Nel's New Day

April 17, 2014

Media Fails to Publish News

oregonianI tolerated The Oregonian, Portland’s newspaper, despite its conservative bent because I support newspapers. Founded in 1850, it’s the oldest continuously published newspaper on the West Coast. The newspaper went to delivery only four times a week in city areas and got thinner and thinner. I wondered why I was paying for it, but I’m a newspaper supporter. The last straw was when it switched to a tabloid image—or broadsheet format—with much more colored ink and much less news. [New format on right.]

To show my allegiance to newspapers I’ll keep Eugene’s Register Guard, but most of my news will come from the internet that gives me information that I don’t get anywhere else. Here’s a sample of news that doesn’t appear in my newspaper:

Outsourcing (or offshoring) is the biggest reason for unemployment. In 14 years, U.S. multinational corporations, accounting for 20 percent of the labor force, have cut 2.9 million jobs in this country while increasing overseas employment by 2.4 million. Offshoring is a bigger contributor to unemployment in the U.S. than laziness, the way that the GOP claims.

In 2010, the bottom 80 percent of the people had 12 percent of the net worth, two-thirds of the 18 percent they had in 1983. The top 20 percent had the remaining 88 percent in 2010, and the top 1 percent alone had 35 percent of all net worth.  This map shows the percentage of the United States that people own.

land mass

The corporate-controlled American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) drafts laws and passes them to lawmakers to implement. These are some of ALEC’s laws: Stand Your Ground, voter ID, right to work that eliminates unions, health savings account bills to benefit health care companies, and tobacco company privileges.

The United States has more people in prison than any other country. With 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. China, with a population four times the size of the U.S., has 1.6 million people in prison—700,000 fewer than the 2.3 in the U.S. That’s more than 6 and a half times the 350,00 prisoners in the U.S. 40 years ago

incarcerated_americans_zpsb7c891bd

In 2009, non-Hispanic blacks, 13.6% of the population, accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population. At the same time, whites accounted for 69.2 percent of arrests in 2011.

U.S. health care costs are the highest in the world at $8,233 per person. Norway is second at $5,388. The percentage of GDP is also much higher in the U.S., 17.6 percent in the U.S. with the next country, the Netherlands, at 12 percent.

After the Wall Street crash in 1929, the Glass-Steagall Act protected the people in the country for 66 years. It separated risky financial investments from government-backed deposits by stopping banks from using federally-insured savings to make risky investment. Without this separation, taxpayers cover the cost of losses from risky investments. In 1999, the Act was overturned in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Less than ten years later the country went into a deep recession that continues because of Wall Street’s control.

The GOP sweep of over half the states in the country allowed them to rearrange congressional districts after the 2010 census. The Republican Redistricting Majority Project was so successful that they could take over the House of Representatives with fewer Republican than Democratic votes. In 2012, 1.4 million more votes came from Democrats than Republicans, but the GOP took the House by 234 to 201 seats. Through gerrymandering, GOP state legislators redrew districts in Arizona, Florida, Michigan North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia with the goal of putting Democrats into just a few districts. In North Carolina, 51 percent of the state voted Democratic, but the state sent 9 Republicans to the House as compared to only 4 Democrats. In the same way, these Republican legislators keep their seat although the majority of voters oppose them.

votes

The new majority in a Senate of 100 is now 60. President Obama’s first term saw a record number of filibusters, and 375 bills didn’t even come to a vote in the Senate because GOP members just threatened to filibuster. During the first six months of 2013, Congress passed only 15 bills that were signed into law. This is 8 fewer than the first six months of 2012 and 19 fewer than 2011. When Senate Democrats threatened to reform the filibuster, the GOP had held up 79 nominees for the U.S. Circuit Court and Courts of Appeal despite their qualifications.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy was designed to gain political power by exploiting the greatest number of ethnic prejudices. In 1970, Kevin Philips, Republican and Nixon campaign strategist, believed that the GOP couldn’t get more than 10 to 20 percent of the black vote but that would be enough to elect Republicans. He said:

“Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”

The GOP used this strategy in 2008 and 2012 when it attacked Medicaid, Social Security, labor unions, and Obamacare. These programs benefit more white seniors, retirees, women, and children, but Republicans have convinced many in the United States that they are handouts to lazy, undeserving blacks and minorities. That’s the reason that GOP legislators and candidates continue to fight these programs although the majority of their constituents benefit from them. 

GOP tax plans shift the tax burden from the wealthy and onto working people. For example, when Ohio repealed the estate tax, the only people who benefits were those with estates bigger than $338,000. GOP wants to change from income to consumption taxes because the latter are paid primarily by people who earn the least. The GOP keeps capital gain taxes low, 20 percent, instead of the 39.6 percent top rate of other income for the wealthy. Despite their belief that they refuse to raise taxes, Republicans were comfortable with letting the payroll tax expire because these are only for the first $117,000 of wages.

shares of taxes

The United States has lost 40-50 percent of the country’s commercial bee hives this year because of colony collapse disorder. This is important because one-fourth of food in the country depends on honeybee pollination. Instead, the media typically reports something like this: “Thousands of Bees Attack Texas Couple, Kill Horses.” The loss of bees is connected to toxic chemicals in pesticides from Bayer and Monsanto. Acting like a nerve agent, the main chemical compromises a bee’s ability to feed and make its way back to its hive. These chemicals have long been banned in Europe.

The number of temporary workers has grown by more than 50 percent to almost 2.7 million since the recession ended. Including freelancers, contract workers, and consultants raises the number to almost 17 million workers who not directly employed by the companies who hire them. That’s 12 percent of the workforce. Temporary workers receive low pay, fewer benefits, and almost no job security. Because they cannot spend as freely as permanent workers, the economy suffers.

In 2011, only 22 percent of the people had heard of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. A 2013 Gallup poll showed 79 percent of Americans want restrictions on campaign contributions to House and Senate candidates. Also 50 percent support a publicly funded campaign finance system with private contributions completely eliminated. The McCutcheon v. FEC Supreme Court decisions that put far fewer restrictions on campaign contributions was far more widely announced this spring. The media need to keep talking and writing about a decision that has made the United States an oligarchy, owned by the wealthy, just like Ukraine.

Six corporations–Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, Viacom, Comcast, and CBS–control about 90% of the media in the U.S. They want to make money so they use the guidelines, “if it bleeds, it leads.” They print what Democrats and Republicans say but not any facts. They skip “dangerous” facts about global warming, peak oil, population growth, political lobbying, defense spending, etc. Public broadcasting, including NPR, is becoming farther right as people like the Koch brothers buy the media organization. When two comedy shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, have more news than the so-called news shows, people are not receiving the news.

March 22, 2014

GOP Approach to Health Care

Did you hear that the House GOP members have a new health care reform plan. A couple of months ago Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said, “This year, we will rally around an alternative to ObamaCare and pass it on the floor of the House.” The House has already passed at least 51 bills about the Affordable Care Act, all of which have gone nowhere. In a more cautious approach a month later, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that his GOP leaders would have “conversations” about alternatives.

“A Stronger Health Care System: The GOP Plan for Freedom, Flexibility, & Peace of Mind” proposes expanding high-risk insurance pools, promoting health savings accounts, and inducing small businesses to combine coverage purchasing. To help the insurance companies make more money, the GOP wants the ability to buy insurance across state lines. The bill would include guaranteed policy renewability and changes in medical-malpractice regulations. Five years of secret meetings have led to this grand idea.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that the new plan would provide a side-by-side comparison of their idea with the existing one. Hopefully it will show which approach covers more uninsured, offers more consumer protections, improve the economy, and help lower costs without sacrificing the quality of care. As I said, it’s been five years ….

 The major problem of the GOP comparison may be that they don’t know any facts about the ACA. Boehner used his “simple math” to determine that fewer people have health care under ACA. As his proclamation stated, “I believe ….” Unfortunately, beliefs aren’t always the same as facts.

The people who he “believes” lost their insurance moved automatically into other policies with the same companies. The Washington Post, not known for a liberal bent, has figures showing that almost 9 million people were added to the insurance roles:

 

  • 3.4 million — healthcare.gov sign-ups, assuming 80 percent paid, though February
  • 2.4 million — lowest estimate for new Medicaid enrollment through January
  • 2.2 million — young adults added to parents’ plans (2010 average to first two quarters of 2013)
  • 500,000 — off-exchange enrollments

 

In tracking state-by-state numbers, blogger Charles Gaba calculates the actual number of people adding insurance through mid-March at 14 million. More conservative approaches end up with at least 13 million.

Giving Boehner the benefit of the doubt that he’s not lying about the statistics, people can see that he doesn’t care about details of his information to the press. He’s pushing election-year rhetoric, and some media buy it without fact-checking. That includes his false “belief” that “tens of millions of Americans are going to lose their policies next year and the year after.”

Boehner knew he was in trouble when a journalist asked him about ACA, and he changed the subject to “jobs”—another area that the GOP is notoriously bad in addressing. He tries to attach “Obamacare” to the shortage of employment. The GOP can’t run against affordable medical care for families, so they just declare that the ACA is responsible for every problem in the country—stagnant wages, economy, etc. There’s no connection, but the GOP is working hard to make people believe this.

Meanwhile the GOP proposes one after another story about the high costs of ACA that are consistently debunked. For example, former New Hampshire GOP chair, Fergus Cullen, a free-lance writer and owner of a private company, wrote a piece for the New Hampshire Union Leader trying to show how his premiums would increase almost 20 percent in just one year of ACA. His visit to the healthcare exchange surprised him: it was easy to use, took little time, and, most amazing, saved him over $1,000 a month. And that’s without tax credits that he may be able to get for himself, his wife, and his three children.

Anyone saving this much money might be grateful and clarify the misinformation that he passed onto the public, but not Cullen. He proceeded to complain that the website knew too much about him. The ACA exchanges use the same technology that credit agencies use to provide instant credit approval—like Target that suffered information breeches for about 40 percent of the people in the United States.  If he’s shocked by the information now, wait until he signs up for Medicare and Social Security.

The fake stories about the excessive premium costs from Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity are disappearing and replaced by more vague statements. But that change, there was Wanda of Marion, Arkansas, featured front and center in $700,000 of ads. At least Wanda’s complaint about a cancellation from Blue Cross Blue Shield was more moderate than the Michigan ad falsely stating that ACA endangers the lives of cancer patients.

Not one person in Arkansas is having a private health care plan canceled. That’s because the state’s insurance providers follow federal guidelines allowing people with non-compliant plans to stay them until October 2017. Only the 100,000 people who signed up for federally-funded Medicaid, only to have the state reverse its decision to take the money, lost their health care. Only the state has cancelled anyone’s plans because they refused the ACA.

People who really care about saving money on health care would vote for universal health care, a plan promoted by the conservatives two decades ago. People in the U.S. spend an average of $8,233 a year. That’s more than two and a half times more than in most developed countries throughout the world, including France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Yet the U.S. has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than most high-income countries. People in this country are less healthy during their entire lives than people in 16 other wealthy nations. Each year it gets worse as the gap widens.

The ACA, which conservatives accuse of being “socialist,” still leaves private companies in control for those without Medicare, Veterans Care, or Medicaid, companies making more money through administrative costs and profit. A comparison of access to care, quality of care, and costs found all three are superior in Canada as compared to the United States. The U.S. pays an average of 31 percent for administrative costs; Canada pays 1.3 percent, not counting costs for private supplemental plans available to Canadians. Denmark’s administrative costs are 4.3 percent of total health care spending.

Private companies are those with staff to determine whether medical care, sometimes a matter of life and death, should be provided. Medicare, a government controlled health insurance, doesn’t do this.

Leave it to Jon Stewart to show how bad health care is in the United States.  The Daily Show is billed as a comedy show, but its interviews inexplicably succeed in uncovering the truth. A classic example is Aasif Mandvi’s interview of Fox commentator Todd Wilemon that left the conservative speechless.

Wilemon begins with the standard conservative argument:

 “The U.S. healthcare system is the best in the world. But now with Obamacare our choices have been limited. You know, people are going to be seeing this cost more. I am getting less. I am not going to be happy.”

Wilemon described a worst-case scenario:

“We have longer lines. You may have to bring your own sheets. In Russia they reuse syringes. The scenario where we could slip into Third World status would be slow, probably.”

Mandvi travels with founder of Remote Area Medical (RAM) Stan Brock, to find one of these horrible Third World places where people receive free medical services because they cannot afford healthcare. Together they find a location with shockingly poor health care, still reeling from Civil War and suffering high rates of cancer and heart disease. One-fourth of the people live in poverty. He describes these conditions to Wilemon who said:

“This is how bad it could get. If we keep going down the path of more government control, less innovation. I don’t know if we can be that place unless a great catastrophe happens in this country.”

The speechless part came when Mandvi explained that he had gone with Brock to Knoxville (TN). About 90 percent of RAM work is in the United States because of the dire conditions in this country. The speechless part lasts for 13 seconds before Wilemon came up with his answer: “If you are poor, stop being poor.” Check out the entire clip here.

The U.S. ranks 37th in the world in health care. The conservatives want to put it lower.

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