In Iraq, the war is waged. Bombs and bullet soar overhead. Often a missile lands, a mine explodes, and people perish. Daily life in the Persian Gulf life is perilous. I claim to care, and in actuality, I do, deeply. However, a casual observer would never know. I live well with the knowledge that those in Iraq die daily in heart, mind, body, and soul. The contrast between the quality of my life and the life of those in the Middle East haunts me.
There must be some action I can take, a movement that makes a difference. I do what I think reasonable. I protest. I stand on corners and advocate peace. Nonviolent marches are amongst my missions. I publish tomes. The topic is end hostilities, live in harmony. I plead to members of Congress, “Cut the funds.” Stop the war. Bring the troops home. Let the Iraqi people create tranquility in a manner best for them. Yet, as I protest, I ponder. Perhaps, much to my distress, I remain ineffective. My life choices reflect an active apathy. I must consider what I accept in my daily existence.
Each day I awake. The sun shines on my face. A gentle breeze blows through my window and across the bed sheets. I look around and see the luxury that is my life. As an American, I am not affluent. I am not even average. My income perhaps, is paltry. Yet, life is good . . . here in the States.
In the early morn, in the calm of my home, I begin my day. I disrobe. I place my pajamas in the hamper, or immediately put them in the washing machine. I press a button and the electricity flows through the cables. Water enters the basin through hoses. I wash my sleepwear in a way most persons in Iraq cannot. I pitter and patter without a care, or at least appearances might suggest I have none. In truth, I have great angst, not for the calm that is my day, but for what the sunlight hours and the evening darkness must be like for those in war zones.
I iron. I bathe; I dress. My clothes are clean and pressed. I prepare for work, play, for hours of consumption. I do all that I can to maintain the “norm’ that is America.
Outside the birds sing. The squirrels scatter. Animals gather their food with delight. The butterflies and bees find nourishment in the flowers. Mine is a fine life.
While I may not be wealthy, I own an automobile. I put gas in the tank and drive freely about town. I listen to people complain of the cost of petroleum fuel, and I wonder. The price is dear. People die so that we might toddle about. I go hither and yon. Yet, as I do, I ruminate. How might my actions reflect my disdain for what we, Americans do and do not.
Some say, the war effort is not done in their name. I disagree. The battle is mine. My inertia allows the combat to continue. My sense that I cannot influence the military industrial complex that controls the battle defines me as complicit. My belief that I am but one small, insignificant being, and cannot change what Congress or the President does, is counter to my faith in people. That I allow myself to invest in a world establishes all I disdain demonstrates that I am part of the problem and not the solution.
If I do little more than protest in word and deed, while I continue to live my life with glee, then what have I really done to make a statement? As a single person, perchance, I do not have the power to be heard above the fray. Nevertheless, I can try to make a difference. Indeed, I must do more than endeavor. I must organize; bring people together, so that the exertion of one will have the effect of many.
I must generate human energy, excite the empathetic sensibility that lies still within each of us. I must do all that I can to bring the troops home, and ensure that the allied forces exit Iraq. If I can help make an impression globally, then perhaps the war will end.
I propose we, the people of this planet take our power back. I invite you dear reader to consider the wisdom Garret Keizer expresses in a Harpers notebook. Might we prepare for peace and act in love. The Specific suggestion: [A] General strike.
Please ponder the possibility. On Election Day, cast a ballot for regime change. Act to end the war. Refuse to work; do not help maintain the status quo. Stop shopping. Do not serve the combative corporate structure that funds this armed engagement. The time is now, not in 2013 as Presidential hopefuls claim. We must move as one if we are to live together.
I hope to see you on the streets of America on November 6, 2007. Collectively, let us sing and act as though the elusive dream is possible. We can “Give Peace A Chance.”
Specific suggestion: General strike
By Garret Keizer Harpers.
Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust.
1. Of all the various depredations of the Bush regime, none has been so thorough as its plundering of hope. Iraq will recover sooner. What was supposed to have been the crux of our foreign policy-a shock-and-awe tutorial on the utter futility of any opposition to the whims of American power-has achieved its greatest and perhaps its only lasting success in the American soul. You will want to cite the exceptions, the lunch-hour protests against the war, the dinner-party ejaculations of dissent, though you might also want to ask what substantive difference they bear to grousing about the weather or even to raging against the dying of the light-that is, to any ritualized complaint against forces universally acknowledged as unalterable. Bush is no longer the name of a president so much as the abbreviation of a proverb, something between Murphy’s Law and tomorrow’s fatal inducement to drink and be merry today.
If someone were to suggest, for example, that we begin a general strike on Election Day, November 6, 2007, for the sole purpose of removing this regime from power, how readily and with what well-practiced assurance would you find yourself producing the words “It won’t do any good”? Plausible and even courageous in the mouth of a patient who knows he’s going to die, the sentiment fits equally well in the heart of a citizen-ry that believes it is already dead.
Any strike, whether it happens in a factory, a nation, or a marriage, amounts to a reaffirmation of consent. The strikers remind their overlords-and, equally important, themselves-that the seemingly perpetual machinery of daily life has an off switch as well as an on. Camus said that the one serious question of philosophy is whether or not to commit suicide; the one serious question of political philosophy is whether or not to get out of bed. Silly as it may have seemed at the time, John and Yoko’s famous stunt was based on a profound observation. Instant karma is not so instant-we ratify it day by day.
The stream of commuters heading into the city, the caravan of tractor-trailers pulling out of the rest stop into the dawn’s early light, speak a deep-throated Yes to the sum total of what’s going on in our collective life. The poet Richard Wilbur writes of the “ripped mouse” that “cries Concordance” in the talons of the owl; we too cry our daily assent in the grip of the prevailing order- except in those notable instances when, like a donkey or a Buddha, we refuse to budge.
The question we need to ask ourselves at this moment is what further provocations we require to justify digging in our heels. To put the question more pointedly: Are we willing to wait until the next presidential election, or for some interim congressional conversion experience, knowing that if we do wait, hundreds of our sons and daughters will be needlessly destroyed? Another poet, César Vallejo, framed the question like this:
A man shivers with cold, coughs, spits up blood.
Will it ever be fitting to allude to my inner soul?
. . . A cripple sleeps with one foot on his shoulder.
Shall I later on talk about Picasso, of all people?
A young man goes to Walter Reed without a face. Shall I make an appointment with my barber? A female prisoner is sodomized at Abu Ghraib. Shall I send a check to the Clinton campaign?
You will recall that a major theme of the Bush Administration’s response to September 11 was that life should go on as usual. We should keep saying that broad consensual Yes as loudly as we dared. We could best express our patriotism by hitting the malls, by booking a flight to Disney World. At the time, the advice seemed prudent enough: avoid hysteria; defy the intimidations of murderers and fanatics.
In hindsight, it’s hard not to see the roots of our predicament in the readiness with which we took that advice to heart. We did exactly as we were told, with a net result that is less an implicit defiance of terrorism than a tacit amen to the “war on terror,” including the war in Iraq. Granted, many of us have come to find both those wars unacceptable. But do we find them intolerable? Can you sleep? Yes, doctor, I can sleep. Can you work? Yes, doctor, I can work. Do you get out to the movies, enjoy a good restaurant? Actually, I have a reservation for tonight. Then I’d say you were doing okay, wouldn’t you? I’d say you were tolerating the treatment fairly well.
It is one thing to endure abuses and to carry on in spite of them. It is quite another thing to carry on to the point of abetting the abuse. We need to move the discussion of our nation’s health to the emergency room. We need to tell the doctors of the body politic that the treatment isn’t working-and that until it changes radically for the better, neither are we.
No one person, least of all a freelance writer, has the prerogative to call or set the date for a general strike. What do you guys do for a strike, sit on your overdue library books? Still, what day more fitting for a strike than the first Tuesday of November, the Feast of the Hanging Chads? What other day on the national calendar cries so loudly for rededication?
The only date that comes close is September 11. You have to do a bit of soul-searching to see it, but one result of the Bush presidency has been a loss of connection to those who perished that day. Unless they were members of our families, unless we were involved in their rescue, do we think of them? It’s too easy to say that time eases the grief-there’s more to it than that, more even than the natural tendency to shy away from brooding on disasters that might happen again. We avoid thinking of the September 11 victims because to think of them we have to think also of what we have allowed to happen in their names. Or, if we object openly to what has happened, we have to parry the insinuation that we’re unmoved by their loss.
It is time for us to make a public profession of faith that the people who went to work that morning, who caught the cabs and rode the elevators and later jumped to their deaths, were not on the whole people who would sanction extraordinary rendition, preemptive war, and the suspension of habeas corpus; that in their heels and suits they were at least as decent as any sneaker-shod person standing vigil outside a post office with a stop the war sign. That the government workers who died in the Pentagon were not by some strange congenital fluke more obtuse than the high-ranking officers who thought the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea from the get-go. That the passengers who rushed the hijackers on Flight 93 were not repeating the mantra “It won’t do any good” while scratching their heads and their asses in a happy-hour funk.
An Election Day general strike would set our remembrance of those people free from the sarcophagi of rhetoric and rationalization. It would be the political equivalent of raising them from the dead. It would be a clear if sadly delayed message of solidarity to those voters in Ohio and Florida who were pretty much told they could drop dead.
But how would it work? A curious question to ask given that not working is most of what it would entail. Not working until the president and the shadow president resigned or were impeached. Never mind what happens next. Rather, let our mandarins ask how this came to happen in the first place. Let them ask in shock and awe.
People who could not, for whatever reason, cease work could at least curtail consumption. In fact, that might prove the more effective action of the two. They could vacate the shopping malls. They could cancel their flights. With the aid of their Higher Power, they could turn off their cell phones. They could unplug their TVs.
The most successful general strike imaginable would require extraordinary measures simply to announce its success. It would require sound trucks going up and down the streets, Rupert Murdoch reduced to croaking through a bullhorn. Bonfires blazing on the hills. Bells tolling till they cracked. (Don’t we have one of those on display somewhere?)
Ironically, the segment of the population most unable to participate would be the troops stationed in the Middle East. Striking in their circumstances would amount to suicide. That distinction alone ought to suffice as a reason to strike, as a reminder of the unconscionable underside of our “normal” existence. We get on with our lives, they get on with their deaths.
As for how the strike would be publicized and organized, these would depend on the willingness to strike itself. The greater the willingness, the fewer the logistical requirements. How many Americans does it take to change a light-bulb? How many Web postings, how many emblazoned bedsheets hung from the upper-story windows? Think of it this way: How many hours does it take to learn the results of last night’s American Idol, even when you don’t want to know?
In 1943, the Danes managed to save 7,200 of their 7,800 Jewish neighbors from the Gestapo. They had no blogs, no television, no text messaging-and very little time to prepare. They passed their apartment keys to the hunted on the streets. They formed convoys to the coast. An ambulance driver set out with a phone book, stopping at any address with a Jewish-sounding name. No GPS for directions. No excuse not to try.
But what if it failed? What if the general strike proved to be anything but general? I thought Bush was supposed to be the one afraid of science. Hypothesis, experiment, analysis, conclusion-are they his hobgoblins or ours? What do we have to fear, except additional evidence that George W. Bush is exactly what he appears to be: the president few of us like and most of us deserve. But science dares to test the obvious. So let us dare.
We could hardly be accused of innovation. General strikes have a long and venerable history. They’re as retro as the Bill of Rights. There was one in Great Britain in 1926, in France in 1968, in Ukraine in 2004, in Guinea just this year. Finns do it, Nepalis do it, even people without email do it . . .
But we don’t have to do it, you will say, because “we have a process.” Have or had, the verb remains tentative. In regard to verbs, Dick Cheney showed his superlative talent for le mot juste when in the halls of the U.S. Congress he told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to go fuck himself. He has since told congressional investigators to do the same thing. There’s your process. Dick Cheney could lie every day of his life for all the years of Methuselah, and for the sake of that one remark history would still need to remember him as an honest man. In the next world, Diogenes will kneel down before him. In this world, though, and in spite of the invitation tendered to me through my senator, I choose to remain on my feet.
“United we stand,” isn’t that how it goes? But we are not united, not by a long shot. At this juncture we may be able to unite only in what we will not stand for. The justification of torture, the violation of our privacy, the betrayal of our intelligence operatives, the bankrupting of our commonwealth, the besmirching of our country’s name, the feckless response to natural disaster, the dictatorial inflation of executive power, the senseless butchery of our youth-if these do not constitute a common ground for intolerance, what does?
People were indignant at the findings of the 9/11 Commission-it seems there were compelling reasons to believe an attack was imminent!-yet for the attack on our Constitution we have evidence even more compelling. How can we criticize an administration for failing to act in the face of a probable threat given our own refusal to act in the face of a threat already fulfilled? As long as we’re willing to go on with our business, Bush and Cheney will feel free to go on with their coup. As long as we’re willing to continue fucking ourselves, why should they have any scruples about telling us to smile during the act?
Between undertaking the strike and achieving its objective, the latter requires the greater courage. It requires courage simply to admit that this is so. For too many of us, Bush has become a secret craving, an addiction. We loathe Bush the way that Peter Pan loathed Captain Hook; he’s a villain, to be sure, but he’s half the fun of living in Never-Never Land. He has provided us with an inexhaustible supply of editorial copy, partisan rectitude, and every sort of lame excuse for not engaging the system he represents. In that sense, asking “What if the strike were to fail?” is not even honest. On some level we would want it to fail.
Certainly, this would be true of those who’ve declared themselves as presidential candidates and for whom the Bush legacy represents an unprecedented windfall of political capital. One need only speak a coherent sentence-one need only breathe from a differently shaped smirk-to seem like a savior. Ding-dong, the Witch is dead. Already I can see the winged monkeys who signed off on the Patriot Act and the Iraq invasion jumping up and down for joy. Already I can hear the nauseating gush: “Such a welcome relief after Bush!” Relief, yes. But relief is not hope.
How much better if we could say to our next administration: Don’t talk about Bush. We dealt with Bush. We dealt with Bush and in so doing we demonstrated our ability to deal with you. You have a mandate more rigorous than looking good beside Bush. You need a program more ambitious than “uniting the country.” We are united-at least we were, if only for a while, if only in our disgust. If only I believed all this would happen.
I wrote this appeal during the days leading up to the Fourth of July. I wrote it because for the past six and a half years I have heard the people I love best-family members, friends, former students and parishioners-saying, “I’m sick over what’s happening to our country, but I just don’t know what to do.” Might I be pardoned if, fearing civil disorder less than I fear civil despair, I said, “Well, we could do this.” It has been done before and we could do this. And I do believe we could. If anyone has a better idea, I’m keen to hear it. Only don’t tell me what some presidential hopeful ought to do someday. Tell me what the people who have nearly lost their hope can do right now.
We can act in love, work for peace. What we have done to this date has not helped bring peace. Let us stand tall, stand strong, sing and serve the cause of peace. Profits can wait; the world cannot!
For months, Senator Hillary Clinton stressed, she and her fellow Democratic hopefuls agree on the issues. Clinton leads in the polls. Ultimately, she guides the electoral dance. The former First Lady steps to the Right and the rest stride with her. When Hillary courageously asserts, her companions perceive they too have permission to be bold. As the graceful “girl” glides, so too do the boys.
What the potential Commander-In-Chief does not say speaks volumes.
Well, Tim, I’m not going to answer that . . .
[T]hese hypotheticals are very dangerous . . .
I think it’s dangerous to go down this path . . .
Well, I don’t talk about my private conversations . . .
Tim, I think that’s one of those hypotheticals that . . .
[T]hat is better not addressed at this time . . .
I’m not putting anything on the proverbial table until . . .
Hillary anxiously awaits the time when the table, the chairs, the floor, and the forum are solely hers. Perhaps, the gentlemen that share the stage and the spotlight with this lovely lady can breathe a sigh of relief. They too can sidestep the conversations. After all, the expectation is that they will join her in the White House. That glory is good enough for them. To partner with the President is grand enough. As long as Joe, John, Bill, or Barack is in the ballroom. Dodd too may only wish to enter the door of the Oval Office. Thus, it is a delight to discover, the tango is taboo.
Let us dance with delight. A slower paced foxtrot may be preferable to those comfortable in the clothes of a frontrunner. The samba, a salsa, the rumba may rile too many on Right The perceived President-to-be, Clinton guides the Democratic gamers to one side or another as she subtly stays above the fray. Clinton claims all the candidates are essentially of one mind.
Each Democratic aspirant says they want to end the war, or did prior to the New Hampshire debates held at Dartmouth College on September 27, 2007. All believe in Universal Health Care. However, granted, only one, Dennis Kucinich has submitted a program that actually advocates authentic single payer and universal coverage. Nonetheless, that is a minor point when candidates posture for position. Nuances are a nuisance. They distract us from the main event or issue. Democrats must win.
Senator Clinton assures us, the Democrats differ with George W. Bush not each other. Our Party is united; thus, we will stand. As each of us understands, “Divided we fall.”
However, John Edwards reminds us we are a nation divided. Edwards also scoffs at the idea that he and the other candidates are comparable. John Edwards does not take donations from lobbyist. Concurrently, he excuses the contributions that come in from hedge funds. Former Senator Edwards told us, Hillary had yet to introduce a Health Care Plan, Universal or otherwise. However, when she did her proposal was as his. Perhaps the Senator from New York is practically correct; she and John Edwards are one.
Last week, Edwards resigned himself. Reluctantly he accepted; perhaps he and she have some common stances. Elizabeth Edwards, wife of the candidate retorted.
Mrs. Edwards also said that she sees almost no differences between Clinton’s health care plan, unveiled Monday in Des Moines, and that of her husband.
“I don’t call it Senator Clinton’s health care plan,” Edwards said. “I call it John Edwards’ health care plan as delivered by Hillary Clinton. The truth is that anyone who tries to describe Hillary’s health care plan will run through every material part of John’s health care plan.
“I just have to wonder, if John released his plan at the beginning of February, what took her seven and a half months to endorse it? We’re glad for the endorsement.”
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Perhaps that is why even when the front-runners offer divergent views; ultimately they come together.
On diplomacy, there is a disagreement, or was at one time. [However, as we later observed, the dancer turned, and tempted her favored partner, Barack Obama to stride as she did.]
At first blush, Hillary Clinton, critical of George W. Bush for not speaking to other world leaders, said she would refuse to meet with Presidents, Prime Ministers, and perceived autocrats in her first year. Clinton clarified a fear that some States leaders might have an agenda. A President Clinton will not be a pawn or subject to a possible ploy.
Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.
I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don’t want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.
And I will purse very vigorous diplomacy.
And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we’re not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.
Diplomacy, Hillary style is selective balance. The steps are timed, calculated, and convenient. Perchance, after reflection, as Obama observed the twists and twirls he realized that this design is the preferred manner for peacekeeping. Thus, the Illinois Senator assumed the stance too.
Barack Obama at first stated he would speak to world leaders. However, when hounded with the label “inexperienced,” he felt a need to assert that he too could be a hawk, bold, and brutal. A perceived peril, verified of course, as were Weapons of Mass Destruction, would be enough for this possible Commander-In-Chief to forego diplomatic discussions.
Barack Obama, a leading Democrat candidate in the US presidential race, provoked anger yesterday by threatening to send troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists – even without permission from that country’s Government.
Standing in front of a Stars and Stripes flag, Mr Obama said: “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”
Again, we acknowledge that perhaps Hillary Clinton is correct. Her charisma exudes confidence. There is a reason others wish to attend the ceremony with her on their arm. Each supplicant that seeks the highest office in the land is as the other. Might the many be as wolves in sheep’s clothing? The adage may be applicable. We must beware.
Were we to believe as the mainstream media and even Progressive pundits profess, a politician is a politician, a performer, and a person on stage for the glitz and glory applause brings. An election is nothing more than a beauty contest, or a dance competition. May the petitioner with the best personality, better banter, or prospects for success, win.
Indeed, it seems the public is satisfied with such a notion. We, as a political Party, must win that is all that matters. Each of us flatterers wishes to be in the photograph with the prom King or Queen, the First truly Grand Lady and her Gent.
Even if we, as individuals, cannot sit on the throne elegantly placed in the Oval Office, it seems Americans desire to say, “I voted for the bell of the ball, the first woman President of the United States, Commander-In-Chief Hillary Clinton. /citizens of this country are willing to sacrifice the lives of allied soldiers and Iraqi citizens for another year, another four-year Presidential term, and then an additional 365 days, all to vote for the presumed practical, courageous, and albeit aggrandized Hillary Clinton.
Possibly, the desire to win, or appear to be with the life of the party, supplants the need to be more than a mirror of your fellow challenger. As a Party, we must maintain a unified front. Democrats must be duplicates of each other. The Left, in order to be right for the nation, must speak as one. Victory will be ours if we work together. Perchance that is why so many follow the leader. In 2008, Hillary Clinton is the champion. Thus, everyone, or at least forty-six percent of the American public are sycophants of her.
Predictions forecast a Clinton win. She is considered an attractive and viable candidate. Hillary Clinton stands center-stage. Her proposed plans and postures are declared perfect, profound, and then these are placed prominently before the people. This may be why we witnessed as we did during the Dartmouth Debates. Hillary Hawks flamboyantly circled the floor, and with a panache pronounced, the war will continue, at least for a year, two, three, four, and Hillary herself states more.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said he would get all troops out within one year, by January 2010, even at the expense of abandoning some military equipment:
Russert: How can you do it in one year?…
Richardson: This is what I would do. I would bring them out through roads through Kuwait and through Turkey. It would take persuading Turkey. The issue is light equipment. I would leave some of the light equipment behind.
Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut promised all troops out sometime during the four-year term:
Russert: Will you pledge as commander in chief that you have all troops out of Iraq by January of 2013?
Dodd: I will get that done.
Russert: You’ll get it done.
Dodd: Yes, I will, sir.
Former Sen. John Edwards said he couldn’t promise to get all U.S. troops out in four years, but he said he’d leave behind only a few thousand and none in a combat role:
Russert: Senator Edwards, will you commit that at the end of your first term, in 2013, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq?
Edwards: I cannot make that commitment…. I will immediately draw down 40 [thousand] to 50,000 troops and, over the course of the next several months, continue to bring our combat troops out of Iraq until all of our combat troops are in fact out of Iraq. [But we] will maintain an embassy in Baghdad. That embassy has to be protected. We will probably have humanitarian workers in Iraq. Those humanitarian workers have to be protected. I think somewhere in the neighborhood of a brigade of troops will be necessary to accomplish that – 3,500 to 5,000 troops.
Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York said that her “goal” is to have all U.S. troops out of Iraq by 2013 but that she can’t promise that would happen. And some combat troops might remain.
Clinton: Well, Tim, it is my goal to have all troops out by the end of my first term. But I agree with Barack. It is very difficult to know what we’re going to be inheriting…. I will immediately move to begin bringing our troops home when I am inaugurated…. [But there] may be a continuing counterterrorism mission, which, if it still exists, will be aimed at al Qaeda in Iraq. It may require combat, Special Operations Forces or some other form of that, but the vast majority of our combat troops should be out.
Sen. Barack Obama took a very similar position, saying some U.S. troops would remain for an indefinite period for “counterterrorism activities,” which we presume means combat troops.
Russert: Will you pledge that by January 2013, the end of your first term more than five years from now, there will be no U.S. troops in Iraq?
Obama: I think it’s hard to project four years from now, and I think it would be irresponsible. We don’t know what contingency will be out there. What I can promise is that if there are still troops in Iraq when I take office [and] if there’s no timetable [for withdrawal], then I will drastically reduce our presence there to the mission of protecting our embassy, protecting our civilians and making sure that we’re carrying out counterterrorism activities there.
Among the front-runners, and one on the fringe that longs to be linked with the “electables,” timetables are flexible. Schedules stream far into the future. Some of the hopefuls envision they will do the work; however, it will be done in their second term. There is plenty of time to wait as the war rages on. Body bags do not enter into the electable equation. Again, Americans will allow for combat, as long as the Democratic candidate wins.
What we witnessed, as we watched the debate, was a definitive dance. Democratic Party leaders selected the future Commander months ago. The public concluded only the strong survive. Thus, a warrior was wanted. A determined Clinton took the lead early on. She continues to move forward. [Where have we heard that term before?] Hillary, the Presidential hopeful, seeks a partner and the people wish to assist her. An electable team will provide those on the Left with a “certain” success. Hence, just as the candidates altered their priorities, so too have the citizens.
Peace is no longer essential. It is not a component of electoral conquest. Oh if it were, we might have heard the one that remains steadfast. Dennis Kucinich vowed to bring the troops home immediately years ago, and he proclaimed the promise again last evening. With Kucinich in the Oval Office, American boys and girls will come home. When Tim Russert asked the Congressman and Presidential candidate if he would bring the troops home within his first term an enthusiastic Dennis Kucinich responded.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich said he’d get all troops out within three months of taking office:
Russert: You’ll pledge to have all troops out by January of 2013?
Kucinich: By – by April of 2007, and you can mark that on your calendars if you want, to take a new direction.
Russert: Well, it’s September of ’07 now, so we’re going to have a problem. (Laughter.)
Kucinich: Well, make that – make that 2009.
Dennis Kucinich stated as he has consistently. He is not deterred by the dynamics of the Democratic dance. As President, this principled man will lead us out of Iraq within months. Kucinich will do as the people said that want done. A Kucinich Presidency will be different.
Granted, there was a chuckle or two as the Presidential aspirant, anxious to do as he promised to do years ago, inadvertently avowed he would have the troops home by April 2007. Nonetheless, good-heartedly, as Russert noted that date already passed, Kucinich quickly, without hesitation, replied, “I am ready to be President today!”
Dennis Kucinich is ready to rock and roll. A rumba is not too daring for this diplomatic delegate.
‘Tis a breath of fresh air to find a campaigner that cares to do more than dance with the leader. A man that wants more than a personal victory, or a position on the dance ticket can and does move in marvelous ways. Dennis Kucinich expresses his genuine concern for the country, for the troops, for the global community in every gesture.
A Kucinich presidency is more powerful than any might imagine it would be. When Dennis leads the beautiful ballet that is America, the world superpower, partners look passionately into each other’s eyes. They connect authentically on the floor. The pace is energetic. The quality of exchanges is empathetic. The leader does not mandate the direction, for he understands that it takes two to tango, to cha-cha.
Dennis Kucinich will do as he has done in the past. He will welcome the weight and ways of the other people, no matter their station in life. Compassion is strength. If we act with character, dance in delight of the motion, we will achieve peace. Let us march to the beat of this different drummer and truly support the troops. Bring the boys and girls home before another term or person passes.
Be bold, be different, and be unique. Enter the ballroom yourself. On Primary Election Day, strut on in. Saunter, bee bop, romp, or rock your vote. Cast a ballot for an expeditious exit from Iraq. Let the ballet that brings the troops home, and calms a country ready to retreat from civil distress, begin.
I am honored to present the work of an artist I admire. Storm Bear publishes and resides in a Town Called Dobson. I am privileged to offer his message at BeThink. I am often amazed by his quickness and quip. The wit and wisdom Storm Bear shares can captivate the mind and open a heart. I hope you will take pleasure in this political contemplation. Please ponder the words and pictorial perspective of Storm Bear.
Last evening Democrats debated in New Hampshire. The hopefuls shared their strategies. [Some refused to state their agenda.] Iraq was the issue of most import for many. The host, Tim Russert, inquired, ‘If you were President when would you issue orders to bring our troops home.’ An expectant audience hoped to hear when the candidates thought we might exit Iraq.
Artist and political analyst, Storm Bear heard the answers the aspirants offered and went to work. Please travel within and reflect as Storm Bear has.
It has been fifty years since America sought to integrate its schools. It was September 25, 1957. The Little Rock Nine, a group of young Black pupils, crossed the threshold into history. Three years earlier, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled educational institutions could no longer remain separate and unequal. Unity in our schools was sanctioned in 1954. Brown versus Board of Education was the catalyst for change. However, even after the judgment was handed down, in actuality, few Districts altered enrollment. Assimilation was slow and frequently forced.
Two score and ten years ago, a reluctant locality was required to register young learners. Central High classrooms in Little Rock, Arkansas would receive students from the “wrong side of the tracks.” The climate was volatile. The community was up in arms. The Governor fought for what he thought right, separation of the races.
Nevertheless, President Dwight D. Eisenhower decreed school populations would be mixed. One thousand soldiers from the 327th Airborne Battle Group of the 101st Airborne Division were deployed to Little Rock from their base in Kentucky. The troops would accompany young Black students as they entered the High School campus. The guards would stay with the scholars during the day to ensure their safety. The Eisenhower Administration was determined to end discrimination. However, the public was not. Perhaps, a prejudiced populace was more successful than principled people were. We did not eradicate the injustice of bigotry. Racism lives large today.
As we commemorate this historic occasion, Americans face a quandary. The doctrine we advocate is contrary to what we adopt. The current Supreme Court, recently ruled in favor of re-segregation. Educational facilities in local neighborhoods returned to a policy of separatism prior to the judgment handed down only months ago. The ‘Robert’s rule’ reinforced what was allowed to occur in the last decade or more.
Yet, half a century later, one of the nine speaks with hope.
Four-thousand five hundred  people joined her. On the anniversary of the entrance into Central High School, fifty two  percent of the school is Black. One might delude them selves to think this is inspiring; yet, it is not.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – When Minnijean Brown Trickey and eight other black teenagers desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., 50 years ago on Sept. 25, they were escorted by 1,200 soldiers through spitting and jeering white crowds. Those images were beamed worldwide through the new medium of television, and the public response helped propel a civil rights movement energized by the 1954 Supreme Court ruling against school segregation.
On a recent visit to Central High, Ms. Trickey spoke to a self-segregated classroom: whites on one side, blacks on the other. An African-American student apparently dozed as she spoke. Students and teachers alike spoke blithely or painfully of the low educational aspirations and achievements of too many black students. Central, many said, is now two schools in one: a poor, demoralized black majority and a high-achieving, affluent white minority.
Separate and unequal survives. Only the façade varies. Americans are subtle in their manner, more so than they might have been in the past. Nonetheless, ethnic chauvinism, the chill of a cold shoulder, and racial slurs remain. Fifty years have come and gone. The United States is still divided. Hope is but a dream not realized. America, when will we embrace as our founders put forth, “All men are created equal.”
In 1900, the US was the largest creditor nation: we loaned money to others, and invested both at home and overseas. We exported far more than we imported, in both raw and finished commodities. We were on our way to becoming the most powerful nation on earth – economically, militarily and morally. That is until the clowns with hatches entered into the midway.
Fast forward 100 years. We are now the world’s largest debtor nation. We import (including approx 80% of our fruit and vegetables grown in sewage watered foreign lands) far more than we export, with China being our largest source of imports (anti-freeze in cough syrup, lead drenched toys, defective cribs that kills kids, defective tires etc). Duh, you can’t export the labor from that service job at Home Depot, prison guard, or Wal-mart greeter etc. Our entire economy is based on borrowing from other nations – with China being our largest creditor.
What would happen if China declined to buy any U.S. bonds whatsoever at the next bond auction, effectively declining to continue to refinance our national debt? Whatever happens China holds all the cards – We are effectively in a debtor’s prison.
Essayist and poet Wendell Berry, in his excellent collection of essays Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, wrote this: If you are dependent on people you do not know, who control the value of your necessities, you are not free and you are not safe.”
Until we can becomes self-reliant again (not isolationists) and capable of controlling our own destiny as a nation – we will remain unfree, and unsafe, no matter how many nukes we possess. And that is why free-trade Democrats are nearly as dangerous to America’s well being as the free-trade corporatist Republicans they are copying.
Could China indeed create a great depression in America by not buying treasuries (footing the debt of our war?). Imagine you’re living on credit cards, using one card to pay the minimum due on another, month by month. That’s what the U.S. is doing, borrowing (largely from foreign investors) to pay the interest on the national debt; every T-bill auction largely generates money to pay older T-bills that are coming due. We are borrowing all the time to pay the minimum due on the national debt, auction by auction. Now imagine that all your credit cards got closed, and you had no cash on hand to pay your bills as they came due. What would happen?
You’d crash – and that’s what would happen if foreign investors decided to stop buying U.S. treasuries – we’d lose the income stream we’re currently using to pay our minimum. This is what those clowns running for President should be talking about instead of yammering over whether Obama is black enough or speaking of “Darth Vader Cheney” (see how infantile politics has become).
It would be nice to be the biggest democracy – it would be bad to be the biggest dictatorship. It’s nice to be the biggest genius – and bad to be the biggest idiot. And while it’s good to be the biggest creditor in the world, (as we used to be) it’s terrible being the biggest debtor nation – as we are now. What we should care about – be it that corporate box store that moves into our community, or the company that manufactures my TV, is that the profits remain more or less in my community (nation). Up to about 1980, the U.S. imported raw material and exported finished goods, and the profit created prosperity here at home. Today we mainly export raw materials and import finished (junk) goods, and the profit goes to people in other countries. There is balanced trade and then there are unbalanced policies (trade agreements) that are bleeding our wealth to foreign investors – killing our middle class.
China has billions in treasuries and only has to call them in to set America up for a Depression. Unemployed, homeless, begging Americans collecting unemployment checks are not good consumers.
If we had started January 1, 2006 to stop borrowing 1 billion per day for interest alone on the national debt and started paying $1.003 (i.e. the payments must include the daily interest or the debt grows larger forever) it would take approximately 127 years to pay down our approximate $8 trillion dollar debt which should reach $11.2 trillion by 2010. A great portion of personal income tax (not of total tax revenue) is spent paying the interest on the debt (thus cuts or the elimination of social programs – medical care – education grants – monies for the repair of the infrastructure etc).
This morning it was announced that the President will be asking Congress for another $200 billion to fund perpetual war for perpetual oil, oops, I mean peace. And now its announced – that this money, is needed to assure security for the Iraqi people (over a million dead – millions more dispossessed & scattered to other countries). There was no mention, that these monies would be used in constructing a walled (largest in the world) embassy (which in my opinion is the new oil ministry headquarters). This resembles a small town. No mention was made, of spending this money for ‘enduring bases’ – nor of paying approximately 180,000 mercenaries (not troops) approximately $1,200 to $1,500 per day (compared with McDonald manager wages for troops).
Iraq is approximately the size of California – and once had approximately 25 million people. Greenspan, this past week, finally admitted that, yes, the Iraq War is about OIL. Meantime Hunt Oil of Texas, is making oil deals with the Kurds (in the north). President Bush, shrugged, and said at last week’s press conference that he didn’t know anything about this? Hmm – one would think he would with Cheney ‘s cozy relationship with this company and their generous campaign contributions?
Greenspan also told Bob Woodward (Washington Post) that he actively lobbied the White House to remove Saddam for the express purpose of protecting Western control over global oil supplies.
Kissinger in a recent op-ed, in reference to Iran stated, “Iran’s legitimate aspirations do not include control over oil that the United States and other industrial countries need.” Meantime we’re funding this invasion for oil – so that the few will realize obscene profits, from these billions of barrels of untapped oil. No – you won’t be receiving any royalty checks in the mail.
How much is a billion dollars (GWB wants 200 billion this week)?
252 billion seconds ago humans learned to write for the first time. A billion hours ago, our ancestors were living in the Stone Age. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive. With a billion dollar bills, one could lay down a band of seventy bills wide along the full length of the Trans – Alaska pipeline twice and there would be $140,000 left over. There are probably 500,000 moose in Alaska, so with a billion dollars, one could make a stack of bills beside each moose that would reach at least as high as the moose’s head.
If one sat down to count a billion dollar bills and could count them at the rate of one per second, every second of every day, it would take more than 30 years to finish the task. A billion dollars is a stack of $100 dollar bills as tall as the empire state building. If you earned $1000 a day, it would take 2,740 years to earn ONE billion dollars. If you had (unless you were the boys in Foggy Bottom) a billion dollars and you spent $3000 of it every day it would take one thousand years to spend it all.
With a billion dollars you could build 200 brand new elementary schools every single day in America – and maybe with a billion dollars, and certainly with $200 billion, seniors wouldn’t have to cut their pills in half – and bridges wouldn’t be crashing into rives (killing taxpayers who mistakenly thought that those elected were doing their jobs). Next time you hear about BILLIONS being requested for war — you’ll have a better grasp on the fact that: Now we’re talking real money!!!
Health care is in the news again. This week, Senator, and Presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton proposed the latest cure for what ails this country. Clinton declared medical insurance must be mandatory. Under her plan, all Americans will be covered. Days later, President George W. Bush spoke of how he believes we can best heal the ills of impoverished children in this country. Mister Bush proclaimed parents must pay for the care of their progeny. The medical system must remain in the hands of private industry. There are no handouts here. If Moms and Dads have income, they must provide for their children. While the plans may seem drastically different, they are very similar.
In each, the “citizen” is still basically a “consumer,” not part of the commonweal Thomas Paine spoke of in 1776 when he explained, to ensure shared stability, government and society must be intertwined.
In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.
A thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same.
Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him to quit his work, and every different want would call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune, would be death; for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.
People rarely relate to the idea of death or serious illness. Most of us imagine we are immortal. As a child, many believe in fairy tales. Some trust a fairy Godmother will come and care for them when they are ill. The Wizard lives in Oz, and he too can heal a heart, or mend an injured brain. In our youth we are certain, “There is no place like home.” Mom and Dad will keep us safe and warm. Parents provide food, shelter, and when we do not feel well, they will take us to a capable physician. The compassionate doctor will cure our pain. Ah, the miracle of medical science is better than fancy.
As adults, we accept there is a need for medical care in our lives. After a certain age, we understand; we are mere mortals. Accidents occur. Infirmity is inevitable. Dream as we might that we are and will remain healthy throughout the course of our lives, as years go by we learn everlasting good health is not likely to be. There is no assurance that we will always be fit. We understand that we must do what we can to prevent illness and injury.
A mature mind grasps that mishaps happen. As an individual, we recognize health insurance is a must. Still, in the Wild West, independent-minded Americans are reluctant to insure every individual. The notion of natural liberty negates the necessity we experience as a society. Much as we would wish to believe I am separate from my neighbor, none of us are. If my fellow citizen cannot care for himself, the cost of his illness, injury, and demise will be mine to bear. Just as I need to garner support from my friend to acquire funds for my needed health insurance, so too does my brother, my sister, and their child.
Most civilized nations realize the dire need for universal medical indemnity. Other countries have established plans to ensure that preventative measures will be taken, whenever possible, to stave off sickness. Traditionally, in America, each man, woman, and apparently, child must fend for themselves.
There is talk; perhaps, it is time to change. Nonetheless, the conversation is convoluted. Some speakers say those that are happy need not consider how their choice to stay with a plan might affect another. The words of founding father Thomas Paine have not helped Hillary Clinton or George Bush to appreciate every American is part of a broader society. Clinton and Bush are not alone. Virtually every Presidential candidate and citizen mirrors the idea of independence as they discuss health insurance.
In this tome, I could continue to analyze the oratories, as others have done before me, or I could pen, as I believe I must. As political campaigns progress and people posture, I realize I need to disclose more. I thought to broach the discussion more than a year ago, and I did, although, in truth, I was evasive.
This topic is an embarrassing one for me. Since the age of seventeen, when I first left my parents home to live on my own, I became a national statistic. I was one of the shunned, those that suffer in silence. I was a person most Americans look down upon. I remained so for all but twelve months of my adult life. I was not among the acceptable for all but a scant time. When I was covered, it was only for a few weeks at a time. For all but those periods, I did not have medical insurance.
On occasion, I would have to divulge this reality outside of a physicians’ office. Those that heard of my plight were surprised. Subtly, statements were made. Friendly faces turn sour when they learn that you have no health care.
My dentist knew. Granted, some health care packages do not include dental plans. However, most provide a bit of protection. I had none. I had to tell my sweet dental care physician. Paul pleaded with me. Take a job, any job, that had excellent benefits, dental in particular.
I am a very well educated person. As are many Americans that have no insurance. I worked in many prestigious places and held positions that one would think included health insurance as part of the standard package. In one University teaching assignment I learned more than a decade later, an offer of coverage is not required although it is available to those that know they can request it.
In that situation and other similar circumstances, people are purposely not placed on tenure tracks for it is too costly to the college. A large portion of the faculty, while teaching the same number of hours as a full time professors are considered only “part-time.” Contracts are renewed. Workers Unions do not assist employees such as I. Nonetheless, people assume they do.
Much is taken for granted. We all have appearances to uphold. Even if the illusion is maintained only to save ourselves from what we fear, what we project others accept. At times, even the most knowledgeable among us is confronted with stark realities they never imagined.
The majority of people we [Authors of Uninsured in America, Susan Starr Sered and Rushika Fernandopulle] met in our travels across the country lack consistent access to health care of reasonable quality despite having been employed all or most of their adult lives. Approximately one-third of the people with whom we spoke are well educated but have had the misfortune to end up in jobs that do not offer insurance: substitute teachers, adjunct professors, part-time social workers. These Americans have not chosen to be uninsured; rather, their employers have found it cost-effective to reduce the number of permanent full-time positions while maintaining an unprotected pool of workers whose jobs by definition do not offer benefits.
In America, in a free enterprise Capitalist system, costs are the central concern. Profits are primary. This is true for publicly traded companies and for private or state funded institutions. People are only a means for principal gains. Perhaps, that is the problem. In a market economy, products are sold. Image is everything. We all wish to appear well and well-off. That may be the reason that millions of Americans do not speak of their health care situation. They, we, do not wish to seem unstable, inadequate, or unworthy, although we may feel as though we are. I definitely did.
As a mature individual, I contribute to society. Often, I maintained and sustained a job that was somewhat secure, as much as anyone might make that claim in modern America. I am a professional person. Postgraduate degrees adorn my walls, or they would if I ever chose to hang them. Yet, I did not have the where-with-all, nor the worth of a person with health insurance. My employer did not pay for my care, and I certainly could not afford the benefit.
On the radio and television, we hear the numbers. As many as forty-seven million Americans are uninsured. At times, I have heard figures far higher. In periodicals, “average” Americans read the data. The assumption is, “those” people are uneducated, low wage, service workers. Those in the mainstream think, surely, no one similar to me, would be without a health care plan.
The homeless, the impoverished, the immigrants, these individuals must be the persons included in the tens of millions without medical coverage. At least that is what Rushika, a physician specializing in health policy, thought. This medical expert turned researcher and author was certain public programs must attend to the needs of those without health insurance. She never imagined what might be true. Most people do not. Those without health care do not speak of their predicament. Persons satisfied with provisions medical services provide have no reason to ponder the possibilities, let alone the realities others face.
[W]hen Rushika, a physician specializing in health policy, met Susan, an anthropologist who recently had returned to the United States after living for two decades in Israel and Japan, countries that have national health care programs. With the fresh eyes that an outsider sometimes can bring to a situation most of us take for granted, Susan asked Rushika: “Where are the bodies? If forty million Americans don’t have health insurance, there must be a lot of bodies. I would think that American cities would look like Delhi or Calcutta, where trucks collect corpses from the streets each morning. Where is America hiding its uninsured sick and dying citizens?”
Rushika initially responded with standard answers: We have government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Many counties run clinics with sliding-scale fees. Our hospitals offer charity care to indigent patients. And, with the support of the Bush administration, churches have opened up faith-based clinics.
Yet, when the two of us began to look more closely at the statistics, we saw that these responses did not speak to the actual experiences of many people in our country. In 2003, Medicaid covered only slightly more than half of Americans whose family income was below 200 percent of the poverty line (that is, below $36,800 for a family of four). Public clinics typically are so overwhelmed that the wait for an appointment can be several months.
Hospitals often fail to inform patients that charity programs exist, instead simply billing their uninsured patients and turning their accounts over to collection agencies. In fact, although the government requires not-for-profit hospitals to offer charity care, many hospitals avoid doing so by redefining the uncollectable debt as “charity care.” And faith-based clinics, which were touted as a compassionate safety net to take the place of big government bureaucracies, usually seem to flounder, seeing patients only a few evenings each week and relying on volunteer physicians to squeeze in a couple of clinic hours a month on top of their already overflowing private practices.
Oh, how I know this well. I sat in many a waiting room for hours on end. At times, what might be a hour out of the day for those will medical insurance would be an all day visit for me. The uninsured, and even underinsured, are patient people. They have to be. “Beggars cannot be choosers.” Perhaps, those with little or no coverage are so grateful for a pittance, or they are as mortified as I was. Possibly, we are resigned to what is.
We, the forty-four, forty-seven, or fifty-three million, [I have heard each of these statistics bandied about over the years] feel powerless against the Medical and Pharmaceutical industries. Collectively, or as individuals, there seems little we can do to battle the big businesses that employ us. We need our paycheck to purchase the basics. Food, clothing, and shelter are necessary to survive. Health care, well, as long as I am alive I can endure. The “no pain, no gain” attitude permeates the American culture. I am tough; I can take it. Boys do not cry. Women are willing to make sacrifices. Some say, “I can wait.” “I am fine.”
Years ago, while writhing in pain, sweat poured from every part of my body. Although I am often cold and covered in clothing, I took every garment off,. The fabric irritated my flesh. I curled up into a ball. My hope was this primal position would relief the distress. Oh, to return to the womb, or perhaps perish. Either would be better than what I experienced. I lay on the floor. I moaned; I groaned. None of this is “normal” for me. After a time, the heat that rose from my torso diminished. The ache in my abdomen did not.
Suddenly I had chills. I felt frozen. I covered myself in down. I moved, stayed still. Nothing lessened the sting, the sensation, or the unimaginable, intolerable torment that came from within. I moved to a hammock. The loose support I though might reduce the misery. It did not.
Finally, after seven hours I called my family physician. A pre-existing condition, another unrelated affliction was the reason I knew of a doctor to telephone. The other ailment was also a reason I feared I would not qualify for medical insurance coverage. That aside, my internist suggested I call the paramedics. I could not. I was able to dial 911, just as I had my doctor. However, I knew if I asked for assistance from a medical service, there would e a charge. I could not afford that.
Hours more passed. I fell in and out of consciousness. Nine hours after the first twinge I realized I must seek help. Nine-One-One to the rescue, or so I hoped. The emergency medical transporters arrived. They drove me to the nearest hospital. All I could think of was the cost. The recompense to drive my aching body less than a mile down the road was approximately one thousand dollars. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not state, the paramedics monitored my blood pressure before we drove off. There is more to this story. The details, drama, and trauma abound. I might tell other tales instead. However, I use this one only to illustrate the depth of reluctance to request medical attention when an individual has no insurance.
Many have a narrative to offer. Anecdotes, such as this, in America, are not uncommon. We, as a nation know there are problems with the current system. We have understood this for years. Television, radio, and written reports are abundant, and were long ago, long before this dialogue that aired in 2002.
Gwen Ifill: Today’s new census report boils down the health care affordability crunch into cold, hard numbers. The number of Americans without health insurance keeps rising, but last year so did household income. Here to discuss the reasons why and the policy implications of these findings is Susan Dentzer of our Health Unit. The unit is a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
So, Susan, a 5 percent increase in the number of uninsured, why?
Susan Dentzer, News Hour Health Correspondent: Gwen, what we see is that, five years into an economic recovery and expansion since the recession of 2001, and six years of rising health uninsurance numbers, we see that basically what’s happening is the performance of the economy and workers’ wages and what’s going on in health insurance are wildly different tracks.
Health insurance premiums are still rising about 7 percentage points a year; that’s more than double workers’ wages and more than double the rate of inflation. So, what’s happening is that health insurance is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many Americans. Concomitant with this, many businesses are dropping health insurance coverage because they find it unaffordable.
Gwen Ifill: So it’s unaffordable for Americans and for the people who they work for?
Susan Dentzer: Exactly, for businesses who are in many cases providing, contributing towards that coverage. In fact, in this most recent set of data, we see that fewer than 60 percent of workers now are covered by employer-provided insurance, 59.7 percent.
So, what’s happening is that health insurance is becoming more expensive, less affordable. Employers are dropping coverage. And as a consequence, what we see out the other end is 2.2 million more Americans uninsured in the most recent year, a total of almost 9 million more Americans now uninsured since 2000.
Affordability problems remain
Gwen Ifill: But the same time, in the same report we hear that household income has gone up. So, doesn’t that make it more affordable?
Susan Dentzer: Well, it’s gone up modestly. The real median income rose in the most recent period measured — again, this was from 2005 to 2006 — by 1.1 percent to $48,500. But again, a 1 percentage point real increase in incomes doesn’t come anywhere near making a 7 percent compounded rate of growth of health insurance more affordable for families.
And in particular, we see this happening now, not just in low-income households, where it’s very difficult to afford — the average family health insurance policy now is pretty close to $12,000 a year. Imagine a family earning $48,500 affording $12,000 a year. But when you look even higher up the income scale, 1.4 million of the people who became uninsured in this most recent period had incomes of $75,000 and more, household incomes.
So it says that even higher-income families now are having enormous difficulty affording insurance and likely to be working for employers who are dropping coverage.
Still we sit settled with what is. We, as individuals, do not wish to show our worry, our fears, or our shaky status. The thought of what might occur, if we allow ourselves to think of our personal situation, might drive any of us insane. Mortality may be on the minds of those without coverage. However, unless there is a need to speak of such, why would we? The fact that I did not have indemnity against illness or injury was not a subject I felt at ease to discuss.
The idea of a life threatening illness deeply effects those that have what they hope is adequate medical care. In truth, most of us know of someone, who lost his or her life savings to illness. The cause for half the bankruptcies in this nation can be traced back to medical maladies.
I could site the statistics with glee. I trust if you chose to, you too could offer chapter and verse. There are facts and figures aplenty. Formulas and figures may vary greatly depending on the source, the situation, and sadly, the scheme that the spokesperson wishes to promote. Nevertheless whichever truth we wish to adopt there are statistics to share.
I know if we engage an exchange of raw information it is merely an intellectual endeavor. For decades, in discussions with those I did not know well, data helped me maintain distance. I dared not state what was my truth. I had no health insurance. I can vouch for the validity of these figures. For this is, was, and I fear may be my life forever and a day.
The percentage of Americans without insurance rose to 15.9 percent in 2005, higher than the 15.6 percent level in 2004 and much higher than the 14.9 percent level in 2001.
The percentage of Americans who are uninsured rose largely because the percentage of people with employer-sponsored coverage continued to decline, as it has in the past several years.
The percentage of children under 18 who are uninsured rose from 10.8 percent in 2004 to 11.2 percent in 2005, while the number of uninsured children climbed from 7.9 million in 2004 to 8.3 million in 2005, an increase of 360,000.
Lack of insurance is much more common among people with low incomes. Some 24.4 percent of people with incomes below $25,000 were uninsured in 2005, almost triple the rate of 8.5 percent among people with incomes over $75,000.
This is the slant Americans wish to accept. The problem is greatest among the poor. If we focus on the failures of the pitiable, blame the people that we wish to believe have not worked as hard as we have, we can ignore the essential truth. The gap between $25,000 and $75,000 is large and perhaps, this gorge is where millions of uninsured live.
Average families, with children are severely affected by the current health care crisis. The Number of Uninsured Children Rises. “Census Figures Show 8.3 Million Youths Lacked Health Coverage in 2005.” Two, almost three years later, the figures are higher. In 1997, Congress created the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan. The intent was to provide health coverage for children whose families do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford insurance on their own. Often these families have incomes that far exceed the poverty level. While the program was popular for well over a decade, the number of uninsured children swells.
The latest census figures show that a record 46.6 million Americans had no health insurance in 2005, up from 45.3 million in 2004. Among those who did have coverage, fewer were receiving it through their jobs. In 2001, for instance, 62.6 percent of Americans had employer-sponsored coverage. By last year the figure was 59.5 percent, census figures show.
Politicians do not wish to discuss the depth and details of this scenario or those that surround it. People at every income level are losing health insurance coverage. Adults and children are affected by the inefficient and expensive system. Medical service providers place profits above people. Monetary concerns dictate more than a desire to care.
Days ago, George W. Bush justified his intent to veto a Bill that would help provide health care for those most in need. Our dependant children, the little ones, those sweet souls that are our future, and may be reminiscent of our past, apparently, according to the President are too costly.
As mothers and fathers unexpectedly lose their health care coverage, we continue to deny the dilemmas that affect our society. Americans are in dire straits.
If we are to be honest as we assess our circumstances, we must acknowledge that those mothers and fathers who bring home salaries of 75,000 are frequently no longer able to live a comfortable life. Permanence is a precarious term. The expression “benefits” belies the truth that many of us live with. Penury, is but a pay check away. While thirty-seven million people, or about one in eight Americans live below the poverty line, the number of uninsured Americans rose by more than 1 million people. This includes more than 360,000 children added to the rolls. The presumed new total of uninsured person in 2006 is 47.5 million, give or take.
And, Susan, unemployment has remained low. Household income ticked up slightly. So why that increase in the number of uninsured?
Susan Dentzer, NewsHour Health Correspondent: Ray, I think what it says is that having a job in America is increasingly becoming detached from the question of whether or not you have health insurance.
We see now, as you said, economic recovery since 2001 has created numbers of new jobs. But, in fact, it hasn’t necessarily translated into more coverage for many people and, in fact, quite the opposite.
We see employment-based coverage continuing to crumble, and that’s the real story of the rise in the health un-insurance numbers that were released yesterday, that the number of people who became uninsured, 1.3 million, the driving force behind that was the loss of employer-based coverage in the private coverage market.
Ray Suarez: Is there such a thing as a typical uninsured person? Or has a lot of that growth come from one kind of worker?
Susan Dentzer: Well, what we’ve known for a long time is that four out of five people without health insurance are workers or in families where somebody is working full time. So the vast majority of the uninsured have, for a long time, been working people, primarily lower paid people, and also, to a large degree, Hispanics and, to a lesser degree, blacks.
But what we saw most recently — and in 2005, the numbers released yesterday bear this out — increasingly we’re seeing also a loss of coverage in households and families earning $50,000 a year and more, in the middle class. And so, that shows that the loss of coverage really is hitting a broad swath of American workers.
It’s tending to be workers who are working for small businesses, people who are working in kind of cyclical-driven industries that go up and down with the economy. But by and large, it’s hitting a broad swath of workers. And the driving force behind that is the cost of health insurance coverage.
Care for single persons soar. For Moms and Dads the price of health care is high. Children, while wonderful, are a costly commodity. The truth of this is more evident when we concede, jobs are not secure. Even careers rarely last a lifetime. Home loans are hefty. The price of gas, food, and the attire needed for work alone is outrageous. Play money? What is that. Little is discretionary; less is disposable. Dollars are tight. Each expense increases daily. The cost of living coupled with the fact that employers are no longer willing to bear the burden of benefits makes what was once a sizable income barely adequate.
Medical care co-payments alone can contribute to an impending crisis. Prescription disbursement can be dear. Pills are pricey; injections exorbitant. The family budget in America today is fragile enough. Additional expenditures for health care seem unnecessary in comparison to other considerations.
We resign ourselves, for most of us know not how to stop what politicians endorse. As political campaigns progress and people posture, I realize I needed to reveal more than I wished to. I thought to broach the discussion more than a year ago, and I did, although, in truth, I was evasive. Each time I read statistics on the tens of millions Americans who are uninsured I am not surprised. You, dear reader many have noticed as I frequently have, the numbers vary greatly depending on the source, the situation, and sadly, the scheme
In February, Presidential hopeful John Edwards introduced his health care plan. Many Americans cheered. Finally, someone was willing to discuss Universal Health Care.
I understand Edwards may have been first to offer a “health” plan; however a “first strike” policy, is not always best. We must realize if we adopt his plan or Clinton’s, nothing will change. Big businesses will still control the health care community. Might we read what John Edwards expressed as he documented his plan. I share a snippet from the John Edwards website. I think you might find it informative. There is often more than initially appears behind the rhetoric.
Choice between Public and Private Insurers: Health Care Markets will offer a choice between private insurers and a public insurance plan modeled after Medicare, but separate and apart from it. Families and individuals will choose the plan that works best for them. This American solution will reward the sector that offers the best care at the best price. Over time, the system may evolve toward a single-payer approach if individuals and businesses prefer the public plan.
In the Iowa debate, held September 20, 2007, candidate Edwards explained he must endorse the agenda Hillary Clinton proposed. It is virtually identical to his agenda. Bravo! I admire the admission. Undeniably, I do not embrace either proposal. Hillary insists we must all have medical care coverage. Can she imagine what a strain that might put on persons such as I, In the past and now, discretionary income is not part of my repertoire. I am unsure how to define “disposable” dollars. Are these the pennies that I accidentally drop and then scrounge around for as I desperately attempt to pay my bills. Perchance, a Newshour discussion might help to explain.
Ray Suarez: Well, you talk about this affecting even higher than the median-income workers. If they wanted to buy their own health insurance, what are we talking about as the cost to buy health insurance?
Susan Dentzer: The average health insurance premium for a family now exceeds $11,000 a year. It’s higher than the earnings that you could earn, earning a minimum-wage job. It’s about a quarter of that median family income, so it’s a huge, huge dent in the pocketbook.
And it’s because of that rising cost that so many businesses are dropping coverage. Just since the year 2000, according to a survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, we’ve lost about — it’s gone from about 69 percent of employers offering coverage to their workers. We’re now down to about 59 percent, just in the period since 2000.
And, again, the reason by and large has been the cost of health insurance. Although the cost is growing now at a lower rate than it was earlier in this decade, it’s still growing annually at about two to three times the rate of inflation overall.
And for some small businesses, premiums can still go up 20, 30, 40 percent a year. That’s pushing a lot of businesses out of the business of offering health insurance to their workers. And to the degree they pass those costs along to workers, sometimes workers are passing up the coverage that is offered to them by their firms.
Ray Suarez: Now, even with those rising costs, if you look at where the action has been on answering the needs of the uninsured, in state legislatures and national government, there’s been a lot of emphasis on children, yet this time we saw 361,000 more children uninsured. Why?
Susan Dentzer: And that’s exactly what makes these numbers so troubling to so many people. Since 1997, as you said, when we enacted the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, coverage has mostly been growing for kids. The deliberate efforts on the parts of states to reach out to low-income families and pull children into both SCHIP coverage, as it’s known — State Children’s Health Insurance Program — and Medicaid.
What seems to have happened in the last couple of years is that states have reversed that. There are fewer outreach efforts; there are more barriers being erected to enrollment of people in those programs.
In some instances, it’s cost — there are deliberate efforts to make it harder to re-enroll once you’re already enrolled in the programs. So the net effect seems to be pushing people, children in particular, who are qualified for these programs out.
And that’s especially troubling, because we know that there are probably 4 or 5 million uninsured children still out there who are qualified for these programs but not enrolled. So to the degree we’re adding to the pool of people that are qualified but not enrolled, it’s a serious problem.
Life tells me that as long as medicine is business, we, the people, human beings whose existence is fragile, will be viewed as nothing more than consumers.
I long for a planet where people embrace the construct of mans’ humanity to his fellow man, woman, and child. As the Presidential aspirants attempt to convince us that they are not affected by the financial agendas of their supporters, I sigh in frustration. My own emotional reaction to such duplicity leaves me lost for words. Thus, I turn to Jamie Court. I cannot explain my concerns better than Mister Court did in a recent editorial. I invite your review of the commentary aired on Market Place Morning.
And that’s the problem. Mandatory private health insurance proposals are all stick and no carrot.
The average health insurance premium for a family of four is just over 12 grand per year. What middle-class family making, say, 60,000 bucks per year can afford that bill?
What we need is the carrot of affordable health care. That means government standardizing charges by insurers, doctors, hospitals and drug companies. No more $6 Tylenol in the hospital.
The reason health insurance is so unaffordable today is that no one is watching the costs. With standardization, insurance would be cheaper and people would want to buy it — not have to because the government is threatening them with a tax penalty.
Oh wait, I can hear the plaintive cry of the free market. You can’t tell a doctor, insurer, hospital or drug company what’s reasonable to charge. That’s socialism. Well, how reasonable then is it to tell every American you have to buy a product whose cost is obscene if you want to be a U.S. citizen? Isn’t that corporate socialism?
Mandatory health insurance is a government bailout of a free market that’s failed its customers. Fewer people and employers are buying private health insurance because it costs so much more and delivers so little.
So rather than let customers demand a new and better product, politicians are forcing us to buy it. Whatever happened to creative destruction?
There’s a business plan of course. Mitt, Arnold, and Hillary each received six or seven-figure campaign contributions from the insurance industry. The plan is insurers send the bill and we have to pay it.
Jamie Court is president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.
We might look at the Obama plan; however, few think his agenda meets the needs of the growing uninsured population. More than one pundit or publication has stated the Obama “program” is sparse on substance and broad on rhetoric. For some, a careful read of the details, reinforces a need to question. Answers are not forthcoming in the Obama agenda.
Obama, who is among the front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination, offered few new ideas in laying out his plan to expand health insurance and to greatly reduce health-care costs. Instead, he cast his proposal in the themes that have defined his candidacy: optimism and a desire to move beyond partisan politics. He offered ideas that have long been proposed to solve one of the country’s most vexing problems: increasing subsidies for those who cannot afford insurance but do not qualify for public programs, spending more federal money on disease prevention and making health records electronic.
Personally, the only Single Payer Plan which Dennis Kucinich presents speaks to me, the common person. As I peruse a commentary that compares and contrasts the essence of each proposal, I believe the essential concerns are covered in the Kucinich proposal. I am not alone in this view.
Dennis Kucinich rarely gets much airtime in Democratic presidential debates. That was underscored recently when ABC’s George Stephanopoulos called on him in an Iowa forum to talk about God. Kucinich said, “George, I’ve been standing here for the last 45 minutes praying to God you were going to call on me.” . . .
With poll numbers at 1 or 2 percent, the Ohio congressman is the nudge kicking at the knees of the Democratic Party to offer more than incremental change. He deserves more attention than he gets. On healthcare, he says what Americans believe, even as his rivals rake in contributions from the industry.
In a CNN poll this spring, 64 percent of respondents said the government should “provide a national insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes,” and 73 percent approve of higher taxes to insure children under 18. Those results track New York Times and Gallup polls last year, in which about two-thirds of respondents said it is the federal government’s responsibility to guarantee health coverage to all Americans.
Such polls allow Kucinich to joke that, far from being in the loony left, “I’m in the center. Everyone else is to the right of me.” More seriously, in a recent visit to the Globe, he accused the other Democratic candidates of faking it on healthcare reform.
Women around the world suffer today from a basic lack of rights in comparison to their male counterparts. The Declaration of Independence contains the words
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…
In some parts of the world women are subjugated to the point of being nothing more than the property of their male relatives. The United States has made great strides in women’s rights, but still there is far to go before true equality of the sexes is seen in the eyes of American law and government.
The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granting the right to vote to women was finally passed in 1920 after being introduced in 1878. The intervening years saw the action of many groups working to see women voting at last.
The Equal Rights Amendment written in 1921 by Alice Paul has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1923. The amendment was passed by Congress in 1972 but failed to gain the requisite number of ratifying states by 1982, the end of the time of consideration. The amendment says simply:
Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The importance of the Equal Rights Amendment to the rights of women cannot be overestimated. In recent years under the Bush administration those rights in particular with respect to reproduction have seen increasing restriction. The ruling by the US Supreme Court in 1973 in the case of Roe v. Wade affirmed the right of an abortion under the right of privacy granted by the ruling in Griswald v. Connecticut handed down in 1965. Since that time various appeals have been made with the end result that abortion as a procedure is restricted in many jurisdictions and unavailable in many others.
Today a woman seeking an abortion may find herself taunted by protesters gathered near a clinic entrance. These protesters in some instances carry signs with images of aborted fetuses and other grisly sights in an effort to change a woman’s mind. Never mind many women asking for an abortion are already traumatized by the very nature of the decision, they may be subject to all manner of additional psychological trauma as they pursue resolution to their decision.
And then we have Plan B, the emergency contraceptive for women having unprotected sex. The drug may be taken within three days of the sexual encounter to prevent implantation of the fertilized egg onto the uterine wall and thus prevent the continuation of pregnancy. In spite of studies in Europe showing the apparent effectiveness and safety of the drug, its availability in the United States is limited to prescription by a doctor for patients ages 17 and under. Even more restrictions are sometimes placed on the availability of the drug by pharmacists and hospitals where contraception is not acceptable by virtue of religious or other personal beliefs. In Catholic hospitals (which account for a significant percentage of American hospitals) for example the availability of Plan B cannot be discussed in the emergency room where a rape victim may be examined.
Contraceptives and condoms are restricted in foreign aid programs supported by the Bush administration in their ongoing effort to impose American ideals on other peoples of the world. The AIDS epidemic in Africa and other parts of the world would be better served by free and open distribution of condoms. Abstinence has been shown time and time again to fail. In some countries where AIDS is an issue married women are likely to contract the disease from husbands who treat their wives as property rather than respected human beings. Our government in its international dealings must support programs shown to be effective no matter the religious or other objections which may arise. Success in medical programs is all important.
In addition to foregoing controls on contraception and abortion the government and our society in general should begin programs of sex education beyond the abstinence (just say “No”) programs of the Bush administration. Children need to learn the ways and means of preventing not only pregnancy but the spread of various sexually transmitted diseases. Education is the prime mover in this arena. Children left without knowledge are more likely to find themselves caught in the after effects of a poor decision making process. It benefits all of society to provide both the education and the means to protect one’s self against either pregnancy or disease at all times. We as a nation cannot afford to leave our children behind in their sex education any more than we can forego their academic advancement.
Women deserve the same legal rights as men both in this country and around the world. In a speech delivered to Congress in 1971, Representative Stewart McKinney exposed the facts behind much of the opposition to the ERA when he said,
Use the draft for an excuse if you like. Use child care. Use anything else. We [men] are simply trying in our own little way to preserve the right to stand up and say, ‘We can declare the difference.’
Today the situation has not changed a great deal but the time for real change is here and now. Today and forever more women must be given all the rights and privileges granted any citizen including the right to control their reproductive status. In addition we in America must work to see the same rights spread around the world. The end result will be a society of free people working together in equality aiming to make a better world.
If we fail to make the necessary changes we will continue to see some women shackled by the burden of unwanted children. These women may find themselves not working or working more than one job to support their children. Access to education and some better paying jobs may be limited by pregnancy or motherhood. How many women living in poverty could rise above that station given the right to control their reproduction instead of carrying a child they may or may not wish to produce?
Those women wishing to carry a child have the right to do so. Carrying a child is every bit as important a right as not doing so. It is those women who wish to avoid pregnancy who should be allowed to make the decision for themselves without government intervention. The place of government is to regulate the safety of drugs used for contraception and to insure the cleanliness of medical facilities providing abortion. It is not now and should never be the place of government to decide how a woman manages her reproductive status on any level.
the normal, nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world.
By its very definition peace describes a state of tranquility too often not existing in our world today. And yet the attainment of a state of peace is and should be an ongoing pursuit for all of mankind. Peace in all our lifetimes is a goal to which we must aspire. Peace is a human right we must restore to all of humankind.
Last weekend at the march in DC, there were thousands of peaceful protesters waving signs and chanting their way from the White House to the Capital Building. The very size of the crowd in relation to both the police presence and to the opposition presence was remarkable. If the marchers had any intention of causing trouble their numbers would have easily overwhelmed any opposing force. No such interaction was seen. The march was marked by peace and tranquility with few adverse interactions.
How different our world would be today if all humans around the globe sought peace instead of using force to change the situation. Peaceful solutions exist to almost every problem. These solutions must be sought by the people involved in disagreement of any form. The nature of humankind makes strife a natural condition as our ancestors needed to protect themselves and to fight for food and living space.
Today our world is rich in technology. These resources if applied to the benefit of humankind could change the course of history. We have the resources to end poverty and to move toward the eradication of many diseases. We humans need to look to other people in order to find our similarities. Our differences are easily seen in skin color, or eye color, or sex, or religious preference, and so on. Finding the similarities between individuals in order to seek a peaceful solution to our problems is a more difficult process but those likenesses are the reasons to share the bounty of our world to the benefit of all humankind.
Seeking peace begins inside each one of us. We must look at our inner selves and find the deep down inner being that reflects the reality that is our being. In that being there is a spot of peace and tranquility we must develop in order to withstand the forces of our world. If we find peace within ourselves we can distribute that feeling to the people we touch in our world. If we keep to the side of peace we reduce the chance of escalating violence.
Peaceful protest has a long history in our country. In the days of segregation people like Rosa Parks took the path of peaceful resistance in order to start a wave of change. The strength and courage exhibited by Rosa is a fine example for all to follow. Exhibiting peace in the face of opposition or even of forceful resistance is difficult. Peace requires a strength well beyond that required for an aggressive approach.
Today we in this nation and in this world stand at a crossroads. Today we have an opportunity to change the world if we choose peace over violence and confrontation. When we protest if we keep our demeanor and our voices peaceful we can move the world in a positive direction. The ripples of change will begin from our action and from our effect on the lives of others. Over the course of time a tsunami of positive and peaceful effect may be born. Only if we fail to act in a peaceful fashion do we lose this opportunity to alter the future of our world.
Shameless campaign plug:
Please remember to support the campaigns of your local pols and others in terms of time and money. My personal campaign can use online volunteers to perform search functions and for issue research. If you are available and interested please sign up. Thank you one and all.
I wish to present a glorious and comprehensive tome, written by Judith Moriarty. “Eve of Destruction” examines the state of affairs in America. In abstraction, the author contemplates the annihilation of this country. The original text was published at rense.com. I marveled as I first read this missive. I hope you will appreciate this deft deliberation. I am honored and privileged to share this thought-provoking treatise.
“The eastern world it tis explodin’,
violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction”
If I were given unlimited power, money, and the unknowing assistance of multitudes of pawns, players, shills, toadies, lap dogs, etc; to take down a nation, how would I do it?
Common sense says, first I would want to control that nation’s monetary system with the unlimited ability to tax the population (incurring massive debt) into servitude. I might name my monetary system with an official-sounding title that would fool the multitudes into thinking I was an official governmental agency – and not a private banking cartel.
I would institute various programs of entitlement to entrap and make the citizenry dependent on various handouts – thus killing their incentive to work, but most of all to control dissent. One doesn’t bite the hand that feeds them.
I would give robber barons, and various corporate entities, through lobbyists and campaign contributions to key legislators the power to write their own meal tickets, excusing them from various taxes, regulation, liabilities, and accountability. I would set up off -shore accounts and various trusts to protect the wealth of the favored elite. Only the working cogs will pay strangulating taxes.
I would kill unions. Unions are not cost-effective for companies whose sole purpose for existence is ‘profits’. Unions are a hindrance with their silliness of demanding livable wages, safe working conditions, medical benefits, pensions, vacations, etc. I would initiate a PR campaign to discredit and label those who had any thoughts of organizing. I would threaten to close down local industries and ship them overseas if workers balked at lower wages, or resented being mere cogs in the machine. In the event of a strike, I would call in scab workers and security guards to handle unruly vocal workers. Maybe I’d kill the leaders – just as a lesson.
Next, for quicker servitude, I would shut down the mills, the various plants, machine shops, manufacturing, auto companies (livable wage jobs), and send them to foreign lands, where labor costs (no benefits – no safety standards) are mere pennies. I would grant tax incentives, subsidies and create consulting firms to assist companies in making a smooth transition to less restrictive lands.
I would direct Congress to vote legislation (various visas) to import tens and more tens of thousands of foreign workers who would be paid one-half to one third of American wages (no benefits, no job security) to work at resorts, hotels, restaurants, in the medical field, engineering, teaching and in Information Technology. I would propagandize the gullible public, telling them that Americans ‘won’t do’ those jobs – or that there are not enough trained Americans to fill the positions. Congress will be instructed to reinforce this lie in various scripted messages (media – campaign trail – speeches in Congress).
Slowly and insidiously, I would remove most of the major decision-making to the Executive Branch under the guise of national security. Presidential Directives, and Executive Orders will replace the messiness of having decisions held-up, or argued in Congress. Most importantly, the public will remain mostly oblivious.
I would open the borders to allow millions of the dispossessed (due to trade agreements) south of the border/others; to work on corporate farms, as maids, laborers , construction workers, roofers, etc. I would encourage illegal immigration; so as to keep these unsuspecting people, in a constant state of apprehension – should they insist on a livable wage, or complain, when unscrupulous contractors leave them unpaid, or injured without compensation. I would organize massive marches (making them appear as grassroots uprisings) pitting victims (American workers) against victims (immigrants) – so as to keep the focus off of the various trade agreements (constructing a global plantation). The more venom, rancor, hatred, and chaos, the better. The workers of the world, must never see these issues as pertaining to class……but rather intolerance, racism, and bigotry. Victims blaming victims, never the elite behind the curtain.
I would limit any real choices in voting, keeping the field limited to a two-party (monied) system – where only the wealthy (poor candidates ignored) and chosen need apply. Again, I would encourage animosity between the reds and the blues, never revealing that they are playing (these political parties) good cop – bad cop (depending on who is in power). Both parties will be given their scripted talking points, which per usual, will promise the world…and deliver nothing. They must not address the real issues facing Americans and instead distract by sniping and snipping amongst themselves. I would turn over the responsibility (to assure the outcome) of voting to corporate entities with their easily-compromised voting machines with no paper trails (such as even local ATM machines provide).
I would keep up the pretense of a ‘representative democracy’ in Foggy Bottom with a lot of bickering, the blame game, and senseless tedious hearings (always after the fact) of scandals, the lack of response to disasters, sex, etc. This gives the ‘appearance’ of being busy and on top of things.
I would set up a dysfunctional Department of Education, that would dictate to the states (thus parents) various insane mandates, regulations, and policies, for the sole purpose of dumbing down (through tests, not teaching – whole language etc) the future generation. A dumb population is an easily-controlled population. These various edicts, will have the dual purpose of putting more and more costs on work-a-day property owners who are unable to absorb the demands for higher and higher taxes (to meet these demands). Thus, everyone will be made to work two or three jobs to keep up with the newest tax bills, and so on. All of this will result (as planned) in turning out functionally illiterate students, fit for the local Wigget factory, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, garbage man, prison guard or cannon fodder for war. None of these vocations demand calculus, or being educated in literature, or world affairs.
The teachers of old will be replaced with ‘change agents’ who will focus on group think, hive mentality behavior modification, and social engineering – not teaching. Pre-school will become mandatory. The younger the child, the easier it is to mold them into non-thinking dolts conforming to authority. Parents (unread – easily intimidated) will be convinced that little Johnnie or Jane is ‘learning disabled, or hyper active’, and thus needs to be drugged into compliance. Mental illness centers will become a major part of education – with soon nearly everyone being found at risk.
“There’s no earthly way of knowing
Which direction they are going!
There’s no knowing where they’re rowing,
Or which way the river’s flowing!
Not a speck of light is showing,
So the danger must be growing,
For the rowers keep on rowing,
And they’re certainly not showing any signs that
they are slowing . . .”
~ Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Drugs: – I would saturate the land with drugs, pills, LSD, marijuana, prescriptions, designer drugs etc; till the land was awash with mind-numbing, brain-damaging chemicals making crime rampant, destroying families/communities, and creating a private prison industry (the largest in the world). The costs, to states and various communities will bankrupt many – with peace officers, renamed law enforcers and gradually becoming militarized. People will be conditioned to FEAR the police, not welcome their presence.
I would allow the HMOs, Pharmaceuticals, and Insurance companies to ravage and destroy what was once an affordable medical system. They will write the legislation relieving them of any liabilities, and making doctors mere technocrats in the ‘machine’ dictated to by some HMO/Insurance drone in a far away cubicle as to what treatments their patients are ineligible to receive. The focus will be on ‘profits’ with ever more exotic drugs being offered in lieu of preventive medicine. Pollution, food additives, chemicals, and Frankenstein crops will add to create even more ill health. The Hippocratic Oath will become as antiquated as the Geneva Convention. Being on constant vacation and with their own (taxpayer subsidized) health insurance, granting them the best in prompt treatment (prescriptions), the people’s representatives will, as usual, protest feebly and do nothing. Pharmaceutical companies will be granted legislative authority, to charge top dollar for needed medicines, with Congress voting to prevent more affordable medicines (made by the same companies) from being imported to the U.S. from Canada and Japan. Profits over people is the corporate mantra of the land.
I would make (except for legislators and the judicial and executive branches with their obscene pensions) retirement an impossibility for seniors. On fixed incomes, or minuscule pensions (if not already looted), they will be unable to afford rising taxes, the cost of medicine, rent, food, home heating, or medical treatment. Many will die in the land of plenty of hypothermia, cancers, malnutrition, and once treatable medical conditions that they can no longer afford to deal with (while their well-to-do neighbors sing Amazing Grace at the village church). If they don’t die fast enough, they will be encouraged to embrace ‘death with dignity’ – an Orwellian term for execution.
War: – I would institute perpetual war, thus killing off the best and brightest, bankrupting the country (borrowing billions for destruction) while filling the coffers of corporate gangsters, the favored, and the military industrial complex. I would privatize most of the military, hiring mercenary troops at lucrative salaries for international and domestic crises. Soldiers when returning home (due to privatized bureaucracy) will be made to jump through hoops (for benefits) and forced to prove that missing limbs, depleted uranium poisoning, and brain damage will hinder them from living happily ever after.
“Don’t you understand what I’m trying to say?
Can’t you see the fear I’m feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no running away,
They’ll be none to save with the world in a grave”
I would see gentrification by disaster and eminent domain, tearing apart communities and making the dispossessed all wanderers in the land of their birth. With shuttered downtowns, concrete box stores, sprawl malls, fast food, plastic booth slop joints, consultants, and appointed committees replacing local government, etc, I would destroy the known and the familiar. Thus scattered, unity and the security of small town America (ethnic neighborhoods) makes strangers struggling to exist…not to live.
“I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation,
handful of Senators don’t pass legislation”
Travel: – The wealthy and chosen need have no fear. With private jets – they will not be subjected to the humiliation put upon the masses. Citizens held captive in rushing to business, a vacation, a funeral, or medical emergency, etc will be scanned, groped (by rent-a-cops) made to empty innocuous liquids, questioned, etc – not for security purposes but for behavior modification…conditioning them to obedience and compliance. No one will mention the incoming cargo containers not searched – millions of containers from foreign lands sitting on docks and then embarking on trucks to every corner of the unsuspecting nation. In a world of announced terrorists, all become suspect (minus the favored few)…even the babe and senior in his wheelchair. Examples will be made of those daring to question or object. Travel will thus be discouraged.
“Hate your neighbor next door, but don’t forget to say grace.”
Fear: – Waco, Ruby Ridge, school shootings, hijackings, serial killers, child rapists, imploding towers, danger stranger, assassinations, road blocks, taser attacks (by police), roaming gangs, identity theft, SWAT teams (getting the wrong address), invading Arabs (threat), color-coded fear days, video cameras, security alarms, schools invaded with police, and drug-sniffing dogs, beating/arresting dissenters, etc. All these and more will be used to cause confusion, anxiety, suspision, and paralyzing fear resulting in evermore draconian controls, laws, and violating the rights of a once carefree population. Who’s watching the watchers…is nobody’s business.
Media: – Information, education, rational discourse, and debate on all sides of an issue will be limited or prevented. Citizens will be encourage to take sides – i.e., abortion, gun rights, immigration, gay marriage, funding religion with taxpayer dollars, graphic sex education for young elementary children, etc. Issues will be kept to the superficial and emotional. Corporate control of the media (all media) is mandatory (thus Clinton’s Telecommunications Act – giving away the airwaves) with entertainers, not newscasters, giving their fluff and nutter reports of the day: OJ, Paris Hilton, pit bulls, Rosie O’Donnel, the runaway bride, the diapered astronaut, etc. PR hirelings will be presented as ‘experts’ be they mothballed generals or think tank suits. Citizens will be instructed what to think – not how to think. Limits will be put on speech, in public hearings, local council meetings/gatherings, letters to the editor, etc. Facilitators, stakeholders, and consensus will take the place of the democratic process (the outcome pre-determined).
Economy: – Trade agreements, unread (some are hundreds of pages) and not debated will be voted on with the results being massive unemployment, bankrupt farms, imported suspect food stuffs/products, echoing steel mills, foreclosures, homelessness, etc. Language in these various ‘agreements’ will take precedence over all local zoning laws and environmental protections. Elected representatives, (federal/state) will find these agreements almost impossible to understand with their legalese and loophole language.
Privatization: – I would give away the Commons to private industry and foreign investors including water, medical care, the infrastructure, roads, schools, utilities, bridges, rivers, waste disposal, and lands (under the guise of nature preserves, parks, heritage sites, biospheres and buffer zones, etc). As collateral for the trillions in debt, I would post the people’s land with countless signs reading “Keep Out” and “No Trespassing” and “Private” etc.
Religion: Religion being an anchor to the many, in a chaotic world, I would certainly want to tap into the support of those I could use for my own purpose ( evil v good) and brush up on a few Scriptures and religious terms. Good would be presented as white makes might – the brown God v the white God; in the ‘battle’ to bring peace, liberty, liberation, and abundance to the oppressed masses of the world (sob). Naturally, one wouldn’t be so presumptuous (or foolish) as to present a grasping God of mammon – traveling the world to check out His oil rigs, clear cut forests, draining of aquifers, Frankenstein crops, and starving multitudes (dispossessed for lakes of oil – minerals – gold etc).
Announcing ourselves to be a godly Christian nation – we would naturally want a leader who professes to have direct access (born again) to God’s directions on victory in war. The support of the tambourine, cymbal crashing, metal utility building congregations , the mega churches (be healed with that donation), and moneyed crystal cathedrals etc; damning the irreverent, anti-war, communist, homosexual, AIDS riddled, unbelievers; for bringing terror to our shores ——–and daring to protest a JUST and HOLY showdown, against the legions of the brown God (identified as insurgents, terrorists, extremists, and thankless hearten); will assure the needed voting blocs come election time and the future support for the billions upon billions needed for perpetual war ever seeking the white God’s Utopian peace.
It’ll work ——self-righteous religious hypocrites against the sinners, brilliant. The God of mammon and war will replace the antiquated syrupy God of ‘forgiveness, love the neighbor, do unto others, I was hungry, and love never sees a suffered wrong etc”. Tax exemptions and Faith Based Initiative monies, will be the carrot that keeps these Pharisaical multitudes loyal.
I would keep the multitudes entertained (distracted) throughout the years with ball games, gladiator (well-paid) sports, concerts, theme parks, shopping malls, expensive automobiles, theater, the arts, movies, various awards ceremonies, electioneering debates (senseless), arguments on war (to surge or not to surge, to invade or not to invade), liposuction, breast implants, Viagra readiness, exotic vacations, designer clothes, the newest must-have electronic gadgetry,
air-headed starlets doping and drinking it up, NASCAR, horse racing, soccer, golf, environmental activism (safe not threatening industry), etc.
Meantime, I would see to it that government agencies were slowly and inclemently dismantled with the work farmed out to private contractors. Positions of authority and decision-making will have corporate interests appointed to them. Food protections, health, and safety, and environmental regulations, will be under-funded or disregarded – favoring corporate interest (profits) instead. Federal and state environmental agencies will be mere rubber stamp mouth pieces for industry, paying no heed to polluters or to the protection of various community health issues (SuperFund sites).
All of this and more, I would do, if I were given permission (generously-compensated, of course) to destroy a nation. I would make sure that all of these various entities, and non-governmental agencies, were compartmentalized (thinking they were about the people’s business) with no one (even within these agencies) having a clue as to the final objective. It is comparable to the worker in the eastern European factory thinking he is building baby carriages. Stealing a piece a week (he couldn’t afford to buy one) for his expected child. He finally has them all and assembless it on the living room floor. To his surprise, he sees an M-16 in his hands.
The greatest conspiracies aren’t hidden – just fragmented into different pieces – like a puzzle. Right before people’s eyes.
Whistle blowers, of course, will be dutifully dealt with making an example for others. Most of the masses – worried about their jobs, promotions, benefits, and pensions – will ‘follow orders.’ The few who object and fail to conform to the dictated, carefully constructed ‘norm’ will be labeled ‘conspirators, crazies, fringe extremists, communists, queers, un-American and traitors’, etc. This has always worked down through the centuries – it’s the old herd instinct. Identified as ‘other’ has those protesting or objecting marked as ‘other’ and therefore blackballed, to be avoided and shunned. Nobody wants to be labeled ‘other’ – not in group-think. That would make him or her much like the mad cow discovered in a dairy herd – a turd in the punchbowl of society.