpayers over the cost of going quickly to the Moon. Even this costly venture could proceed, while waging the escalating war in Southeast Asia.

Enter the governors from California, and from the entertainment industry.

Ronald Reagan came to the Presidency with a message of confidence in our country and the belief that too much government was our problem. Taxes had recently been lowered in California, and he felt they needed to come down across the nation. "It's your money and you know best how to spend it." So persuasive was President Reagan that deficits didn't matter to the Congress. They would only force spending down and end wasteful and unnecessary programs, according to his message.

It made no difference which taxes were involved, or how well off the payers were. Citizens became "Taxpayers" first, in the language of political vote gatherers. This lower-tax approach worked in the 1980s and continues its appeal, up through today. Governor Schwarzenegger just announced that the desperate conditions in California will be met with "no increases to Taxpayers."

On Capitol Hill in Washington this week we listen as healthcare reformers struggle against the those who will not tell doctors, insurance executives, drug bosses, and patients that they all will have to contribute to fix our broken health care system.

Walter, we miss you, but we can still find the truth out there.

You have shown us the way. Thank you.

That's just the way it is, right now. We can do better.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Healthcare Still For Sale

The healthcare debate in Congress is really heating up. Final versions in the House and Senate are getting close to a vote. The Senate Democratic Caucus now claims a super majority to kill any possibility of a Republican filibuster. Meanwhile, what about the issue here at home? Is healthcare a "right" of every American?

Does one have to be 65 years of age or older to get health coverage at a reasonable cost through Medicare? Or must you be a member of the Armed Forces, performing active duty? Or be a Member of the U.S. Congress? Or one of a million plus federal employees? Or a dependent of these government employees?

The Health Insurance Industry has spent substantial dollars to support the election campaigns of strategic senators and representatives in this healthcare debate. It is not only a matter of Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, Compassionate or Cold-hearted.

Today an entire insurance industry feels threatened by President Obama’s insistence on healthcare reform this year. The Health Insurance Industry simply is selling us a product that we can do without - when everybody has healthcare coverage like the above cohorts - old geezers, our troops, all the feds, their spouses and kids.

The president wants a bill on his desk, this year, that provides a government alternative kind of healthcare coverage. You can keep paying for a current health insurance plan if you have one. You can keep seeing your same doctors. But you can also buy coverage under his bill into a basic doctor and hospital schedule of benefits. And with his reform, no one can be refused care because of a pre-existing condition.

I think this sounds pretty good. I think we should also provide retraining for all health insurance industry employees who lose jobs - just like we should for the unemployed auto workers, auto salesmen, and recession sufferers, generally.

I will pay the needed tax increases. After all, I received a four-year Navy college scholarship before serving 17 years in the Navy. Two of our three babies were born on or near Naval Air Stations. My wisdom teeth were extracted by a navy dentist. Flight surgeons provided us with excellent care for personnel aboard ship and for our families back on the beach.

An old classmate of mine, from grade school through university, grouses about the possibility of Obama's "Socialized Medicine." This retiree, like me, is on Medicare now and deposits his Social Security check every month. He inspires me to call the new 2009 healthcare legislation "Everybody's Medicine."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Food Industry - Harmful to Your Health

Minnesota has a major role in feeding the Nation and the hungry millions abroad. It's legislators are deferential to the lobbyists of Big Agriculture.

Despite many warnings about a widely-used herbicide, Atrazine, no regulations or prohibitions are ever passed. Reports continue that Minnesota's amphibians and fish are having their sexual characteristics altered in wetlands, rivers, and lakes - where farm fields have drained. This kind of "endocrine disruption" is occuring in indicator species, frogs and walleyes, that spend all their lives in polluted waters.

The dairy, livestock, and poultry industries confine thousands of their animal units into feedlots and factory buildings with the objective of achieving the lowest costs and highest rates of return on their massive investments. This also keeps the cost of our food the cheapest in the world.

Producers have become similar to tenant farmers, in their service to the large agribusiness corporations, that finance their operations.

The mile after mile of corn and soybean row crops have become the face of our prairie. Inputs of genetically-modified seed, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides have come into use, together with ever-larger and capable machinery. One farm operator today can produce a harvest that used to require over a dozen farm laborers.

Enter the National News Media - Public Broadcasting and the New York Times. From them I recently heard and read about a "terrific new documentary." The movie "Food, Inc. is playing in cinemas nationwide."

It is "a powerful diagnosis of American agriculture." In Minnesota the nearest showing I could locate is at the Lagoon Cinema in the Minneapolis Uptown neighborhood.

In a quote from Food, Inc., food writer Michael Pollan says "The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000." This is serious food for thought, and it can urge those of us beyond the Twin Cities to find a place to see this film.