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01.17 Could a Green New Deal Save Civilization? [Intelligent government is desperately needed]

01.17 New plant-focused diet would ‘transform’ planet’s future, say scientists

01.17 Studies Show Ice Melting and Ocean Warming Both Happening Much Faster Than Previously Thought

01.16 Immediate fossil fuel phaseout could arrest climate change – study [Intelligent government is desperately needed]

01.16 Our oceans broke heat records in 2018 and the consequences are catastrophic [charts]

01.15 Solar Farms Shine a Ray of Hope on Bees and Butterflies [Wonderful!]

01.15 Australia could hit 100% renewables sooner than most people think

01.15 Ion age: why the future will be battery powered

01.15 Barclays on wrong side of history with climate policy, says Greenpeace

01.15 'One fish at a time': Indonesia lands remarkable victory

01.15 Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

01.14 V.A. Seeks to Redirect Billions of Dollars Into Private Care [The most public and efficient healthcare in America has been demonized and will be destroyed rather than improved, raising total  per-capita costs]

01.14 Saudi Arabia Increases Solar Targets To 20 Gigawatts By 2023 & 40 Gigawatts By 2030

01.14 Solar + Storage Half The Cost Of Gas Peaker Plants — 8MinuteEnergy

01.14 Why thousands of Los Angeles teachers are going on strike [Well at least we got a big tax-cut for the super-rich, that was the most important thing.]

01.14 Air pollution 'as bad as smoking in increasing risk of miscarriage'

01.09 Dutch eco initiative halves energy bills in first UK homes

01.09 'It's a nightmare': Americans' health at risk as shutdown slashes EPA

01.08 Monarch butterfly numbers plummet 86 percent in California [0:58 video; Do You Care?]

01.08 Carbon emissions up as Trump agenda rolls back climate change work [Making America Less  Great Again]

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01.19 How conservative media became a “safe space”

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01.19 The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?

01.19 Donald Trump Has Never Cared About Workers, and Never Will

01.19 Republicans’ lack of alarm over the shutdown reveals a disturbing truth [Sociopaths have little or no conscience, empathy or morality...]

01.19 Arizona: Four women convicted after leaving food and water in desert for migrants [morality is against the law]

01.19 Mueller breaks silence to dispute parts of bombshell report on Michael Cohen

01.18 “Are We Really Where We Are?”: Trump, Putin, and Washington’s Unbelievable New Normal

01.18 With Mattis Gone, Trump Is Already Sowing More Global Chaos [Trump plays General—what could go wrong...]

01.18 The Right’s Case Against Soaking the Rich Is Dirt Poor

01.18 Trump Worsens the Border Crisis

01.18 Impeach Donald Trump

01.18 President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project [An impeachable offense]

01.18 10 Things We All Lose If Bernie Chooses Not to Run in 2020 [Intelligent government is desperately needed]

01.17 These 2020 hopefuls are courting Wall Street. Don't be fooled by their progressive veneer

01.17 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lambasts US government shutdown in first House speech [3:27 video; Intelligent government is desperately needed]

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01.15 The US apparently kept no detailed notes of Trump-Putin meetings for the past 2 years

01.15 California’s largest utility just declared bankruptcy. Hello, climate change.

12.28 Mueller closes in: what will the Trump-Russia inquiry deliver in 2019?

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01.17 Trump's economy is great for billionaires, not for working people [chock-full of pesky facts that government and media ignore and distort]

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01.19 The Ebola outbreak in Eastern Congo is moving toward a major city. That’s not good.

01.19 Ahead of Third Annual Women's March, Group Releases Far-Reaching 'Intersectional Feminist Policy Platform'

01.17 +++ Brexit crisis: Germany and Europe react — live updates +++

01.17 White people assume niceness is the answer to racial inequality. It's not [More equality requires us to fix ignored and distorted problems]

01.16 Global tensions holding back climate change fight, says WEF [Consistently stupid and harmful policies... Seeing a pattern?]

01.16 How Governments React to Climate Change: An Interview with the Political Theorists Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann

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  Obamacare and the Facade of Regulation
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COMMENTARY:

Obamacare and the Facade of Regulation

Our system of regulation isn’t really regulation at all.

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation earlier today, 17 December 2009

To achieve anything similar to French and Japanese health care systems – both have private health industry companies regulated heavily by government to minimize costs to less then half what US citizens pay – a revolution in the US would be required.

Plenty of countries have created excellent health care systems largely through regulation–so why can’t we do the same? The French and Japanese health care systems, for example, do not exclude private industry. They are not socialist in any sense of the word, and even retain a role for private insurance companies. What each system consists of is a regulatory apparatus that serves as the instrument for carrying out national policy–which is providing high quality health care for all the country’s citizens, at a reasonable cost. The regulation works because you can’t get around it, and because it was designed–and actually operates–in the public interest.

To achieve anything similar in the United States, however, would require a virtual revolution in how our government operates. Our system of government regulations isn’t really what we think of as regulation at all. Rather, it throws up a facade of rules, which corporations walk right through. And no wonder, since although the regulations are supposed to be arrived at independently and designed for the public good, corporations have long had a hand in writing them, as well, thanks to the power of lobbying, campaign contributions, and the revolving door between business and government.

Rather than being enacted to protect the public from the limitless greed of private industry, many regulations are actually passed in support of corporations. The worst example is probably the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is just a clubhouse for Wall Street. Another top contender is the Food and Drug Administration. The basic legislation passed by Congress in the 1930s and updated in the early 1960s set policy governing the sale and use of drugs, which demanded that companies demonstrate the proposed product is safe and efficacious. But that policy directive was quickly abandoned. Today the drug manufacturers breeze through the FDA, setting their own rules for use, establishing their own prices, and exercising their monopoly rights within the patent system which in the case of pharmaceuticals is maintained for their benefit.

An excellent article in the December Harpers, “Understanding Obamacare” by Luke Mitchell, provides a better understanding of how the American system of regulation in the corporate interest works. “The idea that there is a competitive ‘private sector’ in America is appealing, but generally false,” writes Mitchell. He continues:

No one hates competition more than the managers of corporations. Competition does not enhance shareholder value, and smart managers know they must forsake whatever personal beliefs they may hold about the redemptive power of creative destruction for the more immediate balm of government intervention. This wisdom is expressed most precisely in an underutilized phrase from economics: regulatory capture.

In the case of health care, Mitchell argues, “The health-care industry has captured the regulatory process, and it has used that capture to eliminate any real competition, whether from the government, in the form of a single-payer system, or from new and more efficient competitors in the private sector who might have the audacity to offer a better product at a better price.”

What’s really sharp about Mitchell’s analysis, though, is his recognition that “the polite word for regulatory capture in Washington is ‘moderation.’” As he explains it:

Normally we understand moderation to be a process whereby we balance the conservative-right-red preference for “free markets” with the liberal-left-blue preference for “big government.” Determining the correct level of market intervention means splitting the difference....The contemporary form of moderation, however, simply assumes government growth (i.e., intervention), which occurs under both parties, and instead concerns itself with balancing the regulatory interests of various campaign contributors. The interests of the insurance companies are moderated by the interests of the drug manufacturers, which in turn are moderated by the interests of the trial lawyers and perhaps even by the interests of organized labor, and in this way the locus of competition is transported from the marketplace to the legislature. The result is that mediocre trusts secure the blessing of government sanction even as they avoid any obligation to serve the public good. Prices stay high, producers fail to innovate, and social inequities remain in place.

This seems to me an extremely accurate depiction of the forces that have governed our current health care reform–from the start, when Big Pharma struck a secret deal with the White House, right up to the present moment, when Big Insurance’s bag man Joe Lieberman is deciding the fate of hundreds of millions of Americans.

And no wonder, since as Mitchell points out, the “moderation” formula has been perfected not by Republicans, but by Democrats: “The triangulating work that began two decades ago under Bill Clinton,” he writes, ”is reaching its apogee under the politically astute guidance of Barack Obama.”

The piece goes a long way toward explaining how health care reform could have turned out so screwed up despite (or, as the case may be, because of ) Democratic control of the White House and Congress, and is well worth reading in full.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found on his web site, http://jamesridgeway.net.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on December 17, 2009.
 

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