I Have a Dream

Obama’s Hopeful Economic Speech

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

I have a dream.  I dream of a day when Americans will separate themselves from a difficult past.  I dream of a time when partisan politics will not divide us.  In my dream, I see a nation united; one in which Black children, white, Brown, yellow, and red offspring, people of any race, color, or creed will rise above their own imagined limits.  It is more than my hope, it is my vision that together, we as a nation can give birth to what others think unbelievable.  I have faith that my fellow man and I can give birth to what was not thought possible.  

We can restore what was once good, and build what will be better.  Old habits need not challenge us.  These can be the catalyst for deep and authentic change.  We need only begin.

I have a dream.  We will come together to construct the country our forefathers conceived of.  The time for internal strife has passed.  We must join as one to create a culture that cares.  

In a twenty-first century, we must not repeat the errors of the past.  We must recognize there are jobs to expand, an infrastructure to install and strengthen, a fiscal system to fix, a health care structure to heal, and most importantly children to teach well.  

I have a dream.  If we employ thoughtful policies, we will all be empowered.

I aspire to be one among many in a community respectful of our environment.  I yearn to green our homes, and clean our streets.  I trust, if we invest in our infrastructure, stable careers will come.  Jobs will continue into perpetuity if we do as we desire.

I have a dream.  Collectively, we can ensure that we will thrive on a planet, safe and sane.  We can grow enough crops to feed our people, preserve an abundant water supply.  We need not rape the land as we have, and eliminate species carelessly as we do.  We can survive if we come together with intent to do no harm; that is my dream.  Indeed, our physical, emotional and homeland security, depend on what we do now.

I have a dream, that in a country, one known for the best, we can be the best.  We need not remain mired in our differences.  These distinctions can bury us in unnecessary documentation or debate.  Disputes will assure our shared doom.  Diversity, indeed, can bring us together if we choose to unite as one people with one mission, to be strong.

We, as a country, as a people, as individuals, are more alike than dissimilar.  Each of us yearns for economic stability and success, separately, and for all.  Inside us, we understand, if my brother is hungry, I too will suffer.  We need only act on that veracity.

If you doubt this as your truth, please ponder what we have lived in recent years.  We have seen the evidence of our connectedness in the foreclosure crisis.  Most of us have come to acknowledge that my monetary value is dependent on my neighbors.

The fossil fuel predicament furthered the understanding of this truth.  My fellow citizen’s pain is mine, even at the pump.

The health care crisis also offers an apt analogy, and we, as Americans must take this to heart.  If any of us think only of ourselves, and act in accordance, then we will adopt principles that ultimately, bring us down, slowly, one at a time, until the system crumbles.  Thus, is the tale of two cities, the Wall Street and Main Street debacle.  It is time for a shift.  There is a fierce urgency to now.

I have a dream.  One day, we will recognize that the millions without adequate health care deplete our resources.  The persons whose education is inadequate hinder our own state of affairs.

I envision a world in which my brethren believe we are all connected and act as though we are.   I have a dream, that we as a country, will ponder and produce a prophecy once thought impossible.

Our President-Elect.  Barack Obama, also dreams.  He aspires, inspires, and gives us much to contemplate.

Please peruse, the Transcript of the Speech on the Economy delivered today, January 8, 2009.  Share your thoughts for a future fulfilled.

January 8, 2009

Obama’s Speech on the Economy

The following is a transcript of President-Elect Barack Obama’s speech on the economy, as prepared by Federal News Service.

President-Elect Barack Obama: (Cheers, applause.)  Thank you. Everybody be seated. Thank you very much. (Applause continues.) Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause continues.) Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you so much.

Let me begin by thanking George Mason University for their extraordinary hospitality and to thank all the great friends, the governors, the mayors, who are in attendance here today.

Throughout America’s history, there have been some years that simply rolled into the next without much notice or fanfare, and then there are the years that come along once in a generation, the kind that mark a clean break from a troubled past and set a new course for our nation. This is one of those years.

We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime, a crisis that has only deepened over the last few weeks. Nearly 2 million jobs have been now lost, and on Friday we’re likely to learn that we lost more jobs last year than at any time since World War II. Just in the past year, another 2.8 million Americans who want and need full-time work have had to settle for part-time jobs. Manufacturing has hit a 28-year low. Many businesses cannot borrow or make payroll. Many families cannot pay their bills or their mortgage. Many workers are watching their life savings disappear. And many, many Americans are both anxious and uncertain of what the future will hold.

Now, I don’t believe it’s too late to change course, but it will be if we don’t take dramatic action as soon as possible. If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years. The unemployment rate could reach double digits. Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four. We could lose a generation of potential and promise, as more young Americans are forced to forgo dreams of college or the chance to train for the jobs of the future. And our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and our standing in the world.

In short, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.

This crisis did not happen solely by some accident of history or normal turn of the business cycle, and we won’t get out of it by simply waiting for a better day to come or relying on the worn-out dogmas of the past. We arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility that stretched from corporate boardrooms to the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

For years, too many Wall Street executives made imprudent and dangerous decisions, seeking profits with too little regard for risk, too little regulatory scrutiny, and too little accountability. Banks made loans without concern for whether borrowers could repay them, and some borrowers took advantage of cheap credit to take on debt they couldn’t afford. Politicians spent taxpayer money without wisdom or discipline and too often focused on scoring political points instead of problems they were sent here to solve. The result has been a devastating loss of trust and confidence in our economy, our financial markets and our government.

Now, the very fact that this crisis is largely of our own making means that it’s not beyond our ability to solve. Our problems are rooted in past mistakes, not our capacity for future greatness. It will take time, perhaps many years, but we can rebuild that lost trust and confidence. We can restore opportunity and prosperity.

We should never forget that our workers are still more productive than any on Earth. Our universities are still the envy of the world. We are still home to the most brilliant minds, the most creative entrepreneurs and the most advanced technology and innovation that history has ever known. And we are still the nation that has overcome great fears and improbable odds.

If we act with the urgency and seriousness that this moment requires, I know that we can do it again. That is why I have moved quickly to work with my economic team and leaders of both parties on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will immediately jump- start job creation and long-term growth. It’s a plan that represents not just new policy, but a whole new approach to meeting our most urgent challenges. For if we hope to end this crisis, we must end the culture of “anything goes” that helped create it. And this change must begin in Washington. It’s time to trade old habits for a new spirit of responsibility. It is time to finally change the ways of Washington so that we can set a new and better course for America.

There is no doubt that the cost of this plan will be considerable. It will certainly add to the budget deficit in the short term. But equally certain are the consequences of doing too little or nothing at all, for that will lead to an even greater deficit of jobs, incomes and confidence in our economy.

It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe.

Only government can break the cycle that are crippling our economy — where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.

That’s why we need to act boldly and act now to reverse these cycles. That’s why we need to put money in the pockets of the American people, create new jobs, and invest in our future. That’s why we need to restart the flow of credit and restore the rules of the road that will ensure a crisis like this never happens again.

And this plan begins with — this plan must begin today, a plan I am confident will save or create at least 3 million jobs over the next few years. It is not just another public-works program; it’s a plan that recognizes both the paradox and the promise of this moment — the fact that there are millions of Americans trying to find work even as, all around the country, there’s so much work to be done. And that’s why we’ll invest in priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century. That’s why the overwhelming majority of the jobs created will be in the private sector, while our plan will save the public sector jobs of teachers, police officers, firefighters and others who provide vital services.

To finally spark the creation of a clean-energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years. We will modernize more than 75 percent of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of 2 million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills. In the process, we will put Americans to work in new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced — jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings, and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.

To improve the quality of our health care while lowering its cost, we will make the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years all of America’s medical records are computerized. This will cut waste, eliminate red tape, and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests. But it just won’t save billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, it will save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system.

To give our children the chance to live out their dreams in a world that’s never been more competitive, we will equip tens of thousands of schools, community colleges and public universities with 21st-century classrooms, labs and libraries. We’ll provide new computers, new technology, and new training for teachers so that students in Chicago and Boston can compete with kids in Beijing for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future.

To build an economy that can lead this future, we will begin to rebuild America. Yes, we’ll put people to work repairing crumbling roads, bridges and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned, worthy and needed infrastructure projects, but we’ll also do more to retrofit America for a global economy. That means updating the way we get our electricity by starting to build a new smart grid that will save us money, protect our power sources from blackout or attack, and deliver clean, alternative forms of energy to every corner of our nation. It means expanding broadband lines across America so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world. And it means investing in the science, research and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.

And finally, this recovery and reinvestment plan will provide immediate relief to states, workers and families who are bearing the brunt of this recession. To get people spending again, 95 percent of working families will receive a thousand-dollar tax cut, the first stage of a middle-class tax cut that I promised during the campaign and will include in our next budget. To help Americans who have lost their jobs and can’t find new ones, we’ll continue the bipartisan extension of unemployment insurance and health-care coverage to help them through this crisis. Government at every level will have to tighten its belt, but we’ll help struggling states avoid harmful budget cuts, as long as they take responsibility and use the money to maintain essential services like police, fire, education and health care.

Now, I understand that some might be skeptical of this plan. Our government has already spent a good deal of money, but we haven’t yet seen that translate into more jobs or higher incomes or renewed confidence in our economy. And that’s why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan won’t just throw money at our problems; we’ll invest in what works. The true test of the policies we’ll pursue won’t be whether they’re Democratic or Republican ideas, whether they’re conservative or liberal ideas, but whether they create jobs, grow our economy, and put the American Dream within reach of the American people.

Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made transparently, and informed by independent experts wherever possible. Every American will be able to hold Washington accountable for these decisions by going online to see how and where their taxpayer dollars are being spent. And as I announced yesterday, we will launch an unprecedented effort to eliminate unwise and unnecessary spending that has never been more unaffordable for our nation and our children’s future than it is right now.

We have to make tough choices and smart investments today so that as the economy recovers, the deficits start coming down. We cannot have a solid recovery if our people and our businesses don’t have confidence that we’re getting our fiscal house in order. And that’s why our goal is not to create a slew of new government programs, but a foundation for long-term economic growth.

That also means an economic recovery plan that is free from earmarks and pet projects. I understand that every member of Congress has ideas about how to spend money, and many of these projects are worthy. They benefit local communities. But this emergency legislation must not be the vehicle for those aspirations. This must be a time when leaders in both parties put the urgent needs of our nation above our own narrow interests.

Now, this recovery plan alone will not solve all the problems that led us into this crisis. We must also work with the same sense of urgency to stabilize and repair the financial system we all depend on. That means using our full arsenal of tools to get credit flowing again to families and business, while restoring confidence in our markets. It means launching a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis so that we can keep responsible families in their homes.

It means preventing the catastrophic failure of financial institutions whose collapse could endanger the entire economy, but only with maximum protections for taxpayers and a clear understanding that government support for any company is an extraordinary action that must come with significant restrictions on the firms that receive support. And it means reforming a weak and outdated regulatory system so that we can better withstand financial shocks and better protect consumers, investors and businesses from the reckless greed and risk- taking that must never endanger our prosperity again.

No longer can we allow Wall Street wrongdoers to slip through regulatory cracks. No longer can we allow special interests to put their thumbs on the economic scales. No longer can we allow the unscrupulous lending and borrowing that leads only to destructive cycles of bubble and bust.

It is time to set a new course for this economy, and that change must begin now. We should have an open and honest discussion about this recovery plan in the days ahead, but I urge Congress to move as quickly as possible on behalf of the American people. For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs; more families will lose their savings; more dreams will be deferred and denied; and our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That is not the country I know. It is not a future I accept as president of the United States. A world that depends on the strength of our economy is now watching and waiting for America to lead once more, and that is what we will do.

It will not come easy or happen overnight, and it is altogether likely that things may get worse before they get better. But that is all the more reason for Congress to act without delay. I know the scale of this plan is unprecedented, but so is the severity of our situation. We have already tried the wait-and-see approach to our problems, and it is the same approach that helped lead us to this day of reckoning.

And that is why the time has come to build a 21st-century economy in which hard work and responsibility are once again rewarded. That’s why I’m asking Congress to work with me and my team day and night, on weekends if necessary, to get the plan passed in the next few weeks. That’s why I’m calling on all Americans — Democrats and Republicans and independents — to put — to put good ideas ahead of the old ideological battles, a sense of common purpose above the same narrow partisanship, and insist that the first question each of us asks isn’t “What’s good for me?” but “What’s good for the country my children will inherit?”

More than any program or policy, it is this spirit that will enable us to confront these challenges with the same spirit that has led previous generations to face down war and depression and fear itself. And if we do — if we are able to summon that spirit again; if are able to look out for one another and listen to one another, and do our part for our nation and for posterity — then I have no doubt that, years from now, we will look back on 2009 as one of those years that marked another new and hopeful beginning for the United States of America.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)

Reference a referendum on change we can believe in . . .

Let the Bailouts Begin

Bush’s Billion-Dollar Bail Out

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Tis true.  For days, if not weeks, months, or years the country has been in a state of financial crisis.  Americans experience what it means when the President of the United States says he will act boldly.  Economically, he has been brazen.  Our current Chief Executive unabashedly embraces businesses, just as he had in his private pursuits before he entered the Oval Office.  Bush policies allow corporations to run free.  If need be, he says, as he did early on in his Administration, Let the bailouts begin.  

Today the need to extend financial relief to American corporations is far more dire than it had been in the past.  Estimates place the figure at 1.8 Trillion dollars; that is trillion.  with a “T.”  

Conservative calculations state the amount needed as $700 billion.  However, several say that appraisal only refers to an aspect of the aid, the shaky assets now on the books of financial firms.  As he reflected on the exact amount to be paid out and the delicate balancing act of bailouts, Thomas A. Renyi, former chairman of Bank of New York Mellon, said, “Psychologically, it’s very, very important.”  What is said and done must be amenable to the people, big and small.

What George W. Bush and his Administration have done was in accord with the desires of the few; the millionaires and billionaires were pleased.  Enterprise has always been the way of entrepreneurs.  The others, the masses did not realize how the decisions might matter to them.  As long as the plebs worked as economic slaves had for eons, no questions would be asked.  Workers believed in the American dream.  Doubt rose only when the size of bailouts grew.  Now, in September 2008, what began as a bailout or two has emerged.  Americans are faced with an enormous nightmare.  However, this need not be a surprise.  Citizens of this country might instead inquire, are they willing to compromise the future.  Americans could also consider the question; can the United States economy continue to survive on credit.

As of last week, people pondered as they had not before.  Countless considered American history and how each Administration altered financial stability.

It seemed the poor, the wage earners, and the salaried associates poured their hearts and souls into work.  None realized substantive reward.  Nonetheless, for the most part the populace was content.  Everyday people paid taxes.  Yet, the public received few services.  Under the direction of President Bush, the blood sweat and tears of American labor went mostly to the levies that were and perhaps will be lent to those who earned billions in profits.

In recent years, rich business owners manufactured only liabilities.  Still, their securities were preserved by a business friendly President Bush.  

For decades, as deregulation flourished, more so since Bush, the American people lived on credit, as did the conglomerates.  The difference being, with George Walker Bush in the Oval Office, businesses had a friend on Pennsylvania Avenue who would help them out.  Those who reside on Main Street did not.  There was no one to turn to if you were among the working people.  Yet, a conversation has begun.  Recent talk of greater bailouts for bankrupt businesses reminds Americans of what they hoped would pass without fanfare; recession, depression, financial despair.

Since George W. Bush and his corporate cronies came into power, average Americans have experienced one economic catastrophe after another.  Budgetary surpluses realized in the 1990s were depleted.  Monetary gains for the Middle Class are but a myth.  Perchance, in the past an individual could realize an increased income.  However, that was then, pre-President George W. Bush.  Today, economically, the United States has failed.  Earlier in the year, a Los Angeles Times poll concluded 75% blame Bush’s policies for an economy gone badly.  The American Research Group, Incorporated states, at present, George W. Bush’s Overall Job Approval is at an all time low.  Eighty-two percent (82%) say the national economy is getting worse.  Countless cannot imagine that is possible.

As President Bush and his appointees protect the nation from monetary doom, banks file for bankruptcy.  Bear Sterns, one of the largest global investment banks and brokerage firms, finally buckled under pressure, after two brushes with near death.  Billions of dollars in toxic mortgage-backed debt could no longer be erased from the books.  Liabilities could not be hidden from view.  Arrears ultimately appear, if not in ledgers, in the effect it has on an affluent culture gone wild with irrational exuberance.  The corporate love of cash has created what America now experiences as a crash.

Businesses benefited from the Bush budget.  Decrees of deregulation allowed for imbalance.  Income inequity became common.  The public struggled to save greenbacks.  Most, in what was once the Middle Class had adequate access to the dollars they needed.  

Currently, Americans can barely count on a regular paycheck.  Permanent employment is thought to be a luxury of the past.  Companies are strapped for cash as are employees.  Some, in the richest nation on the planet, are barely able to survive.  The common folk are fearful of what might happen if the economy sinks further into a doldrums.  People run to banks only to withdraw their holdings.  They sense the fiscal boom has gone bust.  

In July 2008, there was little time to indulge.  The lazy days of summer did not calm those with substantive concerns.  Only George W. Bush, his family, and friends found solace in the statement, “The fundamentals are strong.”  Presidential candidate, John McCain’s use of the words only hours ago did nothing to quell the concern citizens in this country have felt for too long.  A Nobel laureate, Joseph E. Stiglitz, envisions a generation will be lost in the struggle to recover.  He writes in the The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush, The next president will have to deal with yet another crippling legacy of George W. Bush: the economy.

Average Americans understood this.  They knew they could not rest.  The poor and those far from prosperous realized they had reason to act.  In droves, people ran to retrieve their assets.  IndyMac, a large mortgage bank, was seized by Federal regulators.  The second-largest bank failure in United States history occurred after anxious customers attempted to claim their deposits.  A massive run on the bank left the financial institution short of reserves.  George W. Bush sat tight, safe in the sanctuary of the Oval Office.

One business after another collapsed.  Conglomerates crumbled.  Corporations tumbled.  The people in the middle were taxed.  Most of the news coverage focused on the fiscal devastation companies felt.  Men and women without jobs, people who were fearful of an eminent foreclosure read of the monster mortgage firms, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The Federal Reserve pledged to provide as much as $100 billion for each of these ill-fated establishments.  Stunned, John and Jane Does said nothing.  They only wondered why no one made funds available to them.  Few thought the President would come to their aid.  Visions of the victims of (name a recent calamity) raced through the heads of those hurt by an economic crisis.

Then, security firms stepped into the mix of mergers and mega-moneyed bailouts.  Lehman Brothers, another global investment bank declared itself in a state of crisis.  This firm also concluded they would file for bankruptcy.  On this occasion, historians affirmed, this liquidation was the largest in United States history.  The company founded in 1850 had flourished.  Now, it was said to have perished.  However, as death waited at the door, some associates did not feel they could rest in peace.

The staff in Britain was furious when they learned Lehman Brothers’ colleagues in the New York office were expected to share in a $2.5 billion bonus bonanza. Associates in the United Kingdom were told they  would be paid just until the end of the month.  Perhaps, wealth is not meant for everyday workers.  A spokesman for the Trade Union Congress, the national trade union centre in the Great Britain, which represents the vast majority of organized workers surmised: “It looks like those that will suffer the most from the Lehman Brothers collapse are those at the bottom of the corporate chain while many of those at the top will be looked after.”  

The Union representative went on to reflect; junior staffers would suffer.  “Few may have sympathy for the red braced bonus receivers but there will be many more lowly staff facing real hardship.”  A British employee of Lehman Brothers mused only those in the United States are saved from financial ruin; however, in truth, even in America, those without remain without.  

For ages, personnel did not prosper whether they lived here in the States or abroad.  Ordinary people feel the pain corporations complain of.  If the cost of doing business climbs, the consumer is required to pay the price.

Health care premiums have increased by over 80 percent. . . .  Premiums are rising twice as fast as wages and inflation.  . . .  The number of uninsured Americans has increased every year since President Bush took office, from 39.8 million in 2000 to a record high of 46.6 million in 2005.  (1) . . .

Gas prices have climbed over $3 a gallon.  Prices at the gas pump have jumped 107 percent from $1.47 per gallon the week President Bush took office in January 2001 (3) to $ 3.05 in the latest week of energy price data.  (4)  . . .

Housing affordability has reached a 15-year low.  In 2006, housing affordability reached its lowest level since 1991.  (9)  According to the Washington Post, “the scarcity of affordable housing is a deepening national crisis, and not just for inner-city families on welfare.  The problem has climbed the income ladder and moved to the suburbs, where service workers cram their families into overcrowded apartments, college graduates have to crash with their parents, and firefighters, police officers and teachers can’t afford to live in the communities they serve.” (10)

The tragedies did not end.  On September 15, 2008, Merrill Lynch, expressed a fear.  Might this company suffer the same fate as Lehman.  Merrill Lynch tycoons moved quickly.  The company sold itself to Bank of America for $50 billion.  Many mused; the transaction was quite a steal.  However, few were relieved.  Americans, now savvy soothsayers said, what would be next.

Less than twenty-four hours passed before there was news.  September 16, 2008, was a typical day for Americans.  However, that changed when The Federal Reserve agreed to rescue the American International Group.  The United States government was slated to control an 80 percent stake in the insurer.  Yes, even Insurers seek assurance from the Administration when they cannot pay their bills.  Only citizens cannot come to the White House with claims.  

The American people are the Insurer under George W. Bush.  The people are expected to bailout every business, and they do.  Yet, now, the load, the loans have become too great a burden to bear.  Americans are angry.  Most feel powerless.  For too long they have stayed silent.  No one seems to know what to say anymore.  Perhaps it is too late to protest or proclaim.  Yet, fortunately some one has.

Senator Bernie Sanders reflected upon the Hard Truths About the Bailouts, or the ultimate bailout.  This week, the Bush Administration pledged to pay seven hundred billion to one trillion in taxpayer dollars to businesses that engaged in dubious credit practices, and the Vermont Senator voiced his trepidation.

Sanders Op-Ed: Billions for Bailouts!  Who Pays?

By Senator Bernie Sanders

September 19, 2008

The current financial crisis facing our country has been caused by the extreme right-wing economic policies pursued by the Bush administration.  These policies, which include huge tax breaks for the rich, unfettered free trade and the wholesale deregulation of commerce, have resulted in a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthy.  

The middle class has really been under assault.  Since President Bush has been in office, nearly 6 million Americans have slipped into poverty, median family income for working Americans has declined by more than $2,000, more than 7 million Americans have lost their health insurance, over 4 million have lost their pensions, foreclosures are at an all time high, total consumer debt has more than doubled, and we have a national debt of over $9.7 trillion dollars.

While the middle class collapses, the richest people in this country have made out like bandits and have not had it so good since the 1920s.  The top 0.1 percent now earns more money than the bottom 50 percent of Americans, and the top 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.  The wealthiest 400 people in our country saw their wealth increase by $670 billion while Bush has been president.  In the midst of all of this, Bush lowered taxes on the very rich so that they are paying lower income tax rates than teachers, police officers, or nurses.

Now, having mismanaged the economy for eight years as well as having lied about our situation by continually insisting, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong,” the Bush administration, six weeks before an election, wants the middle class of this country to spend many hundreds of billions on a bailout.  The wealthiest people, who have benefited from Bush’s policies and are in the best position to pay, are being asked for no sacrifice at all.  This is absurd.  This is the most extreme example that I can recall of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor.

In my view, we need to go forward in addressing this financial crisis by insisting on four basic principles:

(1) The people who can best afford to pay and the people who have benefited most from Bush’s economic policies are the people who should provide the funds for the bailout.  It would be immoral to ask the middle class, the people whose standard of living has declined under Bush, to pay for this bailout while the rich, once again, avoid their responsibilities.  Further, if the government is going to save companies from bankruptcy, the taxpayers of this country should be rewarded for assuming the risk by sharing in the gains that result from this government bailout.

Specifically, to pay for the bailout, which is estimated to cost up to $1 trillion, the government should:

a)  Impose a five-year, 10 percent surtax on income over $1 million a year for couples and over $500,000 for single taxpayers.  That would raise more than $300 billion in revenue;

b) Ensure that assets purchased from banks are realistically discounted so companies are not rewarded for their risky behavior and taxpayers can recover the amount they paid for them; and

c) Require that taxpayers receive equity stakes in the bailed-out companies so that the assumption of risk is rewarded when companies’ stock goes up.

(2) There must be a major economic recovery package which puts Americans to work at decent wages.  Among many other areas, we can create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and moving our country from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.  Further, we must protect working families from the difficult times they are experiencing.  We must ensure that every child has health insurance and that every American has access to quality health and dental care, that families can send their children to college, that seniors are not allowed to go without heat in the winter, and that no American goes to bed hungry.

(3) Legislation must be passed which undoes the damage caused by excessive de-regulation.  That means reinstalling the regulatory firewalls that were ripped down in 1999.  That means re-regulating the energy markets so that we never again see the rampant speculation in oil that helped drive up prices.  That means regulating or abolishing various financial instruments that have created the enormous shadow banking system that is at the heart of the collapse of AIG and the financial services meltdown.

(4) We must end the danger posed by companies that are “too big too fail,” that is, companies whose failure would cause systemic harm to the U.S. economy.  If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.  We need to determine which companies fall in this category and then break them up.  Right now, for example, the Bank of America, the nation’s largest depository institution, has absorbed Countrywide, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, and Merrill Lynch, the nation’s largest brokerage house.  We should not be trying to solve the current financial crisis by creating even larger, more powerful institutions.  Their failure could cause even more harm to the entire economy.

The words ring so true.  Several, too many, or most have not spoken of what caused them great distress in recent years.  The public accepts and allows this Administration to run rampant.  The electorate acknowledges what is reality for them only when in seclusion.  American people have become apathetic.  However, the statistics scream out and a Senator shrieks.  Perhaps it is time to ask, can citizens of this country permit this latest proposed policy to stand.  Might it be time to face the financial crisis, or will more days, weeks, months, or years go by.  Will the people remain passive and agree to another bailout, bigger than any other has been?

Might Americans again adopt the refrain, “Let the Bailout begin,” or will the people ponder their own fate first and declare it is time for a complete change.  Could it be time to embrace other than a free market mentality and the plans of a President who put us into this precarious situation.  Will the commoner and the conglomerate submit to the counsel of Senator Bernie Sanders and say, we must no longer rely on credit to survive.  The United States is at a turning point.  Might the average American chose to state, “Let the Bailouts end!”  “Lets us balance our books!”

Sources For Financial Security and Strife . . .

Al Gore; We Can Solve The Climate Crisis

Remix: Al Gore’s Challenge to Repower America

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Former Vice President Albert Gore challenges Congress, corporations, citizens in this country, and people planet wide to consider crucial connections, and what might be done to correct what appears to be an eminent disaster.  Globally,  civilization depends on us, and our commitment to change.  Currently, the situation is critical.  Catastrophes exist around every corner.  The economy is shaky.  Employment opportunities are limited.  Weather is weird.  Most experts believe the “energy tsunami” seems to have effected the environment.  Forecasts for the future are not good.  We can no longer count the years until our demise.  The days are numbered.  Too many species are now extinct; more are threatened.  All people on this planet must acknowledge we are in peril.  There is a climate crisis.

Those who wish to believe humans have no effect on the environment need only turn on the television or tune in the radio.  Everyday there are reports that document extraordinary and dire weather conditions.  If this information does not convince cynics, perhaps a more personal tour will.  Travel to your local major metropolis, or better yet, journey to the Far East.  The conditions in China might make an impression.  With little care for contaminates, or regulations to reduce pollutants, poisons visibly linger in the air and scorch the lungs of those who live in this industrialized continent.  Sewage improperly disposed of has caused rivers to rot.  Noxious waste has destroyed waterways at home and abroad.  The land is also filled with toxin.

The air is no longer clean.  The seas are soiled.  The land is filled with impurities.  Soon there will be nowhere to hide from what humans wrought.  Thus, the challenge, as presented by Nobel Peace Prize awardee.  Please do more than peruse.  Take the initiative and repower the property Mother Nature bequeathed.

Ladies and gentlemen:

There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger.  In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes.  Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more – if more should be required – the future of human civilization is at stake.

I don’t remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously. Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse, gasoline prices are increasing dramatically, and so are electricity rates. Jobs are being outsourced. Home mortgages are in trouble. Banks, automobile companies and other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure. Distinguished senior business leaders are telling us that this is just the beginning unless we find the courage to make some major changes quickly.

The climate crisis, in particular, is getting a lot worse – much more quickly than predicted. Scientists with access to data from Navy submarines traversing underneath the North polar ice cap have warned that there is now a 75 percent chance that within five years the entire ice cap will completely disappear during the summer months. This will further increase the melting pressure on Greenland. According to experts, the Jakobshavn glacier, one of Greenland’s largest, is moving at a faster rate than ever before, losing 20 million tons of ice every day, equivalent to the amount of water used every year by the residents of New York City.

Two major studies from military intelligence experts have warned our leaders about the dangerous national security implications of the climate crisis, including the possibility of hundreds of millions of climate refugees destabilizing nations around the world.

Just two days ago, 27 senior statesmen and retired military leaders warned of the national security threat from an “energy tsunami” that would be triggered by a loss of our access to foreign oil. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan appears to be getting worse.

And by the way, our weather sure is getting strange, isn’t it? There seem to be more tornadoes than in living memory, longer droughts, bigger downpours and record floods. Unprecedented fires are burning in California and elsewhere in the American West. Higher temperatures lead to drier vegetation that makes kindling for mega-fires of the kind that have been raging in Canada, Greece, Russia, China, South America, Australia and Africa. Scientists in the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Science at Tel Aviv University tell us that for every one degree increase in temperature, lightning strikes will go up another 10 percent. And it is lightning, after all, that is principally responsible for igniting the conflagration in California today.

Like a lot of people, it seems to me that all these problems are bigger than any of the solutions that have thus far been proposed for them, and that’s been worrying me.

I’m convinced that one reason we’ve seemed paralyzed in the face of these crises is our tendency to offer old solutions to each crisis separately – without taking the others into account. And these outdated proposals have not only been ineffective – they almost always make the other crises even worse.

Yet when we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges – the economic, environmental and national security crises.

We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.

But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we’re holding the answer to all of them right in our hand.

The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

In my search for genuinely effective answers to the climate crisis, I have held a series of “solutions summits” with engineers, scientists, and CEOs. In those discussions, one thing has become abundantly clear: when you connect the dots, it turns out that the real solutions to the climate crisis are the very same measures needed to renew our economy and escape the trap of ever-rising energy prices. Moreover, they are also the very same solutions we need to guarantee our national security without having to go to war in the Persian Gulf.

What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don’t cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?

We have such fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world’s energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses.

And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America.

The quickest, cheapest and best way to start using all this renewable energy is in the production of electricity. In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses.

But to make this exciting potential a reality, and truly solve our nation’s problems, we need a new start.

That’s why I’m proposing today a strategic initiative designed to free us from the crises that are holding us down and to regain control of our own destiny. It’s not the only thing we need to do. But this strategic challenge is the lynchpin of a bold new strategy needed to re-power America.

Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.

This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans – in every walk of life: to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen.

A few years ago, it would not have been possible to issue such a challenge. But here’s what’s changed: the sharp cost reductions now beginning to take place in solar, wind, and geothermal power – coupled with the recent dramatic price increases for oil and coal – have radically changed the economics of energy.

When I first went to Congress 32 years ago, I listened to experts testify that if oil ever got to $35 a barrel, then renewable sources of energy would become competitive. Well, today, the price of oil is over $135 per barrel. And sure enough, billions of dollars of new investment are flowing into the development of concentrated solar thermal, photovoltaics, windmills, geothermal plants, and a variety of ingenious new ways to improve our efficiency and conserve presently wasted energy.

And as the demand for renewable energy grows, the costs will continue to fall. Let me give you one revealing example: the price of the specialized silicon used to make solar cells was recently as high as $300 per kilogram. But the newest contracts have prices as low as $50 a kilogram.

You know, the same thing happened with computer chips – also made out of silicon. The price paid for the same performance came down by 50 percent every 18 months – year after year, and that’s what’s happened for 40 years in a row.

To those who argue that we do not yet have the technology to accomplish these results with renewable energy: I ask them to come with me to meet the entrepreneurs who will drive this revolution. I’ve seen what they are doing and I have no doubt that we can meet this challenge.

To those who say the costs are still too high: I ask them to consider whether the costs of oil and coal will ever stop increasing if we keep relying on quickly depleting energy sources to feed a rapidly growing demand all around the world. When demand for oil and coal increases, their price goes up. When demand for solar cells increases, the price often comes down.

When we send money to foreign countries to buy nearly 70 percent of the oil we use every day, they build new skyscrapers and we lose jobs. When we spend that money building solar arrays and windmills, we build competitive industries and gain jobs here at home.

Of course, there are those who will tell us this can’t be done. Some of the voices we hear are the defenders of the status quo – the ones with a vested interest in perpetuating the current system, no matter how high a price the rest of us will have to pay. But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age have to recognize the inevitability of its demise. As one OPEC oil minister observed, “The Stone Age didn’t end because of a shortage of stones.”

To those who say 10 years is not enough time, I respectfully ask them to consider what the world’s scientists are telling us about the risks we face if we don’t act in 10 years. The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis. When the use of oil and coal goes up, pollution goes up. When the use of solar, wind and geothermal increases, pollution comes down.

To those who say the challenge is not politically viable: I suggest they go before the American people and try to defend the status quo. Then bear witness to the people’s appetite for change.

I for one do not believe our country can withstand 10 more years of the status quo. Our families cannot stand 10 more years of gas price increases. Our workers cannot stand 10 more years of job losses and outsourcing of factories. Our economy cannot stand 10 more years of sending $2 billion every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil. And our soldiers and their families cannot take another 10 years of repeated troop deployments to dangerous regions that just happen to have large oil supplies.

What could we do instead for the next 10 years? What should we do during the next 10 years? Some of our greatest accomplishments as a nation have resulted from commitments to reach a goal that fell well beyond the next election: the Marshall Plan, Social Security, the interstate highway system. But a political promise to do something 40 years from now is universally ignored because everyone knows that it’s meaningless. Ten years is about the maximum time that we as a nation can hold a steady aim and hit our target.

When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon.

To be sure, reaching the goal of 100 percent renewable and truly clean electricity within 10 years will require us to overcome many obstacles. At present, for example, we do not have a unified national grid that is sufficiently advanced to link the areas where the sun shines and the wind blows to the cities in the East and the West that need the electricity. Our national electric grid is critical infrastructure, as vital to the health and security of our economy as our highways and telecommunication networks. Today, our grids are antiquated, fragile, and vulnerable to cascading failure. Power outages and defects in the current grid system cost US businesses more than $120 billion dollars a year. It has to be upgraded anyway.

We could further increase the value and efficiency of a Unified National Grid by helping our struggling auto giants switch to the manufacture of plug-in electric cars. An electric vehicle fleet would sharply reduce the cost of driving a car, reduce pollution, and increase the flexibility of our electricity grid.

At the same time, of course, we need to greatly improve our commitment to efficiency and conservation. That’s the best investment we can make.

America’s transition to renewable energy sources must also include adequate provisions to assist those Americans who would unfairly face hardship. For example, we must recognize those who have toiled in dangerous conditions to bring us our present energy supply. We should guarantee good jobs in the fresh air and sunshine for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry. Every single one of them.

Of course, we could and should speed up this transition by insisting that the price of carbon-based energy include the costs of the environmental damage it causes. I have long supported a sharp reduction in payroll taxes with the difference made up in CO2 taxes. We should tax what we burn, not what we earn. This is the single most important policy change we can make.

In order to foster international cooperation, it is also essential that the United States rejoin the global community and lead efforts to secure an international treaty at Copenhagen in December of next year that includes a cap on CO2 emissions and a global partnership that recognizes the necessity of addressing the threats of extreme poverty and disease as part of the world’s agenda for solving the climate crisis.

Of course the greatest obstacle to meeting the challenge of 100 percent renewable electricity in 10 years may be the deep dysfunction of our politics and our self-governing system as it exists today. In recent years, our politics has tended toward incremental proposals made up of small policies designed to avoid offending special interests, alternating with occasional baby steps in the right direction. Our democracy has become sclerotic at a time when these crises require boldness.

It is only a truly dysfunctional system that would buy into the perverse logic that the short-term answer to high gasoline prices is drilling for more oil ten years from now.

Am I the only one who finds it strange that our government so often adopts a so-called solution that has absolutely nothing to do with the problem it is supposed to address? When people rightly complain about higher gasoline prices, we propose to give more money to the oil companies and pretend that they’re going to bring gasoline prices down. It will do nothing of the sort, and everyone knows it. If we keep going back to the same policies that have never ever worked in the past and have served only to produce the highest gasoline prices in history alongside the greatest oil company profits in history, nobody should be surprised if we get the same result over and over again. But the Congress may be poised to move in that direction anyway because some of them are being stampeded by lobbyists for special interests that know how to make the system work for them instead of the American people.

If you want to know the truth about gasoline prices, here it is: the exploding demand for oil, especially in places like China, is overwhelming the rate of new discoveries by so much that oil prices are almost certain to continue upward over time no matter what the oil companies promise. And politicians cannot bring gasoline prices down in the short term.

However, there actually is one extremely effective way to bring the costs of driving a car way down within a few short years. The way to bring gas prices down is to end our dependence on oil and use the renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline.

Many Americans have begun to wonder whether or not we’ve simply lost our appetite for bold policy solutions. And folks who claim to know how our system works these days have told us we might as well forget about our political system doing anything bold, especially if it is contrary to the wishes of special interests. And I’ve got to admit, that sure seems to be the way things have been going. But I’ve begun to hear different voices in this country from people who are not only tired of baby steps and special interest politics, but are hungry for a new, different and bold approach.

We are on the eve of a presidential election. We are in the midst of an international climate treaty process that will conclude its work before the end of the first year of the new president’s term. It is a great error to say that the United States must wait for others to join us in this matter. In fact, we must move first, because that is the key to getting others to follow; and because moving first is in our own national interest.

So I ask you to join with me to call on every candidate, at every level, to accept this challenge – for America to be running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity in 10 years. It’s time for us to move beyond empty rhetoric. We need to act now.

This is a generational moment. A moment when we decide our own path and our collective fate. I’m asking you – each of you – to join me and build this future. Please join the WE campaign at wecansolveit.org.

We need you. And we need you now. We’re committed to changing not just light bulbs, but laws. And laws will only change with leadership.

On July 16, 1969, the United States of America was finally ready to meet President Kennedy’s challenge of landing Americans on the moon. I will never forget standing beside my father a few miles from the launch site, waiting for the giant Saturn 5 rocket to lift Apollo 11 into the sky. I was a young man, 21 years old, who had graduated from college a month before and was enlisting in the United States Army three weeks later.

I will never forget the inspiration of those minutes. The power and the vibration of the giant rocket’s engines shook my entire body. As I watched the rocket rise, slowly at first and then with great speed, the sound was deafening. We craned our necks to follow its path until we were looking straight up into the air. And then four days later, I watched along with hundreds of millions of others around the world as Neil Armstrong took one small step to the surface of the moon and changed the history of the human race.

We must now lift our nation to reach another goal that will change history. Our entire civilization depends upon us now embarking on a new journey of exploration and discovery. Our success depends on our willingness as a people to undertake this journey and to complete it within 10 years. Once again, we have an opportunity to take a giant leap for humankind.

Let us heed the call.  The crisis beckons us.  The time for change is now!  We can no longer wait.  The damage we have done must be repaired, and only humans can stop themselves from doing greater harm.  Please, cause no more destruction.  Consider daily deeds.  May we ponder the energy used and embrace the environment,  Mother Earth depends on us.

Al Gore, I, and all of nature thank you for all you do in the present to restore a healthy planet.  Let us not hesitate.  May we each do a bit more to ensure our Earth will be better.  Together we can repower and empower every entity if we work as one.  We Can Solve It, the climate crisis!  

Clinton and Obama Offer Universal Health Care Plans; No Insurance

Clinton Obama Cleveland Ohio Debate – Health Care Battle

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Senators Clinton and Obama, bicker as you might, neither of you have proposed Universal Health Care plans.  Those who support you [plural] state a semantic argument attests to your authenticity.  Many espouse “universal” means “to affect, relate to, or include the whole.”  Granted, all Americans will be changed by your plans.  However, not everyone will be insured if either proposal is implemented.  

Indeed, every United States citizen can connect to the need for coverage.  Universally, we recognize we are in quite a predicament.  Whatever options are offered, the entire electorate will be forced to consider a personal response.  Universality, or an appeal to the aggregate, perhaps better defines what each of you have designed or delivered.

Have you Hillary Clinton or you Barack Obama introduced an actual Universal Health Care plan?  No.  Constituents concerns will be integrated into the agenda.  However, the proposals you have presented to the public, do Not guarantee that life for those who currently are without health insurance will be any better than it is now.  The only certainty Americans have is that some of what is will be altered, just slightly.  

Insurers will still control costs.  Pharmaceuticals can continue to profit, and the poor persons in Middle America will remain insecure, underinsured, and yes, even uninsured.  As one who for most of my adult life has not had insurance, I can assure you, that if a person lives paycheck-to-paycheck, they cannot afford insurance at any price!

I could recount the times that I lay writhing in pain, slipping in and out of consciousness; yet, unwilling to call for help for I feared the cost.  I might share the stories of how or when I went without treatment for the financial expense seemed far greater than the physical toll on my body.  I might mention my fear of an accident, or an age related concern that I need to attend to.  Preventative medicine, pooh-pooh.  I am among many who hope that my mind will control the matter.

I am among millions who still feel the repercussions of decisions made in the 1990’s.  You may remember then, the headlines screamed of the impending crisis.  Employers Winning Wide Leeway to Cut Medical Insurance Benefits.  People cringed.  The then President stepped in.  I am certain Senator Clinton you recall the day.  Bill Clinton appointed his wife to head a panel, which promised to better circumstances.  

Yet, fight as you say you did Hillary Clinton your combative energies did not cure what ails society.  What was, is.  Circumstances convened more than a decade ago continue unchecked.  So long ago, Americans read of a reality they lived.  Today, this phenomenon is normal.

A rapidly growing number of victims of cancer, AIDS and other serious illnesses are discovering that under recent court interpretations of a law that was originally intended to protect employees’ benefits, their insurance coverage can evaporate when they need it most.

The recent [1992] Federal court rulings have given employers that now act as their own insurers wide leeway to cut back on existing coverage — or to skimp on coverage in the first place.  These “self-insured” employers, a large majority of companies from giant corporations to an increasing number of smaller businesses, have been exempted from state insurance laws governing what ailments insurance companies must cover. . .

At the same time, a Supreme Court decision has made it much harder for patients under all kinds of health insurance plans to sue to get benefits they say have been unfairly denied . . .

In effect, the court rulings and the health plans that take advantage of them are another manifestation of a system of private health insurance in which the sick are increasingly separated from the well.

Americans have no assurance that this situation will improve.  Actually, there is ample evidence to indicate it will not.  The prospects for business are grim.  The economy suffers, as do the people.

The economic situation has become distinctly less favorable since the time of our July [2007] report.  Strains in financial markets, which first became evident late last summer, have persisted; and pressures on bank capital and the continued poor functioning of markets for securitized credit have led to tighter credit conditions for many households and businesses.

Slowing job creation is yet another potential drag on household spending. . .

The risks to this outlook remain to the downside.  The risks include the possibilities that the housing market or labor market may deteriorate more than is currently anticipated and that credit conditions may tighten substantially further.

Lest we forget, illness is the cause for one half of all personal bankruptcies.  Most of those who are infirm realized they cannot cover the debt.  These persons have health insurance.  A Harvard University study, conducted in 2005 revealed the inadequacy of many private insurance plans.  Doctors and lawyers examined the current crisis and offered, many policies offer worst-case catastrophic coverage, but little financial security for less severe illnesses.

“Unless you’re Bill Gates, you’re just one serious illness away from bankruptcy,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of medicine.  “Most of the medically bankrupt were average Americans who happened to get sick.”

Steffie Woolhandler, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, described what many of us know but do not wish to discuss.  

“Our study is fairly shocking.  We found that, too often, private health insurance is an umbrella that melts in the rain.”

Certainly, Senators Clinton and Obama you have not touched on this tender taboo in your “debate” rhetoric.  Businesses bleed.  Benefits hemorrhage; and Americans lose Health Care coverage, financial stability, or their lives.  The “Universal” not health care for all plans you each offer exacerbate or ignore what is.  Employment is provisional.  Company provided Health Insurance is more and more a luxury.  When institutions do offer the option, an individual is expected to pay a large part of the expense.  As Americans assess the plans put forth, if they bother to, your [plural] proposed policies do not offer much relief.  Sadly, for countless of the under or uninsured voters, such as I, we have been down so long, now a discussion looks like up.  In truth, talk is cheap.

Mandates that require a citizen with an uncertain salary to provide for their personal insurance needs will leave many in a legal predicament.  For the millions who struggle to survive lower rates bring them no hope.

As prices for fuel, food, and shelter rise, those who could not afford to go to the movie theatre, buy clothing, dine away from home, or vacation certainly will not find the funds to purchase medical insurance,  Gainfully, employed citizens who cannot afford to purchase beyond the basics will not be able to pay for coverage.  The tens of millions who fear a minor fall, for they know, even one Emergency Room visit can break the bank will not be moved to purchase what remains out of reach.  Please Senators, before you begin your ascent to the Oval Office reflect on what is real for most Americans.

[O]f the 47 million uninsured people in the United States, 7.3 million come from families with incomes of $75,000 or more, and an additional 6.9 million earn between $50,000 and $75,000, according to 2006 census estimates.

Some of those with moderate or high incomes may have been shut out of the insurance market because of age or pre-existing health conditions.  Researchers believe a majority are self-employed or among the growing number of Americans whose employers do not offer affordable insurance.  Their only insurance options may be high-priced individual policies.

Those comfortably covered love to discuss the individuals who waste their dollars or do not pay for what they believe they do not, or will not need.  In a recent New York Times report readers were introduced to a twenty-three year old lovely who believed she paid her way through taxes.  She smiled and spoke of the free medical clinics available to her.  Ms. Coons mused,

“I’m young and in pretty good shape,” Ms. Coons said one recent afternoon, on her way to the treadmill at the Fitness Factory in Midtown Atlanta.  “I looked at Blue Cross Blue Shield.  But the only thing I could see myself really needing it for are prescriptions and dental  . . .

She continued, “The insurance premium was more than what I would pay for my prescriptions, so I just decided not to deal with it.”

Times journalists asked Americans to consider the circumstances of those who use the system and do not pay premiums.  Fraud was implied, or a “free ride” was defined and accounted for.

Many free riders are assumed to be young and at little risk of major illness, but they do consume health care.  A recent analysis by the New America Foundation, a Washington policy group, found that 16 percent of the patients who received uncompensated medical care in 2004 had family incomes of at least four times the federal poverty level (which would currently be $41,600 for an individual and $84,800 for a family of four).

They accounted for $5.8 billion of the estimated $41.4 billion in uncompensated care that year.

However, what was not discussed was the ounce of prevention and the pounds paid for a hopeful cure.  Ms. Coons might have been me years ago.  She may not have stated or contemplated an illness, or unexpected injury.  I too appeared fit.  An interviewer might have seen me on the way to the pool.  He may inquire of my Health Insurance plan, or lack there of.  I, possibly would not have explained that I severely injured my back long ago, and then, due to the damage lost my job.  At the time, my employer feared medical charges I might incur, and now I must swim daily to remain physically stable.

In embarrassment, in my youth, I could have, would have, given a glib response.  For decades, I did not wish to speak with strangers of the bulimia I battled.  The preexisting condition that I paid for dearly, helped to affirm medical coverage was not available to me.

I know not of Ms. Coons.  I can only speak for myself.  Bulimia or other “disorders” do not burden my life today.  I do not imbibe any alcoholic beverages.  I never did.  Drugs do not deliver me from depression or dismay.  Prescription and street fare were not my medications of choice.  I have no addictions to strain my budget.  I am but one of millions who scrimps, wishes to save, finds it futile, and fears the veracity.

[T]here is also a shift to the privately insured.  Hospitals and doctors raise their fees to compensate for the losses they incur by treating uninsured and underinsured patients, and insurers pass those increases along to consumers.  A 2005 study found that the shift added 8.5 percent to the average premium.

Presidential aspirants, please ponder what the pundits have not.  Numbers on paper may look lovely.  Economists can scribble statistics on scratch paper.  Power Point presentations can graph the details in glorious color.  Experts can pen impressive essays, and America trusts that you, the candidates can eloquently deliver the text.  Yet, as you may know . . .

Neither campaign has provided enough detail about its plan to enable more than guesswork about how it might influence consumers . . . They have not detailed what kind of subsidies would be needed or who would be entitled to them.  Mrs. Clinton has not fully explained how she would make everyone comply with her plan or exactly how she would cap the amount a family would have to spend on premiums.

Each candidate would raise the money needed to subsidize premiums by rolling back President Bush’s tax cuts for high earners, taxing businesses that do not insure their workers and reducing costs through electronic record keeping, preventive medicine and chronic disease management.

But there is little certainty about how much those initiatives might save, or when. . . .  There are also questions about whether the new savings and tax increases would be enough to subsidize insurance for all who need help.

Both candidates are backed by teams of prominent economists from top universities and policy groups.  But with little real-world precedent to guide them, their assessments are necessarily an amalgam of statistical modeling and back-of-the-envelope calculation.

“In a campaign, people put out proposals that aren’t highly specified, that don’t have enough detail to model them effectively,” said E. Richard Brown, director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an Obama adviser.  “These numbers are based on a lot of assumptions.”

In speeches, debates and dueling advertisements, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have brandished projections that even their originators acknowledge are tenuous.

Senators Clinton and Obama, when your own authoritative advisors admit the claims are unsubstantiated, formulas are fragile, and the numbers are shaky, there is reason for concern. Stalwart as you each may be, this character trait may not be a strength in times such as these.  Lives are at stake.  Illness and injuries occur in every moment.  Accidents are not preventable.  People bleed as the two of you argue over the specifics of inadequate agendas.  

If you truly wish to insure every American, be honest with yourselves and us [the citizens of the United States].  The only genuine Universal Health Care Plan is a Single Payer, Not For Profit program.

Your passionate pleas, your tears, and talk do not comfort a citizenry or a system sick and in dire need of help.  Please, feel our pain and protect us.  We, the people need a President that cares.  Provide the preventive, practical, and profound programs.  Do not continue to play with language.  We the people languish, as either of you smile and say, “My plan provides Universal Health Insurance.”  I could just cry, but I worry.  What if I were to weep endlessly?  Dehydration might send me to the hospital.  I cannot afford to see a physician, let alone the premiums you [plural] wish to charge me.

Universal Woes; Wounds, Worry, and the Source of Scars . . .

Less Jobs. More Wars. A Progressive Platform

Less Jobs. More Wars.

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Republicans rant.  It is our patriotic duty to support the war.  Every citizen must fund murderous actions and accept more soldiers, and civilians will fall.  Our countrymen need to devote millions, billions, and trillions of dollars to the cause.  We, the people have no choice.  Our image is at stake.  The world’s greatest superpower must win!  Americans must never say die.  We must only discuss victory.

In this nation, might makes right.  It is it not this war it will be another.  Americans will remind people throughout the globe, we are strong.  

Progressives say, we must stop the “Right.” With John McCain at the helm, it is certain, military missions will continue.  We must remind Republicans of our priorities.  Jobs must be the focus.  However, might we mention to those labeled Liberal, Democrats, or bleeding hearts, it is essential we not forget a Potential President McCain is not our only concern.

Hillary Clinton wants to send more troops to Afghanistan.  Barack Obama, like Clinton offers a conditional and tepid plan to withdraw troops in Iraq.  Obama also intends to shift the battle to Afghanistan.  John McCain believes war is inevitable, always.  The Arizona Senator and Republican aspirant claims the United States can endlessly occupy other nations without the loss of an American life.  As long as no citizen of the States is sacrificed, war is unavoidable and perhaps good for the country or at least fine with John McCain.

Straight talk from Senator McCain: More wars to come

Democrats, Progressives believe we must fight against a McCain Presidency.  This former prisoner of war will sustain a surge.  Under the authority of McCain, citizens will continue to die abroad and struggle to survive at home.  I inquire; will a President Clinton or a Commander-In-Chief Obama truly end the wars or merely transfer the troops to another battlefield  Will jobs here at home be restored or the budget balanced as we continue to engage in hostile entanglements?  There are no plans to conclude combat worldwide, not among Progressives or those the Left deems the enemy.   Perchance, we must change the Party platform.  Fighting against a foe named McCain will not end the skirmishes.  A combative Clinton or Obama are of equal concern.  War is war.  Please let us work towards peace.

Promote a Peaceful Progressive Platform . . .

Alert; 10,000 Apply For Wal-Mart Jobs!

copyright © Judith Moriarty

Candidates having been raising millions of dollars  and traveling (or private jets) around the country in luxury buses,  arguing over who has the most ‘experience’ – who is a Mormon (therefore disqualified) – who’s not a true Republican (Ron Paul) who’s picking on Hillary (Edwards) – who can grab the Evangelical vote – who is totally ignored (Kucinich) – who claims 911 makes him the protector of us all  etc; the real story of what is happening in America (evictions – foreclosures – unemployment) is being totally ignored!

This EXPERIENCE from those who’ve been in Foggy Bottom so long that they’re mildewed  –  has resulted in the rusting and disappearance of the American dream.

10,000 hopefuls…keep eyes open for job at Wal-Mart

By Helena Oliviero

Atlantic Journal Constitution

January 11, 2008

10,000 keep eyes open for job at Wal-Mart. “For the fourth consecutive day people waited in long lines for a shot at a new Wal-Mart in Dekalb County, pushing the total number of applicants beyond 10,000!

Beginning Monday, after no advertising or any signs, the throngs of hopeful applicants continued to pour into a church converted into a job-processing center –all vying for only 350 available jobs.  The job seeking FRENZY may be a peek into a larger economic picture. Wal-Mart has long declined to reveal starting salaries at the store, but reports that the average hourly wage for full time  associates is $10.65 an hour.”

Note: Wal-Mart hires people on at mostly part time positions.  Most alarming  is that Wal-Mart is our nation’s largest employer .  We no longer mfg the quality goods that America was known for. Now Wal-Mart is filled with Chinese goods of inferior quality !  Ten dollars an hour  is not a livable wage in these economic times of escalating prices!


  • 10,000 hopefuls…keep eyes open for job at Wal-Mart, By Helena Oliviero.  Atlantic Journal Constitution. January 11, 2008

  • Invasion of the Corporate Destroyers

    copyright © Judith Moriarty

    The Corporate Destroyer is a peculiar mutation of man.  It is known for its inactivity in the practice of any virtue.  He is found in several different forms throughout the government, business, and nations.  The fruits of his labors can be seen throughout the earth in ‘greed, sloth, pride, wrath, avarice, envy, lust, and gluttony’.  Absent conscience or allegiance to any land, this mutant will use any means necessary to feed his insatiable appetite.  

    His claim to fame is identified as being the seven deadly sins!

    The Corporate Destroyer, and his cohorts, enter into naive, economically depressed communities, under the guise of JOBS.  They gather millions in grants, and various subsidies to set up shop.  Ironically, the taxpayer subsidies his employment (without royalty checks).  Being privately owned (ex: Ice River Springs) without public stock trading, they don’t have to reveal many of their operations / finances etc.  Being (many) foreign, they are extended ‘special benefits’ in various trade agreements.

    Bird found with bottle caps from plastic water bottles.

    This plastic is choking and poisoning the whole of the earth.  Consumers have been ‘programmed’ to believe, that water bottled from the TAP (called purified), or from some ‘unknown’ spring (not the picture on the bottle) is healthy?  The fact that plastic does not degrade, and is now being found in birds, fish, etc, is not part of the PR presentation to a town.  Conservation?  Huh?  The oil needed to make these plastic bottles for U.S.  shoppers; uses 1.5 million barrels of crude oil each year.  These approximately 52 billion plastic bottles end up in landfills – incinerated (toxins) in the oceans and on the beaches, or in birds and sea life.  

    Next comes garbage; tons and tons and millions of tons.  The ‘Corporate Destroyer’ and his partners have now been ‘appointed’ to the most important jobs in Washington.  With the influence of lobbyists and campaign contributions, they write their own meal tickets (excusing themselves from responsibility & liabilities).  In rural places like Bethlehem, NH (above), which was once a health resort, there are approx 2.3 million TONS of other people’s garbage.  They (the waste destroyers) are cutting down the trees, to make room, for the excesses of a materialistic – mind-numbed society.  “I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongue.”  Dr.Seuss

    The whales and the porpoises are dying of ruptured brains as the Navy trains for moneyed war (sonar – explosions).  The Navy did a study and reported that all is well – these explosions don’t kill nor does sonar confuse or rupture the eardrums of whales/porpoises!  Why they all must be committing mass suicide?

    The ‘weapons of mass destruction’ for the native people’s of the world (from Indonesia to the rain forests in South America) are Corporate Sloth and his malignant buddies.  War and terrorism come in many forms.  For those who reside deep in remote jungles; its the timber companies – gas, and the OIL maggots.  Hired thugs kill those who object to their lands being plundered.  This never makes the national news.  Who are the truly civilized in this world?  Those in suits who destroy whole lands with the push of a pencil or the natives who are one with the earth?  And when the last tree is felled – it won’t matter if there’s anyone there to hear it!

    Something awful is happening.  It is horrifying that citizens have to FIGHT their own government (federal – state – local) to save the environment/ protect their water and the health of their children.  No matter the deformity found in an animal, there’s a benign yawn, from those appointed to care,  announcing; ‘it must be a virus’?  The frogs in the environment are the canaries of the mines (used to detect gas).  Washington’s answer is to hide the ‘cage’.

    Millions of fish are dying and they’re tearing down the Appalachian Mountains (for coal).  The inconvenient truth, of what these ‘Corporate Hucksters ‘ are ravishing, raping, and clear cutting etc; can’t compete with the news of car chases, Paris Hilton’s jail experience, or sports stars on steroids.  

    War – forever war!  All the Destroyers (sloth, envy, pride, wrath, lust, etc) are profiting from this.  War is good for the economy.  It raises the price of weapons manufacturing stocks, makes billions for private contractors, oil interests, and investors.  A vote for the right bill will keep those campaign coffers filled!  It also is a great dumping ground (put into weapons) for all that depleted uranium (half life 4 billion years).  

    “One cannot pluck a flower without troubling a star.”  Francis Thompson  

    If the truth be told: “Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”  Dr.Seuss / The Lomax  


    Once Upon A Time In Old America

    copyright © 2007 Judith Moriarty

    We are living in a state of selective amnesia or fearful denial? 

    “The easy credit which created the subprime  crisis in mortgage lending has now spread to the hedge fund industry.  The troubles at Bear Stearns prove that Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson’s assurance that the problem is ‘contained’ is pure baloney.  The contagion is swiftly moving through the entire system taking down homeowners, mortgage lenders, banks, rating agencies, and hedge funds.  We are just at the beginning of a system-wide breakdown.” . . .

    “To a large extent, the housing bubble has concealed the systematic destruction of America’s industrial and manufacturing base.  Low interest rates have lulled the public to sleep while the rise in housing prices has created the millions of high paying jobs have been outsourced.  The rise in housing prices has created the illusion of prosperity but, in truth, we are only selling houses to each other and are not making anything that the rest of the world wants.  The $11 trillion dollars that was pumped into the real estate market is probably the greatest waste of capital investment in the nations history.  It hasn’t produced a single asset that will add to our collective wealth or industrial competitiveness.” . . .

    “The Federal Reserve produces all the fact and figure related to the housing industry.  They knew that trillions of dollars were being diverted into a speculative bubble, but they did NOTHING to stop it.  Now the effects of their ‘cheap money’ policies have spread to the hedge fund industry where hundreds of billions of dollars in pensions and savings are in jeopardy.”

    It is advised that citizens (those involved in loans – investments – etc, in local communities), come into the 21st century and get a grasp of the serious implications: 

  • Another Great Depression? The Fed’s Role in the Bear Stearns Hedge Funds Meltdown. By Mike Whitney.  Global research.org. July 1, 2007

    While we are kept dutifully distracted with the drunken antics of Hollywood airheads, breaking news of OJ, and his merry band of thieves, hours of TV media coverage of sexual predators, or Lockup shows of our ‘prison industry’ – millions across the nation are losing their jobs and their homes.

    In case some of the opinion that government will ride to the rescue and retrain former auto workers, textile employees, paper mill/ steel/manufacturing workers, etc, for those high end technological or positions in the health field – get a grip!

    Thousands upon thousands are graduating from college unable to find jobs!  No 50-60 old worker who has worked for decades in a paper mill, or steel plant, is going to compete with those educated in the best of colleges in their early twenties!  Let’s get real.  Besides, we now have hundreds of thousands of professional guest workers (Democrats and Republicans support), being imported to replace Americans, at a third of the salary, no benefits, no pensions, and no job security.  Prison labor is being used by other corporate interests!  Besides, President Bush, who never held a real job in his life (before the Presidency or government position), has cut funds for job retraining: 

  • The Bush Budget:  The Bush Administration’s FY 2007 Budget.  AFL-CIO, American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations.

    President Bush, and career politicians, don’t have to care or relate to their employers (US Taxpayer).  They get lucrative salaries, yearly cost of living raises, and full health coverage (we pay 72% of their premiums).  Their pensions also see yearly cost of living raises!  No severance packages here, of a few weeks pay, no matter how miserable their job performance, or felony convictions.

    Note, when a politician comes down with some health issue, they receive immediate care at the best of hospitals.  No drone in a far away cubicle informs their physician that such and such a procedure is not covered.  They are not advised to become destitute, having no assets, before they can receive medical care!  They don’t die ignored, on the floor of an emergency room (Los Angeles), of a ruptured bowel, with medical staff fully aware!

    Coming home from war, they are not one of the 192,000 veterans left homeless, having to prove their disability.  Note how convenient the troops are for photo ops (in spiffy uniforms amidst flags) going off to war.  You’ll not see politicians posing with brain damaged/blind/faceless/ veterans, advising, “Be all you can be etc.”  You’ll not see presidential candidates shaking hands; with those living under bridges, in abandoned cars, or crowded shelters!  You haven’t seen politicians (whatever the party) addressing the bureaucratic nightmare of today’s medical debacle; written, by the pharmaceuticals, insurance, and HMO interests.  Both parties continue to vote malignant trade agreements, for the benefit of corporate hucksters, in their global plundering of our planet.  Millions upon millions, left dispossessed in their own lands, (due to trade agreements), are exiting their countries seeking employment in the U.S.

    Corporate interests rally the naive, unskilled, and uneducated immigrants, in various protests, against the unemployed, and over burdened U.S. taxpayers being billed for these failed trade agreements!  Victims against victims.  Pretty clever maneuvering.  The top few % responsible for this global plunder are out of sight.  This can’t be identified for what it really is – class warfare.  The few are benefiting obscenely at the expense of the multitudes.  The media (corporate owned) blames this discontent on those not willing to do the work of immigrants or on unions.  Hey, the bigger the lie, the more believable.

    Immigrants are not only (as the media presents) out in the field picking lettuce or beans.  They are standing on street corners all over the nation; being hired on by unscrupulous contractors; for roofing, brick laying, concrete work, construction, etc.  At the end of the day (week) many hired on in this manner, find themselves without pay, or working for slave wages.  If they are injured on the job, that’s their tough luck.  Non-union jobs result in coal miners left underground (Utah), and are not about environmental or safety issues.  This is the face of your new global plantation.  An indentured slave work force.

    Once upon a time, in Old America, there was pride in the workmanship of American Made.  Small town America flourished with manufacturing, tool and die shops, sheet metal, appliance companies, paper mills, steel mills, mining machinery plants etc.  The police did not carry electrocution devices (tasers) nor did we have Ninja troops, breaking down doors, killing innocent citizens, in some ill-founded drug bust.  Meantime, our southern border has tons of drugs entering in unhindered!  The poppy fields of Afghanistan are booming.  What drug war?

    Once upon a time in Old America, the doctor would come to your house.  The President didn’t advise those in need of health care to sit in an emergency room for hours.  A hospital bill didn’t bankrupt a family.  Medicines were affordable.  Children didn’t die of an abscessed tooth because a dentist demanded cash.

    Small town America had downtown streets bustling with hometown businesses.  Wal-Mart with its poison junk from China was not the largest employer in the nation.  The elderly didn’t need to apply for jobs, bagging groceries or as Home Depot Associates to make ends meet.  Schools were not centers of social engineering, teaching alternative life styles, or the intricacies of putting a condom on a banana!  Children were permitted the joy of being a child and not arrested for zero tolerance schemes, thought up by some mindless educators in Washington.  A compliant, obedient, passive workforce needs early intervention and training in obedience.  Group Think is in – individual genius, exuberance and creativity needs drugged.  It takes a village to raise an mindless idiot.

    Once upon a time in Old America a man working in a mill, or auto plant etc, could see his son becoming an engineer, a doctor, or scientist.  Today’s child has his/her career being mapped out in school by social engineers.  College costs are out of sight, with various grants and loans being eliminated.  Youngsters no longer works at paper routes, or at odd jobs.  These are being done by unemployed parents or immigrants.  Those being prepared for a world of Forever War – or placement in the local Wigget factory; don’t need math skills, spelling, or reading abilities.  Thus many graduating today, can’t do simple math (watch what happens when the computers go down in a store), read a newspaper, or discuss a work of literature.  Many have no idea of our history, and think the civil war was the Watts Riots.  Try asking your fourth grader to look up a word in the dictionary or write a short story. 

    The fault of this rests with parents/citizens – who have allowed this madness of indoctrinating their children into stupidity.  Teachers (change agents) are only interested in a paycheck or retirement benefits.  They are not about to rock the boat.  Citizens on the other hand, without a murmur, have their children prescribed mind-altering drugs, without the least bit of research!  Because some bovine drone threatens them – they bleat and obey.  Would that we had some ‘zero tolerance’ addressing the corruption in Foggy Bottom – or in the robbery of war, with billions gone missing.  Meantime, the offspring of the moneyed/well connected, receive the best of private school educations – to prepare them for their secure positions of future hucksters – industry hacks etc.

    Once upon a time in Old America, there was no danger stranger, Amber Alerts, or daily fear advertisements.  True we had Duck and Cover, a silly ass routine of Bert the Turtle, advising us to duck under a desk, to avoid the aftermath of an Atomic Bomb.  At age six, I had enough sense to see the lunacy in this, and received a monthly ‘unsatisfactory’ in deportment, because I wouldn’t participate in acting the fool.  Today I imagine I’d be arrested.

    Once upon a time in Old America, the streets and parks were alive with the laughter of children at play.  Small town America had its fireworks, parades, carnivals, swimming hole, family picnics, concerts in the park, fishing, building forts etc.  Today the streets are silent and echoing on a summer’s eve.  Video games and mindless TV programming have created a generation of lumpkins.  Except in a rare instance, I don’t recall a classroom filled with doughy – dullard overweight children.  But then we had no fast food restaurants, or additive saturated foods, when I was growing up.  To this day, I have never eaten (WHY?) at a McSlop fast food joint.

    Citizens today have been propagandized and programmed to enslaved consumerism.  I can’t imagine that my parents would have paid hundreds of dollars for sneakers, or designer clothing, so that I could fit in with the other kids at school.  ‘TV was my teacher far into the night – it taught me to buy everything within sight’ – this is today’s mantra.  Imagine robbing your children, by sitting them down in front of something called Sponge Bob (or whatever) or violent video games?

    We are for the most part kept ill informed as to the true state of our nation.  Millions are losing their jobs and homes.  One state or region has no idea of what is occurring elsewhere.  Detroit looks like Beirut – with its downtown echoing with abandoned hotels, train stations, and rusted auto plants.  The steel mills and textile plants of Middle America – the South  (never modernized), were allowed to rust into oblivion – with few realizing the implications.  In times of crisis, we could never prepare for war. 

  • Rust Belt in Ohio.  Appalachian Coalfields.

    Once upon a time in Old America, there were real grandmas with aprons and flowered dresses.  Women didn’t feel the need to resort (TV conditioning) to liposuction, face-lifts, breast implants etc.  Our votes weren’t hijacked by computers with no paper trail.  True, there have always been the robber barons exploiting the workers, shooting down strikers (looking for a decent wage), and crooked politicians, only too willing to  sell out their constituents.  The difference today is that these robber barons and corporate hucksters; hold the most strategic positions in government (from the Defense Dept to the regulatory agencies).  Lobbyists for industry now determine legislation.  Government  (politicians) for the most part, are nothing more than props.  No matter the party in power, one can observe, that they are about feathering their own nests, serving their corporate owners, or holding tedious hearings, that result in nothing but filling time.  Anything done for the citizen is by pure accident.

    And now in the New America we can see that our infrastructure, utilities, water, and vast holdings of real estate are being sold out to foreign interests.  Rest assured, that all these supposed protected areas (parks – timber – minerals – grasslands – etc) are mere collateral for our massive debt.  I suspect, that under the guise of paperless ID, we will next be ordered to be chipped (much like pets).  In the days of slavery, this was called branding – the chip is merely updated branding.  One must keep track of one’s human resources on a plantation.

    “Ship is sinking
    The ship is sinking
    The ship is sinking

    Digging up the dead, with a shovel and pick
    It’s a job; it’s a job
    Bloody moon rising with a plague and a flood
    Join the mob; join the mob
    It’s all over; it’s all over

    God’s away, God’s away
    God’s away on business, business”

    God’s Away On Business -Tom Waits

  • United Auto Workers [UAW] Are Everyman; The American Experience

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    The morning broke.  There was a momentary blip in the air as broadcasters spoke of the pending United Auto Workers potential strike.  Was the short and sweet General Motors walkout the topic of discussion, or perhaps, the work stoppage at Chrysler was the focus.  No matter; neither was of interest to Jack, a corporate executive.  He received word from his accountant hours earlier; health care costs are too high.  We must cut benefits.  Perhaps it would be better if we eliminate a large portion of the workforce.  Certainly, that would save us much money.  The company must consider the stockholders.  Individual buyers and brokers look at earnings and expenses. 

    Richard, a man that rose through the ranks, currently holds the title of Vice President in a well-known organization.  His company is up for sale.  Potential buyers will scrutinize the books.  Every penny, nickel, and dime must be accounted for.  He too was summoned.  In his case, the President called.  Employee medical expenses must be slashed.  We can no longer offer life insurance.  This business already purged the employees they could afford to lose.  Workers wages are exceedingly low.  That helps to make this company competitive.  Richard recalls, years ago, he chose to work for this institute because of the benefits.  Even then, he knew how valuable remuneration was.  How might he endorse such a reduction or loss?

    Bethany slept soundly, more so than she had before.  Yesterday, she went to the doctor for a routine examination.  Her tests were clear.  A clean bill of health was delivered.  That was wonderful.  The results calmed her mind; indeed, she was elated.  In the immediate, she was comforted by the knowledge she had health insurance.  An indemnity would cover the bill.  She said this aloud; for most of her adult life, she had no health care coverage.

    Marion, a woman Bethany met in the waiting room, spoke of her concerns.  She diligently punched a time clock for forty years.  Marion is a retired member of the city staff.  Possibly, she was a state employee, communications worker, a retail associate, or a salesperson.  Maybe her hours were not logged in a conventional manner; nonetheless, she worked hard for decades.  Perchance, Marion is a Mom.  While she and Bethany sat, each expectant of their test results, they chatted. 

    Marion mentioned the change in her circumstance.  With the new Medicaid “donut hole’ as she called it, she could barely keep up.  Routine examinations were now a luxury.  She feared a thirty-five dollar co-pay.  The funds seemed excessive.  Bethany shared her saga.  Only twelve months earlier, she had no insurance.  Three tests were required.  The total cost was close to a thousand dollars.  For her, thirty-five greenbacks would have been a welcome fare.

    Shelia chimed in.  This lovely lady, also adorned in a medical gown offered she and her husband own a same business.  Medical costs and coverage for their few employees is a concern that escalates daily.  Often, the couple thinks to move from one insurer to another.  However, in the past when they had, they realized no rewards.  Shelia shutters, sighs, and then inquires, “How long have each of you been here today.”  She notes, my appointment was scheduled for two, Post Meridian.  Now, near three hours later I sit.

    The three women look at each other and exclaim.  This is health care in America?  The conversation continued.  All were exasperated and excited to have an opportunity to speak.  Marion mused as talk of health care turned to politics, and minutes were but a blur, “Now that we have solved all societal ills.”  Of course, they had not.  Union strikes were not discussed.

    Jack, Richard, Bethany, Marion, Sheila, and her husband are not employees of General Motors, Chrysler, or Ford Motor Company, another corporation we will hear about in the near future.  Yet, each is affected by the circumstances that concern the United Auto Workers.  They are all Middle America. 

    We all have our tales, our sagas, and situations.  However, sadly, we see our own lives as separate from the anxieties of others.  They are not.  We are united, whether we are member of a labor Union or not.  We are citizens of the United States.

    For many decades, in this country, the cry was heard, “As goes General Motors, so goes the nation.”  While the prominent automaker is but half the company it was only years ago, it remains archetypal.  What occurs within General Motors is emblematic and endemic.

    Two weeks after GM laborers partook in a two-day walkout, and then agreed to terms of their new contract, a six-hour strike against automaker Chrysler began.  It too was less than significant for most Americans.  At least that is what journalists told us.  The mantra on the morning of October 10, 2007 was Chrysler is now a privately owned company.  Therefore, its woes will not affect the stock market, which, as we know, is the true economic driver. 

    As reports of a possible job-stoppage streamed across the screen, and announcers screamed of the possibility in the early morn, “average” Americans were reminded, they need not fear.  Portfolios were safe.  The implication was, and is, stockholders are important.  Investors matter.  Laborers do not; they are but a insignificant commodity. 

    In recent years, we have heard the hoopla; more Americans own stocks than had in the past.  Everyone is invested in the market.  The economy is strong and has been for decades.  Currently, laws favor financial planning.  Life for Americans is far better than it has ever been.  Less than a decade ago, we read . . .

    In 1998, 52 percent of Americans owned shares in public companies or equity mutual funds, either directly in their own accounts, or indirectly in retirement and trust accounts.  This percentage was four times higher than in 1980, when only 13 percent of Americans owned stock.  By the end of the century, more than half the population were capitalists in some sense.

    Many factors contributed to the broadening of stock ownership.  New pension laws shifted many employees’ pensions to the new 401(k) plans, most of which are invested in stocks.  Mutual funds made it easier and cheaper to start investing.  Federal law deregulated brokerage commissions.  On-line investing facilitated stock purchases by reducing both paperwork and commissions.  Finally, after almost twenty years of unprecedented prosperity, many Americans had significant wealth with which to invest in equities. 

    However, even then, working stiffs did not prosper as polished “professionals” might have.  Richard may have increased his income.  He might have invested in a healthy portfolio.  The authentically affluent such as Jack, certainly reaped some capital gains.  There is little doubt; this entrepreneur likely increased his worth greatly.  Nonetheless, as in years past, prosperity was not equally shared. 

    Approximately half the population still pinched pennies and tied their purse strings tightly.  Bethany, Marion, and Sheila were perhaps among those that struggled.  Dispensable, discretionary income was but a dream, the American Dream not realized.  Life may have looked good for those that control the message and wish to promote further speculation.  , the silent near majority knew then as they do now . . .

    Dow’s all-time high inconsequential for most Americans
    By Sylvia Allegretto.
    Economic Policy Institute
    December 11, 2006

    Much attention was paid last week to the Dow Jones recovery to its prior peak level first reached in 2000.  It is important to put this milestone into perspective for average working families.  Fostered by the constant focus and widespread attention given to the performance of the stock market, conventional wisdom has it that everyone in the United States is heavily invested in the stock market.  However, the data tell a different story.

    The most recent triennial data from the Survey of Consumer Finances show that the historically increasing trend in the shares of all households owning any stock reversed course from just over half in 2001 (51.9%) to just under half in 2004 (48.6%)1-the first such decline on record (Figure A ).  In 2004, only about a third of Americans had stock holdings, valued at more than $5,000.

    The distribution of stocks, by value, is highly tilted to the wealthiest Americans as shown in Figure B.  In 2004, the wealthiest 1% owned 36.9% of all stocks, while the next 9% owned 41.9%.  Hence, the wealthiest 10% controlled about 80% of all stocks while the bottom 90% owned just over 20%.  Given the starkness and persistence of inequality in stock holdings, there is no reason to think those in the bottom 90% are doing any better today.

    Those that were at the bottom in the 1990s remain there.  Some sunk further into oblivion.  Indeed, in the twenty-first century, the poor fell further than they imagined possible.  Their hopes and dreams dashed.  Few manual laborers see a home in their future.  They worry; they do not believe they can provide an adequate education for their offspring.  Putting food on the table has become a priority.  The impoverished were not in the physician’s office with the three women.  They could not afford to be.

    The Middle Class, or those that once were among the median population, also sink lower and lower.  Caught in the vacuum of a downward spiral, formerly comfortable Americans fear falling down the dark hole.  The darkness of the drain is in sight.  In recent years, as the market races to all time highs, the decline downward accelerates for all but the corporate tycoon.  Magnates prosper and plan to build their profits;  Jack absolutely is.

    Please consider the Chrysler Corporation and the company that purchased this organization months ago, Cerberus Capital.  While circumstances differ essentially, the basic motivation is the same, big bucks.  General Motors may be slightly more patient in their pursuit of ample profits and earnings; nonetheless, each company considers financial interest more than those of the workers.

    “GM is a classic automotive firm,” McAlinden said.  “They’re in it for the long haul, and they produced a long-haul UAW agreement, that says ‘We’re going to save money on this agreement, but it’s going to take four years to roll out and we’re going to do it with a lot of new product.'”

    Chrysler, on the other hand, was recently bought by Cerberus Capital, a private investment company that buys other firms, restructures them and then tries to sell them or take them public for a healthy profit.

    “Cerberus is a private equity firm, who in the past hasn’t really taken over a company to increase its product line,” McAlinden [Sean McAlinden, a Michigan auto analyst] said.

    If perchance Cerberus Capital were interested in the car industry, the likelihood that they would cater to the needs and concerns of the workers is not high.  Consider a morning with Jack or his accountant.  Chief Executives, in America, do not wish to negotiate.  Capitalist cohort Ronald Reagan ensured entrepreneurs would not have to do more than the minimum.  During the Reagan reign, in the 1980s, labor laws were re-interpreted.  Legislation favored business owners.  Richard Hurd, professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University spoke of a lack of incentive for employers to talk to disgruntled workers in recent decades.  Moguls are legally able to stonewall employees; only a semblance of good-faith is required.  Employers merely need to come to the table and talk, nothing more. 

    Magnates are in truth, in the driver’s seat.  Professor Hurd muses; today, we have one-tenth the strikes we had in the past.  This Cornell experts expounds, globalization has lessened the power of employees.  Americans can no longer afford to strike.  Thus, today’s workers, at least in the manufacturing industry have become cautious.  They do not wish to challenge the company.  They fear a loss of personal savings.  More importantly, laborers are anxious, they will not have a job, if they leave, even for a moment. 

    In the past ten years, strikes have become creative vehicles.  Protests are announced far in advance.  The strategy is tactical.  There is no incentive for the employer to make a quick change, such as hiring a new staff.  Intentionally picketers hit the pavement for a day or two.  Grievances are expressed.  The intent of a walkout is  meant only to send a message,  Few hear the more subtle communication, or appreciate the endeavor.

    Jessica Kelly, a twenty-one year old thinks people on strike are “over zealous.”  She believes walkouts are “not the proper way to handle a situation.”  Miss Kelly considers a picket line, a stampede, not an appropriate means of expression.  Jonathan Yates, states, “It is just posturing.”  He concludes, “No one really cares about stopping work.  They almost like they are just following up on their Union commitment.”  Yates states, “I think the Union largely exists for its own sake.”

    Apparently, in 2007, the Union, or the need to fight for fair wages and benefits is a dated concept.  The populace is convinced; strikes serve no purpose.  Unions are corrupt.  They are but another Big Business and indeed, they are or will be if the recent trends are realized.

    UAW dissidents argue against ratifying GM deal
    By Nick Carey?
    Friday, September 28, 2007; 10:48 AM

    Grand Rapids, Michigan (Reuters) – Gregg Shotwell says that by agreeing to a new contract with General Motors Corp (GM.N) the United Auto Workers has ceased to be a union.

    “The UAW is now a corporation,” he said, sitting on the back porch of his home in a leafy neighborhood of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  “It has become UAW Incorporated.”

    Shotwell says he is one of a large number of UAW members, angry at the union for the groundbreaking contract it concluded with the top U.S. automaker this week.  The pact would shift health-care costs away from the struggling company and create a lower tier of wages for new hires.

    Those health-care costs — if the contract is ratified by GM’s 73,000 hourly workers — would be managed in a UAW-administered trust fund that would have more than $30 billion in cash and other assets.

    “There are a lot of people who are disgusted with what they’ve done,” Shotwell said.

    This is only one aspect that concerns workers.  Those that care about more than their stock portfolios see it differently.  Months ago, stock analyst speculated the adoption of a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association Trust [is] Unlikely To Cover All Future Health Care Obligations For Big Three Automakers.

    Morgan Stanley analyst Jonathan Steinmetz on Tuesday told investors that negotiations next month between the United Auto Workers and the Big Three automakers could result in a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association trust that covers some, rather than all, of their future retiree health care obligations, the Detroit Free Press reports (Higgins, Detroit Free Press, 6/20).

    At the time of this assessment, another labor expert voiced his opinion.  Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, said, “I think it is going to be a hard sell.  It is not out of the question, but there will be a lot of resistance to it.”  Perchance there was, then, or at least in the minds of many.  However, desperation over time changes much.  Perspectives are easily altered when job security is on the line, the assembly line.  Shaiken explained, “The goal of the UAW leadership is clear.  They want to provide as secure as possible a route for health care for the members.  If they feel a VEBA will do that, they may be more open” (Detroit Free Press, 6/20). 

    Possibly, Union leaders presented a persuasive argument.  Workers, financially strapped in an economic era that rewards only the top one percent, could not take the risk.  The threat of temporary or permanent unemployment was one individuals, and families, felt they could not endure.

    Many General Motors employees were aware of the Caterpillar situation.  Caterpillar Corporation employees chose a similar option years ago.  They too thought the funds would be managed well and last for decades.  However, they soon found themselves in dire straights. 

    GM-UAW contract causes deja vu moment for Caterpillar retirees
    Associated Press.
    September 27, 2007

    Peoria, Ill. (AP) – Retired Caterpillar Inc. workers say they can’t help but view a tentative contract deal hammered out between General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers with skepticism given their own bitter experience.

    A key element of Wednesday’s tentative agreement, which led the union to call off a two-day strike by the 74,000 workers it represents, is the Volunteer Employee Beneficiary Association.

    VEBA, as the program is called, is a trust established by a company and union to pay for or defray health insurance costs for retirees.

    A hard-fought contract deal hammered out between Caterpillar and the UAW in 1998 also included a VEBA trust funded by $32.3 million the UAW had set aside into special training and overtime accounts.

    That VEBA trust, however, was depleted in just six years.

    “God, did we get stuck,” Caterpillar retiree Stan Valentine told the (Peoria) Journal.  “Initially the VEBA worked OK, but it just got eaten up by the astronomical rise in medical insurance (costs).”

    As a consequence, around 20,000 Caterpillar retirees now have no choice but foot the bill for much of their medical costs.

    What is a worker or a retired employee to do?  Bethany spoke of her situation.  She had nowhere to turn for financial assistance when in need of medical care.  In retirement, Marion realizes a similar distress.  In an Industrialist country, investors are more far important than workers.  People are but a byproduct of production.  They can be replaced.  Employees are dispensable.  Money moves the nation.  Humans that toil to survive cannot be bought and sold; thus, they are presumed to be worthless.  The creatures that build the cars are costly.  It seems those in other professions are considered an unwanted expense as well.  Ask the communication workers.

    Embarq Locals Protest Termination of Retiree Health Care
    August 23, 2007

    Embarq members and retirees in six states will hold demonstrations this Saturday to protest the company’s announcement that it will terminate retiree health benefits for Medicare-eligible pensioners.

    The cuts average more than $2,000 per year for every retiree and dependent affected, and, “They will have an even greater impact on families with acute medical problems who rely on expensive prescriptions,” said Telecommunications Vice President Jimmy Gurganus.  “This will be devastating to many people, especially for longer term retirees who haven’t seen a pension increase in years and are struggling on meager fixed incomes.”

    Embarq, Sprint’s former local phone operation, which was spun off last year, announced it would drop its $500 annual subsidy for Medicare premiums as well as supplemental coverage that pays partial medical costs when Medicare payments are below 80 percent of treatment expenses.  Embarq also is capping life insurance for retirees at $10,000, a substantial cut for many.

    At demonstrations in North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey and Oregon on Aug. 25, Embarq retirees – joined by local politicians and labor leaders in many locations – are set to tell the news media how the cutbacks would cripple their incomes and keep them from being able to afford needed treatments and drugs.

    Many echoed Sandra Muntis of Elida, Ohio, who wrote to her local describing the situation of her husband, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and her own struggle with diabetes and ulcers.  Without supplemental health care from Embarq, “we could not afford procedures requested by physicians to keep us in good health,” such as colonoscopies, tests for prostate cancer and others, she said.

    About 14,500 retirees and dependents, both management and union, would be affected.  Embarq says it will save $30 million a year from the cuts.

    Save the almighty buck.  Sanction the free-enterprise system that, in all its compassion, leaves people behind.  Human beings become ill.  They are easily injured.  Health Care is expensive and corporations say they do not wish to absorb the costs.  Thirty million dollars a year saved.  That is the priority. 

    Consumers, in this free market forget how they contribute to the cycle.  They, the average buyer, craves low costs too, regardless of what this might mean.  When the Big Three fret of medical expenses, we, the common folk forget, Big Businesses pass the cost onto the customer.  “Woe is me” is quite a claim when we, those that purchase poorly made domestic or foreign products, those that pollute the environment, and encourage the notion of built-in obsolescence, propagate a profit driven margin.

    Wal-Mart CEO defends low-cost imports
    At conference, Lee Scott cites retailer’s business model, says some customers don’t have ‘the economic luxury of making a broader social statement.’
    October 12 2007: 8:07 AM EDT

    Rogers, Ark. (AP) — Chief Executive Lee Scott defended Wal-Mart’s reliance on low-cost imports Thursday against what he called emerging economic nationalism.

    Scott told a retailing conference he would like to stock more American-made goods but that Wal-Mart’s business model is based on offering the lowest price for consumers who cannot afford to spend more.

    Scott was answering a question from an audience member who wanted to know if Wal-Mart would buy more U.S.-made products to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of global transport and to bring manufacturing jobs back from places like China.

    “Right now, the way it works, our model is ‘We sell for less.’  If we put products out there and we have to sell them for more because our competitors are sourcing more efficiently and more effectively for the same quality of product, our model doesn’t work.  We cannot be at a price disadvantage,” Scott said.

    “Lest anybody forget, 20 percent of Wal-Mart’s customers don’t have a checking account and they do not have the economic luxury of making a broader social statement,” he told a conference of the Center for Retailing Excellence, part of the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton Business College.

    And so it goes.  Medical bills are calculated into the price of a vehicle, clothing, communication services, college tuition, as are wages, and pensions.  Carmakers remind us, these overheads must be reduced if sales are to increase. 

    Chrysler, just as General Motors, and Ford, needs to be competitive.  So too does Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, your corner market, your neighborhood retailer, the drycleaner, the bicycle shop, the bakery, and even the local bank.  All must appear attractive.  They react to the market.  The law that governs each in this Industrialist Mecca is “supply and demand.”

    Customers and investors alike concur; they will only buy when a company shows itself to be strong.  While the definitions may be nuanced, essentially, they are the same.  Give me the best bang for my buck, even if it means that Mom and Pop will be out on the street without a penny to their name.

    Why might we ask are workers willing to settle so quickly.  How can we explain a reduction in labor strikes, or a reluctance to ask for fair and decent wages?  Why are we willing to let retirees wallow in despair and ignore the reality that soon, we will be among them.

    American workers are desperate; more than money, they crave stability.  The little things, food, shelter, clothing to protect the body from the elements, and good health, are all most people long for.  Equal opportunities are welcome, or at least an equitable education might be nice.  However, at this juncture, residents of this great nation are happy to settle for the smallest slice of the pie.  We heard the tearful cry during the General Motors industrial action.

    UAW officials said the 73,000 UAW members who work at about 80 U.S. facilities for the nation’s largest automaker didn’t strike Monday over what many thought would trip up the talks: A plan to shift the retiree health care burden from the company to the union.  They said they also didn’t strike over wages.

    They said union members walked out because they want GM to promise that future cars and trucks such as the replacement for the Chevrolet Cobalt small car or the still-on-the-drawing board Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car will be built at U.S. plants, preserving union jobs.

    United Auto Workers, please understand the American Dream is not found in an assembly line mentality.  Such a dream is wrought with strife.  General Motors alone illustrates this truth.  The once powerful workforce is half of what it once was.  A new snazzy steel or aluminum design will not create other than it has.  As long as we continue down this path and do not dare to take a detour, nothing will change.  Economist and former blue-collar stiff Barry Bluestone understands this.

    “By and large, they are looking for answers to the wrong question,” said Barry Bluestone, an economist and labor expert at Northeastern University in Boston. “They are fighting over the same things they were fighting over 50 years ago.”

    Bluestone is no stranger to the auto industry.  His father, Irving Bluestone, 91, was the lead negotiator for the UAW with General Motors during the 1960s and ’70s.  As a college student, Barry Bluestone worked summers on an auto assembly line.  And as an economist, he has documented the importance of unions in creating the American middle class.

    Back in the early 1990s, father and son wrote a book, “Negotiating the Future,” in which they argued that both unions and companies had to move their focus from dividing the pie to expanding it.  That meant putting aside the rigid notion that the role of unions was to fight for better wages and benefits, and the role of management was to run the company, they wrote.  To remain competitive, companies had to engage the energies, creativity, and commitment of their workers.  And that process required a different approach to collective bargaining.

    Perchance such a notion might be embraced in the work environment as well.  Bluestone addresses such a need.  He understands what some Japanese corporations do.  The principles of Kaizen, consideration for the people, the process, and consistent improvement, can be fruitful and bring personal and professional fulfillment.

    When people passionately pursue their endeavors health and welfare is improved.  Possibly, the American Dream is achieved for one and for all.  When a proud populace lives as the Constitution elucidates, we establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.  When we honor society as a whole, when individuals are revered and valued happiness is more than a pursuit. 

    Imagine the reduction in stress related illness and injury if we all loved our work.  If our careers enabled us to have a creative outlet that served the community, ah, how lovely life might be.

    I suspect a street-paver, proud of his work stops to show his son or daughter what he has done to contribute to society.  An electrician pleased with what she did speaks volume.  She shares her successes.  She installed the best sound system the Performing Arts Center has ever heard.  People tell their friends and family of their triumphs, what they created that felt good and meaningful to them.

    A teacher talks of the lives he changed.  A retailer recalls the customer that came to the store everyday, only for the quality of the companionship.  A restaurateur reiterates, his clientele came for the ambiance.  The way the chef could put together a meal . . . hum waaah!  The stories of success and satisfaction are innumerable when workers are allowed to be creative and feel committed.

    As Bluestone acknowledges, this wasn’t a wholly original idea, but one that had been a favorite of the left wing of the labor movement in the 1940s and championed by the UAW’s own Walter Reuther until 1950, when he surrendered the dream of industrial democracy for the more fetching and immediate dream of a middle-class life for blue-collar workers.

    That grand bargain, known as the Treaty of Detroit, served both sides well until the early 1980s, when foreign competition began to render it unsustainable.  And yet, in the 25 years since, very little has changed in the collective bargaining process.

    During the late 1980s, there were some successful experiments with Total Quality programs borrowed from Japan.  And General Motors had some early success with its new-age Saturn division.  But according to Ruth Milkman, a labor expert at UCLA, worker involvement was never really embraced by either the unions or management and never allowed to rise beyond production issues on the factory floor.  As long as oil prices remained low and SUV profits high, neither union nor management seemed to care.

    The environment has changed, but the labor relations remain much as they were in 1950 . . .

    Faced with the folly of many decisions, people are hesitant to move down the road less traveled.  Americans would rather drive their gas-guzzlers and gather no moss than contemplate change.  They fear that if they stop and examine their lives they may have to accept that what we do and have done for decades is not viable.

    The battle over job security is also emblematic.

    With more than a quarter of GM’s 73,000 unionized workers set to retire in the next few years, any job reductions that result from falling sales or increased productivity should be able to be handled through attrition.  But the union is also worried that this might not be the case if the company decides to outsource entire functions.

    By now, it should be apparent that the wrong way to handle this legitimate concern is to prohibit all layoffs, plant closures, or outsourcing.  The right way would be to leave those out of the labor contract but give workers a real voice in those decisions and a financial stake in making the right ones.

    Getting there would be hard.  It would require not only new mechanisms and procedures, but a much higher degree of trust and respect.

    But it would be a more hopeful sign if this strike were about hammering out a new model for labor-management relations rather than merely preserving job guarantees that no company can — or should — provide.

    Might we dare imagine, that if we were truly happy in our endeavors, we might be healthier.  Over time, many of us would want to pursue a dream that now, we do not have the courage to consciously desire.  Change sends chills up and down the spines of most.  The idea of an unexpected, unwanted, an unwarranted job loss makes us shiver.  The prospect of happiness, doing what we love, creatively, with commitment, we cannot phantom what that possibility might bring. 

    Jack may seem to have success; yet, he as many Chief Executives understand he cannot continue as he has.  Perhaps he will walk hand-in-hand with Steve Burd, Chairman and C.E.O. of Safeway supermarkets, who now advocates for Universal Health Care, or he might join a broader coalition. 

    Richard remembers what once was his truth.  He sought employment with an organization that provided generous benefits.  Now, will he have the courage to truly propose what even Presidential candidates only indicate is a necessary possibility, a Single Payer Universal Health Care plan.  Will his upper management position yield the power to persuade.

    Bethany understands what is like to be without.  Will her time with an indemnity be short-lived as corporations crumble under the weight of health care cost, wages, and the misery a business experiences when they must be accountable to the market.

    Marion put in her time.  Currently, she resides in a nation that does not have time for her.  How might she fare.  In the future.  Sheila, her husband, you, and I might be better served if we dreamt of what we never did before.  Perhaps a paradigm shift, while a popular idiom was never tried.  Until it is, we cannot know what is true.  Might we embrace the worker more than the market.  Perchance we could care for people, cover families, and create a culture where people are valued and valuable.

    I leave the decision to you dear reader.  Do we take the road less traveled or continue to see the USA in a Chevrolet, one whose cost continues to be too dear.

    Health Care, Pensions, Stocks, What Bonds Us . . .

  • 73,000 workers walk in nationwide GM strike, By Chris Isidore.  Cable News Network. September 24, 2007
  • Stockholders. The First Measured Century.  Public Broadcasting Services.  1998
  • New Chrysler Contract Hinges on Jobs, Health Care, By Frank Langfitt.  Morning Edition. October 11, 2007
  • Chrysler sold in unprecedented auto deal. By James R. Healey, Sharon Silke Carty, Chris Woodyard and Matt Krantz.  USA Today. May 14, 2007
  • UAW Wins Job Security Guarantees in Deal,  By Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin.  The Associated Press.  Sun Herald. Friday, September 28, 2007; 3:25 PM
  • pdf UAW Wins Job Security Guarantees in Deal,  By Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin.  The Associated Press.  Sun Herald. Friday, September 28, 2007; 3:25 PM
  • UAW dissidents argue against ratifying GM deal, By Nick Carey.  Reuters.  Washington Post.  Friday, September 28, 2007; 10:48 AM
  • pdf UAW dissidents argue against ratifying GM deal, By Nick Carey.  Reuters.  Washington Post. Friday, September 28, 2007; 10:48 AM
  • The Wrong Reason To Strike. By Steven Pearlstein.  Washington Post.  Wednesday, September 26, 2007; 11:00 AM
  • The Wrong Reason To Strike, By Steven Pearlstein.  Washington Post. Wednesday, September 26, 2007; Page D01
  • pdf The Wrong Reason To Strike, By Steven Pearlstein.  Washington Post. Wednesday, September 26, 2007; Page D01
  • Contract Details. Washington Post.  Saturday, September 29, 2007; Page D01
  • Some GM Workers Uneasy About Health-Care Shift, By Sholnn Freeman.  Washington Post.  Saturday, September 29, 2007; Page D01
  • pdf Some GM Workers Uneasy About Health-Care Shift, By Sholnn Freeman.  Washington Post.  Saturday, September 29, 2007; Page D01
  • Chrysler Reaches Tentative Deal With UAW Union. Reuters.  The New York Times. October 11, 2007
  • Chrysler Workers Wary of New Contract.  Associated Press.  The New York Times. October 11, 2007
  • pdf Chrysler Workers Wary of New Contract.  Associated Press.  The New York Times. October 11, 2007
  • Today’s Impression of the Picket Lines.  All Things considered. October 11, 2007
  • U.S. Workers Strike Less Often Than in Past. All Things considered. October 11, 2007
  • Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association Trust [is] Unlikely To Cover All Future Health Care Obligations For Big Three Automakers, Analysts Say.  Medical News Today.  June 22, 2007
  • pdf GM-UAW contract causes deja vu moment for Caterpillar retirees.  Associated Press.  Michigan Live.  September 27, 2007
  • Embarq Locals Protest Termination of Retiree Health Care,  Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, CLC. August 23, 2007
  • Wal-Mart CEO defends low-cost imports. Cable News Network. October 12, 2007
  • Wal-Mart a Good Place to Shop But Some Critics Too . The Pew Research Center. December 15, 2005
  • What’s the One Thing Big Business and the Left Have in Common? By Jonathan Cohn.  The New York Times. April 1, 2007
  • pdf What’s the One Thing Big Business and the Left Have in Common? By Jonathan Cohn.  The New York Times. April 1, 2007
  • Business Coalition Sets Sights on Universal Health Insurance. California Healthline. May 7, 2007
  • America, World Superpower?

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Americans are proud of their place in history.  Those residing in this nation [for the most part] are prosperous.  Even citizens of lesser means have more than those in other countries.  We, the people often speak of the quality that is America.  Our educational institutions are excellent.  Health care here is said to be the best in the world.  Goods and services could not be better.  That is why we often hear ?Buy American.?  In the United Sates, we take care of our people, physically, intellectually, and emotionally.  Americans are financially fat and happy.  This country is great!  We are known throughout the globe as a, no, the one and only superpower.

    However, this label may be indicative of a nation that sits on its laurels and has for far too long.  In educating our children America lags further and further behind.

    U.S. falls in education rank compared to other countries
    By Elaine Wu
    Story posted: 10-04-2005 07:07

    The United States is falling when it comes to international education rankings, as recent studies show that other nations in the developed world have more effective education systems.  In a 2003 study conducted by UNICEF that took the averages from five different international education studies, the researchers ranked the United States No. 18 out of 24 nations in terms of the relative effectiveness of its educational system.

    In health care, while we excel at much, we are nowhere near the best.  Indeed, the health care we provide is barely average.  If we consider the cost, the total dollars spent to heal a hurting the public, or prevent serious illness, this nation ranks poorly.  The United States does not offer the best of medical care.  Indeed, our system leaves much to be desired.

    The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation working toward high a performance Health System, created a National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance.  This was first-ever in-depth study of health care.  Researchers monitored health care outcomes, quality, access, efficiency, and equity and placed the findings in one report. 

    The results indicate that America’s health system falls far short of what is attainable, especially given the resources the nation invests.  Across 37 indicators of performance, the U.S. achieves an overall score of 66 out of a possible 100 when comparing actual national performance to achievable benchmarks.  Scores on efficiency are particularly low.

    Executive Summary
    Once upon a time, it was taken as an article of faith among most Americans that the U.S. health care system was simply the best in the world.  Yet growing evidence indicates the system falls short given the high level of resources committed to health care.  Although national health spending is significantly higher than the average rate of other industrialized countries, the U.S. is the only industrialized country that fails to guarantee universal health insurance and coverage is deteriorating, leaving millions without affordable access to preventive and essential health care.  Quality of care is highly variable and delivered by a system that is too often poorly coordinated, driving up costs, and putting patients at risk.  With rising costs straining family, business, and public budgets, access deteriorating and variable quality, improving health care performance is a matter of national urgency.

    The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System has developed a National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance (see the table below for scores on 37 key indicators).  The Scorecard assesses how well the U.S. health system is performing as a whole relative to what is achievable.  It provides benchmarks for the nation and a mechanism for monitoring change over time across core health care system goals of health outcomes, quality, access, efficiency, and equity.

    The table summarizes U.S. average rates on 37 indicators, their benchmark comparison rates typically those achieved by the top 10 percent of countries, states, health plans, hospitals, or other providers and the U.S. average score, calculated as the ratio between U.S. performance and benchmark rate.  In just a few instances, the benchmarks represent targets, rather than achieved top performance.  The sources of the benchmarks are shown in the table.

    Some major findings include:
    Long, Healthy, and Productive Lives: Total Average Score 69
    The U.S. is one-third worse than the best country on mortality from conditions “amenable to health care” that is, deaths that could have been prevented with timely and effective care.  Its infant mortality rate is 7.0 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 2.7 in the top three countries.  The U.S. average adult disability rate is one-fourth worse than the best five U.S. states, as is the rate of children missing 11 or more days of school because of illness or injury.

    Quality: Total Average Score 71
    Despite documented benefits of timely preventive care, barely half of adults (49%) received preventive and screening tests according to guidelines for their age and sex.

    The current gap between national average rates of diabetes and blood pressure control and rates achieved by the top 10 percent of health plans translates into an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 preventable deaths and $1 billion to $2 billion in avoidable medical costs.

    Only half of patients with congestive heart failure receive written discharge instructions regarding care following their hospitalization.

    Nursing home hospital admission and readmission rates in the bottom 10 percent of states are two times higher than in the top 10 percent of states.

    Access: Total Average Score 67
    In 2003, one-third (35%) of adults under 65 (61 million) were either underinsured or were uninsured at some time during the year.

    One-third (34%) of all adults under 65 have problems paying their medical bills or have medical debt they are paying off over time.  And premiums are increasingly stretching median household incomes.

    Efficiency: Total Average Score 51
    National preventable hospital admissions for patients with diabetes, congestive heart failure, and asthma (ambulatory care sensitive conditions) were twice the level achieved by the top states.

    Hospital 30-day readmission rates for Medicare patients ranged from 14 percent to 22 percent across regions.  Bringing readmission rates down to the levels achieved by the top performing regions would save Medicare $1.9 billion annually.

    Annual Medicare costs of care average $32,000 for patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes, and chronic lung disease, with a twofold spread in costs across geographic regions.

    As a share of total health expenditures, U.S. insurance administrative costs were more than three times the rates of countries with the most integrated insurance systems.

    The U.S. lags well behind other nations in use of electronic medical records: 17 percent of U.S doctors compared with 80 percent in the top three countries.

    Equity: Total Average Score: 71
    On multiple indicators across quality of care and access to care, there is a wide gap between low-income or uninsured populations and those with higher incomes and insurance.  On average, low-income and uninsured rates would need to improve by one-third to close the gap.

    On average, it would require a 20 percent decrease in Hispanic risk rates to reach benchmark white rates on key indicators of quality, access, and efficiency.  Hispanics are at particularly high risk of being uninsured, lacking a regular source of primary care, and not receiving essential preventive care.

    Overall, it would require a 24 percent or greater improvement in African American mortality, quality, access, and efficiency indicators to approach benchmark white rates.  Blacks are much more likely to die at birth or from chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.  Blacks also have significantly lower rates of cancer survival.

    American also no longer has the goods.  Manufacturing in the United States is down.  What we do produce is not always appreciated.  People may say buy American; yet, often they speak of built-in obsolescence when discussing America machinery.  Thus . . .

    U.S. manufacturing jobs fading away fast
    By Barbara Hagenbaugh,
    USA Today

    Rochester, N.Y. – Charles Seitz remembers when Rochester was a bustling manufacturing town.  Now, all the 58-year-old unemployed engineer sees is a landscape of empty buildings.

    “There’s nothing made here anymore,” the former Eastman Kodak employee says, his eyes welling with tears as he talks about his struggle to find a new job.  “Wealth is really created by making things.  I still adhere to that.”

    It’s a situation that’s been playing out across the country for decades but has received increased attention in recent years.

    Fifty years ago, a third of U.S. employees worked in factories, making everything from clothing to lipstick to cars.  Today, a little more than one-tenth of the nation’s 131 million workers are employed by manufacturing firms.  Four-fifths are in services.

    The decline in manufacturing jobs has swiftly accelerated since the beginning of 2000.  Since then, more than 1.9 million factory jobs have been cut about 10% of the sector’s workforce.  During the same period, the number of jobs outside manufacturing has risen close to 2%.

    Many of the factory jobs are being cut as companies respond to a sharp rise in global competition.  Unable to rise prices and often forced to cut them companies must find any way they can to reduce costs and hang onto profits.

    Jobs are increasingly being moved abroad as companies take advantage of lower labor costs and position themselves to sell products to a growing and promising market abroad.  Economy.com, an economic consulting firm in West Chester, Pa., estimates 1.3 million manufacturing jobs have been moved abroad since the beginning of 1992 the bulk coming in the last three years.  Most of those jobs have gone to Mexico and East Asia.

    If there are fewer industrial jobs in America, in what sectors do we excel.  Surely, you may say, this country is technologically savvy.

    I invite you to take this survey.  Test Your High Speed Internet IQ. Consider where the United Sates ranks in the world of cyberspace.  Then, if you are able, stand tall and proud, as you say, ‘I am an American.’

    Please Peruse the Sources, Resources, and References.  Familiarize Yourself with the Homeland  . . .

  • A League Table of Educational Disadvantage in Rich Nations.  United Nations Children’s Fund.  November 2002
  • pdf A League Table of Educational Disadvantage in Rich Nations.  United Nations Children’s Fund. November 2002
  • U.S. falls in education rank compared to other countries. By Elaine Wu.  Kapi’o Newspress. October 4, 2005
  • The World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems. www.geographic.org.
  • Commonwealth Fund
  • Why Not the Best? Results from a National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance.  The Commonwealth Fund The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System. September 20, 2006 | Volume 34
  • The U.S. Health Care System; Best in the World or Just the Most Expensive. Bureau of Labor Education.  University of Maine. 2001
  • Ranking nations’ healthcare: US isn’t No. 1. A first-ever comparison of healthcare quality could give more impetus to change the US private-public system.  By Alexandra Marks.  The Christian Science Monitor. May 5, 2004
  • Poverty spreads, Census Bureau says 1.3 million more slipped into poverty last year; health care coverage also drops.  Cable News Network. August 26, 2004: 1:54 PM EDT
  • Americans less happy today than 30 years ago: study.  Reuters. Fri Jun 15, 2007 8:34AM EDT
  • Americans Views of U.S. Automobiles: Japanese Cars Better. CBS News Poll January 9, 2006
  • Test Your High Speed Internet IQ.