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Health Care & Environment
11.20 Dead fish to power cruise ships [using dead fish to ultimately kill more fish, animals and plants but at a slower rate]
11.20 Indonesia: dead whale had 1,000 pieces of plastic in stomach [We have to stop killing everything!!!]
11.18 Air pollution levels ‘forcing families to move out of cities’ [like from desertification, lack of drinkable water and rising oceans, there will also be pollution-caused immigration until humans fix things]
11.17 Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds [Climate catastrophe is increasingly likely without worldwide organization, funding and commitment to winning THE WAR AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING.]
11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]
11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]
11.15 The long read: The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]
11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
11.20 New York City subway and bus services have entered 'death spiral', experts say [death spirals are the end-thing nowadays]
11.19 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 11/18/2018 (HBO) [29:26 video]
11.19 Trump Says He Was 'Fully Briefed' and Also 'Not Briefed Yet' But Either Way Saudi Crown Prince 'Absolutely' Not Involved Because Trump Knows 'Everything That Went On' Without Listening to Tape of Khashoggi Murder
11.19 'We Need New Leaders, Period': Progressive Newcomers Urge Democrats to Embrace Bold Agenda or Face Primary Challenges [Current Democrat leaders are highly compromised by corporate donations]
11.18 Trump says Pelosi deserves speakership, offers Republican votes [An affirmation of Pelosi's unsuitability]
11.18 Khanna to Pelosi: Don't Just Create Green New Deal Select Committee, Make Ocasio-Cortez Its Chair [Will Pelosi earnestly change, or end her career in disgrace?]
11.18 Chuck Schumer, Feckless Hack [Neoliberal Democrats must go!]
11.18 What the State of the VA Tells Us About Trump’s War on Welfare [Privatizing often results in outright fraud and higher costs by private prisons, privatized health insurance and health care, privatized public schools and online "colleges" like Trump University]
11.20 'He may not rewrite immigration laws': Trump's asylum ban blocked by federal judge [Has anyone thought about putting razor-wire around the White House?]
11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
11.19 Bankrupt Sears wants to give executives $19 million in bonuses [blatantly immoral and sick to richly reward those who led the company into the bankruptcy]
11.18 Big Pharma Bankrolled Pro-Trump Group As Trump Pushed Pharma Tax Cut [Corruption Central!]
International & Futurism
11.18 France demands UK climate pledge in return for Brexit trade deal [Excellent!]
11.17 Thousands gather to block London bridges in climate rebellion [We're losing WWIII because the enemy is invisible while we're like frogs slowly cooking. We aren't informed enough to be alarmed, but must get organized and motivated to fight back. We need a War Plan to ruthlessly pursue the fight of our lives!]
Democrats Ponder Health-Care Suicide
Originally published in ConsortiumNews.com earlier today, 4 September 2009
If Democrats enact something like the health-care bill emerging from the Senate Finance Committee, they may call it a legislative victory and it may keep the campaign donations flowing from the insurance industry, but the Democrats would surely infuriate millions of American voters.
Indeed, it seems like some Democrats, such as Sens. Max Baucus and Kent Conrad, have lost themselves so much in the inside-Washington reeds of legislating a convoluted compromise acceptable to the insurers, that they are inviting an angry backlash from average Americans.
The danger for Democrats is that this industry-friendly legislation would impose new burdens on citizens, including government fines for failing to sign up for a health-insurance plan, without guarantees that the coverage won’t be almost as crappy and expensive as it is now. The bill rejects a public option that would put competitive pressure on private insurers.
Plus, key elements of the bill, like the so-called shopping “exchanges,” aren’t to take effect until 2013, meaning that Americans will have watched this messy process unfold for months and then be told that the current system, which has cruelly pushed millions of sick people into bankruptcy, will get four more years to bankrupt more Americans.
By contrast, Medicare, the single-payer health system for senior citizens, was signed into law on July 30, 1965, and took effect on July 1, 1966, less than a year later.
The Senate Finance Committee bill also is so complicated that few citizens can possibly understand it or how it might affect them. Instead of straightening out the health-insurance maze, the bill makes it trickier to navigate. [To see for yourself, click here.]
While dumping the relatively straightforward public option, which President Barack Obama favors and which is in the four other committee-approved health-care bills in Congress, the Finance Committee bill offers “non-profit, member-run” co-ops for individuals and “small group markets.”
The co-op notion is a populist-sounding alternative favored by the insurance industry because a co-op’s organizational difficulties and relatively small size would make it easy to compete against, much as small food co-ops can be overwhelmed by the pricing advantages that favor large grocery store chains.
The other glaring problem for co-ops is that most Americans, especially small-business people, are extremely busy already. They don’t want to take part in running an insurance company; they simply want to get health insurance at a reasonable price.
Nor do most Americans want to puzzle their way through Baucus’s hodge-podge of private insurers, government subsidies, emergency waivers, penalties for non-compliance, etc., etc. If Americans lose a job or fall on hard times, they don’t want to go hat in hand to some government bureaucrat and have to lay out their financial problems to get some special favor.
What Americans Want
What Americans want is affordable health coverage provided in as simple a package as possible.
That was the finding of a New York Times/CBS News poll which discovered widespread confusion about the health proposals taking shape in Congress, but more than 2-1 support for a public option to compete with private insurers -- 65 percent for a public option, 26 percent against and 9 percent no opinion. [NYT, Sept. 25, 2009]
After all, one of the attractions of the public option is its relative simplicity and cost-effectiveness. It could piggyback on the existing Medicare bureaucracy and thus get started quickly and cheaply. According to congressional budget analysts, it is the only plan that offers significant cost savings.
Cost savings would not only help reduce the federal deficit but they would mean that more Americans would get the health care they need without going broke. In other words, it would save lives, reduce housing foreclosures, and protect families now being ripped apart by brutal financial pressures.
Yet, despite this common sense – and broad voter support for the public option – the Senate Finance Committee rejected the idea. Chairman Baucus conceded that the concept was appealing, but he joined other conservative Democrats in voting no, claiming a public option couldn’t clear the 60-vote hurdle to stop a Republican filibuster.
So, instead of trying to rally the votes – or using the “reconciliation process” that allows a simple majority to enact legislation having budget implications – Baucus kept on cobbling together a nearly incomprehensible construct of tax credits, income formulas, fees and other mumbo-jumbo.
This modified Baucus bill is in line to win final committee approval this week. According to Washington’s “conventional wisdom,” it will then become the vehicle for action by the full Senate, where Democratic leaders have been ambivalent about a public option.
Some observers feel the best chance for the public option to survive may be with a trigger mechanism that would permit it in some parts of the country sometime in the future if private industry doesn’t offer enough competition.
The trigger idea has been floated by Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the only Republican on the Finance Committee who has indicated even a faint desire to vote for comprehensive health-care reform. However, the trigger would push even this limited public option to some point after 2013, when the insurance “exchanges” are finally scheduled to open.
Yet, if a trigger proposal is needed to win over some votes and beat a filibuster, another approach could be a “reverse trigger,” one that would put the public option in place immediately but set up a trigger that would stop the public option from signing up new clients if private insurers cut rates by 25 percent and scored a 90 percent approval rating from customers.
Even then, the "reverse-trigger" public option would stay in place, serving the Americans who had already signed up and ready to resume taking clients if private insurers slide back into their old ways of excessive executive compensation, bloated bureaucracies and huge profits.
By moving up the timetable of reform to “as soon as possible” and putting immediate pressure on the insurance industry for real savings – in other words, letting voters see real benefits in 2010, not making them wait until 2013 – the Democrats could show they're on the side of the people and rack up electoral gains in 2010 and 2012.
However, if the Democrats insist on trading the common good for the favors of special interests, all the industry campaign donations in the world may not be enough to save them.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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This story was published on October 4, 2009.