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Web Letter

I am surprised to learn that President Obama is, perhaps, planning to change his mind on the role of the government on health insurance reform. I hope he keeps his promise. Reform is long overdue.

I have followed closely the fall and demise of GM. I learned that while Toyota made a profit of $2,000 per car, GM only made $500. The difference being that Toyota did not pay $1,500 for the pensions and healthcare of its workers as GM did. (You may wonder which is the socially responsible company! You may wonder, Why not reward those that are?)

In 1950, the UAW and GM began negotiating on pensions and healthcare. The union tried to convince GM that these benefits were not the responsibility of any one corporation but should be handled by the government. The UAW wanted both parties to go to Washington to plead for reform. Unfortunately, GM would would not agree. They deemed it too socialistic!

It is no surprise that the cars GM produced here in Canada were more profitable. Here we have public medicare and pensions, allowing companies like GM to save on these costs. With these programs everyone (individuals and companies) benefits. It is a public good.

Had the US government implemented a national pension plan and medicare program in the 1950s, companies like GM would still be flourishing today. In fact, the US economy would be more fit. There would have been no need for bailouts and people would be healthier. It is absurd that in the richest country on earth you have people suffering and dying of preventable causes!

The US is not just lagging behind the rest of the world on pensions and medicare but in education as well. You fancy yourselves as being highly intelligent, but you act in ways that make us scratch our heads. Because of your ideology (survival of the fittest, every man for himself), you end up spending more money and getting less in return. This is not smart! For example, Canadians spend less per capita on healthcare and yet we have universal coverage. You spend more and still have close to 50 million people without any insurance at all. For example, Canadians spend less per student on education and yet our scores on international math and science contests outshine those of American students. Canadian students rank tenth, whereas Americans are twentieth.

You can do better. It is your narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness that prevents you from doing what is best for the country. Your biases, whether they be rooted in racism or elitism, are harmful in all aspects. (This is similar to the problem of alcoholism. The individual is not the only one being harmed. There is a social cost in terms of lost productivity.)

This takes me to the Blue Dog politicians who sit in Congress and are obstructing health insurance reform. These people were elected to look after the interests of the nation. They ought to be concerned about the public good. Unfortunately, these corrupt politicians are not looking after national interests, but are concerned more about their own personal gains. The problem stems from the fact that they take donations from corporations. You can solve this problem by having the government finance electoral campaigns. Politicians would then not be in a conflict of interest but would be in a position to vote for the public good. They would be truly free to vote their consciences.

After all, these Blue Dogs are, generally, Southern gentlemen who consider themselves "Christian." Come to think of it, maybe that is the problem.

Luigi Martelli

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Aug 17 2009 - 2:15pm

Web Letter

I believe the Obama administration is moving too fast in pushing this bill. That we have started to enter into the public debate phase of healthcare reform is healthy, but I believe the actual markup of the bill is still a ways off.

One of the things the public expected from the Obama administration was dynamic, out-of-the-box thinking in his policy-making decisions. He also promised policy making that would allow "everyday people" to be at the table speaking directly to the needs of the people, not the lobbyist. So here's my two cents.

Thinking logically, if universal healthcare were suddenly available tomorrow, the first thing we would experience is system overload, because everybody would run to their nearest healthcare facility. So I believe the bill should reflect a thoughtful and comprehensive plan.

Toward that end I would like to make a proposal. Suppose next year when census-takers were going around, theoretically, to every home, they were matched with healthcare professionals who would administer to members of the home (who were willing) a rudimentary physical, like blood pressure, eye exam, weight, etc. (I'll call it the Cuban model, because that's what they did after the revolution). That data would then be compiled in the new digital record system, so that the system would be better able to provide needed services and resources to the proper constituencies, eliminating waste.

This system of data collection would tell us where there are high concentrations of, say, high blood pressure, cancer, autism... The system would then determine that the best practice would be to attend to the whole community's need to eat healthy and exercise or determine whether the cause is environmental. This information could be distributed through schools, churches and community centers. This approach reflects that the best response to patterns of illness like diabetes and high blood pressure may not be a drug-induced response at all.

Now you ask (assuming you think its a good idea), how do we provide the needed healthcare professionals to perform this feat when we already a deficit of doctors and such in this society? Well, this is the part where you have to start thinking outside the box. I beg your indulgence for a moment:

I believe Cuba can be very helpful here, because they did just that after the revolution, and have great doctors and medical professionals. I propose once again that our government lift the embargo so that we could have a kind of "student exchange program." We'll send some of our students that are interested in community service, science and medicine from groups like AmeriCorps, Job Corps, etc., and we'll get some of their doctors and medical professionals. They could stay with American families (what better diplomacy?) while providing the model and experience necessary to undertake such a huge task.

I know it sounds outlandish right now, but just consider that healthcare reform is too important to fail, so all reasonable points of view should be brought to bear. We have to break the monopoly that has been created in the medical sector in order to protect the wealth and social position of a few... Did I mention I'm a New Yorker and we could use some pitching too--another reason to lift the embargo?

Edith Thomas

Jamaica, NY

Aug 17 2009 - 9:21am

Web Letter

First it was Sarah Palin, then it was Joe the Plumber, next were the Mormons. Then it was Rush Limbaugh; next, tax-day "tea party" attendees were "tea-bagged."

Then there was a beauty contestant, a Cambridge cop and finally these anti-American town-hall "mobs." Lessons well learned and applied during the campaign; but now that progressives have ascended to power, they have apparently forgotten what got them there.

Even the title of this essay says it. Progressives have become so complacent in their "supposed" majorities they've forgotten their roots! Saul Alinsky's "Rules-for-Radicals" #12 is; "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions."

The author's not getting anywhere failing away at unnamed "obstructionist" boogeymen. Maybe should go back and re-read the primer.

The "destructive" handful of conservative democrats are Frankenstein monsters of the progressives' own making. In typical "How can we fool them today" fashion; the DNC said, "We can unseat conservative Republicans in Southern districts by running Democrats as fiscal conservatives." The only problem is that the candidates weren't sufficiently vetted. Oh, they found fiscal conservatives alright, but forgot to find candidates that were more tightly wedded to progressive policy than they were to fiscal conservatism.

Bill Wavering

Little Rock, AR

Aug 17 2009 - 9:17am

Web Letter

Good thing that Obama has scuttled the "public option." It could not be required to pay federal or state taxes; Aetna and United Health Care do. Furthermore, it evidently could not be required to set aside income as reserves against future liabilities. Under regulation, private insurers do. It is noteworthy that no private health insurance firm has been in financial stress because it plunged too deeply in real estate-backed securities. The "public option" would operate the way Medicare does, paying current claims out of current holdings. People who extol Medicare would do well to remember that this mode of financing courts disaster. Medicare will pay out more in claims than it receives in premiums sometime this decade and will go completely broke sometime before mid-century. To extol "the public option" as a fair competitor to a private insuror is like saying a 100-meter dash is fair when some contestants have to lug an anvil from the starting line to the finish.

Benjamin Walter

Nashville, TN

Aug 17 2009 - 6:19am

Web Letter

Unfortunately, this writer has fallen for the doom and gloom mythology being sold by the ravenous corporations that are destroying our economy and the ability of the same families that work on their behalf to retain any of their hard earned cash. If nothing is done to end the health/pharma industry smorgasbord, Wal-Mart may be the only store left in America because we cannot afford to shop anyplace else. Surely as the changes occur to revamp the system all kinds of employment opportunities will present themselves.

In fact, no one at this juncture, including the MSM, is even talking about single0payer. The reality in the current bills from the House and Senate mean a boon to the status quo of the un-healthcare that exist to the tune of millions of dollars. I have no tears or fears that regional employment in this industry will dry up any time soon. The more important issue for the Obama administration is to understand that they cannot cut deals with the devil. Operating from this stance is inherently a weak one that cripples any strength you hope to gain from the people and other allies in health and labor etc.

Frankly, the president’s political life and that of the Democratic Party are on the line. Those Blue Dogs and their ilk will dupe the people back home one more time in the name of being "fiscally conservative" and the "he's not one of us" atmosphere, in this part of the country especially, doesn’t hurt. Mr. Obama's constituency is the American people and going down in a fight is always honorable when standing by your principles. Going down because of the okey-doke is a disgrace and in turn a victory for the true forces of greed and destruction of the America that we hoped to begin to achieve with Mr. Obama's election. Elections do have consequences, and I hope that Obama and his Democrats remember that.

Sherletta McCaskill

New York City, New York

Aug 13 2009 - 8:30pm

Web Letter

I can understand that many sophisticated observers are frustrated that people have been using inappropriate (even ignorant) characterizations to describe what they are opposing and incoherent yelling to get their point across. But they are sadly mistaken if they do not understand that these are simply metaphors for their frustration at a government that is not listening to them and in which many key figures even seem contemptuous of them. To some extent this is the inevitable outcome of the fact that the administration has vigorously campaigned for a plan that they have not specified and the fear of the law that will likely be crafted in backroom deals and voted in the middle of the night by a Congress that doesn't even know what is in it. In short, the public is being asked to buy a "pig in a poke." As a result, all the passion is with the opposition and the center is disintegrating. Only a "true believer" can continue to rationalize this opposition as the product of "vested interests." A match cannot start a fire without ample tinder.

With all due respect to a sensible progressive, Camille Paglia, who has called for Pelosi's head, the senior people from safe districts who run Congress can thumb their noses at the opposition and attempt to divert attention to the manner in which it is expressed. That will work just fine for their constituents. But the so-called Blue Dogs will be decimated if things continue as they are now about health and cap-and-trade, among other issues. Even the 42 percent of the people who support "reform" are, by and large, not in their districts.

This entire debacle is a product of political willfulness and hubris on the part of an immature president who has yet to grasp the limitations of his greatness. A basic societal change such as this requires consensus. The AMA and the drug companies may have been co-opted onto the reform bandwagon (for a price)... but this will all be undone in the near future if a substantial majority of the people are not on board. If Republicans can profit from this blunder by Obama, well, so be it. We all learn from our mistakes. Perhaps it will make him a better president.

Richard C. Koopman

Cincinnati, OH

Aug 13 2009 - 8:15pm

Web Letter

This "anaylysis" totally ignores the district-specific issues and problems that are quite, quite, real.

If you look at the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, district that is Blue Dog, there are about 38,000 Big Pharma jobs within the district. Add family and friends. These are high-skilled, well-paid jobs, whose educated workers definitely vote.

There are almost 200,000 in the Philadelphia suburban fringe. It seems strangely clueless to suggest that this area needs to choose between Big Pharma, and the local voters.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Aug 13 2009 - 1:04pm