BRAMA, November 1, 2009, 9:00 AM ET|
Conservative Yarn Helps Stack the Deck Against Healthcare Insurance Reform
By Boris Danik
Barack Obama's mother died of cancer when he was a child. Three months
before her death she went to work. Her medical insurance would not cover a
On September 17, 2009, the Senate Finance Committee cleared its version of
healthcare reform bill for full debate on the Senate floor. Only one
Republican voted in favor: Maine's Senator Olympia Snowe.
Enter "The Coalition to Protect Patients' Rights." The name suggests it
favors reform. Wrong. The Coalition is actually a front for the
medical-industrial lobby. It opposes the bill "in its present form" a
favorite phrase of totally opposed lobbyists.
The detractors of healthcare insurance reform offer no substantive
arguments. Misrepresentation, obfuscation, ideological paste, and above
all, distraction and anecdotal (almost always false) evidence are the
tools of the trade of the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies. The tactic
can be very effective with the general public that gets only skimpy
knowledge from commercial media.
Take, for instance, the letter responses to Alex Kuzma's pre-reform
article in The Ukrainian Weekly (September 6, p. 7).
As of October 11, six out of seven published responses are very
negative. (We do not know how many were actually received).
The content of the six letters consists mainly of expressions of
anti-government sentiment, anecdotal comments, and detours into subjects
of which the writers have scant knowledge or are simply misinformed.
One of them alleges that government incompetence is shown by "Social
Security rapidly running out of money." The allegation is wrong. Recent
extrapolations by the Congressional Budget Office
show Social Security
surpluses running until 2052. The system's trustees' estimate was until
2042. In either case, minor adjustments can extend these dates. The
Conservatives have been inventing a crisis and predicting the demise of
Social Security ever since its enactment by FDR in 1933.
The Medicare's surpluses can run out much sooner. That's why Obama's
reform plan includes Medicare changes. Medicare now has a so-called
Medicare Advantage option, which was contrived by the
Republican-controlled Congress as a result of a thinly disguised attempt
to privatize Medicare. This option is run by middlement (private
for-profit insurnce companies) and is getting a 10% larger funding from
the government than the traditional Medicare, and is providing slightly
larger benefits at the expense of the regular system. This option
should be eliminated.
Going far afield, another writer shows displeasure with the ogvernment by
blaming the government agencies for "the stock market crash followed by
the domino effect of real estate defaults
(September 6, p. 6)."
He got the sequence backwards.
The housing bubble and then mortgage defaults came first. By the summer
2008, the CMOs (Collaterized Mortgage Obligations, in which Wall Street and
others were heavily invested with borrowed money, to boot, by many)
went toxic, causing huge losses on balance sheets. The net worth of banks
plunged, and their stock value went south, after the Dow reached an
all-time peak over 14,000 in September 2008. An avalanche of margin calls,
reminiscent of the 1929 crash, dragged down stock prices across the board.
Moreover, the writer's accusation of "government agencies"
(September 6, p. 6) is misplaced.
He bypassed the root cause of the debacle, known as
the Conservative Republican raison d'être: deregulation of the marketplace
and emasculation of the role of the government in the country's economy,
environmental, and consumer protection.
This was the stated goal of "the Reagan revolution." It went full speed
with "the seismic shift" toward the Republicans in the 1994 Congressional
elections, and then triumphed with the election of George W. Bush. This
regression into the 19th century created the conditions similar to those
that pluged the USA into the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The formal coup de grâce was delivered by the repeal of the Glass-Steagall
Act of 1933 by the Republican-dominated Congress on November 12, 1999.
(The Glass-Steagall Act had established a firewall between commercial
banks and investment banks). Moreover by 2000, the "non-bank" banks the
hedge funds and private equity funds outside any regulatory laws,
became key Wall Street players.
To blame government regulators (by that time extinct) for the meltdown of
the resulting financial mess is to absolve the Bush/Cheney demolotion crew
which, in effect, had abolished the government as we knew it.
The Ukrainian Weekly prints letters with assertions inconsistent with known
facts (except perhaps as re-einterpreted by Fox Channel, occasionally
called "a wing of the Republican Party").
Dr. Boris Danik
North Caldwell, NJ
October 24, 2009
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