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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, November 1, 2009, 9:00 AM ET

    Op-ed

    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 pre-existing condition.

    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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