Posts Tagged ‘citizens united’

It’s been a few months since I posted my last blog entry. It’s not like there’s nothing to write about. There’s toomuch to write about.

Take voter suppression. After the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004, the Republicans are still attacking the foundation of democracy. In 2000 and 2004 it was the sanctity of the vote. Now it’s the right to vote using unneeded voter ID laws to protect against the red herring of all red herrings, individual voter fraud. Shame on them, shame on the courts, and shame Attorney General Eric Holder for not pushing back with the full force of his office. What will happen if the outcome of the 2012 election hinges on a single state, which it could well do, and Romney wins because of a suppressed vote?

If voter suppression is a solid punch to the gut, then Citizens United is an upper-cut to the chin. Historians could well look back on this Supreme Court ruling as the tipping point in America’s decent into fascism. The effect of this ruling will likely be to further consolidate political power in the hands of corporations and the wealthy at the expense of the people. Somehow the strict constructionists on the court found this to be consistent with the intentions of our founding fathers.

What’s really troubling is that rolling back Citizen’s United will probably require a constitutional amendment, an unlikely possibility since the very problem that Citizen’s United created…unfettered political spending…will be used to turn back any attempt to correct it. Short of a general strike and millions of American citizens taking to the streets in protest, how can a democratic America survive?

The stuff in this post is not meant to be an inclusive collection of things that challenge our democracy; that list would be far too long. Rather, it’s the stuff that keeps bubbling up, day after freaking day. Stuff like hate mongering. As soon as President Obama was elected it started. He’s not one of us; he channels his Kenyan father’s anti-colonial beliefs; he hates America and doesn’t understand how it works; he hates success, preaches socialism, and practices a different theology than real Americans. The Becks, Savages and Limbaughs serve up endless piles of this crap to their mindless, numb-nutted, lemming-like listeners who define themselves by what conservative talk radio hosts tell them to believe. Not incidentally, this is the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

When Reagan launched the culture wars he appealed to a large block of easily manipulated people who could be convinced to vote against their own interests providing the appeal was wrapped in a Christian/patriotic package. Return America to its Christian roots, they were told, by driving the elitist, baby-killing, welfare loving, gun-controlling, capitalism-questioning liberals and socialists out of government. Little by little, their patience was rewarded and in 2010 it blossomed into a full-blown crisis of governability.

Some would argue that we could do a lot worse than deeply religious people voting as a block and having a major influence on government. Well, the Taliban are deeply religious. How’s that working out for Afghani women? Religious zealots in Israel, who represent a sizable and very influential minority, attack women and girls who aren’t Jewish enough. And in the United States evangelical Christians conduct a never-ending campaign to revise history and biology curricula in order to conform the their intellectually bankrupt and toxically ignorant views of the world. Hearing these people claim some kind of moral high ground when they would have pregnant rape and incest victims carry fetuses to term is beyond crazy. This is not what the founding fathers had in mind. It’s what their forbears escaped from.

A few days ago I had a spirited conversation with a young man who shares few of my gripes. After going back and forth a bit, he hit me with a tried and true debate stopper. Regardless of the problems, he said, “America is still the greatest nation on earth.” What does that mean? I asked. Ducking the question he parried: “I take it you don’t think so.”

Our little exchange quickly devolved into a WTF moment. After all, how do you fix the greatest nation on earth?

These points and counterpoints were made in response to the prior post entitled “Letter to a Republican friend regarding the health care debate.”

(Republican friend) This conversation should be continued over coffee, don’t you think?

(Me) Drinks or drugs maybe, but I think I can live with coffee.

(Republican friend) I agree that greed is a huge factor in all of this, but unless and until the trial lawyers are reined in and malpractice limits are established, I don’t think we are going to be able to make this mess much better.

(Me) Karen, while the issue of tort reform is worthy of debate, its importance relative to the health care bill is open to question.

“It’s really just a distraction,” said Tom Baker, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of “The Medical Malpractice Myth.” “If you were to eliminate medical malpractice liability, even forgetting the negative consequences that would have for safety, accountability, and responsiveness, maybe we’d be talking about 1.5 percent of health care costs. So we’re not talking about real money. It’s small relative to the out-of-control cost of health care.”

“Although damage award caps could slightly limit the future growth of liability insurance premiums – about 6 to 13 percent over time, says Mello, ‘it tends to be oversold as a solution and it’s pretty unfair to patients.'”

“Annual jury awards and legal settlements involving doctors amounts to ‘a drop in the bucket’ in a country that spends $2.3 trillion annually on health care, Amitabh Chandra, another Harvard University economist, recently told Bloomberg News. Chandra estimated the cost of jury awards at about $12 per person in the U.S., or about $3.6 billion. Insurer WellPoint Inc. has also said that liability awards are not what’s driving premiums.”

A”nd a 2004 report by the Congressional Budget Office said medical malpractice makes up only 2 percent of U.S. health spending. Even ‘significant reductions’ would do little to curb health-care expenses, it concluded.”

“A study by Bloomberg also found that the proportion of medical malpractice verdicts among the top jury awards in the U.S. declined over the last 20 years. ‘Of the top 25 awards so far this year, only one was a malpractice case.’ Moreover, at least 30 states now cap damages in medical lawsuits.”

(Republican friend) Too much money, too little regard for humanity…

(Me) This I wholeheartedly agree with. As I said in my response to you, this debate has never been about unmet human needs, it’s only about money.

(Republican friend) …and too much rhetoric on both sides is not helping at all.

(Me) I agree with the fact that the unfolding rhetoric is unhelpful, but it’s the nature of the rhetoric that makes it that way. This nation has a long history…going back to Truman…of trying to fix the health care system. The same arguments used against Clinton and Truman before him have been recycled to attack the current effort. The rhetoric is designed to defeat the attempt at reform, not to shape it.

President Harry Truman was among the first Americans who saw a need for health care reform. Decades ahead of his time, he was unable to make meaningful changes during his tenure as president in the late 40s and early 50s, but he’s acknowledged by some as the inspiration for the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid under the Johnson administration.

Following are a few quotes that illustrate Truman’s opinions on this matter:

“We should resolve now that the health of this nation is a national concern; that financial barriers in the way of attaining health shall be removed; that the health of all its citizens deserves the help of all the nation.”

“Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and to enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and to help them get that protection.”

“I do not understand a mind which sees a gracious beneficence in spending money to slay and maim human beings in almost unimaginable numbers and deprecates the expenditure of a smaller sum to patch up the ills of mankind.”

(Republican friend) While I understand what you are saying, I fundamentally don’t think government involvement in any more of our lives makes sense.

(Me) I think we can agree that the current system is broken. With the highest healthcare costs in the developed world, you would think we would do a better job at keeping people healthy. But we don’t and the reason is the fundamental disconnect between profit and care. Surely, this argument must resonate with you. Likewise, Medicare works. Is there Medicare fraud? You bet and it must be reduced. Is there a problem in paying physicians fairly for what they do? Yes, and it has to do with funding and the inability for Medicare to negotiate directly with big pharma. Medicare part D is a scam that was written by the drug lobby. That’s not an overreach for affect. It was literally written by the lobby staffers and then presented to Congress. But, going back to your point about not wanting more government in our lives, the government will not decide on if and how I will be treated. Can you say that about insurance companies?

(Republican friend) I also don’t want any more corporate money influencing our lives, either.

The Supreme Court has supported, on several occasions, the notion of corporate free speech. In fact, you might find the information at the end of this link useful: . Since I am most certainly not a jurist or versed in 1st amendment subtleties, I can only comment as a citizen who feels trampled by well-organized and well-funded special interests whose only intent is to make money. I regard this as a frontal assault on the rights of Americans to be heard in the marketplace of free ideas. Interestingly, the rightees who claim that Obama is some sort of Fascist seem to have overlooked the incredibly close connection between business, the government and ideology of the Christian right. Under George W, the parties all slept together and they seemed to like it. I can only hope that this evil triumvirate can be broken up before the people’s push back takes to the streets.

(Republican friend) I am well on my way to becoming a libertarian like my youngest brother.  There is just so much corruption of the public good when money gets involved.  I have to fight with my insurance company every month over benefits explanations that make no sense and never go in our favor–the mistakes are always in the company’s favor.  But I also would rather do that than fight with the government over my insurance coverage every month.  At least, with the private insurance company, I can complain to my husband’s employer, and then they get involved in straightening out the insurance. But if the government runs the whole thing, where is the counterbalance?

(Me) Karen, where is the counterbalance how? And, yes, coffee sounds nice…